Archive for September, 2014

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.

A second cabinet photo, this time the image is based on a photo from Farrand & Neale, 18th and 6th Ave, NYC.

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The face in the photo is placid. For whatever reason she seems anxious and terrified as I draw her. A reflection of my own state, perhaps. Nonetheless, thank you for viewing.

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.

Couple, cabinet photo, marked: Chamberlin, Norwich, NY.

Couple, cabinet photo, marked: Chamberlin, Norwich, NY.

This new drawing I found interesting to do, because of the elaborate clothing and the amount of detail in the photo. The image I am working from (the actual photo print) is very small, about 2 and 1/4″ by 4″. This particular photo is much smaller than most of the cabinet photos in my collection, although the others vary as well, in size and shape.

Since I am gearing up to do a portrait on commission, I broke out the pencils today (a new set, sent to me by my kind sister Jennifer) to practice my hand at sketching –something I will very likely be working on a lot in coming days. Again, from one of the cabinet photos my partner and I have collected, this one marked: “DeWitt”

He’s a relatively severe looking, aged gentleman, but I came to like him while I was drawing him and his substantial beard.

Drawing from cabinet photo, bearded gentleman, marked "DeWitt"

Drawing from cabinet photo, bearded gentleman, marked “DeWitt”

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)

I’ve started taking around graphite and torn-up sheets of paper around with me wherever I go tucked into my day-planner. The other day, headed to a talented young friend’s gallery show I sketched this out of some trees in Washington Park (Albany, NY)

Graphite on paper.

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Today, when I took my son to the library, I did a little sketching with graphite the Molotow Acrylic Paint Markers. The paint markers were part of a recent donation of supplies I received. I have enjoyed using them, and I am learning a bit how to get the most out of them. I know a few artists who use acrylic paint markers heavily in their work, so I have been playing and experimenting with them.

Both images from the book “Digital Photography Masterclass” by Tom Ang. The book itself is a wonderful and comprehensive text for learning digital photography. I gravitate to it because it is full of exceptionally good photography and makes for good sketches and studies.

6.28.16, last sketch in this sketchbook, Form a book of National Geographic Photos, Yemeni Women in a line to Vote, photo by Steve McCurry

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From a photo by Steve McCurry, Yemen Women at an Election, Graphite on paper, from a book put out by National Geographic.

 

A couple more sketches from when I was in the park with my son today.

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Study, Tree, Washington Park, Albany, N.Y.. Graphite on paper.

 

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Study, Corning Tower, veiwed From Washington Park. Graphite on paper.

 

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As the weather has gotten nicer, I have been taking a sketchbook with me to nearby Washington Park, here in Albany. The other day, I did a couple quick images of things I saw. (Graphite on paper, all)

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I decided to do some sketching out of library books. On Wednesdays, I am always bringing my son to the library, –so, I either catch up on e-mail and web-surf, or I draw for an hour or so.

Today I did the latter

[2/24/16]

Been doing a bit more sketching while I help my son with his home work. This is again from Tom Ang’s book (see below for full source info)

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Older man, from Ang’s book, Digital Photography Masterclass, pencil on paper.

 

The next several images are from a books on local history including  “Heldeberg Hilltowns,” (by Eberfeld & McLean).

 

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Schenectady Dayline trolley car, pencil on paper, From the book “Adirondak Trail,” by Donalf R. Williams. It is a reproduction of a photographic image.

 

 

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One-room school house, Rennsylaerville, NY, pencil on paper.

 

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Old Snyder Sawmill, Westerlo, pencil on paper.

 

The last image caught my fancy, because prior to going into a business of landscaping and selling Christmas trees, my grandfather ran a sawmill, and when I was younger, I remember when that building stood on the property of the business my father –then– ran.

 

 

The first piece was drawn from the book “Digital Photography Masterclass” by  Tom Ang. It’s a book about digital photography, butI love to draw from it because Ang’s photos are really good. The really lovely part of this sketch is the model’s face is almost entirely black in the photograph (illustrates using a distant room flash). The sketch was a lot of shading. And I do mean a lot.

I switched between a 2b and 4b to get the shading right. A challenge but fun.

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Portrait, Pencil on paper, from Tom Ang’s book “Digital Photography Masterclass”

 

 

The second image is from the same book. Admittedly, I have only had occasion to draw a person’s pet once. I have not drawn animals frequently. So, of course, I took it on myself to practice with another image from the book:

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Dog, pencil on paper, from the mentioned book.

 

In the photo, the dog is looking around a corner through a door frame, which is why he/she seems to be missing an ear. Not a great first go, but this is why sketching is important. I have been making more from commissions lately. I’d rather not pass on a commission because I wasn’t comfortable with the work. It is important to vary your work and keep working at those areas that are weaker.

Lastly, I had ten minutes left before it was time to take my son home. I pulled a local history book off the shelves and based this mage off a 1909 sketch by S. Hollyer of Henry Hudson’s ship –that Halfmoon– arriving at the current location of  my home-city, Albany NY.

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The Halfmoon, pencil on paper, based on an image by S. Hollyer.

The sketch is very whimsical and very loose. This brings me to an important point: experiment stylistically!!! If you are really tight, do something very quick and loose and with a few lines. If your work is busy, –try something minimalist. For my students that are very young: you are still discovering how you like to create. Experimenting allows you to find your style, to find your own unique artistic voice. There is never just one way to create an arresting image. Goof off. Work fast. But always, always experiment.

Cheers!

A recent sketch I did waiting for my class to start. (6/2015)

Quick sketch before class. Rear of Buffalo State Psychiatric Center (Richardson-Olmstead complex) pencil on paper.

Quick sketch before class. Rear of Buffalo State Psychiatric Center (Richardson-Olmstead complex)
pencil on paper.

Update, 4/10/15 I take my son to the library a couple days a week. He lives with his mother. Between helping him with long division and fractions I sometimes sketch from photography books in the library. These sketches are from a book by Tom Ang that I have drawn from before. Pencil on paper: IMG_0243 IMG_0244 … Update: 3/22/15 Prior to the beginning of class, I did these three studies of people walking in the hall. IMG_0116 IMG_0117 IMG_0118 … Update: 2/28/15 I am adding some more sketches from my sketch book. First some simple studies:

Basil plant, (left) pencil, and brown banana, pencil and charcoal.

Basil plant, (left) pencil, and brown banana, pencil and charcoal.

Figure studies, club dancers, pencil

Figure studies, club dancers, pencil

Edgar, skeleton decoration, w/sash. to the right, Sif the cat, my friend Seamus' cat.

Edgar, skeleton decoration, w/sash. to the right, Sif the cat, my friend Seamus’ cat.

study, figures at a bar

study, figures at a bar

study, park bench with balloon.

study, park bench with balloon.

Finally, I began earlier in the month drawing images from the book “The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from the State Hospital Attic.” It’s been a book I have returned to again and again, some of the photos are archived photos of patients from the New York State Department of Health, and some are photos done for this book by photographer Lisa Rinsler. The photos make exceptional studies, and since I do peer work in psychiatric hospitals, and have been in and out of psychiatric care for much of my adult life, the subject is a meaningful one to me personally. I did these studies (of patients who lived in Willard State Hospital during the twentieth century) with what I hope is a great deal of sensitivity. Also, I hope I am not miss-attributing any images that I have used as source material in these sketches: All sketches are pencil on paper: DSCF0006 A better image of Lawrence, who was a patient and Willard hospital’s long-time grave digger. DSCF0010 Another patient, Dymitre, an artist who painted images of his home village while at Willard. DSCF0011 Sister Marie, who was a nun before coming into psychiatric care. DSCF0012  Ethel, at an advanced age by the time this picture was taken. All of the first names used in the book were the patient’s actual names, the last names used in the book were pseudonyms to protect the confidentiality of the patients. This last image is a study of a window in an endangered historic building, in Hudson, NY. This is a window in the First Presbyterian Church, on Warren Street –Hudson’s main commercial thoroughfare. The sketch is in charcoal and pencil:

First Presbyterian Church, Hudson, New York. Charcoal and pencil on paper.

First Presbyterian Church, Hudson, New York. Charcoal and pencil on paper.

[…] Update: 2-9-15 I have been doing a lot of sketching over the last couple days. Most of these are simple studies which I am developing for small works. This sketch though, is one of the more complete renderings i have done over the last couple days.

Pencil on paper, Lawrence Marek, Willard Psychiatric Hospital's (Willard Lunatic Asylum/Hospital for Incurables) long-time grave-digger. photo credit Lisa Rinsler

Pencil on paper, Lawrence Marek, Willard Psychiatric Hospital’s (Willard Lunatic Asylum/Hospital for Incurables) long-time grave-digger. photo credit Lisa Rinsler

The image comes from the book “The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from the State Hospital Attic” by Darby Penny and Peter Statsny (photographs by Lisa Rinsler). It was a museum exhibit based on the compiled information in this book that launched my interest in State Psychiatric Hospitals and the patients that lived there. I periodically borrow this book from my local library to read it again. The image here is Lawrence Marek, who was a patient and worked in the hospital’s cemetery from 1937 until his death in 1968 at age 90. This blog by John Crispin talk more about the suitcase project: http://joncrispinposts.com/ After this sketch, I am, of course, working on new works for myself, and for the small paintings I have been doing. I wanted to share this sketch though, as well as it’s excellent source material (worth checking out –very much– on its own). Sorry that the image is not the best quality, but I am still without a proper digital camera to take pictures of new works. Hoping some of the work I have currently exhibited sells, so I have an opportunity to replace my digital. Because, there rally are a lot of new works lately. […] 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. KODAK Digital Still Camera 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. KODAK Digital Still CameraKODAK Digital Still CameraKODAK Digital Still CameraKODAK Digital Still Camera

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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