Sunday, 15 November 2015

Setting Priorities

This will be the final post to this blog for a while. The state of world events has forced me to re-evaluate my priorities. I have begun a new blog: The Road Towards Common Ground ( ) which will focus on world affairs, and the opposing perspectives from which they may be viewed, in hopes of finding some common ground. I realize that I can, in no way, find the time to write two blogs, and so I have made this decision with some regret. But I believe that this new blog will contain important things that need to be said. And the alternative, to remain silent, just wasn't an option for me.

I would like to thanks those who have followed this blog for years and I will leave it up for anyone who would like to view the archived post.

Thank you,

Monday, 5 October 2015

Lines of the Day: October 5, 2015.

Michael Whynot. Figure studies. Red chalk.

A page from my sketch book that I did this morning. Just an exploration of assorted anatomy. I imagine them in three dimensions: forms, upon forms, upon forms. If you are drawing an exterior contour line with no relation to the forms from which that line is comprised, your drawing will be stiff, lifeless and two dimensional.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Lines of the Day: September 28, 2015.

Michael Whynot. Nose study. red chalk.

Michael Whynot. Nose study. Red chalk.

Michael Whynot. Nose study. Red chalk.

The nose, like most of our human anatomy, is a wonder of complex interactions between various forms in three dimensions. It takes considerable study to nail these forms down so that one can draw them, convincingly, from imagination. And, even once this is accomplished, the infinite variations of these forms found in nature, from a live model, can prove to be an endless source of enjoyment if the artist pays attention to all these subtle nuances which distinguish the individual and sets a work apart from being merely formulaic.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Lines of the Day: September 12, 2015.

Michael Whynot. Arm study. Red chalk.

Michael Whynot. Head study. Red chalk.

Michael Whynot. Hand study. Red chalk.

Michael Whynot. Figure study. Red chalk.
Sun thickening linseed oil.

Here are four sketches from my sketch book; beautiful lines appear and disappear, flowing over and under, in and around forms, creating space on the two dimensional surface of the paper, giving movement and life where there should be none.

Also, here are some trays of cleaned flax seed oil setting out in the sun to thicken. The preparation for painting, using materials of my own making is labor intensive, but will lead to an intimate understanding of those materials.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Pentimenti: Exploring Composition.

Michael Whynot. Study of foot. Red chalk.

Michael Whynot. Study of arm. Red chalk.



Pentimenti (singular pentimento) is the italian word for repentance. These are the traces of exploration that the artist has entertained on the road to a finished composition. They are not so much a mistake as they are a weighing of possible variations on the composition.

Michelangelo, da Vinci and Raphael all used drawing to explore aspects of the figure and of the larger compositions as a whole. This is one factor which I believe set them apart from lessor draftsmen and freed them from a total reliance on the live model. Great works of art are created in the mind of the artist, not copied slavishly from nature. It is the artist's role to pick and choose those aspects which contribute to the beauty of the whole and transcend nature and, in so doing, uplifts the human spirit.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Lines of the Day: August 23, 2015.

Michael Whynot. Torso study. Red chalk.

A five minute torso study, from imagination. A constructionist approach to drawing focuses on structure; and once that structure is understood, a solid foundation is laid for the exploration of infinite variations on that structure. Herein lies the path to creativity.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Lines of the Day: August 19, 2015.

Michael Whynot. Head studies. Red chalk.

Why is the human form so challenging to draw? Why do draftsmen struggle with the head, for instance? It is due to the simple fact that we are attempting to represent on a two dimensional surface, something which is constructed in three.

Notice that when children draw the head, it is usually in profile, or straight on, and typically flat; they ignore the dimension of depth entirely. But, if we want to progress in our work, we must embrace depth.

And, even then, if we think we have a system down for drawing the head, suddenly the model turns to a three quarter view, and everything changes; that is our next problem: three dimensional objects, in nature, rarely look the same once our point of view changes. Heads twist, tilt, raise and lower; often doing all simultaneously. And every part of our human anatomy poses similar difficulties. This is why mastery of the human form can take a lifetime. But, like any ability, hard fought for, the rewards are well worth the struggle.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Lines of the Day: August 12, 2015.

Michael Whynot. Head study. Red chalk.

Michael Whynot. Head study. Red chalk.

Michael Whynot. Head study. Red chalk.

Michael Whynot. Figure study. Red chalk.

Some quick drawings from this morning; nothing special, but getting my lines in for the day.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Lines of the Day: July 27, 2015.

Michael Whynot. Figure study. Red chalk.

Michael Whynot. Head study. Red chalk.

Michael Whynot. Head study. Red chalk.

Michael Whynot. Figure studies. Red chalk.

Michael Whynot. Sketch book page. red chalk.

Hand refined linseed oil.

Assorted, quick figure studies today, drawn from imagination. Trying to accomplish twelve things at once: I'm just getting to the end of Ernst Van De Wetering's book, Rembrandt: The Painter At Work, a great inquiry into the artist's Materials and working methods; getting my lines of the day down on paper; updating the blog; and learning the process of preparing my own linseed oil in preparation for making my oil paints.

Things are progressing, but it seems like there is so much to learn and so little time.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Lines of the Day: July 22, 2015.

Michael Whynot. Portrait study. Red chalk.

A thirty minute portrait study, done this morning in red chalk. Portraying the effects of light on form through variations in value. Values define plains; plains define structure; structure defines dimensionality and depth. The wonder of three dimensions upon a two dimensional surface.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Lines of the Day: July 16, 2015.

Michael Whynot. Figure study after Raphael. Red chalk.

Michael Whynot. Figure studies. Red chalk.

A quick study after Raphael Santi, at the top; a couple small, exploratory figures from imagination, at the bottom.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Lines of the Day: July 2, 2015.

Michael Whynot. Figure study. Red chalk.

A thirty minute figure study, done this morning from imagination. Fitting form into form; trying to envision the foreshortening of the thigh and the manner in which it fits into the hip.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Lines of the Day: June 22, 2015.

Michael Whynot. Figure study. Red chalk.

A twenty minute figure study, done this morning. Remember to notice weight and balance, muscles in their relaxed state and in contraction: loose and long verses tight and shortened. Anatomy has many variables, so pay close attention. We often don't see that which we don't know. And those variations can elevate our drawing.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Lines of the Day: June 14, 2015.

Michael Whynot. Figure study. Red chalk.

Today's lines were done over the last two days; ten minutes here, ten minutes there. Total time, maybe an hour. I'm not completely satisfied with it. It was done from imagination and I struggled with some of  the details. This is where a live model would have been helpful in sorting out areas which were anatomically unclear in my mind. For me this is usually the attitude of the limbs and problems with perspective. Still, not a total loss.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Drawing: Structure, the Foundation of Form.

Michael Whynot. Portrait study. Red chalk.

Michael Whynot. Portrait study (early stage). Red chalk.

A good drawing begins with gesture: a unifying thrust flowing through the form. But, once the gesture is captured, the draftsman must shift their attention to the skeletal structure underlying the form. Whether this is something they draw in any detail depends upon the individual draftsman. The better they understand the structure, the less they need to actually draw it. And, this rule applies to anatomy in general: the better you understand it, the less important it becomes, because you internalize the entire process.

Above, top, is a one hour drawing I did earlier today and the initial, block-in stage, beneath it, showing some of the bone structure which occupied my thinking as I began.

But, again, once you know the structure, you don't need to consciously consider every bone and and muscle; you understand where they are, so you see and use them without thinking - like following your familiar route home at night.

Lines of the Day: June 8, 2015

Michael Whynot. Figure study. Red chalk.

Michael Whynot. Figure study. Red chalk.

Today's lines: exploring variations of a particular pose.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Lines of the Day: June 5, 2015.

Michael Whynot. Red chalk studies.

Apelles of Ko, the renowned painter of ancient greece, was supposedly very diligent in his practice of drawing. He is attributed with the famous saying: Nulla dies sine linea - "Not a day without a line drawn."

While I'm uncertain whether I am as diligent as Apelles, I do try to draw something on most days. I will endeavour to post some of these "lines of the day" on a more regular basis.

Monday, 1 June 2015

The Evolution of Seeing.

Michael Whynot. Anatomy study. Red chalk.

Michelangelo said: "It is necessary to keep one's compass in one's eyes and not in the hand, for the hands execute, but the eye judges."

Learning to draw, making our marks on paper, shouldn't be such a difficult thing - children do it all the time and we were all children once. And yet, drawing well turns out to be a deceptively difficult skill; few ever truly master it.

Of course, the difficulty isn't so much making the mark, as knowing where, when and why to make the mark or not. And, to answer those questions, one must cultivate the ability to see form in three dimensions.

Many draftsmen conquer height and width, which can be measured mechanically with due practice. But depth is more illusive - perspective, atmosphere, foreshortening all come into play. And this is where mechanical measuring tends to falter, resulting in accurate, flat, lifeless drawings. Training the eye to see all the nuences of form can take a lifetime, but the results are worth it.

In the end, learning to draw, may be more a question of learning to see.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Sketch of Steve Huston.

Michael Whynot. Sketch of Steve Huston. Red chalk.

Here's a fifteen minute sketch I did of Steve Huston as he talked about composition at his online workshop, held over the weekend. A great painter who really knows his stuff. His paintings use light in a style which is very reminiscent of Rembrandt.

Study After Leyendecker.

Michael Whynot. Study after J.C. Leyendecker. Red chalk.

I was looking at some reference photos, over the weekend, and did this 20 minute study from a J.C. Leyendecker painting. It was a fun, little piece and I couldn't resist drawing it. Leyendecker was a prominent illustrator from the early 20th century.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Drawing the Figure: Constructing Versus Copying.

Michael Whynot. Figure studies. Red chalk.

Michelangelo. Study of a Seated Young Man.


There are two separate paths on which the draftsman can travel on their journey toward drawing the figure. You can think of them as constructing versus copying; line versus mass; 3-dimensional versus 2-dimensional. But what it comes down to, is that there are two different ways of seeing form.

Michelangelo appeared to take an analytical, constructionist approach to drawing his forms, whereas Degas seemed to utilize the approach of copying the flat, 2-dimensional shapes he saw before him. While either approach can lead to fine drawings, I would argue that Michelangelo's approach creates drawings with more depth and movement or life.

I have chosen to pursue the constructionist approach with my drawings. The differences between the two approaches is often subtle and I continue to explore and trace the many nuances in reasoning that Michelangelo's mind may have followed that led to his particular way of seeing. His image of himself a a sculptor, as opposed to a painter, intrigues me; but Degas was, also, a sculptor and a painter, although I am uncertain which of the two he viewed himself to be. The mindset needed by the sculptor, the spatial vision required to deal with forms in space may be an area worth pursuing. Drawing is a path with many turns.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Imagination: the Artist's Infinite Resource.

Michael Whynot. Figure study in red chalk.

Michael Whynot. Figure study in red chalk.

I have written several times that the ability to draw from imagination is indispensable to the artist, but I would like to emphasize the point once again. The imagination is an infinite resource and once the artist learns to draw from it, vast compositional possibilities open up for us.

Imagine any scenario you can; from battle, religious, historical to fantasy themes. Now picture that scene in your mind's eye: what are the figures doing, where is the light coming from? Then what if you could draw, paint or sculpt that scene that you just imagined? Setting up multiple models and all the required props is possible, but could be a major undertaking of both money and time, depending on the complexity of your vision.

Michelangelo undertook a vast project when he agreed to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and he surely used models to help refine some of the poses, but the concept and the majority of the work was made possible by his wondrous ability to draw the human form from his imagination.

The two drawings, above, were drawn today from my imagination. As I endeavour to perfect this faculty, I can see an incredible range of compositional and narrative roads leading in every direction. I'm not sure how far down those roads my ability will allow me to travel, but it promises to be an interesting journey.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Fear of Drawing Hands.

Michael Whynot. Hand study in red chalk.

Michael Whynot. Hand study in red chalk.

Michael Whynot. Hand study in red chalk.

Michael Whynot. Hand study in red chalk.

Michael Whynot. Hand study in red chalk.

Michael Whynot. Hand study in red chalk.

Michael Whynot. Hand study in red chalk.

One of the questions I hear, more than any other, is how do I draw hands? A lot of people harbour a deep fear of drawing hands. So much so, that many will avoid them altogether, hiding them behind something or cropping them off. Unfortunately, this is exactly the wrong way to learn anything.

Hands have a learnable structure, like any other form, albeit it somewhat more complex. Get a good anatomy book and study the skeletal structure; there is a wonderful sort of symmetry to the structure of the hand, and once you see it you will be able to place the parts with more precision.

Then you need to watch people's hands - a lot of people's hands. Watch them working, playing and resting. More than almost any other form, seeing the gesture in hands will mean the difference between a stiff, lifeless drawing and one that you can reach out and touch. When drawing hands, always start with the gesture.

You need to draw hands constantly to improve; your own hands, pictures of hands - take a whole life drawing session and just draw the hands. Make quick doodles, short studies, longer, carefully rendered studies. Eventually, you will loose your fear of them and they may actually become your favourite, expressive, body part to draw.