March, 2016

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  • Ben Fenske Figure Construction Class, March 2016

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    Ben Fenske taught an stunningly informative class earlier this month in my studio.  It wouldn’t be entirely accurate to call his courses ‘drawing classes’, although most of the time is spent drawing: either Ben demonstrating while lecturing, or the group drawing from the live model.  We advertise Ben’s courses as ‘construction’ courses, ways to study building the figure, with the goal being the ability to draw with or without the live model.  Perhaps more accurately, we could say that these are courses in theory and abstract conception of the figure through the memorization of specific anatomical points and surface references.  But it’s easier to say ‘Construction’.

     

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    Ben puts a huge amount of effort into these classes (see above two of Ben’s life-size sculpted examples for this class,  two different constructions of the core of the body, ribcage and pelvis, with anatomical references marked).  For those who don’t know Ben and his work, he is a painter who uses a fast and loose impressionistic technique, and as the history of representational painting has shown us, the best ‘loose’ painting requires a huge amount of theoretical and academic understanding.

    Each day Ben would lecture on anatomy and draw examples, the class drawing along with him and taking notes.

     

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    Below, see a few of Ben’s boards from his morning lectures.  The top image is on proportions of the figure and begins outlining Ben’s system of points which are to be mapped out on the figure.  This technique is an amalgam of what Fenske studied at the Russian school in Florence, and his own studies on artistic anatomy.

     

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    Then, each afternoon we had a model, male and female.  The students were all very ready to draw after spending the morning taking notes and drawing from Ben’s sculpted models.

     

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    Here’s one of the students, Vaijayanti Meweda at work, and below, her drawing.  I think it was a nice example of some of the concepts Ben was trying to trying to have the students work with, hatching and directional modeling rather than value-based modeling- especially since she had a backlit view of the model.

     

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    Additionally, Vaijayanti gets an extra-special shout-out for helping to organize our pot-luck lunch on the last day.  The food was great, and while everyone ate, Ben gave a lecture on the computer on some of the art that inspires him.  All in all, the class was amazing, just overflowing with practical information, and I’m glad to say Ben will be back to teach this August.

     

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    Ben’s Recommended Book List:

    Gottfried Bammes (in english, but not complete) http://amzn.to/1Um4hvp
    Gottfried Bammes Die Gestalt des Menshen (this is the more complete book, all images) http://amzn.to/1RoKWtc
    The other Bammes Figure book, also in German and excellent http://amzn.to/1UaJ4oQ
    Nikolai Li’s figure drawing book (in russian, great images) http://amzn.to/1Me4luK
    Nikolai Li book on the Portrait (in Russian, great price right now) http://amzn.to/1RqFEr2
    ‘Struttura Uomo’ Pozza book volume one http://amzn.to/1Me3r1n  (I can’t currently find easily volume two, ebb and flow of book availability)
    Richer’s Artistic Anatomy http://amzn.to/1Me3GcD
    Hatton’s Figure Drawing: A Complete Guide http://amzn.to/1RT84uj
    Russian Fundamentals of Drawing Textbook (in english, not as extensive as the Li books, but very good) http://amzn.to/258GMK9
    Russian Academy books on alumni and teachers, these are all paperback and in chinese:
  • More on Landscape Painting Process

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    Peters Hill, 20×24″ oil on canvas

    The above painting (just a quick raking light snapshot image to show some of the technique I’ve been using) is 95% done. As I’ve been talking about process a bit on the blog over the last year, I thought I would continue that here.   This is a link to my previous post where I tried to deconstruct the design of one of my favourite Isaak Levitan paintings.  Unlike some of my other work, this is a painting that was done 30% outside, 70% in the studio.

     

    Here is the above landscape as I started it outside, nearing the end of two days of work- about three hours the first day and 2 hours on the second day.  I spent a long time on the drawing and scale of each of the trees, arranging the design of the picture into a pleasing set of rhythms.  I worked to get the painting as true to what I saw in nature, while being somewhat interpretive with the color (the second day was overcast, but I held on to the blue sky and shadow patterns from the first day)

     

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    I knew at this point I wouldn’t be able to finish this picture outside.  The kids use my central hill as a sledding hill, and the snow was getting pockmarked with all their little footprints- and no more snow on the forecast, as it’s been really, really warm this winter.  What’s more, I wasn’t entirely pleased with the overall composition as I drew it outside.

     

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    After letting the picture rest for a few days, just to let it dry and to give myself a fresh mental perspective I spent an hour or so drawing on top of it with charcoal and white chalk.  I moved trees around, added a cloud, changed the foreground mass, started to turn the trees on the left into birches, and came up with a more unified pattern of light and shade on the snow.

     

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    Above was my first pass in oils on my newly studio-ized snowscape.  I’d filled in the center-left tree a bit, removed the one next to it, and adjusted a bunch of the big rhythms.  Most of the work took place getting me to this point– as you can see, the final image below is nearly identical in design.  I then spent many sessions arranging broken color, glazing, and applying short, stiff impastos.

    I will probably rework the painting a bit when I get the frame for it (I nearly always do), and will update the image at that point.

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