Sunday, May 17, 2015

Yakovlev's Citroën Expeditions [feedly]

Yakovlev's Citroën Expeditions
// Gurney Journey

 Alexander Yakovlev (1887-1938) Mirza Dolik
One of the works in the upcoming Sotheby's auction of Russian pictures is this portrait by Alexander Yakovlev.

Portrait of Mirza Dolik (detail) 
The drawing is 20 x 14 inches, and it was drawn outdoors from life in 1931 using sanguine and pastel on paper. 

Alexander Yakovlev (also spelled Alexandre Iacovleff or Jacovleff) did the drawing as the official sketch artist of a motorized expedition across Asia.

The vehicle was a Citroën with a half-track in back. It drove across regions of the Asian continent that had no roads and very little petrol. Along the way the motor caravan overcame incredible obstacles, including warriors, mountain passes, and raging rivers.

Yakovlev was born and trained in Russia at the Imperial Academy of Arts under Kardovsky, and he lived later in France and America.

He was involved with two Citroën expeditions through Asia. The team traveled through Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Mongolia and China. He also went on an expedition through Africa, crossing the Sahara to Equatorial Africa.

His portraits bear the intensity of the encounters between cultures unfamiliar with each other. In many regions, his lifelike portraits provoked awe, and the people seeing such drawings being made regarded him as a form of conjurer.

Alexander Yakovlev Salek Ibn Mohamed 

sanguine and pastel on paper 29x21.5 in.

According to Sotheby's: "The clothes of the present sitter suggest that Salek Ibn Mahomed was a Baghdadi Kurd, a people whose proud and dignified air Yakovlev found very attractive and markedly different to the rather more simple appearance of the Kurdish nomads in the north. 'If I hadn't known that the Baghdadi Kurds who came to pose for me were just porters handling supplies for the expedition' Yakovlev wrote, 'I could easily have mistaken them for descendants of the princes of One Thousand and One Nights'"

Read More
Alexandre Jacovleff / Alexandre Yevgenievich Jacovleff on  Wikipedia
Sothebys "Russian Pictures," June 2 at Sothebys London
Exhibition catalog with essay
Read a French website about portfolios of these portraits.
Tate Gallery has one of his works
Book: Great Adventures With National Geographic: Exploring Land, Sea, and Sky
Print articles:
"From the Mediteranean to the Yellow Sea by Motor," by Maynard Owen Williams, National Geographic, November 1932 
"Through the Deserts and Jungles of Africa by Motor: Caterpillar Cars Make 15,000-Mile Trip from Algeria to Madagascar in Nine Months," by Georges-Marie Haardt, National Geographic, June 1926.
Related Posts on GJ:
Josep Tapiro's Ethnographic Portraits
Eugene Burnand's World War I Portraits


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Sincerity [feedly]

// Temple of the Seven Golden Camels

When I was at CalArts many years ago, my teachers would use the words "sincere" and "sincerity" often. I know Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston used these frequently words as well when speaking about animation. These words aren't used very often anymore (at least in my experience), and I've been thinking about them a lot lately. Maybe it's a good time to bring them up again.

The dictionary definition of "sincere" is free from pretense or deceit; proceeding from genuine feelings.

Some great advice on the importance of the subject from Ollie Johnston: "you have to make it sincere, so that the audience will believe everything they do, all their emotions. Ask yourself: 'what is the character thinking and why does he feel this way?'"

Sincerity is an elusive quality and hard to define, but very important to what we do. The films and characters that come from a real place and feel grounded and sincere will stand the test of time and be enjoyed by audiences for decades to come. Over the years there have always been snarky, insincere movies and they just don't touch audiences or live on in people's memories the way a really sincere story will. There's nothing wrong with those kind of movies, of course, but our goal in animation is usually to create stories that stand the test of time. And sincerity is key to accomplishing that goal.

I think the word sincerity has fallen out of fashion in the animation community, and I feel like when I use the word sometimes people roll their eyes. I think this is because, over the years, people have begun to associate the word sincere with things that aren't actually sincere at all, but are instead saccharine, cloying or overly earnest.

The definition of "saccharine" is excessively sweet or sentimental. The definition of "cloying" is to disgust or sicken someone with an excess of sweetness, richness, or sentiment.

I think that those of us in animation are wary of the word "sincere" because so many animated films over the years have tried to mimic the tone and feel of the best Disney movies and many of them have missed the mark. Many of these films have an overly sweet and sappy tone and feel completely insincere. Some people even have an impression that Disney films tend to be sappy or saccharine. I don't think they are (at least not the best ones). Over the years, Disney story people and animators have always tried to find the real, true feelings at the heart of every story and build our stories and characters on real emotions. 

Also, the best Disney films don't shy away from the darker, more frightening parts of life. I think that's one mistake people can fall into that can cause a story to feel saccharine: they gloss over any actual conflict or potentially dark part of their story. That can make a film feel too overly earnest and create a feeling of insincerity. The best Disney movies find a way to deal with darkness and tragedy in a tasteful way that isn't overly heavy-handed or manipulative. That's another way for a film to become insincere: if the audience feels like you're exploiting something dark or tragic to force them to feel an emotion. Great film makers have a deft touch and can lead you into feeling what they want you to feel without you realizing what they've done. It's not easy, but it's key to what we do, and sincerity is very important to pulling it off.

So keep "sincerity" in mind as you work. There's no easy way to grasp what it means or implement it, but here are a few thoughts that might help you in that area:

No matter how fantastic or imaginative a world you're creating, your story and characters should always have a least a glimmer of basis in your experiences to ground everything. It's always best to base your stories and characters off of real people you know and real emotions that you've felt. If you're trying to express an emotion in your work that you don't understand or haven't felt, it just isn't going to feel real. 

Don't ever base your work on what someone else has done. Copying someone else's work always falls flat and feels insincere. There have been a few distinctive animators over the years that have developed a unique style because it came out of their individual taste and personality. When someone else tries to imitate that style, it never feels sincere. Similarly, when a storyteller creates a story because they were inspired by another story, that always feels insincere and you can always tell. Dig deep into your own tastes and feelings to create something original. The world doesn't need clones of something that already worked once. The world always needs fresh ideas. 

When you're being sincere, you will sometimes feel vulnerable. You might worry that people will laugh at you or mock you because you are putting real emotions on the page. I think that's why so many snarky and sarcastic stories are created: nobody ever mocks anyone for being sarcastic. People who are snarky and sarcastic are often revered for being cool and hip. It always seems more cool to not care about anything. But it'll never lead to a story that goes to a deep level or touches people. 

As screenwriter John Milius once said, "It's easy to be cynical. It's hard to be corny."


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I Made An Art Masterpost [feedly]

I Made An Art Masterpost
// Art and Reference point







Other (Person Related):

Other (non-specific):

I made this most for my own benefit to organize this stuff, and have no idea how to make a masterpost!

Art ref


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Eye Candy for Today: Adolph Menzel graphite drawing [feedly]

Eye Candy for Today: Adolph Menzel graphite drawing
// lines and colors

Carl John Arnold, Adolph Menzel, pencil drawing
Carl John Arnold, Adolph Menzel

In the Morgan Library and Museum, use Zoom tab or download link.

Menzel gives us a superbly adept rendering in pencil. The drawing feels at once finished and casual.

Either the subject had a large head, or Menzel — after focusing on the portrait — compressed the figure somewhat to fit it on the paper.

Beautiful, nonetheless.


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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Soft Lines and No Tension [feedly]

Soft Lines and No Tension
// Artist Daily

I'm not a napping kind of person. When I'm up, I'm up and I want to be doing something or on the go. That's usually the kind of body drawing that I'm pulled to as well--muscles torqued, body indicating action, and an underlying sense of movement. That being said, I do recognize and advocate for drawings that show the body at rest.

Doppelganger by Michael Grimaldi, 14 x 18, pencil drawing, 2005.
Doppelganger by Michael Grimaldi, 14 x 18, pencil drawing, 2005.

There's something beautiful and quietly sensual about the human form lying prone or supine--a landscape of soft lines and no tension in the body. But in order to truly represent this kind of lassitude and ease when drawing human body sketches or studies, I need to be better equipped when it comes to figure drawing.

Nude Study by Edward Minoff, 16 x 12, charcoal drawing, 1999.
Nude Study by Edward Minoff, 16 x 12,
charcoal drawing, 1999.

I realize now that the body at rest is just as complicated as the body in action. Understanding how to draw a human body in both ways does an artist a good turn because you witness and take note of the body's muscles and bones in its widest spectrum of motion. That is always a good thing so that no matter what a model does or how they are positioned, I can "unpack" the form through anatomy so to speak.

If you want to really sink into knowing how to draw the anatomy of the body in all of its softness and sensuality as well as its power and movement, consider the Figure Drawing Master Class Mini-Kit. We at Artist Daily can't recommend it highly enough. You'll find a guide to drawing human forms from head to toe from favorite instructor Dan Gheno, showing the body in various stages of activity and position. Plus a year's subscription to Drawing magazine, where anatomy drawing is approached from an artist's perspective--giving you knowledge of the visual landmarks on the body and a sense of proportions that you'll want whenever you draw the figure. Enjoy!



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"I need to go where I’m not comfortable. I think that’s the artist’s job." [feedly]

"I need to go where I'm not comfortable. I think that's the artist's job."
// Quotes About Comics

"I need to go where I'm not comfortable. I think that's the artist's job."

- Kelly Sue DeConnick

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10 Things...Sketching the Model [feedly]

10 Things...Sketching the Model
// Muddy Colors

Greg Manchess

Tuesday night I spent the evening drawing at the Society of Illustrators. I love the atmosphere and feeling of being surrounded by people who appreciate the beauty of the human figure and the effort it takes to draw it. But it occurred to me that the art field has lost the idea of what drawing the nude is about.

The idea is still basically to understand and practice drawing anatomy to improve one's skills at not only drawing people accurately, but being able to draw them in any position based on that information. Even from our heads.

Over the years, the effort of drawing from the nude model has become misconstrued. The overall impression now is to come away with a beautiful drawing, or a finished piece. Perhaps even a portfolio piece, or one that's fit for the Louvre.

To come away with a nice drawing is not the overriding goal, but a benefit. Drawing from the model is primarily about training your brain to understand anatomy and use that information to build ideas or scenes using the figure as a primary focal point.

1. Study.
The basic idea is to gain information about how the human body moves, folds, bends, twists, and expresses. The figure is nude so that we can see how the muscles connect, and understand how these masses form around a skeletal structure. And all of that under directed light.

The point is to begin memorizing these forms. It is complicated and the endeavor takes time and focused observation.

2. Materials.
Give yourself an advantage: draw with something that puts down a decent line. Something where you can control the weight of the line, and therefore the depth within a drawing to control where the viewer looks. Soft lead, good erasers, smudgers, and certainly paper with a good enough tooth to grab hold of graphite or charcoal or conte immediately helps one's drawing skills.

When working with a smooth surface like slick newsprint, soft charcoal can feel like drawing with a stick of butter. It feels luscious and dreamy. And that drives the desire to draw.

For those who like a hard lead and want to impress people with a drawing that has visual impact...good freakin' luck.

3. Gesture.
Capturing the general gesture of the figure first before diving in to render or sharpen focus is supremely important to creating a drawing that feels expressive. The figure must not feel like it's fighting the paper. The lines shouldn't feel like they are hurting the figure. Sure, there are great techniques out there with big fat lines to delineate form and shape, but one can still capture a graceful attitude using awkward strokes. This comes from constant practice, and not just luck, or (OMG!) talent. ahem.

4. Shape driven.
Start simple. Indicate the overall shape first, controlled by the shape of the torso. Some artists talk about drawing the longest line in the figure first, but this can get confusing with limbs bent in different directions. The overall shape of the upper torso apposing the hips will give a fast impression of volume and capture a basic posture to hang arms and legs off of.

5. Line work.
Don't allow yourself to always draw in one line weight to capture the form. Learn to use edges and shifting shapes of a drawing tool to express a range of super-thin lines and broad flat ones.

Line weight not only adds character to the sketch, but adds accuracy as well. And speaking of weight, remember that the figure is affected by gravity consistently tugging it straight to the ground. Think of the bottom of the page as having tremendous gravitational pull. This works wonders for understanding how to sketch fabric.

6. Shadows.
General torso shapes dictate how light falls on the rest of the body. Look for general patterns of shadows first. From broad covering shadows to small shadows under arms or a nose. Use these as anchor points to get the rest of the figure built.

Pay attention to how these shadow shapes affect the rendering of the body and the direction of light.

7. Value added.
Unless you're working with ink, using a pencil or charcoal broadly to establish tone is one of the first things needed to understand how the figure sits in space. Smearing and smudging is a classic way to gain a medium tone to the overall piece. Coming back in with an eraser can recapture light areas and highlights. This can instantly add depth.

There are many tricks people use to create tone in a drawing that are just as important as line. For example, you can learn to use toned paper and sketch in highlights with white conte crayon.

8. Costume.
Simple street clothes are costume. It doesn't have to be some crazy frilly tutu-shaped taffeta disguise to be considered costume. Unless you're trying to figure out how this material works, many of those crazy shapes just hide the figure.

Knowing how a pair of pants folds when seated or how a blouse tugs against the chest is full of rich information you can use to understand the anatomy beneath it. Showing how fabric is bunched and stretched adds believability to the figure.

That's why we learn the underlying anatomy: to derive how it affects the clothes encasing it. Practice back and forth between nude and clothed figures.

9. Start with a goal.
Figure out how you want the figure to lay on the page before you start to draw. Compose it in your mind's eye, then begin to sketch. Decide what you are going to concentrate on for this particular sketch. Will you have enough time to capture the face, or are you only interested in studying how the fingers sit on the folded arm? Do you just want to understand how the ankle works and how light falls on those forms? Or are you going for an overall definition of the figure without much detail? Decide, then draw.

10. Flexible training.
Sketching from the live model is mainly about training to understand it. But we also can't limit ourselves by doing it the same way all the time. Allow yourself to shift styles, try different shapes, exaggerate details or hide them, distort proportions, even turn a model into a cartoon of what is in front of you. Exaggerating forms is a powerful way to understand and remember real shapes. 

Accuracy and expression are built from multiple approaches. It is the back and forth training that allows us to keep a sharp eye when studying the model.

Of course, sometimes, we just want to draw a really beautiful figure study. And I suppose if it ends up in the Louvre, that's not so bad.

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Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Foundation of Figurative Art Is... [feedly]

The Foundation of Figurative Art Is...
// Artist Daily

In figure drawing and painting, knowing the ins and outs of the human body is essential. There's no way around that fact, and honing our skills with anatomy drawing helps us understand and truly see the body more accurately than any other endeavor.

Drawing by Stephen Schultz.
Drawing by Stephen Schultz.

I was flipping through one of my eye-candy books, The Perception of Appearance: A Decade of Contemporary American Figure Drawing, trying to figure out a way to convey the importance of human anatomy for artists. As I thumbed through the book, I saw so many different interpretations of the body. Some sketches, such as those by Stephen Schultz and Don Southard, were crudely drawn; others, by such artists as Kent Bellows and Stephen Assael, were more fully realized.

Some sketches were developed solely with line and contour as in the work of Charles Cajori while others from Fred Dalkey were hewn with gradation and shading and seemed to be carved out of the very paper they were drawn upon. But each drawing, no matter how it was rendered, belonged in the book because they all exhibited a strong knowledge of how to draw a human body.

Model Looking at the Light by Fred Dalkey, 2011, silver point drawing with sgrafitto, 9 5/16 x 7.
Model Looking at the Light by Fred Dalkey,
2011, silver point drawing with sgrafitto,
9 5/16 x 7.

That kind of skill can, of course, be interpreted differently--which the book clearly demonstrated--but if you don't have it, it shows. So as I sit here and wonder what I am gearing up for in the next few months of studio practice, know that learning more and more about drawing anatomy is foremost in my mind. There's no substitute for it and after seeing many skilled drawings of the human body, I realize that anatomy isn't just a linear subject to learn like a mathematical equation. It is a faceted key that fits many doors of artistic expression--and I want to walk through those doors with my own art and explore different ways of drawing and painting. We should never feel limited in terms of our creativity, and for an artist, knowing anatomy is a way of assuring that doesn't happen.    

A subscription to Drawing magazine is a great place to start your explorations of how to draw a human body or to brush up on your knowledge of human anatomy for artists. Almost every issue takes on an essential area of the body from the artist's perspective and makes exploring anatomy drawing a focused, pinpointed endeavor as you strengthen your skills. Enjoy!


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Monday, May 4, 2015

The Meissonier / Mackay Scandal [feedly]

The Meissonier / Mackay Scandal
// Gurney Journey

A scandal about a displeased portrait client damaged the career of the most famous painter of his day, Ernest Meissonier (French 1815-1891), and ended with the portrait thrown onto a fire.

Ernest Meissonier, Self Portrait
Despite his celebrity and the vast sums paid for his work, Meissonier had painted few images of women, and few portrait likenesses. This commission came in the last decade of his life and at the pinnacle of his international success.

The sitter was Mrs. J. W. Mackay, of California. After seeing the portrait nearly finished, she rejected it, and at first her husband refused to pay for it. The price was vast for 1884, estimated between ten and twenty-five thousand dollars. Meissonier responded by vowing to keep the painting and he put it on exhibition, where the public would be the judge. 

In his view he had simply painted a picture that was too accurate. In her view he had made her look coarse, and made up like a painted doll.

"It seems that after Meissonier had painted the portrait, Mrs. Mackay criticised it a little and wanted it just a little more finished. It was not finished then when she went into the country, and she wrote him she would come up anytime he wanted to finish it."

"He never said a word, but finished the hands from a model of a big, coarse woman with ugly hands, and made the cheeks and lips powdered and painted frightfully, and left the neck yellow, just because he was so angry that she should dare to criticise such a great master as himself."

"Now Mrs. Mackay thought, with good reason I think, that she ought to have been the model to her own portrait, and that she could ask at least for a faint resemblance, especially as she would have to pay $15,000 for the picture."

"Without informing Mrs. Mackay as to his intentions or asking her consent, he simply sent the picture to the exhibition, where her friends saw it and told her of it. She wrote and asked for the picture, and at the close of the exhibition it was sent to her, with a bill."

"Mr. Mackay was so provoked that he wanted to make a fuss about it, but his friends persuaded him to pay it and say nothing more about it. This he did, and threw the picture in the fire. But on the same day Mr. Mackay left for America the papers: came out with the story, abusing Mrs. Mackay, and the French artists are to meet and have an indignation meeting that a canvas immortalized by Meissonier should be burned by a vulgar American."

The debate about who was in the right was taken up in all the papers on both sides of the Atlantic. An early writer about the incident said that "Meissonier, by the haughtiness of his manner, his artistic independence, and, most of all, by his unpardonable success, had been sowing dragons teeth for half a century. And now armed enemies sprang up, and sided with the woman from California. They made it an international episode: less excuses have involved nations in war in days agone....The tide of Meissonier's prosperity began to ebb: prospective buyers kept away; those who had given commissions canceled them."



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by any chance could you do a lil tutorial/process of how you draw limbs in different poses? esp. legs/thighs, your legs always look so jaunty and charming i love it but i never know what to, ,, ,,, do with mine, like where to put them so [feedly]

by any chance could you do a lil tutorial/process of how you draw limbs in different poses? esp. legs/thighs, your legs always look so jaunty and charming i love it but i never know what to, ,, ,,, do with mine, like where to put them so
// Art and Reference point

Okay! I'm going to try to answer this best I can, but before I do, please remember I am just a humble animation student and by no means a professional artist or a seasoned expert, so this might not be the correct way to do things or be extremely accurate. This is just how I do it, and a couple tips I've picked up from teachers at school.

First of all, getting familiar with the anatomy of legs helps a lot! (I know this is the dreaded answer to every art question) I don't know too much about the muscles of the legs other than the basics, so I don't talk about them here because I don't want to look like an idiot. They're very worth studying though, especially the muscles that form the inside of the thigh and back of the calf.


Those are some leg studies I did from life in class last year, with the key parts labelled.

Chances are you've tried to draw legs and??


Unless you're going for a certain style, legs that look like straight tubes or 90 degree angles are gonna look a bit weird.

As you can see with the life drawings above, legs have certain natural curves and rhythms to them! None of the bones in the legs are straight or tubular, so your legs should not be either.


Sorry for the really mediocre pelvis it's not my strong suit oh god. It's easy to characterize the legs as something like this:


Remembering that the knee is a hinge joint and that it has a sort of curved offset from the upper leg to the lower leg really helps.


So when you keep that offset in mind and apply some curves over the muscle and fat layered on top of those BEAUTIFULLY RHYTHMIC bones, you get dynamic flow in your legs. The hip (trochanter), kneecap (patella) and ankle (fibula/tibia malleolus) are good landmarks to keep in mind.


So by applying some curves, you get a softer/more dynamic/rhythmic feel to the legs that makes your figure look a lot less static even if they are standing entirely still. It's also worth noting most people shift their weight onto one hip or another, position their feet weirdly, etc etc.

Hope that helps!


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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Cecilia Beaux (update) [feedly]

Cecilia Beaux (update)
// lines and colors

Cecilia Beaux, 19th century American portrait painter
Cecilia Beaux — an American portrait painter active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries — is, like her contemporaries John Singer Sargent and William Merritt Chase, receiving something of a revival of appreciation for her place in the history American Art.

Unlike them, however, she still suffers from the fact that her contribution has rarely, if ever, been sufficiently acknowledged, largely because she was a woman.

Beaux was one of the best portrait painters of her time and, in my estimation, one of the finest American painters in history. Not only do I hold her in similar regard to painters like Chase and Thomas Eakins — who was one of her teachers — I can't help but think of her name as a fourth party whenever I hear the common grouping of the "Masters of the Loaded Brush": Sargent, Sorolla and Zorn.

Beaux was particularly adept in her portrayals of women, and was noted for her full-length and 3/4 length portraits in the "Grand Manner".

For more on my high opinion of Beaux as a painter, and why it deepened on seeing the extraordinary show of her work at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 2008, I'll refer you to my 2008 post on Cecilia Beaux.

In this post, I'm taking advantage of the occasion of her birthday to display more examples of her work and point out some of the newer sources of images that have appeared on the web since my previous post. Unfortunately, they are still less than I would hope for a painter of her stature, and too few of them are large enough to appreciate her breathtaking command of the brush.

The image above, bottom, is one of her self-portraits.

There are a few books on Beaux, mostly out of print but available used from online sources:
Cecilia Beaux: American Figure Painter (2007)
Cecilia Beaux: A Modern Painter in the Gilded Age (2005)
Cecilia Beaux and the Art of Portraiture (1995)

The Cecilia Beaux Forum, named after the artist, is "a committee of the Portrait Society of America dedicated to the promotion of women in the arts".


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