Friday, August 10, 2007

More Notes From Dan Thompson

20 x 24 inches, oil on canvas

I thought I would show the progression of painting which Dan Thompson taught at our workshop, using various drawings and paintings I did during the two-week course at BACAA. (The earlier set of notes from the workshop is here.)

We started out drawing short poses, starting at one minute each and gradually increasing to one hour. The three following drawings were each one-hour poses. The basic steps were to block-in a line drawing of the major contours and shadow shapes. Then fill all the simplified shadow areas in with a single tone to create a two-tone drawing.

Next we started grisaille paintings, using flake white and raw umber on a neutral gray toned canvas.
20 x 24 inches, 1-day pose

The beginning of the second week Dan set up the model with a bright, artificial light shining directly up at her from a position on the floor, with brightly colored fabrics all around and behind. He covered the light with colored theater gels, so we could practice painting "just the light" without any local color. He cast first a cool light and then a warm light on each of the two setups. We were to block in the most basic, simplified shapes of color, and we only used a palette knife - no brushes. These are the 4 small paintings I created:

9 x 12 inches for each panel, 2 days of painting

This is where I started having a philosophical crises and found the exercise very difficult. Technically it was challenging, working in dim light for hours, trying to see very strange colors, wielding the awkward palette knife, only to create a very disharmonious paintings. But more than that, it was hard to keep the paintings truly perceptual, and not merely expressionistic.

Finally, Dan set up the model in a natural-light pose for the final three days. I did two paintings of the same pose, the progressions can be seen below:

20 x 24 inches, two days

I got a bit frustrated working on the above painting, so the last day I very quickly started over with the painting below, same pose but more closely cropped. The drawing suffers, but I think I began to get a glimpse of the color concepts Dan was trying to teach.

20 x 24 inches, 4 hours

Since Dan's class I have been very inspired to improve my figure drawing skills. Dan's knowledge of constructive anatomy is truly daunting, and I felt my clumsy attempts really got in the way of my painting. I bought several drawing books Dan recommended, and started studying from Bridgeman's Constructive Anatomy. This is one of the pages I sketched while on vacation the week after the workshop:

9 x 11 inches, or 3F size
pencil on paper
(Japanese Multi-Drawing Book is my current favorite sketchbook,
I draw on the backs of the pages as they have a smoother tooth)

It is certainly easier to draw from books than from life, but the understanding I am gaining will inform my life drawing.