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Entries in class notes (31)


Michael Grimaldi Drawing Workshop

graphite pencil on paper
about 20 x 16 inches

This is the main drawing I did over the last two weeks in Michael Grimaldi's drawing workshop at BACAA. It was drawn over about 8, three-hour sessions. (It's interesting to compare this drawing to my first BACCA workshop drawing I did of Melissa in March 2006)


We started the drawings with a 2-dimensional, stright-line block in that I have described many times on this blog, for example: here, here, and here.

After solving the basic proportions and refining the block-in, we moved into seeing the forms as three-dimensional blocks in perspective.

To construct the major masses of the head, torso and pelvis, we identified bony projections and median lines to describe the roll, pitch, and yaw position of each shape.

I've roughly diagrammed a few of these with the red lines in the picture above. The points where lines intersect are determined by bony projections and places where the flesh attaches to the underlying bony structures. We look for indications of these on the surface of the skin, and build a concept of the box construction of each form: showing the perspective to identify tilt, position and distance.

Here are some of my notes from what Michael said in class:

Gesture, Proportion, Perspective
All three are inseparable, any error in one creates a series of problems in your drawing.

All the answers are within the drawing.

We need to find the points on the body that yield the most information about perspective possible. These are the distant outside bony projections.

This pattern of points starts having a profound meaning about the subject's three-dimensionality.

Let the drawing inform what your next decision will be.

Make a three dimensional drawing without relying on value - the plotting of points and median line tells you what the perspective is doing.

Look for the constructive anatomy and the perspective as a foundation for the drawing.

Anticipate without inventing: Hone the ability to see your environment through knowledge.

Drawing is like diffusing a bomb, all the concepts are a form of deconstructing and reverse-engineering.

There are two extremes, monotony versus mayhem. Our goal is to find a balance between the two.

Composition is the "composite", the entire experience of the image, from design to texture to paper to size, everything that affects the view's experience of the image.

Cut of the light - the angle of the shadow is perpendicular to the light

The image above is a detail of the small value study I did in the upper right corner of my drawing, about 3 x 6 inches. Michael encouraged us to make small tonal studies before moving forward with making a full tonal drawing. This really helped solve a lot of the major tonal decisions - otherwise it's too easy to mix light and shadow and make inadvertent holes or protrusions.

The lower part of my drawing shows how I blocked the terminators - delineating where the light slips over the horizon of the form. These terminators seem much softer in life, but there is a distinct moment where the shadow ends/terminates and the light begins.

To find the terminators, which can be confusing when seeing light slide over a complicated form, Michael encourages us to find "the cut of the light" - the angle of the line perpendicular to the direction of the light source. I've diagrammed some of that here:

I also wrote down the artists and films Michael referred to in his lectures this week, here's the list and links to the best resource I could find about each (in no particular order):

Artists/Paintings/Art Movements
Brunelleschi - created/discovered our current understanding of perspective
Harold Speed
Munich School
Ashcan School
Antonio Lopez Garcia - Dream of Light
Vicent Disiderio
Neue Gallery, NY
Reubens - Rape of the Sabines
George Bellows - Use of the Golden Section
Gericault - Raft of the Medusa
Walter Murch
Damien Hirst
Wim Delvoye
Tim Hawkinson
Neo Rausch
Marlborough Gallery
Betty Parsons

Michael references films constantly so I asked him to name some of his all-time favorite ones. This is his list, in no particular order and off the top of his head while we were talking:

The Conversation
The Lives of Others
Miller's Crossing
The French Connection
Blade Runner
The Third Man
Kurosawa Eloru and Stray Dog

If you are interested in studying with Michael, who is a fabulous teacher, please visit Bay Area Classical Artist Atelier. He also has started his own school along with Kate Lehman and Dan Thompson: Janus Collaborative School of Art in New York.

NOTE: As Usual, My Caveat
Everything I post on my blog is my own highly subjective and filtered interpretation of my studies. My notes don't necessarily accurately reflect the teachings of my instructors, in fact my teachers may disagree or find some of my expression of their ideas to be inaccurate. The best way to understand their teaching is to buy their books and take their classes.


Studio Escalier Workshop: Final Drawings

Sarah Twice
18 x 24, graphite pencil on paper
9 hours each drawing

For our final week at Studio Escalier's Drawing Workshop in Paris we worked on two long poses to practice all the contour and modeling lessons we have been learning from Tim and Michelle - one pose in the mornings and one pose in the afternoons. I decided to put both my final drawings on the same sheet of paper - just a bit of extra challenge for fun.

Here's a slideshow of the stages of the drawings

I had critiques with both Tim and Michelle. Their comments were really helpful and give me a lot to work on for my future drawings:

I need to think about "packing the form" - the human body is made of irregularly shaped packed forms arranged on curves. I need to remember to define the top edges of those forms, the edges facing the light, as much as the bottom edges, the edges facing away from the light.

Also, in both these drawings I've over-modeled in the light. All the darkest shadow is on the side of the model turned way from me, so almost everything I saw was in the light. In my zeal for modeling form I made everything too dark.

I also need to practice seeing the forms arranged in fans arcing off of changes of direction on the contour.

Finally, I need to emphasize structure and solidity, otherwise my approach with soft gradation tends to look too wispy. I agree. I am not interested in making pretty drawings, I want to make strong drawings.

Not only have I learned a lot about drawing from this workshop, but also my expectations for myself have been raised in the process. I have a vision for how well I will someday be able to draw, a vision for how I could draw with a lot of practice and investigation, and it's far more developed than I ever expected of myself before.


Studio Escalier Workshop Day 8

tonal study, pencil on paper, 6 hours

(detail of above)

Day 8 of my workshop at Studio Escalier in Paris.

This is a drawing of a 6-hour pose. Yesterday for the first half I focused on the inner movement curves, the block-in, and finally the detailed contour. Tim and Michelle are teaching us to think of the contour three-dimensionally. So I am thinking of the contour wrapping around the body, moving towards and away from me.

I've taken my drawing into Adobe Illustrator and used the software to recreated my original inner movement curves to diagram the process I am learning:

As Tim teaches the technique, we draw three interrelated movements:

We start with the theme, which is the fundamental inner movement curve. The theme starts at the crown of the head, and flows down the center line of the face, down to the big toe of the standing leg, or the leg holding the most weight.

This is a precise curve, it describes specific points on the body and the relationships between these points. (In contrast to simply "expressing" the movement. This is a record of what we see and know about the body, it's not exaggeration or expressionism.)

The second line we draw (above) is the countertheme - the orange line. It's a secondary inner movement curve that travels from the top of the head, wrapping around the body the opposite direction and down the non-standing leg.

Third, we draw the ornament (above). This is the third interrelated movement. As with the theme and countertheme, the ornament wraps around the forms, moving side to side and back to front.

All of the curves wrap around the body three dimensionally. Above is the same countertheme curve, but I've created dotted segments to show where I am imagining it wrapping around the back side of the form. (I do not modify the figure to fit these curves, it's amazing the interrelations it's possible to see once you start looking this way.)

Above I've shown how adding more and more interrelated movement curves begins to describe the form. As I get more and more detailed with my contour line, I can see how every form on the body follows this wrapping helix pattern.

It's interesting to recreate the curves in Adobe Illustrator. The program creates Bezier curves that have a certain mathematical tensile force, and you have to learn to manipulate them to create flowing curves without awkward bends. The behavior of of Bezier curves is amazingly conducive to the Inner Movement Curves - it was shockingly easy to recreate the curves with the software. I have a feeling there is an implicit relationship between the cohesive, efficient, and functional forms of the body and mathematical curves.

Update added 5/03/08
Bezier was a 20th century French draftsman! Wikipedia has a great entry on Bezier curves, and near the bottom of the page you can see elegant animations for how Bezier curves are calculated.

After spending so much time on the contour, I moved on to the tonal value shading. I was surprised how quickly the value study progressed. I think learning the contour with this method gives me a deep understanding of the three dimensional figure, so flowing the light across the form is easier.

I'll end with a quote from Tim:

"I think the idea of theme, countertheme and ornament has the power to revolutionize the way you think about the figurative subject, to really marry your eye to your gut to your mind to your hand, and liberate your imagination."

I agree.


Studio Escalier - Drawing Movement

Afternoon Pose, pencil on paper

I'm practicing drawings based on the "inner movement curve" method in my class at Studio Escalier, and today I really felt something click.

This drawing feels more solid, more believable than my previous drawings. I feel like I am suddenly seeing the relationships between all the parts as a whole, and feeling the three dimensionality of the pose. It has everything to do with what I studied with Ted Seth Jacobs, but Tim Stotz's emphasis on movement is making Ted's teachings come together for me. (Tim was a student of Ted's, so no wonder).

The drawing above started with this drawing of the interior lines of movement:

Afternoon Pose, Phase I

The first gesture lines aren't much to look at. In fact they look somewhat random and loosey-goosey. But it's actually quite precise. They correspond to very specific points I see on the body - and more importantly, the relationship between those points.

Next I started fleshing out the drawing, starting with the legs and drawing more and more inner movement curves to create the full line drawing. The outside curve of the knee has everything to do with the interior angle of the ankle. Everything wraps around and appears again in a logical place.

Afternoon Pose, Phase II

Once I started seeing all the relationships it became like a treasure hunt to find more. They are everywhere, all the way out to the fingertips and I am sure down to the tiniest tissue structures.

Afternoon Pose, Phase III, final

In contrast, this is the drawing I did in the morning, when I was really struggling with the concept. I think you can see it does not have the same energy as the afternoon drawing.

Morning Pose

Studio Escalier has arranged several evenings for us to draw at the Louvre from the sculpture gallery. Tonight was the first night, and it was incredibly exciting to see all the sculptures so powerfully describing the same concepts we have been studying.

This is my drawing of a 30-inch marble sculpture by Dumont, done in 1712. It was in a room full of similar small-scale sculptures, which Tim explained were the final thesis projects which students of the 18th century French sculpture academy had to submit in order to graduate and go on to be professional sculptors. These small works represent the pinnacle of the art of figurative sculpture.

The figure has a clenched fist thrust directly at me... I don't know why I choose such a difficult view. But it made me interested to do more hand studies.

By the way, the Louvre website is amazing. I just found out you can browse the entire collection, room by room. I found the room we were drawing in today here.


Studio Escalier Drawing Workshop

Pencil on paper, 2 hours

Pencil on paper, 5 minutes

These are a couple of my first drawings done at Studio Escalier in Paris this week.

Tim Stotz has us focusing on "inner movement curves" to establish the proportions, instead of using the straight-line block in. Also, we are doing 5-minute to 2-hour drawings. Both are very foreign to me after a year if doing 20-40-hour block-in drawings. But it's a good approach for me to practice and I'm enjoying a more responsive and less analytical way to draw.


Michael Grimaldi: Final Notes

I've already summarized the workshop with Michael Grimaldi, but I also wanted to record some of my notes from the class:

Artists Referenced

The New Objectivists
Menzel, Kollowitz - responses to the breaking down of Victorian society because of WWI and the sinking of the Titanic. In these extreme situations, codes of chivalry and honor were broken and violated the previous conception of human dignity.

Ernest Meissonier
Successful artist of the late 19th century. Fell out of favor because his paintings came to represent something people no longer believed in.

Edwin Dickenson

Jules Bastien-Lepage

Gerard Richter

Antonio Lopez Garcia

Ann Gale

We talked about the current exhibit on view at Hacket Freedman here in San Francisco. I asked for Michael's interpretation for how it's possible to see such amazing drawing ability in Ann Gale's work when it's impossible to see any edges - all the shapes are dissolved, so I can't understand how I can feel so moved by the drawing. What is drawing without edges and shape, especially when her values and hues are so compressed? Michael feels that it's because her proportion of masses are so accurate - for example the way the hands fall in the lap of a figure so convincingly. He says her precision of drawing is like Sargent, where the actual strokes seem abstract but our brains complete even the edges that aren't delineated.

Book Recommendation
The Practice and Science of Drawing by Harold Speed

On Painting
Paint large to small, dark to light. Painting is stacking smaller and smaller and lighter and lighter shapes. Capture variations of hue, value and chroma, faceting as we move across the form.

Start in 2 dimensions - block in the color with faceted patches of paint like we block in the drawing. Slowly transition into 3 dimensional form.

Anything we know use to confirm what we see.

All of our decisions are optical i.e., paint what you see, not what you think you know. However, we can't paint what we don't know to look for.

Even when focusing on one particular area, don't zone in, look at everything.

"You don't finish a painting, a painting finishes you."

(As always, these are my interpretations of Michael's words, and I can't say if he would agree with everything as I have written it here.)


Michael Grimaldi Workshop: "Curiosity"

Melissa Phase III
11 x 14
Oil on panel
Final painting

Melissa Phase III
11 x 14
Oil on panel
Color underpainting continued

Melissa Phase II
11 x 14
Oil on panel
Color underpainting

Melissa Phase I
11 x 14
Oil on panel
Graphic composition in neutral values

Today was the last day of my two-week workshop with Michael Grimaldi. I learned so much, even though after the long workshops with Ted it felt incredibly rushed to study for just two weeks. Watching Michael's demonstrations and talking with him about art made for an amazing experience.

Michael's favorite word is "curiosity". He feels an artist must be truly curious to evolve, and must be interested enough to pursue ideas, technique and personal expression in whatever direction moves us. He has no adherence to "the way to paint" and encourages students to develop their own methods. He references artists and art movements and films and philosophers constantly.

I am not very happy with my final painting. Today, the last day, I was rushing to complete the "final pass" of the painting, and to my dismay I find after looking at the photos of the stages that I like earlier versions better. But Michael's process and technique are with me, and I'm looking forward to doing a series of painting this summer to try to get better at the technique.

Next Tuesday I fly to London, and Thursday I take the Chunnel to Paris! I'll have my laptop and will be bloggiing while I study with Studio Escalier, so stay tuned. (Please sign up for my RSS feed or email notifications in the upper right column on this page to be notified when I update my blog.)

At Studio Escalier we will be working in the historic studio of the Romantic painter Gericault. When I was a student in Paris in 1992, I had a free pass to the major art museums of Paris (that's France for you - "les etudients des beaux arts" are allowed in museums for FREE!). So I would jump off the bus on my way home outside the Louvre, cut the long line of tourists, and go straight to my favorite paintings whenever I wanted. Gericault's Raft of the Medusa was one of my favorites, and I often went to the Louvre just to see it.

If I could have known that 15 years later I would be returning to Paris to study figure drawing in Gericault's very own studio I would not have believed it.


Michael Grimaldi Workshop: "Tight"

11 x 14
charcoal on gessoed panel

With the method Grimaldi is teaching us, this block-in line drawing is done in vine charcoal directly on the canvas panel, based on the thumbnails we composed yesterday. Eventually we'll do the final painting directly over our charcoal line drawing.

My favorite Grimaldi quote so far:
"The goal is to be tight, that's what we're going for. What we are not going for is to be uptight."

I really like that. Made me think a lot about that word, "tight".

"Tight" was the worst thing you could call an artist or a piece of art in my art school. "Don't be tight" and "loosen up" were the phrases drilled into us, and then we drilled them into each other. If you really hated someone's artwork, you'd say they were "too tight"; it was the most cutting critique.

It's interesting to now be part of an art world where it's ok to be "tight". The idea is that by practicing being precise and highly controlled, you learn to see the most subtle variations of value, color, form and proportion with a high degree of sensitivity - and you can always loosen up later. But the horror story repeated over and over back in my art school days was that if you practiced being tight you risked being unable to ever loosen up again. It reminds me of what mothers tell their children: "Don't make that face or it might get stuck like that."

I still don't know where I stand on it. I love seeing the expressive hand of the artist, the juicy brushstrokes and scritchy scribbles. I also love refined sensitivity and precision. I like to think there can be a happy marriage of the two. Tight but not uptight.


Michael Grimaldi: Portrait Painting Workshop

Portrait Study
charcoal and graphite on paper

about 4 x 4 inches

Two years ago, in Summer 2006, I set up an art studio in my loft, hired a series of models for a few weeks and started figure painting after nearly a decade away from art.

I was totally out of touch with the art world, and so I started poking around on the internet to see if any US galleries were showing figurative/realist work.

I immediately found Arcadia gallery in New York and was inspired, intimidated, and fascinated by the amazing work I found there. The painting "Nude with Tattoo" by Michael Grimaldi in particular stood out to me, and so I Googled his name to find out more about the artist.

One of the first search results was for a workshop Grimaldi had taught right here in my own back yard at Bay Area Classical Artist Atelier... but I had just missed his workshop by a few weeks! The BACAA web site said Grimaldi wouldn't be returning until 2008, so I had nearly two years to wait for his return.

In the meantime I looked around the BACAA web site and was amazed by all the incredible artists teaching there. So I signed up for a March 2007 workshop taught by Juliette Aristides, and began a new era of my art life. (You can read my blog post about that workshop with Juliette here.) I have since spent the last 14 months taking workshops with Juliette, Dan Thompson, and Ted Seth Jacobs.

Now, this week, the Michael Grimaldi 2008 workshop I have waited so long for has begun! The class is portrait painting, and we are starting with small thumbnail sketches to work out the composition and design of the final painting. Tomorrow I'll start blocking out the design and major proportions on my canvas. (The above sketches are charcoal on paper, each just a few inches.)

Two weeks from today I fly to France for a 3 week workshop at Studio Escalier. After the class Nowell is joining me and we'll spend another 3 weeks just hanging out in Paris. I'll be bringing my new pochade box, so watch for upcoming plein air oil sketches of Paris!

Juliette Aristides' new book, Classical Painting Atelier has just been released and I just received my pre-ordered copy from Amazon today! I plan to spend the next couple hours poring over it before bed. From a quick peek it looks like a gorgeous follow-up to her first book, Classical Drawing Atelier. These are incredibly inspiring books, with beautiful reproductions by both classical and contemporary realist artists. I highly recommend them both for any art lover.


Ted Seth Jacobs - Drapery Study

Drapery Study I
graphite on paper
18 x 24 inches (detail)

Drapery Study II
graphite on paper
18 x 24 inches (detail)

I've just finished 12 weeks studying drawing with Ted Seth Jacobs at BACAA. We spent the final week modeling a satin jacket which was put on a mannequin. It was an amazingly difficult final project, it really felt like a test of everything Ted has been teaching us about how to analyze three dimensional form.

These are the 4 main principles Ted taught us to apply when analyzing form:

Convex Form
Everything in nature is curved, nothing is flat. All of these curves are convex, there are no concavities. If you look closely at a seemingly-concave drape or indentation, you can always see small convexities along it. This is evidence of the underlying structure. (It sounds implausible, everyone doubts it when they first hear it, but try seeing it, it's there).

Wide to Narrow
Nothing in nature is parallel, every shape starts wide on one end and gets narrow on the other. A shadow shape will always be a fan, not a square or rectangle. Use this concept to "shape the light".

Rounding and Ending
Every shadow rounds over a curved surface and ends before the next form begins. This means every form shadow has a soft edge and a hard edge. Think about the direction of the light - generally the edge of a shadow closer to the light source will be soft, and the edge away from the light will be hard.

What's in Front
The only point on an object not foreshortened is the point directly in front of your eye, everything else is foreshortened. That means every form is in front of or behind another. There are thousands of tiny "horizons", the edge of a shape we look across to see the next shape.

The hardest part is that all of these principles apply to every form. A rounding-and-ending shadow has a wide-to-narrow shape and it always describes a convex form which is in front or behind something else.


TSJ Portrait Workshop: Bridgette

18 x 24 inches
graphite pencil and white chalk pencil on toned paper
about 20 hours

I experimented with a new technique with the white chalk. Unfortunately, what Ted is teaching requires so much modeling, I don't think it works well with the chalk, which gets ground in and over-manipulated in trying to get very fine detail.

Besides all that, I am happy with the drawing, especially how it compares to my first portrait of Bridgette I did 9 months ago. I feel like in this new drawing there is more a sense of the dimensional feel of the landscape of her skin. When I am drawing now I feel like my pencil is actually touching the surface of the form, like sculpting. Previously I only thought about copying lights and darks, so this is a totally different approach for me.

I do think a combination of the two is best. I first have to "flatten" my vision and record the major proportions without thinking of them as three-dimensional, in order to get the proportions right. But when the major proportions are set, there is a sense of switching to a different mode, thinking in 3 dimensions, and looking very closely at the surface, watching how it undulates towards and away from the light, and towards and away from the picture plane.

I think if you look at my first drawing, you'll see that there is no sense of being able to touch the surface of Bridgett's skin, it's just flat blankness.

I have no idea how anyone ever did or does portrait commissions from life. The pressure to achieve likeness in as short a time as possible must be tremendous.


TSJ Portrait Workshop: Melissa

18 x 24 inches
pencil on paper
about 30 hours

Despite some problems with the drawing, this is probably the best likeness I have ever done. I may have made Melissa look slightly more gaunt and maybe slightly older than she is, but the proportions and placements I feel are pretty reminiscent of her as a specific person.

I feel like Ted's lessons are really starting to sink in, and my drawing is much improved since I started working with him. He's taught me to think of the 3-dimensional forms of what I am looking at (and subforms, and subforms and subforms...), and to try to understand everything in 3 dimensions, instead of just "copying" a pattern of lights and darks. The result is a much more solidly volumetric drawing.

Next week we will be drawing Bridgett, whom I first drew last year, and I can't wait to compare the drawings and see what I have learned.

I've also started experimenting with softer (darker) pencils. I usually use hard pencils, 2H and H, and just gently go over and over to build up the tone. But for this drawing I tried using a combination of 3B and H pencils. I really liked the effect, much larger range of value.

A weird effect is happening in my eyes recently. I am looking very closely at the model, and I guess I am really staring for quite a long time, because sometimes when I look at my paper to draw I am momentarily blinded. Instead of my paper and my drawing, I see the after-effect of the model's image burned into my retinas. It's very disconcerting.

Aside from classwork, this is a sneak preview of what I am working on in my studio right now:


TSJ Portrait Workshop: Melissa's Profile

Melissa's Profile
18 x 24 inches
graphite pencil on paper
about 20 hours

This is the drawing I did the third week of Ted Seth Jacob's portrait drawing class. This doesn't actually look much like Melissa.


TSJ Portrait Workshop: Mona

18 x 24 inches
graphite pencil on paper
about 40 hours

My second Ted Seth Jacob workshop just finished it's 4th week (of 6) and I thought I would post what I have been working on. This drawing of Mona was from the first 2 weeks of the class.

Most of the students in this workshop were also in last November/December workshop, so Ted is showing us how the principles he taught us for figure drawing apply to portraiture.

I have to say, portraiture is very very hard. Struggling to get a likeness had reduced me nearly to tears more than once these last few weeks.

Ted always says "you must allow yourself to relax and be open and receive all the information coming into your eyes." I really agree, because I'm finding that forcibly trying to spear a likeness instead just chases it away.

Something about the human face makes us even more critical I think. The ability to recognize a face is hard-wired into our brains, and so we all have a highly developed ability to distinguish faces from one another by minute differences. But seeing the inaccuracies and being able to fix them are not the same thing.


TSJ Workshop: Reclining Nude II


pencil on paper, 18 x 24 inches

I have now worked on this drawing for 2 weeks, or 10 sessions. See the earlier version here.


I have one more week left, so I have to decide what to do. Do I continue to modify and refine this drawing, or do I start a new one?

I’ve gotten some great comments from my artists group (we are a group of artists of all kinds, writers, animators, singers, and filmmakers, and we meet monthly to share our latest endeavors over wine and snacks.) Of course they said complimentary things, too, but they very astutely pointed out the places I am struggling.

I need to resolve some issues with her right shoulder, her back, and refine the face & hair a bit more. They loved the elbow, which is one of the last things I worked on, so maybe I will try to apply what I learned there to the back, which I worked on very early in the drawing.

I am really enjoying my workshop with Ted Seth Jacobs, he is teaching me new ways to understand what I am looking at. The elbow in the the above drawing is I think most evident of what I am learning.

Paris, 15 years later

I am very excited to learn that I have been accepted to a figure drawing program in Paris for three weeks in April 08. The course is taught by former students of Ted’s who live and teach in France, their school is Studio Escalier. I studied at Parsons Paris for 6 months in college, back in 1993, so I am looking forward to visiting Paris as an art student once again, 15 years after the first time.

Notes from TSJ

I have transcribed some more of my notes from TSJ’s teachings. These are some of his overall themes, the ideas he repeats no matter what specifics he is showing us:

“I am not your teacher: nature is your teacher. But you have to have knowledge of the principles of form to understand what nature is showing you. These principles are helpful only as far as they help us see nature. If nature disagrees with a principle, nature is right, the principle is wrong. Nature is our teacher always.”


— Ted Seth Jacobs


  • Contour is not flat, it is moving in 3 dimensions, back and forward
  • Every contour on the body is held in a balance of tension between opposing forces.
  • Every change in the contour is a result of 3-dimensional form

Light and shadow



  • Everything is divided into light and shadow. Always know whether you are working in the shadow or in the light. There is no such thing as “halftone”. There is only:
    Light light
    Dark light
    Light shadow
    Dark shadow
    Accent (the darkest dark)

See the model as a flat ribbon of light

  • Squint your eyes to simplify the lights and darks
  • Don’t worry about highlights, pay attention to the largest masses


    Ask yourself:

  • Which end is closer to the light source?
  • What is the tilt of the ribbon to the light?
  • What is the lightest part of the pose?

Model the smaller forms in harmony with the larger value relationships.


Think about the three dimensional forms, not just a two dimensional pattern of lights and darks.

The edge of the shadow (also called the terminator, or core shadow) is not an impenetrable wall, there are forms criss-crossing through it

[UPDATE 12/2013 - Due to widespread misunderstanding of the term Terminator, I feel it’s important to revise my notes here and state clearly that the Terminator is NOT the same as a core shadow. It’s not even the “edge of shadow”. It’s the ending of the light, at the point where the form turns away from the primary light source. Ted never called it a Core Shadow, that was my misunderstanding 6 years ago when I took these notes. -SJV] 

Shape the light to describe the form;
See what end is wider, which end is narrower; it’s often a “fan” shape, edges are never parallel

Form principles

  • Even a concave shape is made up of tiny convex forms
  • Each shape is a wedge that interlocks with other wedge shapes
  • Find the specialness of each shape
  • Make a portrait of each shape

We are not copying: copying is trying to capture what you see without understanding what you are looking at.
We are not representing reality; we are suggesting reality.



TSJ Workshop - Reclining Nude I

18 x 24 inches, pencil on paper

We are now in the 4th week of Ted Seth Jacobs' drawing workshop at BACAA.

This week we started drawing a 3-week pose. Today is the 4th day, and I spent the first 3 1/2 days struggling with the block-in. I don't know what it is, something about the leaning tilt, but it is an incredibly difficult gesture to capture. I erased and started again a half-dozen times. But practicing a block-in is a good exercise, so the time was well spent although I don't have much to show for it.

This is an interesting stage of the drawing, because you can see the earliest marks of my block-in, especially at the feet, as well as the more polished part by the shoulders.

While I draw I repeat in my head over and over "rounding and ending", which I described here. The practice of thinking about the three-dimensionality of each protrusion is a a new technique for me. Also, being conscious about which sides of a shadow are soft, and which sides are crisp is really helpful. Repeating "rounding and ending, rounding and ending" helps me remember.

I have also been thinking a lot about how to paint and draw nudes, especially female nudes, without relying on a traditional idea of beauty as a hook. I think about how to depict an individual without reducing her to an idea of a woman. There is so much history to contend with, it's hard to resist. The temptation is to emphasize her beauty. Especially because this model is tall and slim and attractive, and especially because she has been arranged in a classical pose.

My goal is to try to depict her as a real, breathing human being. Let's see how I do.


TSJ Workshop: Head Study Day II

Looking at anyone from this angle makes their face look wide and their nose upturned... but Melissa does not have a wide face nor an upturned nose. I think in this version she looks more like herself than in the previous session, where she looked like some sort of plump Swiss Miss character.

Ted has been teaching us about "rounding and ending" a shadow. This is where a shadow is shaped by the light falling over the rounded edge of a form, which makes a soft gradated edge. Then the shadow ends in a crease, a hard edge, before the next rounded form begins.

This hard edge is eventually slightly softened through "knitting" the two forms together, but the basic idea is seeing where the shadows have soft edges (over a curved surface) and where they have firm edges (at the crease between two forms).

You can see this most explicitly at the hollow in Melissa's upturned cheek. (It's even more exaggerated in this photo of the drawing, and I will say, it's very frustrating to work for two days to calculate every value, just to have it all destroyed in the photo!).

Anyway, you can see how the shadow rounds down off the hight point of her cheekbone, and falls into the crevice above her jawbone - "rounding and ending". I tried to practice this all over the drawing.

At this stage (about 7 hours into it) the forms are all still generalized, but if I had more time with this pose I would go further and see how many sub-forms I can find.

Had fun with the hand and it went very quickly - I did most of it in just two 20-minute sessions. You can see the "rounding and ending" concept over the tip of the index finger quite clearly, too.


TSJ Workshop: Head Study

pencil on paper, 3 hour pose

I decided to try a new drawing of just the model's face and hand these last two days of the pose.

Something is not quite right... the angle is difficult, but I was hoping to catch more of a likeness, and this doesn't look much like Melissa. I'll try to discover what is wrong tomorrow.


TSJ Workshop: Melissa Day 5

pencil on paper, 12 x 18 inches, detail
Day 5

Next week is short because of the holiday, so I'll only have two more days on this pose. I think I am done with this drawing, so I may start a new one just of her head and maybe her right hand near her face. It would be fun to try the face larger and with more detail. Not often I get an angle like this to work from.

Ted's comments are that I am making things "too straight" (like the shadow on the thigh, or the top edge of the calf). Which makes sense, because I have been practicing a straight-line block-in all year!

But I can see that Ted is right - the body feels more real, specific, organic and yes, organized, when all the compound curves are articulated: muscles wrap around bone, the bone itself is thick and thin and twisted, irregular wedges notch into asymmetrical arches; nothing is constant or machined.

On the other hand, it's very hard to get accurate proportion without focusing a good amount of time and attention on a straight-line block-in at the beginning. I would say it's impossible. After this year's training, I can always tell if someone is NOT using a block-in.

My idea is melding the two approaches. Blocking-in with straight lines to get all the tilts and distances to be accurate. Then using Ted's way of seeing to express the myriad organic structures that make up the whole form.


TSJ Workshop: Melissa Day 3

pencil on paper, 12 x 18 inches, detail
Day 3

This is the drawing I am working on right now during Ted Seth Jacobs' 6-week figure drawing workshop. This is day 3 of a 10-day pose. You can see earlier stages of the drawing here.

I have blocked in the general proportions, refined the contour, and lightly sketched the main shadows. Now I am trying to create the smaller forms according to the philosophy Ted has been teaching us.

In the mornings, Ted draws from the model for us and demonstrates all the forms and sub-forms he sees on the model. He shows us how everything fits together, interlocks, and how the individual forms describe pathways along the body to create a network of structure.

I am trying to do the same in my drawing. Ted is teaching me how to see how gravity and pressure affect the masses of the body, and it is giving the figure more weight and substance. I think you can see the difference in my earlier drawing of Melissa I did last March.

Obviously the earlier drawing is of a very different pose, but you can see the forms are more simplified and generalized; less specific, and more "floaty".

In contrast, I feel like the models' legs in this drawing are pressing on the surface and on each other.

Seven more days drawing this pose, stay tuned :)