I spent a month in New York City, studying painting and figure drawing at the Art Students League.

My outstanding instructors, Michael Grimaldi and?Dan Thompson?emphasized the importance of understanding ?energy and structure of a living body.?I learned to note the lines of action and the lines of skeletal dynamics in drawing the figure.?In addition, they helped me to see and use anatomical landmarks, such as the top of the pelvis, and the connection point of the thigh and hip bones.

In the two drawings below I drew lines to note?the angle of hips, ribcage, head, and feet in relation to the entire figure. I did the first drawing early in the class.




I did this page of 5 minute poses in?last week at the league. After 4 weeks of practice, ?I was able to note the tilts and angles of the pose much more quickly than at the beginning.

After my drawing experience at?the Art Students League, finding the figure's structural cues and angles has become a good habit. I can be more accurate at the start of my drawing. By noting the essentials of the pose, I save myself from needing to make?fundamental corrections later in the work.

I also must mention my admiration for all our models. Their professionalism and experience was?key?to my? learning. They work extraordinarily hard. In some classes, a model will?maintain the same pose during every class period for 4 weeks.

Our instructors made sure we understood values, and how to use them in our drawings.

We call the range of lights and darks in a drawing or painting the "value range." ?By showing?the pattern of light and dark, or values, an?artist suggests?spatial volume. Conceivably, one could work with two, three, or beyond twenty levels of value on the scale of dark to light. We did lots of value studies!

The model below was beginning a 4 week pose, but I had to leave at the end of 4 days, so the drawing (18 x 24) is unfinished.?I would have liked to show the full depth of?the shadows moving down this figure from the head, through the arm, along the leg, to the feet. Even so, I learned a lot from simply making a start on the values.


By improving my drawing skills around observation, grasping the essentials of the pose, and values?carried over into?painting the figure.

In his figure painting class, Dan Thompson continued to emphasize the importance of angular?"starting moves." ?In the oil sketches below, I tried to capture the model's gesture and energy, while also noting the physical structures most key to the pose.


On this one you can see Dan Thompson's visual notes on the right side. He showed me how to keep the whole figure as open as possible as I worked.



All that practice on values paid off in?this 2 week figure study. Again, the?model was wonderful.


Dan Thompson, gave me permission to be as colorful with this piece as possible, which was lots of fun. I did not quite finish it before I had to leave, but I was satisfied with my progress so far.

It was a privilege to work with such wonderful instructors and models, as well as many talented fellow students. The work was challenging, and doing study after study is not glamorous, but efforts like these are?essential to the skill and craft of being a painter.


(Note: Michael Grimaldi now teaches at the New York Academy.)


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