Resources : References and Inspiration

Figure : Joe's Projects

June 2020

I’ve been looking at the paintings of Kehinde Wiley who completed the portrait of Barack Obama, that to date, President Trump (against past protocol) has refused to unveil in the White House. The painting is full of light and I like the way that Obama sits slightly forward - relaxed -  within the foliage and flowers surrounding him. The attached article details an interview with the artist that enables us to have a fuller appreciation of the painting  and the motivation behind its completion.

I have looked closer at the work of Kehinde Wiley and I have attached a painting by him that might be of interest to you. 

The painting uses the same type of format as his Obama painting - with foliage and flowers patterned across the surface of the picture. It is based on a 17thC Dutch painting by Gerard ter Borch.   Further information about the painting is via this link:


I have been looking again at the work of Maria Kreyn. I attach one of her drawings where she has used water soluble drawing media similar to the aquarell pencils we have used in our figure drawing classes. There is a great deal of movement in the picture and this is aided by the drawing and watercolour technique that she has adopted. There is also drama in terms of the light she has captured moving across the picture and the torso  - the figure is almost trapped within the confines of the rectangle.

Did you see the antiques Roadshow on Sunday evening? I have included a screenshot from the program. We have used the work of Bernard Dunstan many times in our sessions to stimulate our thinking and it was great to see one of his paintings being discussed and valued. It was found in a gallery in Anglesey. Dunstan tended to work on a small scale, so I was surprise to see that this was one of his larger pictures . I like how the  the light has been painted, and the square composition. The person who brought the picture to the show did not disclose its purchase price, however,  it was valued to be worth between £4000 and £6000

Drawing of hands 

The drawings of hands that I have seen posted on our WKAG Facebook page are both animated and structurally well drawn. For our next theme I want to move on to drawing figures where hands are very visible and an important component of the painting.

I have included two paintings by the Russian born artist Maria Keryn who  is now based in Brooklyn. The first is a Baroque depiction of a couple - I am very interested by the way that the hand is used to provide a poignant counterpoint to the figures below. 

The second painting looks rather more contemporary in terms of the handling of the paint and the overall idea of the painting. However for me, it  has religious connotations and note how the hands fall and dissolve into the fabric beneath.

I have been looking at the work of the American artist Ali Cavanaugh related to our theme of hands in portraits. I have attached two of her watercolour portraits, and here is a link to her website.

In the second painting ‘Steep’  watercolour is used quite expressively  - it captures a sense of drama and motion very well  - the figure is about to blow a kiss to the viewer. On closer scrutiny are you worried about how the index finger on the figures lower hand has been drawn? 

May 2020
Drawing of hands

This week I’ve been looking at some old master drawings of hands. The first is a beautiful drawing by Leonardo da Vinci. The drawing is described as follows:


‘At the bottom, one hand is folded underneath another, more developed one, as if resting in a lap. That lightly-sketched hand seems to be the ghost of the top hand, which holds a sprig of some sort of plant–the outline of the thumb is nearly identical. These two highly developed hands are worked up with dark cross-hatchings and white chalk highlights, creating a sense of mass even on a sheet of paper.’ 

I have also included one of the most famous drawings of hands by Albrect Durer. I think that it is so special because it captures so well the way the hands and fingers  touch each other - in this case in prayer on supplication.  It has been used in many contexts and it is described here: 

‘The drawing is a sketch (study) for hands of an apostle, whose full picture was planned to occupy the central panel of the triptych installed in Frankfurt entitled the Heller Altarpiece – destroyed by a fire in 1729.[1]The sketched hands appear on the triptych on the right side of the central panel, and although the detail appears very similar, it is smaller in size in the triptych.’ ( Wikipedia)

April 2020
Line Drawing

In relation to our current theme of using just line to convey the figure I include firstly a preparatory drawing by Rembrandt. This drawing is deceptively simple. He captures a brief moment in time extremely well. There is a great deal of movement in this study.The second drawing is by Degas - this drawing will remind everyone of his paintings and pastels about bathing - there is a little more tone in this drawing but the contour of the figure is paramount.

I have attached a couple of line drawings of figures to inspire our next project which is about line drawing. Both examples use line to describe the form in quite a flat - cartoon or diagrammatic way. The Egon  Schiele drawing is both violent and animated - he always draws hands so well ! 

The second is a lovely David Hockney drawing of his Mother. I initially thought that it was an etching because of the small marks across the surface of the drawing - however it is an ink drawing completed in one sitting. There is a great skill evident here as the drawing contains no revisions. I really think that it is one of his most tender works.

In relation to our line and contour theme I have attached  a Picasso portrait of Igor Stravinsky -  it’s such a powerfully and alive drawing. Picasso could paint like an old master as a teenager therefore drawing is a key to understanding his work.

This week have a go at drawing your own hands or feet! I have attached a series of drawings by Van Gogh to guide us. I always find his drawings so interesting. I think this is because you can see the way that he struggles to render his subject. In my opinion he was not a natural or ‘gifted’ draughtsman like Picasso, Degas, or Hockney. However his drawings, because of this struggle, have an immediacy and intrinsic movement that make the best of them quite remarkable. 

I have also included a general drawing about hands from a drawing site that helps to identify how to structure a drawing.

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March 2020

I’ve been watching the Sky Portrait Artist of the year series of programmes and the way that they select artists is via a self portrait - so my challenge to you over the next week or so is to start a portrait - if you do not want to draw yourself then please choose someone able and willing to sit for you. 

I’ve been looking at some self portraits given our current theme and I noticed that the Williamson Art Gallery has this chalk drawing self portrait by Stanley Spencer in its collection. When the gallery is open again I will try and see it! I like the sense of light and the particular way that the contours have been rendered.

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 I have added a page that I have come across that details some fundamental approaches to figure drawing  - I like the way that it is illustrated : Link.

Working with Tone

 have added an energetic charcoal drawing by Damian Goidich for inspiration.

I thought that you might be interested in the two drawings attached by Van Gogh. I like the solidity of the figures and the strong lines used to define and to give them form. The hands in both drawings are rendered so simply but so effectively. 

I have also attached another couple of drawings by Van Gogh. They demonstrate how he constantly struggled with his drawing about how to convey the figure. He is not a fluid or natural draughtsman, like Leonardo, Raphael, or Degas - and this makes him even more interesting as an artist. The drawings of hands provide some clues as to how he added structure to his line to convey form - you can see the planning underneath the harder contour lines and how he is revising and  altering his drawing throughout its production. 

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