Sktchy Weekend Challenge: Crosshatch 

Instead of my usual lengthy posts I thought I’d experiment with the occasional quickie drafted on my phone. A picture, a few words, and done.

I have several long posts in progress but can’t tear myself away from painting to complete them. So to give me a little more time…here’s my contribution to the SktchyApp weekend challenge to draw using cross-hatching. Done and done!

The model is artist Adam Vitry

Life Drawing Studio and Portrait Sketches

Sketching people drawing the model during a "boring" pose

Sketching people drawing the model during a “boring” pose

I love my Friday figure drawing studio and our wonderful models. In the morning I draw the figure during the shorter poses and then switch to a portrait for the final hour-long pose after lunch. In the sketch above I decided to draw the crowded room and other artists instead of the model since I had an obstructed view of what struck me as a boring pose.

Fallon, charcoal on toned paper, life-size.

Fallon, charcoal on toned paper, life-size.

Fallon is one of my favorite models. She is so beautiful and strong, with unique features and she always brings interesting costumes and music to play for us.

Brian, charcoal on toned paper, life size

Brian, charcoal on toned paper, life size

Brian is very unusual looking, tall, muscular and lean, with prominent facial bone structure and a small, pouty (not potty!) mouth. I think I went too far with the dark charcoal as there’s too much contrast with the lighter areas but I think I did get a likeness, despite the clumsy shading and unfinished hair.


Brigitte, charcoal and conté on tan paper, life-size.

I thought the drawing above was going great until I saw it on my camera’s screen as a mirror image and it looked all wrong. I tried to fix it, but couldn’t figure out what the problem was. She looks so sour and grumpy and really was just a little sleepy from the long pose.

Gettin’ Sketchy with Portrait Practice

I’ve had so much fun since I discovered the SKTCHY app. It’s so simple: people upload photos and artists use them as inspiration to draw from and then upload snapshots of their artwork. (click on collection below twice to enlarge.)


Collage of recent sketches and their inspiration photos

Above are my sketches and their Sktchy reference photos from the past week in a collage (made using free PicMonkey online). The Sktchy app is super easy to use, with an incredibly wide variety of people to draw and really interesting artists’ work to be inspired by. Join me there! It’s big fun!!! (FYI, it’s currently only available for iPhone/iPad; Android version is in the works).

Click on any of my sketches below to see larger or in a slide show. They are all in a 12×9″ sketchbook.

The Marcy Portrait Project: 6 Months of Trying to Paint My Sister


Marcy #24 “Sleepy Sister” Oil on DuraLar, 9×12 inches

When my sister Marcy offered to pose for me for my birthday, I had no idea it would take me 6 months, more than 2 dozen mostly awful drawings and painting attempts (pictures at bottom of post), and lots of study before I could produce a portrait that actually: a) looks human and b) resembles my sister (as I see her).

Although I have a long way to go before I feel competent at this, I am choosing to pause here briefly to honor and share my progress before I raise the bar again on my study of portraiture.

Attempt #1: painted live in about 2.5 hours. I learned how much I didn't know about alla prima portraiture.

Attempt #1: Painted live in about 2.5 hours. I learned how much I didn’t know about painting portraits

After my first try (above) and many more failed attempts (displayed at bottom of post) I realized I needed a better understanding of head anatomy. I accepted that I can’t fix a bad drawing with pretty paint. I studied my books and videos, tried to memorize proportions and divisions of the head (e.g. eyes are halfway between top of head and chin) and did some head drawing exercises (again…) that I still didn’t quite understand. And I continued failing at drawing and painting Marcy from the photo I took when she sat for me the first time, again from life on another visit and then from other photos.

I’ve done portraits I liked in the past, either by drawing freehand and then correcting again and again, or by enlarging a photo and tracing it onto canvas or paper. But I just couldn’t reliably draw one from life. So I read more books, watched online videos and investigated in-person and online classes. I found a comprehensive online academy last month that is giving me just what I wanted to learn. I think you can see how it is making a difference, starting with #18 below, drawn from life when Marcy posed for me again. In my next post I will review and share links to the learning resources I found.

You can see the progression, from the hilarious to the hideous to the almost-but-no, sorted with most recent first. Some are just bare starts; as soon as I could tell it was unsalvageable, I added the piece to the pile of fails and started over. The paintings are all oil, 12×9″ on Matte Dura-Lar except for the earliest ones on panels. The drawings are mostly on Vidalon Vellum except for the first few 14×11″ on paper.

Portrait Process: Start to Fail and Start Again

Forest Girl #2-C, Oil Painting on Mylar, 12x8"

Forest Girl #2-C, Oil Painting on Mylar, 12×8″

My first attempt at painting Sylvia, a lovely young Bulgarian architecture student, ended in an abandoned failure, displayed at the bottom of this post in 6 steps. I altered my course for the second attempt (above), starting with a better drawing, and was able to complete the study more successfully. I tried to practice for alla prima painting, not going for a “finished” portrait, even though I painted from her reference photo on Julia Kay’s Portrait Party, instead of from life.

What made the difference between failure and success was that I took the time to make a more accurate drawing first (above). I drew on one side of a sheet of Dura-Lar Matte Film (after first reversing the reference photo in Photoshop) and painted on the other side. Then I turned the sheet over, toned it with a transparent umber stain, and reversed the photo back to normal. That way I had the lines of the drawing to refer to, along with the photo without obliterating the drawing. It’s still visible on the back of the painting and could be traced over onto another sheet of Dura-Lar if I wanted to paint her again from the same drawing.

Below is the failed first attempt, where impatience and hubris led to a quick, sloppy drawing (with the evil thought, “I can always correct the drawing when I paint,” which I need to ignore in the future!). The captions describe what went wrong at each step:

Figure and Portrait Drawings

Figure drawing wall in studio

Figure drawing wall in studio

I just made a big leap in my understanding of figure and portrait drawing so wanted to share previous sketches and paintings before the new work. Above is a photo of the “figure drawing wall” in my studio. I’d covered this wall with black non-fade bulletin board paper to avoid reflected light when I’m at my easel (that stands just to the right of this photo). Then I hung black metal grid panels that I got super cheap on Craigslist and use little magnets to stick the drawings to the grid wall. Now it’s easy to add, move or replace drawings with better ones as my skill improves and I can hang framed paintings from it with grid wall picture hooks.

Below are assorted figure and portrait drawings from past Friday Figure Drawing sessions. Click on any image to go to slide-viewing mode and click through them using the arrows on each side.

Crockett’s Funky Main Street

Crockett Main Street, ink and watercolor, 10x8 in

Crockett Main Street, ink and watercolor, 10×8 in

Inspired by a wonderful urban plein air painting workshop and demo by one of my favorite artists, Randy Sexton, I sketched the main street in the funky little town of Crockett that houses his studio, Epperson Gallery and a tattoo parlor. Randy is one of the nicest gentlemen I’ve ever met, as well as a highly skilled and talented painter, and a gifted teacher.

Crockett is home to many oddball characters and funky old bars and shops. When I said I’d love to paint portraits of some of the local denizens he said he’d been doing just that, starting from when a professional model didn’t show up for a figure painting session. He and his fellow artists just popped in to one of the neighborhood dive bars and recruited a regular to come pose for cash and beer.

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