Beards, Mustaches, and Mr. Smooth-Face McKinley

I recently had a relaxing weekend at home and was able to get a good amount of work done. The final projects for my M. Ed. are due in a couple weeks, so I spent most of my time on those, but when I needed a break I did some reading and worked on my presidential sketches. I finally finished Harry Ammon’s James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity, after picking through it for two months. Perhaps it’s time to turn back to fiction for a little while. I think I’ll dive into Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Somehow I’ve never read that classic.

For my sketches, I worked my way from Chester A. Arthur to Theodore Roosevelt. Looks like our presidents used to sport some awesome facial hair. I had too much fun rendering President Arthur’s mutton chops.presidentialportraits - 9

presidentialportraits - 10


I included Grover Cleveland twice because he came before and after Benjamin Harrison, even though only the first portrait is official. But the second was painted by Anders Zorn and I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to study one of his paintings. My goal is to finish all the sketches and then paint over them in Photoshop. This’ll give me an opportunity to experiment with the digital medium, but also a chance to study the color and brush work of the original artists.

Perhaps when I’m done I’ll upload all the portraits in a single collage or poster.


Me and Egon Schiele

I go on many Wikipedia journeys. If I want to know more about a place, or I’m working on a project, or I hear someone mention a person I’ve never heard of, well then it’s off to Wikipedia. After browsing for a bit, I’ll often click the associated hyperlinks. This causes me to jump from topic to topic, and sometimes land very far from where I started. During one of my recent explorations, I stumbled upon Egon Schiele.


Self-Portrait 1910


Self-Portrait 1912


Self-Portrait 1912

I love the raw, unadulterated, self-deprecating quality of his work. He didn’t try to pretty himself up in his paintings, and instead chose to accentuate his angular skinniness. It makes me wonder how he arrived at that style. How many hours did he put in before these paintings? When did he realize he had a style? And these questions are why I enjoy studying the evolution of painters. For example, Picasso started very traditional and then founded the non-traditional cubist movement. How does this evolution happen? Is it just a process of time and exploration? And I wonder when I’ll know I’ve found my style.

Though I spent this last week looking at Schiele’s work, I didn’t exactly attempt to duplicate his style through a self-portrait. Mostly I thought about his use of line to define the boundaries of the figure.
Selfie 7-1

I started with a pencil sketch before working in some pen, but I kept my line work loose. I didn’t want the pen to become a definitive and bold boundary.

Selfie 7Because of the harsh lighting, I applied heavy sections of white pastel, but I may have overdone it. I didn’t let the tone of the paper do most of the work. It was fun to do a playful expression though.


Channeling R. Crumb

While in South Carolina my girlfriend’s uncle let me read several art books from his collection. I was working on creating a lesson plan for Maus at the time and he showed me a few comic artists for inspiration. The book I found the most interesting was The R. Crumb Coffee Table Art Book. I’d seen Crumb before in An Illustrated Life, but I really got to appreciate his style through the large colored pages. It’s gritty and visceral. He puts a lot of emotion into his mark making. So when I sat down to draw a self-portrait last night I wanted to study his style.

R. Crumb has drawn quite a few self-portraits and I pulled up several for inspiration. Here they are in chronological order:




crumb-2005I mostly used the 1986 self-portrait as inspiration. I feel as though it shows a wide value range, which gave me a lot to reference and study. The 2005 portrait has a great range as well, but I was not doing a full body self-portrait.

As I worked, I flipped back through my browser tabs, constantly analyzing Crumb’s hatching technique.

Selfie 6

Since Crumb is a comics artist I tried to capture a comic book feel through an exaggerated expression. I had a lot of fun scrunching my face into different positions. And the squinted eyelids were much easier to draw than open eyes. The end result reminds me a little of Fight Club. My only complaint is that I made the mouth recede too much. I think this could be solved by darkening the shirt more and putting the majority of the drawing in shadow. Then the mouth would be on the same tone level as everything else.

While I spent a good part of the week looking at R. Crumb drawings, I also found inspiration in some other locations. I found this short painting tutorial which has made me think about how to deal with dark skin tones. And on deviantART I found the following two drawings:


I love how this drawing by Derek Jones is both sketchy and round. The fullness of the form makes it appear almost lifelike.


Then I found Mattias Adolfsson’s drawing among the Daily Deviations and it reminded me of Where’s Waldo. The level of detail keeps the viewer entertained for a long time. I also like the simple, muted colors. Though it’s a playful illustration, color theory is still very strong.

That’s it for today. If I can find the time to finish it, I’ll have a large drawing for next time.


Passing Through the MET

It’s spring break and I’m down in South Carolina. My girlfriend’s aunt and uncle recently moved down, so we’re hanging at their place. It’s wonderful to be able to sit outside in shorts and a t-shirt. And it looks like we got down here just before snow hit New Hampshire again. So huzzah to that!

On our way down we stopped in NYC and took in the sights. I’d never been. Which is strange since I live only 5 hours away. We saw Times Square and Rockefeller and then we stopped at Christie’s. It blew my mind. For once I could see museum quality pieces and know their probable cost. We spent a little time in there, but left before knocking over a statue and putting ourselves deep in debt.

From there we went to the library, Central Park, and the Shake Shack. I’d read this article on the company and was interested in stopping at one of its locations. Lemme tell you. They have some tasty burgers and fries. Then it was to the MET.

We were pretty tired at that point, so we took frequent couch breaks as we wandered through the museum. After marveling at the artifacts from Egypt, the painters of the Renaissance, and the Impressionists, we stopped off at the European sculpture gallery.

I took some time to work on a sketch of Domenico Guidi’s Andromeda and the Sea Monster.


By taking some time, I mean it took me two hours to do such a simple sketch… I wasn’t too happy about that. Though it was nice to rest, I had wanted to get in a couple statues. Unfortunately, it took forever to figure out the angles of her neck and body. She’s in quite the contorted pose. I worked on the pencil sketch for fifty minutes before just giving up and going straight into pen. It worked out in the end. Except I tried my brush pen and wound up laying in too much ink in some areas. Her arm did not have that much black.

This week is going to be one non-stop adventure, but I’m going to try to get in some more drawings. Stay tuned.


Developing the Selfie

I think I’m going to try for 365 self-portraits in a year. It seems like a lot of drawing, but that’s only 45 mins a day. And it’s great practice. Starting with the last post and including this one, I’ve got 4 out 365 done already. Woo! That’s like, almost halfway there.

Selfie 3

I warmed up with a 40 minute sketch. I’m trying to keep my poses original so I’m not just drawing the same self-portrait every day.
Selfie 4-1Then I tried the techniques in this video using the supplies I posted in the last post. In order to get an idea of the shadows, I blocked them out before adding marker.

Selfie 4I’m really pleased with the results. There was a learning curve, but the whole process felt quite natural. I encourage you to watch the video and try out the process. Basically, the sketch is filled in with darks and then worked up to mid-tones, and finally to lights. The darkest darks are plopped in at the end because the original darks dry lighter. I’m definitely going to keep working in this style and see where it takes me.


The Day After Christmas

We were free on the 26th of December, so my girlfriend, several of her family members, and myself went to Boston to spend some time at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA).


We parked near Faneuil Hall and met up with a friend before catching the T over to the MFA. It would’ve been an hour walk on foot.


First we took a gander at some contemporary art on the third floor of The Art of the Americas Wing.


And we wound up finding a side corridor that I didn’t know existed. It ran along the outside of the building and had large windows that looked out over Huntington Ave. There were several sculptures in the corridor, one of my favorites was this bust of John Marin by Gaston Lachaise.

We then headed downstairs, where I did a couple of sketches.

Watson Sketch

First I sketched Watson from John Singleton Copley‘s Watson and the Shark in my 4″x6″ sketchbook. You can compare it with the actual piece below.

watson and the shark

After finishing up with the “Copley Room” I walked over to the “Sargent Room.” I was pleasantly surprised to find several paintings I’d seen at the John Singer Sargent watercolor show a year ago. I stood in front of his Head of an Arab and did a quick sketch.

Head Of An Arab Sketch

I started the drawing with my glasses off, focussing on value instead of line. After I’d figured out the lights and darks I started to refine the features. You can compare it with the actual painting below.

portrait of an arab

After checking out the Americas Wing we went over to see the Jamie Wyeth exhibit.

jamie wyeth southern light

The Wyeth show was lots of fun, but the thing that stuck out to me the most was this painting. It is titled Southern Light and is a portrait of Wyeth’s wife Phyllis Mills. I was drawn in by the simplicity of the stars. They are rendered by simply separating light and dark. As I looked at the stars I began to notice the peculiarity of the shadows on Phyllis’ dress. They are not dark. They are loose washes of umber that bleed a yellow-red light. they shouldn’t function as darks, but they do. Wyeth uses this technique in several areas of this painting, keeping the shadows scraped away and light. It gives the painting a luminous quality. IMG_2355Here is a photo I took of the actual painting. You can really see how red and loose the darks of the dress are.

All-in-all a good day at the museum, though I wish I had more time to sketch. I’ll have to go back on my own some day.