I posted this first in 2007 in Livejournal account “Urb-banal”
I was exhausted last night and suddenly remembered waking at 3:00am and saying, “Patrick Stewart is a god.” so I told my son who thought it was funny. It got funnier when, the dyslexia: “thy name is … whatzit” kicked in and I said, “Well he was hot as King Richard in Men in Black Tights.” which got us both laughing and spewing spit and holding our bellies and the other son, the one formerly known as Crabby, said “Geez, would you SHUT UP.” which made us laugh even harder. See it was actually not “Men in Black Tights”
Ah. The mind goes, but the belly cares not! My life is so f-d up and yet so great. Patrick Stewart IS a GOD.
I taught a class in illustration/rendering at youngest son’s “small school” formerly called “alternative” but in these TOTAL DAYS OF WEIRDNESS “no alternative” is considered better…?
I had fun and I think they did. The kid (and there seems to always be a kid in every highschool class) who had his head down on the desk even sat up before I was finished. Heh! I even cracked a few successful jokes. heh. Oh yes those days as a puppeteer are paying off now!
So for any who might be interested…I had to try to tie it into Egyptian studies, but I did sort of. I used photos from the King Tut exhibition. Way back in the day when I did an in house flyer for Shell Oil’s selling of tickets for the show I got hired by an advertising company by someone who saw it. God I was hot, briefly, hot, burning, briefly, yes, hot. (whew, enough nostalgia!) So anyway… I tied it in by saying that if it weren’t for the Egyptians I would not have gotten a job as a commercial artist and therefore would not have the NERVE to be telling them how to draw. I got applause! heh
The Egyptians were gifted renderers. They have been
able to assertain that many burial masks are amazingly
accurate by using computer software to “flesh out “
the mummies. The way Egyptians depicted people were
choices in emphasis, based on person, place and
appropriateness and not a result of skill.
They loved measuring things. I think they must have
felt that mathematics were really important. The used
geometry. They must have had protractors and rulers
and set-squares… I am going to show you some simple
tools to improve your rendering but this will perhaps
more importantly help you understand the choices
artists make in their rendering, conscious and
1. The brain.
We see based on what the brain does with chemical and
electrical impulses that result from reactions to
light within the eye. what we “think” about this
doesn’t matter, however it helps to understand the way
the brain “economizes” information for the sake of
The brain needs to let us distingush between near and
and far and if a rhino or whatever passing behind a
series of trees is the same rhino traveling at a
certain speed. the brain will fill in lines that are
interrupted as a result of this need to get
information for survival. (One of the great things
about computers is they do not have the built in
recognition software that the human brain has so they
are unbiased and very good at producing realistic, if
“soul-less” portraits based on skeletal information.)
The brain lies, but it means well.
If you want to overcome these habits of the brain so
you can draw things that will make people say, “Hey
that looks REAL.” you have to excercise the brain in
A few great ways to retrain the brain to look at what
is actually there instead of the information we take
from what is there ARE:
Drawing upside down
Filling a sheet of paper with one continuous line that
does not intersect itself.
2. This is not art.
This is learning to see.
If we were dogs we would have Aroma Galleries. We
would talk about what we smelled on our way to school.
Learning to see is a valuable skill and it’s good for
you. Our brain is greatly devoted to seeing, huge
amounts of brain power are spent looking. Even if you
are not an artist nor ever intend to be an artist you
should know how you are seeing and drawing is the best
You do not have to worry about losing your uniqueness
of expression by learning to draw realistically. You
can forget about all of what you learned faster than
you could ever believe. Believe me.
These are not really tricks but they help. We need
to forget what the brain knows and see what is really
Use relationships that are measured to get the visual
truth. Make a frame. Suppose you have a piece of
You need a square or a right angle thing, you can use
the corner of any paper as a guide. This is one of
the things I will show you.
The old clique of an artist in a smock infront of a
canvas holding up a paint brush at arm’s length is not
a clique really because it is works. Measure, measure,
compare. Don’t fall for what your brain is telling
you. Like anything, you have to make notes, only you
have to make spacial and comparitive notes.
I do several sketches before I actually start to work
on a portrait, sometime I like the sketches better.
There is no waste in drawing even if you are not happy
with the finished work.
Even when you aren’t drawing, when you are waiting
for a bus, try squinting at a familiar scene to see
what dominate shapes or features remain. Look at
things with one eye closed and then the other. When
drawing, squint at your subject. What do you see?
With your drawing, if working from a photo, turn both
your drawing and your photo upside down occassionally.
See what differences appear.
When painting or drawing a portrait of a person the
last thing I do is take myself out of the picture. We
draw people to look like ourselves or our family and
often the one thing that keeps the person from looking
like them is the thing that we have make look like
This is something that the brain does too. It makes
sense when you consider that when recognizing people
from a survival point of view, it is essential to
distingush family and tribal members from OTHERS.
This works in reverse too. Our brains make the people
we are favourably inclined towards look like us,
whether they really do or not. Generally we take a
favourable approach to a subject because we hate doing
things when we don’t like something about it. It’s
not that we are SO SELF-CENTERED it’s just something
to be aware of when trying to portray something that
will be recognized as a specific person by others.
Beauty really is in the brain of the eye of the