It looks just like a photo

It looks just like a photograph!
After a period, say four weeks, drawing every day for a morning session of 3hours, you might expect verisimilitude.  Thats 15hours per week.  When someone claims “it took a month” they mean 60 hours at an easle. At Salisbury we have the model pose for 5 hours for 5 weeks. A maximum of 25 hours. Is it enough?
Doing what.? And i have a serious case of the”why bother”s
There is no doubt that i have not pushed my drawing far enough. I have stopped before the hand had veins and dirty fingernails. Or.. Before the light on her foot was knocked back a quarter tone so the ” cone of light” had the correct drop off from head to foot. Its not always more detail. It is often about relative balance and relationships. Its about fine distinctions between form shadow and cast shadow in the folds of his belly. About planar structure and the consistent angle of incidence of the light, then the “lifting out” of the most subtle bounced light in the deepest shadow.
I simply did not know enough. Or didnt apply what i did know. And time really is of the essence. Because the knowledge ,attitude and skills you bring to a 60 second sketch are not the same that informs a 5 minute sketch. Or a 15 minute or an hour drawing. And when does a sketch become a drawing? The fact is, these are all different events. And, like an athlete, we need to prepare and practice for each event in which we hope to succed.
Few are marathon runners. Yet anyone can go the distance. I have seen many spend days scratching at the same drawing to no effect. Other than perseverance no other virtue was displayed beyond a rudimentary exactitude of tone, concieved and executed as a Photoshop jigsaw puzzle.
The true marathon drawing  exhibits knowledge,skills and attitude of an extraordinary degree. And it is all executed to plan. After a while, the graphite begins to feel different. Then you realise the drawing is in layers, and where the poor draughtsman obscures them, the good leaves them still operating in a surface that has depths mimicing human skin. Then you realise that from the first mark ,the final result is in mind. Each layer of drawing doesnt simply restate, but deals with another issue. This is why Vavagiakis draws “in a circle” around his drawing never staying in one place, its still developing, how dark should it be?” I dont know yet”
Gadually the drawing emerges from the successive layers of knowledge. Vavagiakis likens the use of graphite and conte to glazing and scumbling.
Truth is, I had become adept at the 5 minute sketch. No mean feat ,and every reason to be proud of them. But i simply did not know enough to do a  competent 4 hour drawing, never mind a 20 hour one. And this leaves aside the issue of taking an hour to do a 5 minute sketch!
So I return, not triumphant, but stimulated. It might be the coffee. But i do want to pusue the long drawing. Now i know what to put in one
Brian Deagon 21/02/2014

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Preserve the light

By an odd paradox we draw with black to create the light. Seems contradictory when you think about it. So we will. Think about it.
Keep the shadows simple. Good advice. Its why the raw umber block in is used. The lights are where the complexity is. Starting from the form shadow, transition into the half lights, then full lights, reflections and highlights. And they wont work without that simplified base.
Now, when drawing, we use graphite, ink, charcoal to define our forms. Black. And the more we define the forms, the blacker our drawing gets. If we define to illogical extremes, we end up with a black sheet of paper.
And all the light is gone.
And unless we define the forms, we wont have surfaces to take the light. Remember , its in the light that complexity lies. A lot of form drawing is required. We simply cannot generate enough tones to distinguish this from that.
 (twenty or so seems the limit )
So, what do you do?
Clearly,  there is a point of balance between defining form in black (and covering it in scribble)and releasing light from the paper( and leaving it blank)
I just created a conceptual drawing called ” All or Nothing” and it is copyright.
Costa uses black and white on toned paper. QED
Whats your response? Its one we all have to solve
Having done as i was told and massed my darks, I made them too dark so they didnt read tonally. Costa noticed and advised breaking up the “blackhole” sucking attention away from the figure. I objected, saying this was contradictory. His explanation was a gem.
If on the turn into shadow, we darken to create the” core,terminator,crescent” shadow, then work subtle transitions into the light, the eye will transition to the light, not the shadow. This we knew.  The next was news.  If the darkness of the core shadow is the darkest tone in the drawing,the tonal key will be best from a design or composition standpoint.
It seemed to work, but i will need to experiment more.
Brian Deagon

Drawing with Michael

Drawing with Michael Grimaldi
The Art Students League of New York has a long and distinguished history. It has been remarkable for the range of viewpoint and the depth of tuition over its long life.
The atelier system is centre. The instructor visits the studio twice a week. For the rest of the time, monitors look after the class, the models,the paperwork.
In general, students help each other, but the instructors influence is pervasive, and idiosyncratic. As it should be. In true American style those instructors survive who attract students. No tenure here! And no guidance from a bureaucracy as to how things should be done.
Legendary teachers have included George Bridgeman. Robert Beverly Hale, Nicolaides,   William Merrit Chase, Arthur Wesley Dow.   Students who have become instructors include..George Bellows, Thomas Hart Benton, Alexander Calder, Helen Frankenthaler, Georgia O’Keeffe, Barnett Newman, Norman Rockwell, Winslow Homer, Man Ray, Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Louise Nevelson, Reginald Marsh, Romare Bearden, Red Grooms, Donald Judd, Roy Lichtenstein, Mark Rothko, Ben Shahn and Cy Twombly. – See more at:
Michael Grimaldi has a reputation which is richly deserved. In fact, he has two of them. It seems that in his case, there are two categories of student. Those who need his assistance and those who dont. Apparently,I fell into the ” dont need help ” category.
At first i found this studied silence disconcerting. Having paid for tuition i had a right to expect it. I didnt recognise the form in which it would come.Keeping one eye on the other students, one eye on the model, and one eye on my drawing induced a state of paranoia and confusion and i began to doubt my abilities. I began to wish for the intervention that the instructor could bring.
It then became necessary to use a fourth eye to observe the teacher, his proximity,length of time in the room, who he decided to help. His behaviour in avoiding me was deliberate. Eye contact was studiously directed away from me, but that could be shyness.From my initial surmise that i was simply inadvertantly overlooked, i had realised this exclusion was a conscious strategy.To what end?
Why had i been singled out? I began to probe. Very quickly i realised i was not alone. There was a category of students who had had the same experience. Some were no longer Michaels students. They had moved on.The more i asked,the more i found.,
Then it hit me . From the Zen Master -a slap in the face. Enlightenment! The lesson was that we did not need the master. He had nothing we could not conjure from our own experience. Possibly he felt inadequate beyond mere demonstration.Useless surmise.
This realization was humbling. I admit to feeling from then on, a little smug looking at those students who were so dependant they had to be painstakingly corrected every session .The temptation to give pointless faint but useless praise to those like myself .(clearly a master of our craft.,)must be huge .Michael resisted.
In 3 months Michael has not so much as spoken to me. I am indebted to his unswerving dedication that I should grasp the reality of my own destiny.  In his own mind, he is clearly deserving of both his reputations.
In my Silence  induced euphoria,I see that reputations dont matter,and neither does Michael Grimaldi.
It had to happen. Michael introduced himself on my last day in New York. He was not to know that.He spoke about transition tones from the crescent shadow revealing the plane structure at the same time, and where two planes intersected in the same tone informing us of the angle of incidence of the light. He discussed the . ” drop off .” of light and the simultaneous contrasts of lights and darks.Clearly Michael was at pains to show my ignorance,and his knowledge. I explained the simplification of forms of old painters was due to arthritis and blindness. He added free will. I now suspect he has a psychological problem. A pity.
And here from the Masters own Voice  is all that is needed to compare what  is said, and done.
Artist’s Statement by Michael Grimaldi.
After searching in vain for a classical teacher of painting and drawing, I was fortunate to find some instructors that could not only paint and draw but also could verbalize and demonstrate their ideas and skills. These giving professors opened my eyes to a whole new world, encouraging me while teaching me the fundamentals that will remain with me throughout my lifetime. I feel that the early education an artist receives is imperative to his or her underlying skill and work ethic. Being convinced that many of my progressive steps in drawing and painting are the result of my training, I feel it is only fair to pass on what I have learned.

I teach because I believe that everyone must be given the chance to see, to develop, to learn the basics, which will serve to translate the vision into reality. Also, since the learning process never ends, I, too, learn from my teaching experiences. If I am able to help someone of the difficult path of creating, I feel that I am passing on an invaluable service that has been passed on to me. If I can convey my analytical work process to others – adding my own collective views and ideas to those which I’ve been taught – I feel that I will make an important contribution to that which is essential to the continuance and progression of classical/realist art in the next century.

AH Michael …….”between word and act……….”

Drawing is difficult

Drawing is Difficult
In our minds eye, we store a precious image, a schemata, a childlike representation of a generic eye. Looks a bit Egyptian,really. If you ask anyone to draw an eye it is this minds eye they draw.
And it is always full frontal. Never a side view.
If you ask for both eyes, they will be shown the same size, full front.
In fact the two eyes are almost never seen full front.  The eyes are seen side on and are different sizes, the far one seeming smaller.
When we draw, it is the picture in the minds eye that guides us. It provides the mental map. The problems begin when our subject looks at our drawing and declares” That doesnt look at all like me” Clearly my mental map and yours differ.
Enter the idea of objective drawing. Drawing that is independent of your schemata or mine or anyone elses . Drawing based on Platos conjecture of a realm of perfect forms,that behave predictably under given conditions.Conditions that themselves could be calculated.Distance,lighting,even shape changing depending on viewpoint.
Objective drawing is Renaissance. It is inseparable from Humanism,science and the rest of it  because, paradoxically it elevated  the observations of an individual who claimed those observations could be made by anyone and confirmed.
There remains a puzzle. If this new way to draw is so objective,how come each artist is so easy to recognize? Why arent they all the same.?
It appears my mental map is still with me,,constantly ” correcting” my drawing. Telling me that eye should be larger. But i just measured it , dammit. It really IS that small. “Cant be” says mental map, so in doubt i measure again.
Instructors are full of tricks to minimize the mental map.
Draw the whole thing upside down. Draw ignoring the fact that its an eye and look only at …………(insert lines,shapes,or other) . Draw using half a brain. Draw using a black glass,a viewfinder, a mirror, red perspex or a reducing glass. Try binoculars back to front. Squint a lot.
The minds eye will not be denied. It corrects line length and angle, moves objects around in space, distorts colour and tone. Eventually we realise that drawing is the outcome of a dialogue between the minds eye and the objective world. How we deal with that conflict defines in large measure the sort of artist we are,and the sort of drawing we produce.
Final irony. Only when we get the influence of the mental maps of the minds eye under control can we produce that drawing of our subject which is met with” my God, it looks exactly like me!” The minds eye of both artist and subject are appeased by the objectivity ..(or realism, idealism,insert label.
What i have learned here in New York is that such beautiful drawing is possible today. It was possible before, but for some reason we have excluded ourselves. The minds eye at its corrosive worst is doubt.


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Greenberg and collage

“Kitsch, using for raw material the debased and academicized simulacra of genuine culture, welcomes and cultivates this insensibility. It is the source of its profits. Kitsch is mechanical and operates by formulas. Kitsch is vicarious experience and faked sensations. Kitsch changes according to style, but remains always the same. Kitsch is the epitome of all that is spurious in the life of our times. Kitsch pretends to demand nothing of its customers except their money – not even their time.” [3]
According to Clement Greenberg, this is all that is available to the uneducated masses. The artist remains linked to clients (state or church,bank or business,public or private) by “an umbilical cord of gold” .The true artist maintains traditions and promotes them but is essentially conservative, and positions himself in the dialectic of his time.
Producers of kitsch have no such ideals.
Handle with care. This is the champion of Jackson Pollock, then Post Painterly abstraction and all things flat. As with all things,Greenberg himself is now passe.
 Yet  undeniably his essay on Cubism titled .”Collage”is brilliant, and for me, reinforces my suspicion that one of the major discoveries of Modernism (along with Surrealism and Fauvism ) was dropped before it was explored,and remains an invitation over a century later.
Flatness has a venerable history. The Duchess has pointed out the anti illusionism in Klimt and l’arte Nouveau and the espousal of flat design in art textbooks of the first decade of c20. Japanese influence on impressionists and realists is well documented. Puvis de Chavannes was admired for his (flat) fresco designs . By 1910 we have collage and by 1899 we have notan.
What Greenbergs essay on Collage reintroduces is the understanding that Cubism was born in and about a debate concerning illusion,reality,depth perception,pictorial space and planes……a highly technical debate,that is still open, and even more so now that academic realism has reentered the scene.Clearly, Picasso and Braque did not want to pursue Analytical Cubism further, having  Synthetic Cubism to play with. Only Gris stayed home. It is not a matter of flat v round, of illusion v reality,of 3d perspectival systems v a planar structure in front of the picture plane. It is an entirely new visual language that few knew how to speak, let alone listen to.
And inevitably we arrive back at kitsch.There is a kitsch version of analytical cubism, another of academic idealism. And just as reliably there are artists, dealers and buyers of such. Either blissfully unaware or diabolically opposed to the “real thing”
 ” Real artists.” Will always struggle to present. They always have. But despite the difficulties they must strive to promote not only the current commission, but a philosophy,an agenda, a code, founded on the”genuine” as opposed to ..”the spurious” The contemporary Atelier movement is at the heart of this production.