Margery 6.5 x 6.3 Charcoal on Plate Finish Bristol paper
Today is my Grandmother Margery’s 95th Birthday, so I sketched her while thinking about her having lunch with my Aunt and Uncles in Connecticut, and probably spending time in the garden, looking adorably diminutive among hundreds of day lilies, hostas and hummingbirds. Happy Birthday Grandma!
Self Portrait by David Kassan (image courtesy of DavidKassan.com)
I’m spinning around my studio this week – on fire – after a three day drawing workshop with New York artist David Kassan at the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art. I signed up for it spontaneously the moment I saw his post about it on facebook.
David’s methods are steeped in the best foundations of traditional draftsmanship; know your anatomy, know your tools, work from life, really look at the nuance of your subject, make changes as you discover them along the way, and take your time to get it absolutely right. He is very, very good, and watching him work made my fingers itch to grab a pencil and try his approach to drawing. It didn’t take long before I realized that he’s good because he’s worked hard at his art, and all that focused practice has sharpened his skill over years of studying and drawing for hours and hours.
David shared all sorts of tips and tricks and treasures in his workshop, and we all got a good sense for how he makes his art. He’s generous, so after three days of intake, I was ready to burst, but my own artistic execution was another matter. You don’t get to leap frog and pounce onto that level of mastery after 72 hours of staring at it. Producing amazing art is earned with time and practice (work), and that was so clear in this workshop. There was a good lesson in humility here. It made me appreciate that David applied himself to his art with so much steady conviction at a young age. I came away from the weekend with a renewed commitment to practice harder, study more, and keep trying, even on crappy days when I don’t think I have a molecule of skill. Just suck it up, and draw.
David blocked in the portrait of Toni on gray paper using Pan Pastels and a #4 Sofft tool. After blocking it in, he rubbed the entire drawing with a paper towel.
The second day of the workshop, David decided to re-draw Toni’s eyes. He didn’t say anything, but shortly after the photo above was taken, he picked up the Sofft tool, loaded it with black Pan Pastel and simply blacked out both eye sockets. The whole room gasped, and he explained the importance of repair, adjustment, and the artists’ investment in harvesting the essence of your subject, over protecting the amount of time you’ve already put into the piece.
Everyone was excited to see the results of David’s guidance immediately in their drawings; we all got better at looking, and rendering what we saw. Each one of us sat in awe to watch him work in the mornings on a portrait of our lovely model Toni Czechorosky, while he was alternately describing what he was doing, and answering our questions. He also had no hesitation or remorse about wiping away a beautifully rendered eye, or a perfect nose or an achingly lovely mouth if it wasn’t placed just right to record the essence of the model, which was a lesson in itself. He continuously draws and wipes, draws and wipes. We were frequently gasping in the room behind him.
David Kassan is young and skilled and articulately generous about what he does, and he’s a nice guy. What a lovely combination in an art instructor. If you get a chance to study with him, do it. And if you don’t live in a place where that’s possible, you can purchase his High Def drawing DVD, which has 3 hours of instruction on it. That would be like paying once, and attending his workshop over and over, and it includes all the materials and methods he uses to get the luminous portraits you see on his web site. You can order that (and see a great little trailer for it) here. Enjoy!
Oh, and one more thing: Last year, fellow artist/blogger Matthew Innis did a great review of David’s beautifully pencil drawn Artistic Anatomy booklet titled Portrait Anatomicae here. Check it out. You can order a copy here.