One Hundred (continued)

From November 2016 through January 2018, I worked my way through a portfolio of mostly drawings, with several paintings completed in the latter half of the series. In the end, this has been the most worthwhile activity I have ever pursued as an artist.

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For the sake of improving my drawing skills and committing myself to a number of drawings far beyond what I produced historically, I endeavored to create 100 self-portraits. I chose the subject matter (me) only because I knew I would be available, at all times, to pose for pictures. I wasn't really sure how I would be able to create 100 different poses, let alone maintain my interest to see the work through, so my first step was holding myself accountable.

I had doubts that I could complete the series and did not mention my intention until I produced the second drawing and posted it on Instagram. I figured if I started to slack off, at least my friends or family would say something to keep me honest.

The series progressed, and I noticed my work seemed to improve around segments of ten or more works. As I approached the first quarter mark, I finally started to believe I would actually finish the series. Additionally, my connections on social media started commenting on the work. Their words of encouragement kept me motivated, as I had hoped.

From November 2016 through January 2018, I worked my way through a portfolio of mostly drawings, with several paintings completed in the latter half of the series. As I approach the end of this series (I'm working on #99, at the time of this writing), I can say this has been the most worthwhile activity I have pursued as an artist. The lessons learned through consistency and commitment are immeasureable. If you believe in the philosophy of 10,000 hours - this is an excellent way to get there.

As I work to complete the final two portraits, I'm looking to the future for my next series of 100. We'll see where it takes me.

Triangulation

By relating compositional components to one another, I am able to expand context and achieve greater accuracy in my drawings and paintings. Through my studies, I observed my tendency to relate things in terms of their proximity. Upon considering why I do that, I believe it is simply for the sake of convenience. It's very easy to compare or contrast something in relation to whatever is immediately next to it. I've found, however, that In order to improve my understanding of something, it is advantageous to push the boundaries of comparison points as far out from the point of origin as I am able. Thus, pushing me out of a visual comfort zone. The further out I look for a relationship and point of comparison, the more I am able to accurately render it. This applies to shapes, colors, lines, angles, values, and even life.  

The visual technique that helps me to accomplish this is triangulation. With this approach, I look for a single, distinct point of reference as a source of truth (an anchor), by which I compare all other references. Once that point is established, I look for the next obvious point. From this secondary point, I look for a third point to relate to, in order to further perspective. Of course, I could expand to have additional points, but three seems to be the minimal number required to achieve the accuracy I seek. This is one of several tools I use to interpret the visual world through pattern recognition.

The examples above were studies for a self portrait.

The examples above show the progression of a work in progress, illustrating how triangulation ultimately translates into an actual drawing (self-portrait).

Learning from Bargue

For the past few months, I have continued work to retrain and improve my drawing skills. Specifically, I copied master drawings from various artists, including several from the Charles Bargue Drawing Course. Shortly after I bought the book, I saw an exhibition at The Denver Art Museum called Becoming Van Gogh. I was pleasantly surprised to find the Bargue Book on display as an integral part of Van Gogh’s training. Its appearance gave me a sense of connection with art history and provided encouragement at a time when I needed it. With newfound inspiration, I began studying hands and feet.

The two drawings pictured here demonstrate my first efforts:

The hand was done on a small scale with graphite pencil in my sketchbook. Though I was encouraged by some parts of the drawing, I realized to make the most out of this effort, I needed to work larger and in a charcoal medium.

In the second image, a foot, I worked on a larger format (on a roughly 12” x 18” surface) and used vine charcoal which I avoided working with until that point. Thoughts like -

It's too messy.
You haven't worked with charcoal enough to produce good results.

- kept me from even trying it for some time.

Immediately, I was surprised by the subtle tonal differences that charcoal offered. I continued to produce copies over several months and will post highlights with pics and comments on my process over the course of the next few weeks.

Persistence

Working through fundamental exercises in any given field, let alone drawing, can test your patience but the key is to remain persistent. After I read through Dr. Betty Edwards' "Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain", I learned not only about why the brain perceives the visual world the way it does, but also strategies for a new way of seeing to improve my drawing. This foundation of knowledge motivated me to continue to work in these areas while sparking my interest to learn more from other sources.

I attempted to enroll in several classes and workshops around the Denver area to further my education but I always seemed to be a day late and a dollar short when it came time to enroll. My search continued and I eventually discovered an excellent resource for artists called Smartflix. This website provided instructional video rental for drawing and painting in addition to many other specialized craftwork. I rented videos from there while checking out more from the library. The videos helped solidify the concepts of what I had read in Dr. Edwards' book in addition to new teachings. Now, I had to take this new information and put it into practice.

After several months of working on my accuracy, I gravitated toward portraiture. My interests were pushed further when I was commissioned to do a portrait series of three siblings. I also began two separate series of self-portraits and burlesque performers around this time.

In the autumn of 2010, JQ and I flew out to Washington D.C. to attend a wedding. We planned to spend sufficient time at the Smithsonian Institution. I was struck by two galleries in particular. As you might suspect, the first was the National Portrait Gallery where I marveled over several works by John Singer Sargent while gaining a better appreciation of American artists in general, such as Childe Hassam and Robert Reid, to name a few. I surprised myself developing a newfound love of work I had long disregarded, ultimately realizing the importance of portraiture in American art as not only documentation of history but as an entity of beauty in and of itself. Interestingly enough, the second gallery was the Feer/Sackler Gallery, typically known for its Asian collection. This time, however, there was a gorgeous exhibit featuring the work of James McNeill Whistler. I absorbed visually what I could from the trip, writing down names of interest with the intent of looking them up when I returned home to find out what I could about the artists and their processes.

Of the artists I wrote down, Sargent and Whistler were the most documented regarding their process. From Sargent, I learned of his strong work ethic and how much time he put into rehearsing his material through sketches; he encouraged at least 100 studies of a particular subject before committing it to canvas. Whistler, on the other hand, was known for his remarkable visual memory. He would study his subject intently for a period of time and then turn his back, facing away from the source to recite verbally what he had seen in order to commit it to memory. These two concepts would eventually become the cornerstone in my continuing development as an artist.