Being a member of the New Masters Academy is like having a treasure chest of jewels to explore, with new art classes added all the time. The only downside is that I have to assess my own work and be my own teacher since NMA doesn’t offer feedback to the video lessons’ assignments.
I revised this post by publishing a new version of it so I’ve deleted the content here. Please see the next post for the rest of the content from this post.
I wanted to improve my people-drawing skills, learn about anatomy and be able to quickly sketch a head with some degree of accuracy and fluency. I was looking for information, instruction, and explanation of how the skull, features, and muscles all work together to make each of us look like individuals.
I began exploring resources for learning online and I found one that met all of my requirements: New Masters Academy. It is affordable ($19 to $29/month), has excellent teachers, an abundance of classes in portrait and figure drawing and painting and more, plus great resources for artists including thousands of high-resolution artist model reference photos and timed portrait and figure drawing sessions.
What initially convinced me to become a member on New Masters was the free, 3-hour YouTube video below by one of their many excellent teachers, Steve Huston. This is just a small part of his Structure of the Head course in which he explains in great detail about the planes of the face, the shapes and functions of the muscles, and each of the features (eyes, nose, etc.) in a very user-friendly way.
The YouTube video by Brandwynn Jones (below) introduced me to the Reilly Method Abstraction, an interesting way of conceptualizing and constructing the head. Mr. Jones is a student at the Watts Atelier, another online artist training program.
Before I found New Masters, I regrettably signed up for an expensive month ($99/month) at Watts Atelier Online, based on what I saw and heard in Mr. Jones’ videos and on fellow artist Chris Beaven’s blog, who was trying out the Watts program too. But after watching the head drawing course “taught” by Mr. Watts, I requested and received a refund for the remaining half month. The course consists of videos of him drawing, while he talks on and on–what he calls “bantering”–with very little actual instruction or explanation and it just didn’t meet my needs. Chris later wrote this review of Watts Atelier Online.
Another great source of figure drawing instruction videos (for free) can be found at Stan Prokopenko’s website, Proko.com and on his on YouTube channel. His sense of humor and high production values makes them fun to watch but I find they fly by too quickly for me to retain the information. He offers expanded versions at reasonable cost. In the video below he clarifies and summarizes the Andrew Loomis approach to drawing the head.
Over the past year I’ve watched several good instructional videos on Craftsy.com but I prefer the comprehensive courses on New Masters. One plus for Craftsy is that the videos you “buy” are always yours to stream on demand; on New Masters they’re available to stream as long as you’re a paying member.
Sadie Valerie offers both in person classes, video and online classes at Sadie Valerie Atelier in San Francisco. Sadie is an amazing teacher, very kind, positive, generous and detailed in her approach. I’ve studied with her and her associate Elizabeth Zanzinger in person and via Sadie’s videos and highly recommend them as teachers.
For quick and detailed anatomical information where you can switch from skin, muscles, skeletal or even organ views, I go to Innerbody.com, where I found the resource for the drawing below. I wanted to know more about the muscles that we see through the skin.
Croquis Cafe on YouTube offers free figure drawing sessions with artist models (mostly nude) posing in real time, just like you are in a figure drawing session with timed poses and music. They also have reference photos to work from and some paid classes, which I haven’t explored.
Pixelovely.com is another source for figure drawing practice that provides timed photo references of nude and costumed models in interesting and unusual poses as well as instruction and tips on figure drawing.
PoseManiacs.com also offers thousands of digital images of figures in motion or still, without skin so all the muscles are visible.
Glen Orbik was another master figure and portrait drawing teacher. Free clips from videos of his lectures are available on YouTube here. The full course is available at Zarolla Academy but is expensive.
Fred Fixler was another of the great drawing and painting teachers who has passed on but on this site you can download his Reilly method handouts and some great drawing and gouache painting tips.
To find figure drawing classes, workshops and open studios in your area, visit ArtModelBook.com.
In trying to learn more about gouache I made a few color charts. I’m using mostly M. Graham gouache which I like much better than the Winsor & Newton and Schmincke I used before. The Graham gouache is creamy and brilliant, rewets well and doesn’t smell (like the W&N). I found that using fresh-squeezed gouache is more fun to work with than rewetting dried paint, but frugality keeps me trying to reuse dried. The best solution is to set up a palette for each session, squeezing out tiny blobs, adding more as needed.
Above is an exploration of the Zorn palette in gouache, a limited palette using only Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red, White, and Black. The black paint, when mixed with white, is meant to serve as blue since it is a cool color that can look blue next to warm colors. Next I want to try using it in an actual painting.
Above is a chart of my gouache colors straight from the tube and mixed with white and each other. Sadly when I removed the masking tape it pulled off some of the paper from the extra large Moleskine watercolor notebook that is my current journal. I don’t recall previous Moleskine WC notebooks having that problem but I’ve switched to low-tack tape now.
Before ordering any new brushes specifically for gouache I wanted to see how the brushes I already had might work so did the test below. I found a few that I liked and ordered a couple of others. I’ll do another post about my gouache palette and brushes I’ve settled on soon.
This was one of the those magical paintings that just worked from beginning to end. Maybe it was painting on Gessobord, which I love, or maybe it was because I tried to stay really focused. It’s available here on Daily Paintworks.
I was careful to paint the string beans from the garden and their leaves first since I knew they would change quickly. I stopped when I found myself getting tired or losing focus and took a break. And I closely followed my pre-planned goals for each session.
See my session chart for Persimmon and String Beans (pdf) with all the steps, plans and session images or see the images of the steps below without details. One new step I added this time was studying the nearly finished painting in Photoshop on a large screen before declaring it finished and then finding and noting areas that needed adjustments, including completely changing the background value at top.
Let me know if you’re finding these charts or step by steps interesting. I do them for myself but if others find it interesting it’s worth posting them.
I found this wonderful old crock set out on the curb, adorned with a “Free” sign so I carried it home for my “Found Stuff” painting series. One handle had broken off but the owner had thoughtfully placed the pieces inside and I glued it back together. I love the way the flowers are reflected and shadowed on the crock. The painting is available here. Below are photos of the work in progress.
It takes two to paint. One to paint, the other to stand by with an axe to kill him before he spoils it. William Merrit Chase
My biggest painting goal is to stop what I call “unauthorized painting” — I finish part of a painting, like it and write my plan for that area: “Don’t touch it!” Later I decide to just do a little “touching up” and the next thing I know I am wishing for a “REWIND” button as I try to wipe off the “unauthorized” paint. Where’s the guy with the axe when I need him? I need to draw him, axe and all, and stick it on my easel!