Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Devil really is in the details!

ROME (Reuters) - Art restorers have discovered the figure of a devil hidden in the clouds of one of the most famous frescos by Giotto in the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi, church officials said on Saturday.

The devil was hidden in the details of clouds at the top of fresco number 20 in the cycle of the scenes in the life and death of St Francis painted by Giotto in the 13th century.

The discovery was made by Italian art historian Chiara Frugone. It shows a profile of a figure with a hooked nose, a sly smile, and dark horns hidden among the clouds in the panel of the scene depicting the death of St Francis.

To read the rest of this article, click on the Yahoo link:

Monday, October 31, 2011

Drawing in 3D VIDEO!

The Drawing in 3D article has been converted into a brief video. This covers the very basic basics of shading to create a sense of depth. Have a look! Share it with anyone you know who may like it, and please do leave feedback!

Monday, October 24, 2011

What materials should I bring for my first figure drawing class?

This is a question that comes up often, and different schools and different teachers might have specific requirements for their students. Since the Summer Sketch Group is a casual, uninstructed drawing session, there are no requirements, but I'll offer you some good basics to start with, and explain why I recommend them. You'll find that these are also the same items that are most commonly suggested to beginners in many schools.

Paper (to draw on, of course)
There are many different kinds of paper, but hands down, the most popular kind for beginners is rough newsprint. Newsprint is basically the stuff they print newspapers on. It's cheaply made of recycled paper and wood pulp and it's very inexpensive, so you can go through a lot of it without spending a lot of money. Rough Newsprint also has a rough texture, and a kind of softness, which makes it excellent for use with softer drawing materials like charcoal, drawing chalk, dry pastels and crayons. In fact, many of the top anatomy and drawing teachers absolutely love drawing on newsprint for its particular feel when drawing. You might too.

The biggest drawback of newsprint is that it's not made to last. It has an acidic nature and eventually turns brown and crumbly, just like an old newspaper. It also tends to be unsized, which means that it's absorbent, and so not great for paint or markers. Still, it's great to start with and fun to draw on.

The next most common type of paper is called Sketch Paper. The companies that make sketch paper typically also make Drawing paper, and the sketch paper is usually just a thinner version of the drawing paper, and typically somewhat less expensive than the drawing paper. These papers are bright white, "acid free" so they won't turn yellow and crumbly, and are "sized" which means they've been treated with a starch solution to make them less absorbent so they're good to use with paints, ink and markers. Sketch paper is more expensive than newsprint.

What Size paper to bring?
Good question! Most of us feel comfortable with notebooks that are 8 1/2" x 11" in size, but art schools usually ask students to buy pads that are much bigger. Why is that?

The bigger the paper, the more detail you can put in your drawings! And the more details you put in your drawings, the more you train your eyes to see detail the details.

At the same time, it doesn't do you any good if you're still doing little drawings swimming on a giant page. I generally recommend getting the biggest pad you can comfortably carry under your arm, usually about 11 x 14" or 12 x 18." These pads also work well if propped up against a chair, while the bigger pads sometimes need an easel, or an additional back board to support them and keep them from flopping around. But remember, there is no "right" or "wrong" in art. If you want to use bigger pads, do it! They're sitting on the art store shelves for you.

Drawing Materials

is probably the most classic of all drawing materials, and certainly one of the first. Cavemen used it! Charcoal is simply burnt wood. It comes in a variety of different types and is also inexpensive. Here are the most common types:

Vine Charcoal
These thin strips of charcoal are actually what is left behind when vines are baked in a kiln. The remnants are light and brittle, and they leave a light, delicate line on the paper which can be brushed off of some papers easily. It's popularly used for the underdrawings of paintings. Some people really like the texture of it.

Willow Charcoal
Is very similar to vine charcoal. sticks of willow wood are baked in kiln until only charcoal is left. It has the delicate properties of vine charcoal, but the pieces are bigger and stringer and sometimes produce a darker line.

Compressed Charcoal
Think of this as charcoal compressed into sticks that are square or round in cross-section. In actual fact, the charcoal is usually ground to a fine powder and mixed with a binding agent, and sometimes clay or other ingredients to give it a smoother texture to draw with and better adherence to the paper. Compressed charcoal is heavier than the others, and also offers a broader tonal range that the unprocessed charcoals, which is to say you can get much darker shadows and lines that with the others. Compressed charcoal usually comes is different degrees of hardness. The softer it is,the easier it is to smudge and blend, and also the softer ones will let you make darker marks on the paper.

All of the above charcoals can be used to draw thin lines with the point, like a pencil, or you can use the side of the charcoal to get a broad sweep of color onto your paper.

Charcoal Pencils
Compressed charcoal in a pencil! You can't put down broad sweeps of color the way you can with a charcoal stick, but you can get more accurate lines and sharpen it like a pencil, and it's less messy.

For bigger pads, above 11 x 14" I do NOT recommend pencils, simply because it takes too long to fill in large areas, and you can get hung up in little details and lose sight of the whole drawing.

Other fun materials:
There are many other materials that you can use in a figure drawing class. many of them come in a stick or block shape similar to compressed charcoal.

Graphite Sticks
Graphite, the same stuff in your pencil, can be got in big crayon-like sticks. Actually the "lead" in you pencil is a combination of graphite powder, wax and sometimes other ingredients (but no lead!). Graphite sticks are sometimes rated in hardness scares just like pencils or compressed charcoal.

Dry Pastels (Drawing chalk)
Dry pastels are made of finely powdered artist's pigments mixed with a binder exactly like the kind used in the making of compressed charcoal. They are fun to use and come in a huge variety of colors. Traditionally, carbon black, sepia, sienna and umbar (all shades of brown, except for the black, of course) are sued for figure drawing, but you can choose any color you like! Some popular brands include Conte Crayons, Neupastels, Koh-I-Noor, and Alphacolor.

Oil Pastels
These are a kind of crayon made of finely powdered pigment combined with an oil. Pastels for kids, like Cray-pas brand, are combined with mineral oil. They never dry up and are fairly easy to wash off hands with soap and water. Artists' pastels are combined with an oil medium which will eventually dry, making your drawings permanent. Oil pastels have a rich texture when going on the paper, are easy to blend and come in many colors.

Oil Bars
Are very similar to oil pastels--big bars of color, comprised of pigment, wax and an oil that eventually dries. These are bigger than pastels and offer the opportunity for bigger art works and more painterly effects. Two popular brands are from Shiva and Windsor Newton.

Yeah, I'm thinking of Crayolas! Cheap and easy to come by, good quality crayons offer a great range of colors and very little mess. Actually, many different art supply manufacturers make wax crayons, and some offer excellent quality. Some are even water-soluble, and can be gone over with a wet paintbrush for more effects. Some good brands are Crayola, Prang, and Caran D'ache.

Broad markers can be fun to draw with. You can fill big areas of color fast, the marker are inexpensive and the felt tips can be very expressive. The drawbacks of markers are that some use smelly solvents (alcohol or other solvents), and the ink gets absorbed into the paper more easily than most other drawing mediums, so the lines might "bleed" and get fuzzy on some papers.

Brush and Ink or Paint
A watercolor brush with flexible bristles is great for sketching with! Watercolor brushes typically come to a fine point, and also spread, so with a little careful handling, you can get a great variety of line-width. You can also use water "washes" to get a big tonal range. Some people use a bottle of ink, and put a few drops of it in a little dish, or right from the bottle (illustrators like to use permanent link, or "India Ink" which becomes waterproof when it dries, but fountain pen ink, which is water-soluble, also works well). Both kinds of ink come in many colors.

You can also use watercolor paints in a similar way you'd use ink. Watercolors come in a solid cake which you can just stroke a wet brush over, and also as a paste in tubes. Watercolor is always water-soluble.

In addition to watercolor brushes, Asian (Chinese & Japanese) calligraphy brushes are a good choice. The usually have excellent points and nice responsiveness, and there are many inexpensive ones that work well. These brushes have either brown bristles, which are very much like sable brushes and create a sharp, clean line, or white bristles, which are more flexible and create a softer mark.

Asian calligraphy inks are also a great choice. They come in bottles and sticks. The sticks have to be ground on a special stone palette, but the bottled ink can be used just like any other bottled ink. Asian inks are made from pine soot and produce a very dark black which can be diluted for a very broad range of tones.

Hope that gives you enough to get started with! Find the ones that appeals to you, and get comfortable using them. After that, if you like, try some of the others. Art is all about experimenting and developing your skill. Practice and have fun.

All images are public domain, courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Draw-Mania! THREE Thursday, Sept 22, 8pm

First off, a big apology for not posting about this to the blog earlier. I've been trying all kinds of different avenues to get the word out about this, and it looks like I overlooked the one right under my nose!

Well, here's the skinny: This Thursday, Sept 22 at the Bento Burger Lounge (101 East 2nd st., upstairs). The Bento Burger is part of the Lucky Cheng's Arts Complex, so to speak.

As with all the others we're offering the talents of some of New York's best and most popular art models, male and female, in an assortment of poses. We also have DJ Shred, a well-known DJ specializing in 80s and Depeche Mode in particular (but not exclusively), some terrific musicians and comedians, raffle prizes and drink specials!

It runs 8pm till midnight and you get it all for a scant $15 smackers.

And I promise to post more frequently about it!

for all the information go to the website:

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

DRAW-MANIA Draw-a-thon-- Sunday, July 17th!!

Grab your pad and pencils and head over to the Fortune Cookie Lounge for a night of inspired drawing, comedy and music, draw-a-thon-style!
The Draw-mania draw-a-thon is a figure drawing party for artists. We feature some of New York’s top art models in a variety of poses to inspire your creativity in the East Village’s funkiest out-of-the-way lounge! (bring your own drawing materials)

Want more?—Some of the East Village’s hottest new comics! Music! Raffle Prizes! Drink Specials! (Drink specials, for god’s sake!)

All levels of artistic ability, and all kinds of reasonable drawing and painting materials are welcome, but NO PHOTOGRAPHY!
$15 at the door. 8pm. to midnight. Doors open at 7pm.
Fortune Cookie Lounge
24 First Ave. Betw. 1st & 2nd street, downstairs
(a block from the F Train, 2nd ave. station)

For latest news and list of performers, and other fun stuff, go to the website:


Until July 8th you can buy advance tickets for only $10 either through the Summer Sketch Meetup group (on or via the Draw-mania page at
(you can find direct links to both on the web page

Thursday, June 2, 2011

RIP Jeff Catherine Jones

I just discovered that one of my favorite artists/illustrators died about two weeks ago--Jeff Jones, later to become Jeff Catherine Jones.

Frank Frazetta referred to Jones as "the greatest living painter. Jones' paintings combine a poetic, fairytale feel reticent of the great illustrators of the early 20th century with a dynamic, loose and sensuous brushwork and use of color.

His/her paintings graced innumerable paperback covers during what might have been the golden age of paperbacks, around the 1970s, but it was the fun and masterful pen drawings that won me. I first saw his "I'm Age" strips in Heavy Metal Magazine in the 1980s, and the easy, sensuous, unselfconscious lines and painterly use of shadow and texture were something that made a huge impression on me. The silly humor and fascination with the inevitably under-dressed Vermeerish female figures also won me over.

But what I really wanted to share with you guys was this wonderful remembrance by George Pratt, a friend and student of Jones. It is also chock-full of priceless how-to information for artists. Please read & enjoy:

Illustration by Jeff Jones, collection of George Pratt

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Posemaniac lets you develop rapid sketching on computer or smartphone

This is soooo cool!

Anyone who's taken a drawing class with me knows that I love 30 second poses. There's even an article on this blog about why 30 second poses are so good for you when they seem so frustrating at first. They have a lot of benefits, but I'll recap the most important in a nutshell: Quick sketches internalize the form into your mind faster. Working that quickly, you can't get hung up on the details, just the "gesture" (or motion of the figure) and the proportions. And after you do these for a while, the "feel" for the figure becomes ingrained and instinctive.

And besides, once you start to get 'em, quick sketching is REALLY fun!

So what do you do if you can't make it to my sketch group? Go to

There, on your screen, you'll have 30 second poses generated for you to draw. you can actually set it for different intervals, and in fairness, the figures are computer-generated and can be a little hard to "get" for the first 5 minutes or so. It also offers you odd angles that you'd rarely get to see a live model from, like form underfoot, and even a very useful "negative space option."

You can select specific poses from the pose files, and many can be rotated too, and you can also bring up a grid to make it easy to reproduce the proportions accurately.

Stick with this program and you'll find your mastery of the figure increasing quickly and dramatically.

The site also offers other links for specific anatomical part & details, but you may have to engage your browser's Japanese translation in order to get the most out of it. (the Google toolbar offer a really good one, but there are others, too).

Special thanks to Jim Fleming for letting me know about this!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Audrey Munson, America's biggest art star

She was the American Venus, Miss Manhattan. She was the inspiration to the tops artists, sculptors and architechs of her day, then went on to becoming one of the worlds first movie stars, and the first to do a tasteful nude scene--in 1915!!

As if that wasn't enough, she rubbed elbows with the elite, found herself at the center of a love & murder scandal, and lived to 104.

After her "discovery" on a street corner by a prominent photographer of her day, she went on to inspire sculptures that can be found literally all over New York City, from the Strauss Memorial at 106 street & West End Ave., to the Brooklyn Bridge, on the dimes & half dollars of her day, and on fountains and buildings all across the country.

Check out her biography, and this terrific little video about how she graces our fair city:

And this excellent little blog:
THE BLUE LANTERN: Audrey Munson: Her Brilliant Career

UPDATE! A new book has recently been written about our hero, Audrey, called "The Curse of Beauty" by James Bone from Regan Arts. Here's a link to a great hyperallergic article about Audrey and the book, with some astounding pix!