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Entries in Michael Grimaldi (5)


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.


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.