Friday, December 16, 2011


I can't believe I never heard of Krampus before now. I just heard of him last week, and since then I've heard him mentioned like five or six times.

Krampus is the anti-Santa Claus. Whereas I was told that naughty children only received a lump of coal from Ol' Saint Nick, in Alpine folklore they are visited by Krampus, who whips them with sticks and chains, throws them into a bag or basket, and drags him to his lair to be punished and/or eaten.

Here he dispenses his Yuletide vengeance upon three class naughty children from the comics. Re: Dennis the Menace, unlike the current sanitized comic strip, he was originally just as much of a little shit as Bart and Calvin.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Return to Spring Street Studio

I've been chock-a-block busy with work for the past month or two, so it's been a helluva long time since I've been to a life drawing session. Even longer than it's been since I've updated this blog. I've got a break these days ("break" = "unemployment"), so I got myself back to the old Spring Street Studios this afternoon. I was afraid I was going to be wicked rusty, but these didn't turn out so bad. I was drawing way bigger than I usually do, because I ordered a sketchpad online and accidentally ordered a much larger pad than I usually use. These are on 18"X24" paper, and drawn with a Conté pastel pencil, which is also a change-up for me.

Monday, October 17, 2011


One thing that's always been a particular challenge to me is drapery. I've been trying to figure out how clothes lie on the figure, and how to depict folds and draping. I never figured out how to draw clothing out of my head, probably because I learned to draw by copying super-heroes, whose costumes are basically body-paint.

So here's some drawings of dresses. They're copied from photographs. I don't know who the designers or photographers are. Sorry, designers and photographers. They're not fashion illustrations. I don't really get fashion illustration, with their exaggerated, elongated figures and simplified silhouettes. I mean, a lot of them are cool drawings to look at, but I never quite see the connection between those stylized drawings and the actual clothes. There are no folds in those drawings! And folds are what's fun to draw, though super-complicated to figure out.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Holy Houses Pt. 2

More recent drawings of churches.

 A little church out on Long Island. I pass it on my way to my adjunct teaching job. It reminds me of New England.

 West Village

 West Village

 Downtown Wall Street area

Nestled amongst the court buildings near City Hall

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Holy Houses Pt 1

I've been drawing a lot of churches lately. Not because I have any interest in what goes on inside them, but because I want to practice my perspective drawing, and a lot of these buildings are really interesting, challenging subjects to draw. When I went looking for them to draw, I was surprised to realize just how many churches there are in New York City. When my parents moved to North Carolina, the first thing I noticed right off the bat was that, down there, there's a church building about every five yards. Maybe it's because this city is so incredibly dense, the multitude of churches (and former churches - converted to other uses) is not as apparent. But there really are a shitload of them around, all over.

A lot of them are really simple, humble buildings (which I, non-believer though I am, believe suits the original conception of 'church' more closely than a grand cathedral), and some have some amount of architectural design applied to what is basically a simple, utilitarian structure. But there are so many with really interesting, complex shapes, planes, and forms to draw. A lot are too much so. There's a church in my neighborhood that I've thought of drawing, but it is so tremendously complex in its gothic complexity that it's hard to take it all in, but less draw it. I may just start sketching it piece by piece.

The Soldiers' Monument at Trinity Church, Lower Manhattan, on Broadway. When I was finishing this drawing, a group of about a dozen little Japanese school girls walked by, saw it, and started saying, "Woooowww! Woooowwww!! WOOOOWWWWW!!!!" Then they all pulled out their phones and cameras and started taking photos of the drawing.

Our Lady of Vilnius. SoHo, near the Holland Tunnel.

Tifereth Israel Town and Village Synagogue. Strangely enough, while there are also plenty of synagogues around, not a lot of them aren't particularly interesting architecturally. I drew this one in the East Village sitting on the sidewalk outside a Duane Reade. A woman saw me drawing and told me that she likes to sketch as well; that it's a calming, meditative, and therapeutic activity for her. I knew what she was talking about absolutely.

Third Church of Christ. Park Ave. Not sure why it's called the 'third' church. Wouldn't you want to call your church the first church of Christ? It reminds me of this diner in a small New Hampshire town where I used to work. It had a sign out front that read "Second Best Breakfast In Town!"

St. Cornelius Chapel, Governor's Island. There are all these unused buildings out there from when it was an active Coast Guard station with a permanent resident community . . . an empty theater, an abandoned little stripmall, a leftover Burger King, etc.

The Shrine Church of St. Anthony of Padua. West Village. The oldest existing parish founded for Italian immigrants in the U.S. As I drew this, two Franciscan Friars were sitting nearby, chilling out with their dog. One of them was on the phone trying to score tickets to some concert. Several times, people - younger people - stopped by to talk and ask about religion. The friars didn't seem too interested in engaging with them. I was under the impression that the Roman Catholic church had a real problem with an aging and declining membership in America, and I woulda thought that it was one of the main jobs of these friars to try to recruit new members and bring back lapsed ones, but perhaps I was mistaken. Or maybe they were just on a union break.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene Drawing #2

The elements marshal their infinite might at my beckoning! Power seethes in the roiling clouds! Now, at my command -- STRIKE!

-Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars, Issue 15, Jim Shooter

Turns out Hurricane Irene wasn't so much in the way of infinite might, at least around here. Anyway, here's the other drawing I did last night during the storm ... Storm of the X-Men. Get it?

Hurricane Irene Drawing

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks. Rage, blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks.
You sulph'rous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers of oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head. And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Strike flat the thick rotundity o' th' world,
Crack Nature's molds, all germains spill at once,
That makes ingrateful man.

-The Tragedy of King Lear, III ii, William Shakespeare

Watercolor pencil over ink

Pre-color black & white lineart.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


These are some drawings I recently did at the sculpture gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. These are great subjects to draw. For one thing, statues are models that can hold any pose for as long as you need. Secondly, the pristine marble, spotlit or under the skylight sun, is great for studying light and shadow. There's nothing better for studying value. The core shadow is so dark, and the brightest highlights are luminous. And the subject matter itself contains so much to study. Form, value, gesture, anatomy, drapery   . . . you get it all from drawing these things.

One of the few books I picked up at Borders' liquidation sale was Juliette Aristides' Classical Drawing Atelier. Aristides runs a Seattle-based art school with a curriculum based on traditional academic aesthetics and techniques. A large part of the curriculum consists of drawing from casts, plaster replicas of classical sculptures. The students at her atelier spend at least the first year (out of four) drawing from casts, and in the second year spend each afternoon painting from them.

Copying masterworks dates back at least to the Middle Ages, and was codified during the Renaissance. By the 19th Century, the practice formed the basis of art training. The United States didn't have a respected arts training establishment until schools were able to import collections of casts in the early 1800s. Between 1863 and 1873, Charles Brague and Jean-Leon Gerome published a series of lithographs of drawings of casts to be used in instruction which became known as the Brague Course (I'm not sure why poor Jean-Leon got stiffed in the credits). Students would copy copies of masterworks.

The method fell out of favor in the latter half of the 20th Century, but in 2004, art historian Gerald Ackerman compiled a reproduction of the Bargue course and recreated its instructions, which recommends spending up to 15 hours on each copy. He writes, "It's quite typical, in the schools where the drawings are still used, as in the Florence Academy of Art, to spend three to five weeks of three daily hour sessions making exact copies of the plates . . ."

Man. does that sound BORING. I get bored during the 40 minute poses at figure drawing! I did these drawings over several hours at the Met, and enjoyed it. But I can't imagine doing it for a whole day, day after day, week after week, and spending all that time on a single drawing. Sometimes I'll glance at another artist at a drawing session, and they've spent 40-60+ minutes drawing an arm. True, it is great looking arm. But I like to knock it out.

Still, the results do speak for themselves. I just finished reading Malcom Gladwell's Outliers. In it he writes that researchers have found that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve expertise and excellence in any field. I bet I've spent at least 10,000 hours of my life drawing, but I'm no master. That's because what he's talking about is purposeful, focused practice, not just doodling around or tossing off quick sketches of Batman.

I could use a lot more of that sort of practice. My undergraduate art training was the polar opposite of the classical approach. There was some basic theory and technique taught in the introductory survey course, but the bulk of my time in that program was spent with instructors who felt that codified academic techniques only stifled creativity. I had a painting teacher who had us buy an assortment of paints and brushes and then basically just told us to go to it. Not a single lecture or demonstration on making a palette or manipulating the media, no color or composition theory. At the end of that semester, she told me, "Your work is so interesting, because you're not doing what we'd consider 'good' paintings." Hello! I wanted to make 'good' paintings, but had no grasp of any technique at all.

The same week I did these drawings, I also saw the blockbuster Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Met, and he had this quote: "I spent a long time learning how to construct clothes, which is important to do before you can deconstruct them." I think this is what those art instructor missed. Maybe they thought we'd already been trained in the fundamentals, but really I think they just rejected the idea of fundamentals outright. It's a prevalent train of thought that you can't be creative while following 'rules' in art. But that absolute freedom actually didn't free me, it constrained me, because I didn't have the toolset to achieve the creative results I was aiming for. Building that toolset has been what I've been trying to do for the past several years now.

I still don't see myself spending 15 hours on a single drawing of a plaster cast, though. My life is too short, and I'm not getting younger!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Punch Buggy!

Went out to Governor's Island yesterday for a few hours. There was a bunch of stuff happening, including a Civil War re-enactment, a classical music concert, an electronica music concert, and the NYC Volkswagen Traffic Jam. I sat down and did this sketch of two VW bugs. I tried to get another one in of a rusty old VW bus with a bunch of spare tires strapped to the roof, but a parks ranger parked in front of me, blocking my view, and then the bus drove off.

Cars are on my official list of Things That Are Hard To Draw. The basic structure is a cube on a series of cylinders, but they quickly become really complicated forms, all subtle curves and oblique intersecting planes. The Volkswagen bugs are even more curvy and planey, which is what makes them such cool and beautiful machines and such a challenge to draw. I think I almost got them right in this drawing.

I've always liked VW bugs. I was never particularly into cars as a boy, but one of my earliest movie memories is of seeing a Herbie The Love Bug movie. I seem to remember seeing it in a theater, so it must have been either Herbie Rides Again (1974 ... I'd have been 3!) or maybe Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo (1977), or maybe a re-release of the first one, which came out before I was born. And this is the original Herbie I'm talking about, starring Mr. Dean Jones.

I'm not talking about the 2005 Herbie Fully Loaded, which starred Lindsay Lohan and was directed by a woman with whom I went to college, who probably didn't predict that career path for herself when we were working on that queer rock musical for Pride Week. But then, who can predict the future? In 2005, Lindsay Lohan was an actress who could be hired to star in a Disney family film about a sentient car.

Oh, Lindsay ... What happened?

But I digress. So, yeah, there was a bunch of Volkswagen vehicles. Here's some photos I took. You know, photography is a lot less labor-intensive than drawing!

This last one was the subject of my second aborted drawing:

And here's those Civil War re-enactors. They're portraying the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry, who had a 83% casualty rate at the Battle of Gettysburg, and were then sent up to NYC to suppress the Draft Riots.

My blogger stats tell me that among the search keywords that lead to my blog are: asphalt paving, lion anatomy, gambit x-men, chris brown sketsh me [sic], how to draw french street scene, drunk horny russian girl, roadtec 900, dead leaves, sketches of houses, chris brown sketches by people, Field of Dreams DVD, tiny hipster girl, and allan dorison. I think this post covers enough random subjects to confound legions of googlers throughout the internets.

My mom emailed me the answer to my Herbie question:

It was Herbie Rides Again in 1974. Your grandmother & I took you to see it at a movie theater that was on Broadway & (I think) 92nd St or close to that street anyway. It was your very first movie & you were so into it!  It was summer so it had to have been around your birthday because that's when she always visited.   There weren't too many VW's in NY then but when we went to CA the next year they were all over the place & you went nuts over them.  I always loved them too & wanted to get one but your Dad convinced me they weren't practical for three plus dog(s) and "stuff".

 Thanks Mom!