Category Archives: Drawing

Eye Candy for Today: Ingres portrait of Madame Félix Gallois

Madame Felix Gallois, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
Madame Félix Gallois, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

Graphite on paper, with touches of cold highlighting the jewelry, roughly 14 x 11 in. (35 x 27 cm); in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; use the download or zoom links under the image on their site.

Another of Ingres’ beautiful and deceptively simple graphite portraits — sensitive, incisive and dancing on that wonderful line between responding to a person and looking at lines on paper.

 
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Framed Perspective, Marcos Mateu-Mestre

Framed Perspective,  Marcos Mateu-Mestre
Just to put things in… context, the history of graphical perspective goes back further, but the system of geometric perspective we use today can be traced to an important point in the beginning of the 15th century, when Filippo Brunelleschi — the brilliant Renaissance architect and designer who solved the seemingly intractable problem of spanning the world’s largest cathedral dome space with an ingenious solution — codified a system of graphical persepctive that was immediately adopted by almost every artist who was made aware of it, and most artists since.

Like his solution for the dome of the Florence cathedral, the model of geometric perspective Brunelleschi demonstrated solved problems that had previously seemed impossibly difficult.

Artists and art students have either been thanking or cursing him ever since, depending on whether they see graphical perspective construction as an an incredibly powerful tool or as a burdensome learning process akin to school studies of math or chemistry.

Linear perspective study can seem difficult when ill-presented, but when taught properly, it can be a golden key to drawing and painting with a strength, solidity, accuracy and realism impossible to achieve without it.

Short of taking a course with a good instructor, those interested in mastering perspective are left to find their own way with books that are too often poorly presented, overly obtuse and almost as boring to look at as a mathematics textbook.

While there are some pretty good perspective books out there, I’ve just received review copies of a new two-volume set on perspective that has shot to the top of my personal list of best books on the subject.

Framed Perspective Vol #1 and Vol #2, are new books from Marcos Mateu-Mestre, a concept artist and illustrator who I have written about previously and whose drawing style I have always found particularly appealing.

As in his previous book: Framed Ink: Drawing and Composition for Visual Storytellers (link to my review), he tackles the the subject within the framework of real world use and practical application.

Also like that book, Mateau-Mestre has not only used real-world type examples to illustrate the concepts, he has also used them to make his books something that perspective books rarely are: visually appealing and entertaining.

Framed Perspective Vol. 1 is subtitled: “Technical Perspective and Visual Storytelling”. In it Mateau-Mestre starts at the ground floor (so to speak) and takes you from the basic concepts through solutions for some reasonably complex challenges, including multiple vanishing points, staircases, three-point perspective, arches and domes, and the application of perspective to freehand sketching.

At over 200 pages, it’s packed with information and techniques and a reality-based approach that stays focused on what’s really useful.

Framed Perspective Vol. 2 is subtitled “Technical Drawing for Shadows, Volume, and Characters”, and deals with the too often neglected subjects of applying shadows in perspective and applying perspective to the human figure, including the representation of clothing and folds, and the application of shadows to figures.

Though not as extensive as Volume 1, this one still weighs in at over 120 pages, and is jammed with useful information, as well as Mateu-Mestre’s wonderful drawings and illustrations.

Throughout both volumes, the illustrations, diagrams, text and book design are clear, concise and well thought out.

Any artist with an interest in comics, graphic storytelling, concept art or illustration — as well as painting and drawing of any kind that involves linear perspective — should look into these superb volumes.

If you’ve found books on perspective daunting and/or boring, Framed Perspective may open your eyes to a world of possibilities for understanding and using one of an artist’s most powerful tools.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Antonio Mauro Perspective Design for a Stage Set

Perspective Design for a Stage Set of an Italian Cityscape, Antonio Mauro II, drawing in pen and ink and leadpoint with wash
Perspective Design for a Stage Set of an Italian Cityscape, Antonio Mauro II

Pen and black ink, brown and gray wash and leadpoint layout lines, roughly 10 x 14 in. (27 x 36 cm). In the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, use the Enlarge or Download links under their image.

This beautifully crafted 18th century design for a stage set, with its complex perspective view of a city street, also works as a drawing.

The artist’s use of wash — both in the heavily shadowed wall on the left and the lighter applications that add dimensionality to the architectural details on the right — give the composition solidity and enhance remarkable feeling of depth created by Mauro’s command of linear perspective.

If you look closely (the high-resolution image on the Met’s site is considerably larger than my detail crops above), you can see some of the artist’s perspective construction lines.

 
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Fragonard: Drawing Triumphant

Jean-Honore Fragonard: Drawing Triumphant
18th century French painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard was known for his luxuriously colored and lavishly rendered depictions of frivolity and sensuality, much in keeping with the High-Baroque fascination with those kinds of scenes.

As beautifully painted as they may be, the subject matter of Fragonard’s paintings can leave you with the undeserved impression that his abilities as a painter are likewise somewhat frivolous, and he doesn’t often get his due as a painter.

My introduction to Fragonard was through his drawings, which I encountered early on at shows in New York at the Met and the Morgan Library, both of which have superb examples in their permanent collections.

Fragonard’s drawings, with their remarkable combination of suggested detail and economy of notation, as well as his fluidity in rendering figures — much of which was passed on from his teacher, François Boucher — reveal his exceptional skill more directly than his paintings.

Not only are his drawing abilities impressive, his methods of notation are often unusual, particularly the wonderful way he suggests foliage with those crazy zig-zag lines, as in the image detail above, second down.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has mounted a new exhibition of Fragonard’s drawings, with over 100 works on paper. As with most works on paper, they are rarely on view because of the fragility and light sensitivity of paper.

Many of those in this show are from private collections and have not been on view previously to the public. Much of the remainder are from the Met’s own collection, and apparently from that of the nearby Morgan Library and Museum.

There is a preview of works on the Met’s web pages for the exhibition, those in their own collections have links to high-res, downloadable images elsewhere on their site (or you can search their collection online for “Fragonard drawings“).

Those from private collections are, unsurprisingly, not presented as large images, however, you can look for those from the Morgan Library’s collection on their site, on which you will also find high-res zoomable and downloadable images.

Fragonard: Drawing Triumphant” is on view at the Met until January 8, 2017.

There is a book accompanying the exhibition, also titled Fragonard: Drawing Triumphant, that is available from the Met’s online store, or through Amazon and other book sources.

I haven’t gotten up to see this show yet, but I have seen a number of these drawings in other shows over the years, and they are just beautiful.

In particular, I love the stunning little gouache painting shown above, bottom: Interior of a Park, The Gardens of the Villa d’Este, which is from the collection of the Morgan Library (high-res version here). Wow.

 
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Henry Patrick Raleigh

Henry Patrick Raleigh, classic 20th century illustrator of the Gatsby era
Henry Patrick Raleigh was a classic American illustrator active in the early part of the 20th century. Raleigh is not as well known as many of the illustrators from the Golden Age and the mid-20th century eras that bracketed his career, and undeservedly so.

I can think of few illustrators, or artists in general, whose draftsmanship was more fluid and gestural. Raleigh’s ability to convey body language, expression and the sense of languid grace of figures in repose is just amazing.

In particular, he was a chronicler of, and enthusiastic participant in, the society high life of the “Gatsby era” in the 1920s. Raleigh was extraordinarily prolific, creating some 20,000 illustrations during his career. At a time when illustration was more highly valued than it is today, it gave him the wealth to move in the richest levels of society.

I think his remarkable output, continually drawing and working, also accounted for his high degree of artistic confidence, skill and economy of notation (look at the gestural representation of the flowers in the image above, fifth down). He was also an accomplished etcher.

He illustrated stories for many of the most prominent authors of his time, including H.G. Wells, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Agatha Christie, Stephen Vincent Benet, William Faulkner, Sinclair Lewis, and Somerset Maugham.

Raleigh was primarily a draftsman, and actually resented the advent of color illustrations, feeling that illustration was best as pure drawing. For all of that, when the demand for color became apparent, he incorporated it into his work with the same superb ability he devoted to his drawings, often using color in inventive and unusual ways. Some of his illustrations are monochromatic except for a single area of color; others use loosely applied color accents; and others are in full, brilliant color.

There is a wonderful collection of Raleigh’s work, The Henry Raleigh Archive, maintained by his grandson, Chris Raleigh. In the well designed and easy to navigate site, you will find biographical information, items for sale and a selection of Raleigh’s work with links to large images.

As beautiful as Raleigh’s work is in digital images, it is best viewed in the medium for which it was intended — print. There is a beautiful new book showcasing his work: Henry Patrick Raleigh: The Confident Illustrator, from Auad Publishing (images above, bottom) The text is provided by Christopher Raleigh, who evidently also worked with Auad to collect the images and provided access to the archives.

I was delighted to receive a review copy and the book is just gorgeous. This should be a must-have for aficionados of classic illustration, and really for anyone interested in fluid, gestural drawings of figures and clothing or the masterful use of tone and value in compositions.

At 130 pages, with even monochromatic illustrations rendered in color, the book is packed with Raleigh’s breezy, elegant and often amusing or dramatic illustrations — beautifully printed and with a tipped in print — for $35.00.

The book is listed as not yet released on Amazon, but you can pre-order it there. However, you can buy it now directly from Auad Publishing.

If you click on the image on the Auad page, you’ll get a pop-up with a short preview of the book. For a better idea of the content, most of the illustrations you’ll see on the Henry Raleigh Archives are in the book.

(Incidentally, Auad’s beautiful book on Al Parker is currently on sale for more than half off. Auad is a small publisher specializing in great illustrators and comics artists, and their small print runs often sell out.)

There is a nice article about Raleigh on Gurney Journey that gives some additional background on the artist and his life, and I’ll list some other articles in the links provided below.

 
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Some wise suggestions for artists from Neil Gaiman’s 2012 address to the University of the Arts

Neil Gaiman addressing the graduating class at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia in 2012
For those who are dismayed, as I am, at the recent turn of events, and the likely devastating effect it will have on the state of the arts here in the U.S. (see my before the fact storm warning to that effect), I offer some insightful suggestions about art in the face of adversity from writer Neil Gaiman.

This is a video of his remarks as he addressed the graduating class at the University of the Arts here in Philadelphia in 2012.

He doesn’t really get to the point until about 6 minutes in, but do yourself a favor — set aside 20 minutes, pour yourself a hot (or cold) beverage, relax, and watch the entire address. It’s amusing, well crafted (he’s a good writer), and will leave you feeling better about your course as an artist in troubled times.

It’s also — as it was intended to be — sage advice for those who are starting out on a life in the arts, as well as a reality check for those who are already achieving success in their field.

 
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