Dan Gheno is an artist and teacher who places a special emphasis on figure drawing. He teaches at The Art Students League and The National Academy School in New York and is Prefessor Emeritus, The Lyme Academy College in Old Lyme, Connecticut.
I’m particularly fond of his life drawings because his approach is similar to my own, in that it is a combination of line and tone, heavily influenced by an admiration for the drawings of masters like Michelangelo, Raphael and Rubens.
Gheno also credits his approach to an early fascination with comic book art, and the corresponding desire to develop the ability to draw the figure from his imagination; a path that gave him the impetus to approach figure drawing with special emphasis on a solid sense of geometry underlying the form and a feeling for the volumetric nature of the human form in three dimensional space.
One of the key skills that sets comic book artists apart from other illustrators or cartoonists is the need to develop a consistent ability to invent and quickly draw figures from the imagination, portraying the human form, however exaggerated, in an enormous variety of positions and spatial relationships, often with severe foreshortening.
Dramatic foreshortening and dynamic projections of the figure in space are also hallmarks of masters like Michelangelo, Raphael, Carracci, Tiepolo and Pontormo; and I’ve always suggested that comic book artists and illustrators who work with the invented figure would do well to supplement their life drawing with the study of these artists’ drawings, along with more traditional sources of instruction like the books of Andrew Loomis, George Bridgeman and Walt Reed. (Would-be comic book artists who study only the work of other comic book artists are simply lost.)
To that list of instructional inspiration, I would easily add Dan Gheno, not only for comic book artists and illustrators, but for any artist interested in drawing the figure.
Though Gheno has not yet written a book of his instructional methods, he has over time written a series of articles on figure drawing for American Artist magazine and American Artist’s Drawing magazine. These have been collected into a special issue of Drawing Highlights that is now on the newsstands.
This is essentially a figure drawing instruction book in magazine form and is a tremendous resource for under $10. Gheno supplements his clear and thoughtful instruction not only with his own accomplished drawings, but with the work of a variety of master draftsmen, including the artists mentioned above and a host of others, like Rembrandt, Ingres, Goltzius, Rodin, Durer, Da Vinci, Prud’hon, Greuze and Charles Dana Gibson.
There are articles on drawing the figure, the hand, the head, actions and gestures and the seldom covered subject of drapery on the human form, i.e. folds in clothing.
Unfortunately, Gheno’s site is one of those awkward, mid-90’s style nightmares with scrolling pages full of centered text and oversize linked headings, but you’ll find it worth the trouble to dig around and find your way to his drawings, metaphorical figurative paintings, landscapes, teachings, reading list and materials list. (The navigation links that should be on the home page are strewn down this page. Click on the large text links that look like headings for the subsections; the images are linked to their larger versions. In the galleries, only the images with red dots are linked to larger versions, the others are empty links that will leave you 404.) Gheno has also provided a nice set of links to art resources he has found of value.
There is also a transcript of an online chat with Gheno on the American Artist site. The special issue of Drawing Highlights should be on the newsstands for a few months (or until it sells out).
Addendum: The managing editor of American Artist was kind enough to write and let me know that the issue of Drawing Highlights mentioned here can be ordered directly from them through this link.