Life Drawing

December 9, 2017

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20mins; Conte a Paris pencils – black, white, sanguine on Kraft paper A2 80gsm.

I started with a minimum of construction lines in Lyra Skin tone (light brown), a coloured pencil with a degree of oil content, then quickly moved to white Conte. The mid-tones I left as bare brown paper and then alternated between black and sanguine. The black were for obvious shadow and sanguine for any contours or shadow which weren’t distinctly dark. The most significant weakness was the outstretched leg at right. I had issues with the head because the chin was concealed under a beard, the details of which would have taken too much valuable time. I expect to reduce rehashed contour over time.

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10mins; Lyra Skin Tone coloured pencils (Germany) on Kraft paper A2 80gsm.

This earlier pose was done in coloured pencils only. It was difficult to juggle sixteen different pencils and I’ll slim them down to just a few next time. I learned from this study not to mix Lyra pencils and Conte pencils – Conte doesn’t work on top of Lyra because of the latter’s oil content. Insufficient time was spent on getting the correct overall proportions – limb size in particular. My only excuse is that life drawing is tiring!

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10mins, black (Pierre Noir) Conte a Paris pencil on Canson cartridge A2 120gsm

I’ve learned not use willow charcoal on a paper as slippery as cartridge, so I opted for black Conte pencil. With the model so close and with no room for me to move backwards either, I felt the proportions slipping away the further down the page I went. The pose went for longer than 10mins, I suspect, mainly because I kept refining the contour as the model ever so subtly corrected the torque in his pose. At one stage or other, there was more dynamism in the pose than I’ve conveyed – explicit in the lack of downward line between the armpits. It’s important to note that there was a light form behind and to the right of the model so the entire right side of the body had this wonderful white line running down the outside. Daylight was prominent from the left (but not too high up). Wonderful bone articulation available in the front knee – I should check other artists to see how this forward pressure presents itself in the bended knee.

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10mins, black (Pierre Noir) Conte a Paris pencil on Canson cartridge A2 120gsm

The poor model pushed himself to his physical limitations in this one and the tension was palpable! I seem not to have got the proportions of the arm closest to his face correct.

 

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10mins, Conte a Paris pencils (black, sanguine) and Lyra Skin Tone pencils on Canson cartridge A2 120gsm

I thought the two media would mix but they didn’t. More practice on hands required.

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20mins.  Conte a Paris pencils (black, sanguine) on Canson cartridge A2 180gsm.

This splendid pose should have produced a better drawing. There was a single source of direct light at near floor level. The leg at right ought to have been drawn closer to me. Today’s drawings show me I need to work more on lower legs and perhaps push the pose in terms of dynamism, event to the extent of ‘not’ drawing what I actually see. The whole body could have been drawn slightly larger on the page than I did – at this size, graphite pencils would have been a better medium.

 

 

 

 

 

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Paul Gauguin, Three Tahitians 1889, oil on canvas

  • unfortunate gallery lighting causing interference along the top edge;
  • the prominent black scar on the male’s back (“marked man”), highlighted with yellow ochre;
  • black outline of the figures (Renaissance);
  • one-colour treatment of each of the figures’ clothing (Renaissance);
  • contrast between Vice and Virtue: surrounding negative space;
  • curious anatomy in the face of Virtue, especially the eyes (compared to Vice’s);
  • the uncomfortably cramped flowers of Virtue (echoed though in the hair of Vice);
  • the contour of each of the women’s shoulders continues through the form of the male, providing a very strong sense of unity between the three;
  • the curious light on the male’s buttock below his belt;
  • the echoing of the knotting in each of the figures’ clothing;
  • all the colours of the palette – blue, mauve, red, orange, yellow, green – suggesting universality and completeness;
  • the awkward use of the hand holding the green mango – I can’t find a precedent in Western art for this pose beyond Raphael’s Three Graces;
  • echoing touches of pink under both the women’s ears;
  • lack of complicity – none of the figures is looking directly at each other;
  • close cropping in the Japanese style;
  • heavy, smearing application of paint;
  • both women are taller than the male;
  • problematic anatomy of Virtue: the position of the breasts suggesting she’s turning, though that turn is not reinforced elsewhere; both breasts appear to have been deliberately lowered, perhaps to disguise one behind the forearm to denote modesty;
  • curious use of the tricolore in the clothing of the figures – conscious/unconscious cultural fusing?
  • Virtue as mahu and a commentary on the impact of colonialism through a Western gender binary system, not just as the male turning from the mahu to female, but the Western iconography of Adam/Eve and the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge?

Some digital reproductions of the painting on the internet crop the expansive dark green landscape at far left and below the man’s loincloth. Digital reproductions of Vice’s red dress vary the colour from orange to warm red, cool red crimson, Indian Red and dark pink.

Regarding the troubling anatomy of Virtue, see the discussion of mahu at http://www.sea.edu/spice_atlas/tahiti_atlas/paul_gauguin_primitivist_art_and_the_invention_of_polynesian_sexuality

 

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Workshop led by photographer Ben Scott, organised by Christopher Getts and Pania Newport for the Sydney Photography Club.

Location: Studio 501 Photography Studio Hire.

Model: Charlotte.

Makeup: Rebecca Montgomery.

This is another exercise in Rembrandt lighting, only this time the background is dark and strongly figured. Key is getting the model in sync with the background pattern. Important was working the light with the dark eye makeup; at the time, I was monitoring the strong reds in the lower half. Had I the courage at the time, I would have exploited the diaphanous red veils in an action shot. In fact, I ought to have worked on some full-length shots.

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Workshop led by photographer, Ben Scott.

Event: Sydney Photography Club.

Lighting: Christopher Getts & Pania Newport. Makeup: Rebecca Montgomery.

Hair: Kabuki Mee.

Model: Hannah.

Location: Studio 501 Photographic Studio Hire, Surry Hills.

This was an exercise in “white-on-white”, a high single light with the model very close to a white wall/floor backdrop. This is harsh light territory! The obvious focus was the unusual shoes; important also was the creation of strong shadow – very sharp when the model was leaning up against the wall, and softer when standing free. At the time of shooting, I wasn’t paying sufficient attention to the silhouette of the shadows – some developed an unfortunate visual life of their own. Not show here are the dozen or so photos eliminated because of too much conflict in the stripes: I’ve learned a few lessons here about striped clothing and the need to ‘maintain’ them with a minimum of wrinkles. One key issue is the fall of the hair over the face and the obvious one in the first two photos is the label inside the jacket. Yes, one could airbrush it out later but the photographer has to be attentive to this level of detail and ideally eliminate it at the time of the shoot.

IMG_5690 IMG_5681 IMG_5701IMG_5706 celia 4 WMK IMG_5706 frock 72dpiWorkshop led by Ben Scott, an event organised by Sydney Photographic Club.

Model: Celia.

Location: Studio 501 Photographic Studio Hire, Surry Hills.

Lighting: Christopher Getts & Pania Newport.

Makeup: Rebecca Montgomery.

Hair: Kabuki Mee.

The penultimate and last photos highlight the difference between focussing on the garment (penultimate) and focussing on the light (last). The first has been edited to show up the texture of the textile (the skin tones are consequently lighter) while the last has a greater overall continuity of dark tones, across the range of white to black. Viewing the model from behind the camera hones in on unexpected details; I didn’t really appreciate the silvery jewellery as part of the ensemble till I took the half-length shots – suddenly the delightful reflections of the necklace came to the fore and created meaning. Fashion photography is all about attention to detail at the time of shooting: noting the loose thread at the waist in the third photo and subtly altering the fingers and hands in the fourth would have improved the shots. The theme of this shoot was simplicity: Rembrandt lighting with an unlit background and similarly straightforward makeup.

“Monkey King”, 6×6″, plaster cast from linocut, evoking Della Robbia majolica and Meissen’s monkey orchestra, as well as the iconization of animals in contemporary social media.

Photo 1. Linocut and cartoon. Inspiration came from sketching chimpanzees and gorillas from life at Taronga Park Zoo, research into ape behaviour and aspects which are replicated in human behaviour (e.g. hierarchy, violence, gender-based behaviour, etc.), Meissen porcelain figurines of monkeys dressed as court musicians from the 18th century and the tradition in European art of bridging humans and primates, e.g. putting monkeys in human clothes such as ruffs and of painting monkeys, such as the Barbary macaques of Gibraltar.

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Photo 2. Plaster cast from linocut. A section of round PVA 6″ tube was used to contain the liquid plaster (Blue Circle (R) Casting Plaster from Boral, http://www.boral.com.au), kept in place on a timber board with terracotta clay. The biggest surprise from the plaster cast was the shift from a square composition to a round one. The tondo form immediately recalled the tin glaze ‘majolica’ pottery tradition in Italy and later on in England. The replacement of a Madonna and Child, typical of Della Robbia, as an object of adoration, with an animal, adored these days in social media, seemed obvious. Because the lino was used to produce prints, a residue of oil-based relief ink and terracotta clay required some radical carving. It’s possible to leave the ink and clay and overpainting creating a less smooth surface. The raised surfaces in my linocut could have been more pronounced (something to keep in mind while carving the lino a lot deeper next time) and no amount of ‘cleaning up’ would remove the pitting caused by the residue of relief ink. Better to create a plaster cast from the plate with no prior printing (or at least printing using water-soluble ink)!

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Photo 3. Carving, gesso and acrylic painting. I carved into the plaster with both metal and wooden pottery tools – the metal for defining edges and the wooden for removing surplus plaster. The moisture in the gesso undercoat and the acrylic paint is sucked up by the plaster. I used a very pale Yellow Ochre and a Cerulean Blue close to Della Robbia blue. Despite being photographed with a single light source, the ‘stepped’ nature of the carving means the blue changes from left to right.

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Photo 4. Final acrylic painting. The two colours looked too “flat” so I added a third colour in the crown and coat, giving the outer contour added definition. I knocked back the Yellow Ochre to a lighter tone, getting a bit closer to the Della Robbia look. I carved my initials and date in the reverse and gave the back and sides two coats of white acrylic.

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Hard Man is an exploration of masculinity, in particular behaviours passed on from fathers to sons. Unlike Australian painter Ben Quilty’s focus on the vulnerability of young Australian males leading to risk-taking, I’m interested in male conditioning and parenting, ideals about masculinity passed from working class men to their sons over many generations, originating in the perception that males need to ‘harden’ in order to fight for survival and that a “soft man” rates not at all.

I began with working ‘Victory’ Brown, a microcrystalline wax, easily manipulated when heated, and experimented also with polymer clay. The wax quickly became more important since I wanted an expressionistic surface treatment rather than a smooth surface texture. I was interested in the ‘additive’ sculptural techniques of Giacometti, the combination of naturalism and abstraction evident in Henry Moore and the combination of the realistic and the mechanistic in the work of Ipousteguy. Less important to me were the smoother surfaces in the work of Matteo Pugliese. The head and torso forms were drawn from Nuragic sculpture from Ancient Sardinia, a close look at all the European Ancient sculpture traditions, as well as Japanese yoroi armour. The exhibition of work from the Benaki Museum in Athens on show at the Hellenic Museum in Melbourne was very useful, as were the Rayner Hoff reliefs at the Sydney ANZAC Memorial.

Scale is significant. I wanted the final product to be small, representing my individual, personal power over the ‘syndrome’ of male conditioning, thus limiting the size of the final work at around 100x100x50mm.

The following photos shows the sequence from wax and polymer clay studies to silicon bronze casting from wax, to patina through the application of base metal paint overlaid with a violet solvent mixed with beeswax.

Photo 1. Polymer clay, exploring smooth surface texture.

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Photos 2 and 3. Wax studies. The issue of a plinth arose at this time. I was careful to create a hole potentially suitable for a rod for a standing position, echoing the work of Giacometti, but I was also happy with a lying-down position with no support or plinth, echoing the fallen warrior series of Henry Moore.

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Photo 4. Untreated silicon bronze casting, in a matt ashen grey colour, fresh from the foundry, Shaw Process Casting (Mortdale, NSW, Australia). I was forewarned that I might lose the ‘tail’ at the bottom of the torso because the wax was too thin; one of the arms was also perilously loose. The resulting cast had two interesting features: a bend in the head and a very sharp bend in the ‘cod piece’. Serendipitously, the sculpture became self-supporting, resting on one hand, the codpiece and one of the arms, thus resolving issues about a plinth.

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Photo 5. Bronze casting patina: two layers of Bronze B Metal Coating (Barnes, http://www.barnes.com.au), producing a bronze/copper look. Despite having an overall “painted” appearance, the layers didn’t obliterate my fingerprints in the wax original.

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Photo 6. Bronze casting patina: Solvent Dye Color – Violet from SculptNouveau (www.SculptNouveau.com, distributed by Barnes Products, http://www.barnesproducts.com.au) mixed with liquid beeswax. I adopted a ‘warm’ colour for the patina, wanting to ‘domesticate’ the work rather than elevate it to the position of “High Art” with a traditional green or black patina.

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