The little dissatisfaction which every artist feels at the completion of a work forms the germ of a new work. – B.A.

Some students are satisfied with their last drawings of the semester, some are not. It’s the way it goes. Personalities vary, as much as the work.

Drawing 2 students reproduce an old masters.

Crystal’s Matisse is excellent, though she’s not satisfied.

Madame Matisse madras rouge. 1907

Kim working on Degas reproduction

Kim reproduced a Degas …  2X. She has a new twist on the dog ate my homework story. Her cat jumped her drawing table, smudged, and ripped the almost completed pastel. She had photos. I couldn’t help but be amused. The cat still has pigment on her. Kim is able to complete a second drawing in less than half the time of the first. Interesting.

Chuck (below) copies a Leonardo – Self-Portrait. Despite reflection, you can still see detail.  He always does his best to take things to full completion, including framing for critique.

Chuck’s reproduction of a Da Vinci  Self-Portrait

Chuck also works his second to last value study (below) until it is the exact rich surface he desires.  The hours in the piece are many. The graphite finish glows a deep and dark silver, I can’t quite capture in the photo below.

He’s off to ASU next year. Best wishes Chuck.

Chuck’s graphite study of patterns and clothes.

Drawing 1 students in general, took to the markers from the first part of the semester. They loved the control they developed. Usually a class is ready to let go of the Sharpie’s when the time comes. Only one student swore off markers for eternity this semester. Come on Ali, practice makes perfect.

So with that said…charcoal is a challenge, to say the least. It’s not a medium that is easily controlled.  We could have used another month. But all in all some rich, full valued studies do emerge.

Jose’s charcoal skull, in progress.

Sabrina’s study in progress

Andres’ charcoal study of a transparent vase.

Alexis’ charcoal study of transparent jar and opaque t-pot.

Ali’s charcoal study in progress.

Alban and Sharon work with charcoal.

Kyle’s still life in progress.

Michelle’s Creepy Baby still life, in progress.

Last critique of the semester begins…

and it ends.

it’s official, they can call themselves draw-ers

Drawer – (n) A person or thing that draws, esp a draftsman.

Fall 2010 comes to an end.  I had Drawing 1,2,3 and 4 students.  A large group (only a few shown here) guarantees never a dull moment.

In this final run, we have various projects going on.

Noelle’s focus is creating the illusion of volume and depth, drawing still life and using a light source.

Alexis worked on the same form as Noelle, but from a different angle.  Nice character in this developing work.

Edgar, below. His composition has strong contrast. He creates white whites, and dark darks, and many shades in between.  He includes transparent and opaque objects, two that become focal points. The darkest and lightest objects in the drawing seem to interact with each other.

Nicky, also chooses an area that has transparent and opaque objects.  Her composition is not as dense as Edgars. She stands where there’s more light. The drawing offers repeating shadows that create rhythm. Her composition has both appealing vertical and horizontal movement.

You can’t see Ben and Diana’s work close up, but they both have a great eye for detail and much patience to put down exactly what they see.  The works are compositionally similar, but stylistically different.

The more advanced students reproduce a Master’s work.  Fun to watch them. By this time their endurance is well in tact. They’ll have so many other problems to solve that I suggest soon after they start, they take several shorter breaks, as opposed to one long one.

Patient Warren, above, has worked with me for 2 semesters.  He’s working on  De Vinci’s study of hands (for the Mona Lisa).  It takes him a few days to get the ground perfect, before he even begins to draw. During critique one of the students shared with the class that it took Cezanne 4 years to complete one particular work.  This is valuable info for Warren whom I hope never looses his eye for detail nor his thoughtful method. His work comes alive one breath at a time.

I remind the class, that Cezanne worked…without cellphones, texting, and I-pods…those 4 years, had none of that distraction.  Everyone laughs…I’m not kidding...

Amulec at work, on an easel of his own making. He’s working on a Scheile. This artist was not on my list of options, but Amulec wanted to reproduce the work.  I okay the choice because the challenge is significant and worthwhile for him…oh…and fun.

Paul, below, completes a Cezanne, inch by inch, working organically. Paul had recently seen the recent Cézanne exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum and particularly enjoys the assignment despite, the intense work.

Max, reproduces a Van Gogh self-portrait.  Ironically, Max’s eyes are 2 different colors, we learned this when Max completed his own class self-portrait. And in the process of doing the eyes in this image, we discover this painting to have the same detail, 2 different colored eyes.

Gabriel, drawing 4, chooses Cadmus.  Again, not someone on my list, but a good choice for th assignment, (and one of my favorite artists). In the  figure study, the original has simple and obvious quick line work that form the muscles of the back. The test for Gabriel is to reproduce quick line…slowly and carefully.  He gets it right on.

No gridding  allowed. Only careful observation and putting down what one sees.  That’s always the requirement.

Another semester, over and done.  One more group of students that can surely say they know how to draw. Kudos to them for steadfast work.

knot necessarily the assignment

About this week’s critique…what might I say?

The assignment, a Value Study. The student’s first full charcoal still-life, and…it’s cloth. If you’ve studied drawing and you’ve had to draw cloth, you know the work involved.
Odd thing this semester, only a few of the students complete the assignment within the allotted time.  And only a very few, really do full range value studies. Many of them focus their attention on a knot.  And I mean focus…on a knot.  They’re so willing to see, and so willing to put down all that’s in front of them, that consequently despite being unfinished, the drawings succeed.

Below, some of the student’s knot studies, completed in charcoal.


Warren’s drawing, above. He started this composition last semester.  I can’t tell you how incredible the work is in person. Warren progresses slowly and carefully. He’s patience in motion.


Above is Diana’s beautifully subtle, white knot.  She not sure of herself at the start of the assignment. Note the detail. I can’t say how many values she’s captured in that white single shape…lots.


Manny’s crisp cotton knot. He’s easy to start most every assignment. It could be  that he was born with a pencil in his hand.  Or it could be that he works hard and always wants to get it right.  The knot itself, is pretty successful in its detail, and range of value.


Alexis was absent the first day of the assignment and when she came in the second day, she was intimidated by Warren’s black knot. She was sure she couldn’t pull off the charcoal and cloth thing. In the end, she’s pleased with her skills.

Gabriel and Noelle, below. Both advanced students who complete the full assignment, using  full range of values. About the time they think they’re finished, is when they’re instructed to really look at the very fine detail and put it in. That’s what give these pieces their intensity and depth.




Below, Max studied with me last semester.  He chooses to draw the same cloth he worked on last Spring. This time, the composition is a horizontal and it’s in color. I don’t have the photo of his first charcoal study, though he brings it to critique.  Same hand along with added element. A good lesson for the class, to see the two works.


Assignment took a slightly different course in direction. I’m not really known for my flexibility but right now, I’m impressed with what the class learned and accomplished. This may be something I add to the game plan.

reflections (on drawings)

Headed out to downtown Mesa to visit the Mesa Arts Center, with Dolores. Currently they’re showing two contemporary artists who draw, on paper.  Because I teach drawing, the snail mail invite I received, caught my attention. The postcard hangs in my studio until this morning, when I take it down to look at it again.

As I sit writing about the visit, I recall noting the glass, as I walk into the individual galleries. One artist, who works large-scale uses regular reflective glass, and the other, whose work is smaller, uses non-glare glass.  If I didn’t know we were viewing drawings, I could guess by the protective glass.

We enter the gallery where Vincent Valdez’s Stations are hanging. One quick glance at the large, black charcoal works on paper and I’m pulled in. Figurative. Dense. Dark. I take the whole room in, I glance at the artist statement, and then I begin looking at individual drawings. There are 10 of them, total. I understand Valdez is referring to The Stations of The Cross, that are present in every Catholic Church, and depict the final hours of Christ’s life. These artworks depict a boxers final days. We see the boxer being escorted down the isle to the rink, preparing to fight, eventually  there is a knock out, a lifeless form, and then the boxer rises. Ready to go again.

The figures are large, looming, and striking, in a charcoal rendered environment, speckled with various characters. Valdez skews a few of the compositions within their frame, and with the title as support, we (the viewers of the artwork) become the audience, we become the mob.

I realize much later, I know his work.  I clearly remember Valdez’s series of Pachuco prints, at the El Paso Art Museum, years ago.  His work was part of the traveling Cheech Marin collection. I loved his work then, and I love it now. Though the imagery is very different. He’s young, clearly skilled, and clever. What he does with the figure, space and charcoal…is incredible.  I can’t get a good shot…because these are large and dark drawings as I said, and they’re behind glass. The flash distracts. Fact is, because the works are covered with glass the viewer (myself, in this case) is always reflected and present in the image.  This only  adds to the experience of being a witness to the boxers final hours.

Though I like all the work for varying reasons, my favorite drawing is the lifeless body of the boxer as it lies on a table.  The horizontal, larger than life figure. is stunning. His laced boots, along with the rest of him, is at eye level.  My least favorite is the suggested risen boxer.  Compared to all of the work, this figure is portrayed life-size or near so. Perhaps unlike the Christ, the boxer is brought back down to earth.

The back gallery holds Chris Rush portraits.  the show is titled Stare. And stare closely, we do. Upon entering you might think you’re looking at paintings.  The work, along with the space has a warm, intimate quality about it. Especially in comparison to what we just saw. Again, all the works are drawings, mostly Conte′. That they look like paintings is deliberate, I realize, as I read the artists statement. Rush paints people of various ages, with either physical and/or mental disabilities. He places them in compositions familiar to anyone who’s studied art history. Rush’s subject matter is oddly beautiful and the subject oddly dignified. The surface is sensual, even the paper is wonderfully worked. The quality of the entire exhibit is completely inviting.

If you’ve taken a drawing class with me, you should take the time to visit these exhibits. You’ll be familiar with all the materials and you may be stimulated by the work.

Before we leave the Mesa Center for the Arts, I drop by The Store.  I don’t see Andrea, the manager56. The store carries my lithograph, and a few of my prints. They have new things in there…always a good experience to see what’s happening out on the east side of the valley. Dolores and I enjoy the experience.

wanted for messing with charcoal and pastel

The semester is unusual in that I only have 4 female students in the class.  What’s more unusual, none of them are present at the start of critique, this week. Eventually one of the women does show up. Better late than never.
In the meantime, we have fun with the class photo.  We create a line up. The only thing these men are guilty of, is drawing with charcoal and pastel.

Critique is good. Everyone appreciates the finished drawings….they’re strong compositions. We discuss the challenge of the material, that everyone experiences. We discuss the variety of the values, and the surface of the drawing. We talk about how realistic something appears in terms of the cloth, and we talk about space, layers, and edges.
I’ve discussed this assignment before (11/30.2009). We’re in the midst of working with value. It’s the first real charcoal drawing many of the Drawing 1 students have ever worked on (keep this in mind when you see their work below). One advanced student works in color, with pastels. They complete a value scale right before starting the still life. They know by the time the value scale is finished , elbow grease will be required, from this point forward. Also necessary and in development, is another form of patience.  It seems they just learned to control the marker, and now they have to let that go…because charcoal…has it’s own very unique challenges, in terms of trying to control it.  It goes everywhere.

I always notice the class, in general, becomes more quiet with the charcoal studies.

Davin and Misty



In all honesty, I find it very hard to be in the classroom teaching, on some days.  I want to be drawing too…that’s what watching the students learn this particular medium especially, does to me.






Davin, Drawing 2

The end of semester is quickly approaching. One more drawing, and one more critique.