Lesson: Sketching From Cabinet Photos

Among my favorite subject matter for sketching over the past several years have been cabinet photos. Cabinet photos were a late 19th century print-making process. Photographers took the photos –generally in their shops and they were often used to advertise for the photographer. These photos satisfied the fascination of Victorian era people with access to an emerging technology –photography. The cabinet photo was extraordinarily popular until about the turn of the twentieth century. There are an abundance of them, and they can generally be bought for only a few dollars per photo.

For a couple of years now, I have been buying cabinet photos from The White Whale, an antique shop in Hudson, NY, each time I have vacationed there. The cabinet photos make for arresting portraiture studies to me for several reasons. First, photography was still expensive and most cameras were only in the hands of professional photographers. This means that most cabinet photos are of regular people, dressed in their best clothes, who must have traveled “into town,” to have their portrait taken. The cards I have bought are often of young women, dressed in probably what is their best dress. So, drawing ordinary people of modest means has a certain appeal.

The second consideration is more of a technical one. Photography was still a technology in its infancy. Long exposures and the process of print-making often did not produce as crisp an image as what we are used to today. In the image I am using, taken by photographer F. C. Flint, of Syracuse, NY, the skin-tones of the woman photographed are pretty uniformly the white of the paper, as are most of the woman’s intricate lace dress. There’s little to go on to draw the normal contours and shadows of the woman’s face, except for some shadow around the eyes and under the woman’s chin. For the way I tend to sketch portraiture, the lack of detail forces you to develop those details yourself, and intuitively. You have to learn to fill in the missing information with a good intuitive sense of anatomy and texture.

Cabinet photo by F.C. Flint, pencil on paper.

Cabinet photo by F.C. Flint, pencil on paper.

Also, below the woman’s face, her shoulders and chest begin to disappear in shadow. It’s a challenge to draw with a fair deal of detail from the image, and another challenge to replicate (in pencil) the vanishing light around the edges of the image in Victorian era photography.

Cabinet photos can generally be found in antique shops locally, and can also be found online. They make a very interesting subject, in my mind for practicing portraiture.

Cultivating the Sketching Habit (III)

Lately, I have been feeling slightly barren of ideas for new works. So, I have returned to sketching a few ideas out in my sketchbook. Two ideas I am developing, today:

I am fortunate enough to have my own still model. At times when she is not too busy, she’s offered to pose for me, and I haven’t taken advantage of that nearly so much as I should. In the past she has done art modeling and still modeling.
KODAK Digital Still CameraI have just done a simple line drawing. I needed to make sure I can capture the pose. The main struggle here is getting the line of the spine correct when the body is reclined to the side, and since the legs are brought forward, they must be fore-shortened. It is possible I have foreshortened them too much here. I am going to keep working with this pose, there’s probably a larger work coming out of this in acrylic or oil. 

The other piece is a simple sketch of an old church in Hudson. The church is currently endangered and there is a strong sentiment in the city to restore and preserve the church. So far as I know, the work is ongoing, both to raise the funds needed, and do stabilization work.

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There were several other pieces I have done in my sketch book. This first one is of a church that –quite regrettably– met with the wrecking ball locally. This is an image of St. Patrick’s Church, which was recently demolished to make for a new grocery store in Watervliet, NY.

KODAK Digital Still Camera There’s a lot of smaller sketches I have been doing, usually during my down times at work. (Get time to sketch when you can take it, is fantastic advice –applies here).

A lot of the sketching I have been doing at lately, I have been doing at work while I’m waiting for the class to start. The sketches tend to be of plants in the common areas. There’s also a sketch in here from a book I took out of the library on digital photography, “Digital Photography Masterclass” by Tom Ang.

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The Gothsicles Shoot Pelvis Lasers at The Fuze Box, Albany, NY, 9.5.2014 (ExHuman Exiversary II)

Pelvis Lasers!!!

Pelvis Lasers!!!

On Friday, September 5th, the year of our lord 2014, The Gothsicles descended upon Albany, NY for Exhuman’s second Exiversary. For those that do not know, among the most prominent buildings of my city’s skyline is a giant Egg. The combination of weirdness created a hole in space-time, which resulted in an unsuspecting Brian Groupner, (occupation: musician) to begin shooting pelvis lasers.

The following images were recovered by forensic evidence experts, taken by an unidentified photographer, at the scene of the devastation, which left a large swaths of our fair city mostly –regrettably– destroyed.

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It appears, at first, the carnage may have remained localized.

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There may have been some type of power surge, which as yet, remains scientifically unexplained...

There may have been some type of power surge, which as yet, remains scientifically unexplained…

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As this image shows, the destruction soon became wide-spread.

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Forensic experts believe this may have been the incident’s epicenter…

Authorities, working in conjunction with the US military, are hoping some survivors may be found –to help piece together a timeline of events and prevent future catastrophes.

[More pictures]

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Self-portrait #3

I tend to, every so often, do a self portrait. Portrait was something I worked on heavily, early on –even as I was still in high school. One of the first works I did early on, while a student at Skidmore College in Saratoga, N.Y., was a self-portrait. It was the culminating project that semester (Summer, in 1997). It’s still, technically, among the best things I’ve done. 

A self-portrait, for me, is a good way to look inside yourself at what’s difficult to understand or to manage within. Sometimes, it’s forward-looking, sometimes it looks backwards. Perhaps this one is both.

This will be the third self-portrait I’ve done in oil. I will do small sketches every so often. I don’t suppose that self-portraits mean much of anything to anyone but the artist and people very close to them. The source image is sort of self-explanatory to people who were around for events for me in the fall of 2009.  

Self-portrait #3, Oil on canvas, (2014).

Self-portrait #3, Oil on canvas, (2014).

 

I may decide the flaws I see are something I can live with, or I may simply consider this done. The following photo is of the source image.

 

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Source image, on my easel.

Recent Happenings With the Class (cont.)

It’s been an exciting couple weeks since I updated about the class. Students have the option of submitting work for display at the OMH “Art on 8″ exhibit. I am exhibiting two pieces of my own with art from all over the state. The art will all come from people (in the community, and in hospitals) who receive services at OMH facilities.

A lot of people who are considering submitting work have never had their work shown before. So, a lot of people in my classes are really excited about it.

The second bit of excitement is that the class has been asked to do a mural project for a new staff member in the Occupational Therapy Department. This past week has mostly been spent trying to generate images for the mural. (These drawings are all my own, as I draw with the students as I am teaching. I am still working on permission to show student work on my site. It’s a NY state facility, and the proper procedure can take time. Currently, I am waiting for agency approval for the release form I created).

Enjoy the images:

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simple design with gem and leaves. Drawn with the class as they are working on mural ideas.

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Among the mural ideas, we have talked about nature scenes.

 

Before I presented the mural project to the class, we had been focused on architectural drawing with oil pastel.

 

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Oil pastel, old, dutch-era house, Albany Co. New York State.

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Simple study of a barn and silo. A student request.

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Historic Mansion, Troy, NY.

New Small Works (Summer, 2014)

I decided to do another page of the Small Works Progress Administration. The other has a lot of work on it already and has fallen pretty far down the page as new posts have been added on the blog. These are all small studies I have done, on paper or cardboard, designed to be sold for $15 – $25. As an artist, I want people to think of original art as something that is available personally to them –not as something unaffordable that hangs in galleries or museums.

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Edgar 1, acrylic on card-board. 4″ x 7 1/2″ $25

I did one of the Edgars today (I will probably do several more, especially if people express interest. Plus I find painting them fun and whimsical) If you don’t know Edgar’s story, I explain in the sketches blog (II).

Secondly, I did a very small image of a single wine glass:

Wine glass, 3"x5", acrylic on gessoed card board

Wine glass, 3″x5″, acrylic on gessoed card board -SOLD-

Lastly, there’s an image of “The Peak House,” a (now demolished) farmhouse in Saratoga County that was near the home I grew up in. The image is based on a picture I took with a Pentax 35mm SLR I learned photography on as a teenager.

The Peak House, acrylic on card board, 5" x 7 1/2" $20

The Peak House, acrylic on card board, 4″ x 8″ $20

[older]

The pieces shown here were done yesterday. While visiting with my son, I set up my easel near the park playground (Washington Park, in Albany, NY, where he usually plays). There are little color-studies of some of the stately old trees there, and a few subjects a little more whimsical.

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Washington Park tree, water color on paper. 7 1/2″ x 9 1/2″ approximate.$15

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Washington Park tree # 2, watercolor on paper. 7 1/2″ by 9 1/2″ approximate. $15

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Pencil on paper sketch of an espresso (demitasse) cup. From my sketch book. (make offer)

To see my original post about the NWPA, go here: http://elevenimages.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/the-small-works-progress-administration/

A couple more whimsical images:

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Child on bicycle, watercolor and pencil on paper, 8 1/2″ by 11″. $15

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“RAWR!” (children’s playground equipment) Washington Park, Albany NY. Watercolor on paper, 7 1/2″ by 9″ approximate. $15

If you are interested in any of the works shown there, or in any of the images following, please use the e-mail listed by clicking “about Eleven Images.”

This Week (give or take) in the Class.

I’m going to try to break up the posts to progress every couple weeks. I’m still waiting to iron out the issues surrounding HIPPA (confidentiality) and showing student work (many students are doing fine work in the class). Until then, I will continue posting in class demonstrations. If you’re seeing this post the first time, my class is the blind leading the blind. I have struggled with a mental illness for decades. I’m celebrating my thirty-sixth birthday in a couple days. (August 14th) I am happy to be alive. I am happy to be teaching students in an inpatient psychiatric hospital that art can be a way to heal yourself, to grow personally, and to keep yourself well and out of hospitals.

The pictures are what I draw as I am teaching my students.


In the past week,(6/29-7/7) I’ve continued to focus on the use of color. Here are some more of the in-class demonstrations. I have based my lessons on a book I have borrowed from the library, “Understanding Color” by Marcia Moses. I’ve been using a couple of images by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch as out in-class examples, because Munch’s use of color is so striking of an example of the use of a limited palette.

Continuing the class discussion on color theory. I have been making art my whole life, and I’m picking up what I might of missed in my informal education, from what I take out at the library. My degree is not in art, so I am learning as my students learn.

We were doing split complimentary color schemes this week (complimentary pairs, pus an adjacent color on the color wheel).

My in-class demonstrations:

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Vincent Van Gogh, “Peach Tree in Bloom” reproduction. OIl pastel on paper.

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Color study. I gave my student the prompt: “Locals say, if you go you will still find her there waiting” Oil pastel on paper.

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Oil Pastel on paper, reproduction of one of my photographs, looking south from the Rennselaer train station.

Before our discussion of color, I did a simple exercise I feel is helpful for training the eye. I began the week by bringing in a bag of dried leaves from my yard. I had intended to encourage students to develop their eye for detail. This was an exercise I found useful, early on, as I was developing my own abilities:

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Leaf, charcoal on paper.

Shifting the discussion to color, I started with a simple geometric abstract, and encouraged students to use a limited palette in their own drawing.

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Abstract, oil pastel on paper. Students were encourage to use a limited palette. My example is dominated by the complimentary colors blue and orange, and green.

The next two examples are explorations/reproductions of Munch’s work. His general color palette and strong use of color worked well to illustrate aspects of color theory for my students.

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Oil Pastel on paper, Based on Edvard Munch’s “White Night.”

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Oil pastel on paper, based on Edvard Munch’s mural at the University at Aula, “The Sun.”

Over the past week, the class focused (mostly) on using perspective. In most of the classes over the past couple weeks I have also been teaching students to mix color and have been teaching the to work in water color.

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From pictures I took as an adolescent at the Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA. Water color on paper.

(Explanation of caption under the painted image: I wanted students to think of their lives before they were ill, and the kind of person they were –or might be, if they recovered from their mental illness. I had brought in photos I took of the Grand Canyon when I was an adolescent, before I was diagnosed and before I knew I had a mental illness. I had all the students caption their image with something about themselves. My caption reads “before I was ill, I was creative and adventurous.”)

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Barn, water color on paper. From the book “The Welsh Hills of Waukeska County” by Pat Byrne

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Charcoal and Water-color on paper, reproduction of Paul Klee’s “The Conquerer”.

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Tree-lined path/road. Based on a photo from the Welsh Hills (Byrne) again).

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Original image, water color on paper. Based on the house where I currently rent, Albany, NY. Perspective lesson

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Charcoal on paper, study/review of face and facial features. My students ask that I draw and older man.

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Perspective study, based on an image by Gustave Caillebotte, (“Paris, a Rainy Day”).

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Figure study, “Officer in Riot Gear” oil pastel and charcoal on paper.

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