HAND DRAWING MADE SIMPLE by Brent Eviston

Here's a link to my latest article on Artists Network showing how I approach hand drawing.  If you're new to drawing hands, these steps will get you thinking in terms of simple construction before dealing with details.

http://www.artistsnetwork.com/new-articles/simplify-hand-drawing-confident-results

This drawing shows that the complex pattern of light and shadow on the hand can be solved by simplifying the lighting scheme using basic volumes such as cylinders and blocks.

This drawing shows that the complex pattern of light and shadow on the hand can be solved by simplifying the lighting scheme using basic volumes such as cylinders and blocks.

Figure Drawing Essentials / My Upcoming Video Course with F+W Media by Brent Eviston

Garrett Evans filming Brent Eviston at F+W Media's studio in Fort Collins, Colorado

Garrett Evans filming Brent Eviston at F+W Media's studio in Fort Collins, Colorado

In April I was flown to Colorado to film an upcoming figure drawing course through F+W Media that teaches students the fundamental ideas behind figure drawing. F+W Media is the parent company of some of the most prominent art publications and art instructional resources in the country including the Artist’s Magazine, Drawing Magazine, North Light Books, and Artist’s Network University and has featured many of the countries top artists and art instructors.

The course will consist of 4 different sections each focusing on an essential component of figure drawing: gesture, measuring and proportion, 3-dimensional drawing and shading.  Students who enroll in this online course will not only have access to the video course content but also interaction with me online for guidance and feedback.

For those of you living in Humboldt County and able to take classes with me at Evolution Academy for the Arts, this is a perfect resource to hone fundamentals or get you ready to jump into any of our ongoing figure drawing classes.

Scott Maier, the Instructional Designer and Director of the video, Garrett Evans, the videographer and Studio Manager and Jill Brooke, the Talent Coordinator, were incredible to work with.

The course, Figure Drawing Essentials, should be open for enrollment any day now.  I’ll provide a link as soon as it is available.

 

Self Portrait by Kathe Kollwitz by Brent Eviston

Self Portrait by Kathe Kollwitz / Charcoal on Paper / 1935

My students tease me about how often I proclaim that one drawing or another is my very favorite.  Apparently I’ve said this dozens of times through the years. There are so many drawings I love and for so many reasons. There are a few that, if pressed, would rise to the top of the list, but there is only one drawing I have ever gotten choked up about while discussing in class: a self portrait by Kathe Kollwitz.

Kathe Kollwitz (1867-1945) was a german artist who is known primarily for her harrowing drawings and prints depicting the struggles of the working class.  Her work seems to teeter on the edge of representation and expressionism.  

The first thing that strikes me about her self portrait is Kathe's depiction of her own face. Here we see the same despondent expression often seen in the faces of her depictions of grieving mothers.  The tenderness of the strokes in which she renders the details of her face suggest she is calming and reassuring herself through her mark making. Her hand on the left side of the drawing appears to have been rendered with the same care. The strokes connecting her head and hand is what, to me, make this drawing a masterpiece.

At first glance these jagged marks moving across the page can be mistaken for a simplified depiction of drapery, but looking closer we find that the these marks are at odds with her initial block in of her sleeve.

Instead we find a defiant shoving of the charcoal back and forth that communicate power, rage and an elemental truth about drawing:  To draw is to make a visceral connection beginning in the mind, out to the hand, onto the page and into a viewer. We, as viewers, intuitively understand the force and speed that mark was made with and the power and confidence it implies.

With this stroke Kollwitz demonstrates that she understands, and masterfully wields, her drawing tool as a powerful communication device that is both poetic and persuasive and, when needs be, dangerous. I have learned more from simply looking at this drawing than I have from entire drawing classes I’ve taken.

Some Thoughts on Teaching & Learning Drawing by Brent Eviston

“There is only one right way to learn to draw...”

 - Kimon Nicolaides in his book The Natural Way to Draw

 

     Nicolaides was wrong. There is no right way to learn to draw.  Every movement in art, from ancient to contemporary, has it’s own conception of drawing.  Within each movement, every individual artist develops a unique approach to drawing that yields a personal style. 

     This has not stopped drawing teachers from proclaiming, that they have discovered the “right” way to draw.  

     What I wished someone had told me when I was learning to draw, and what I am telling you now, is that you should experience as many of these exceptional drawing methods as possible. Learn George Bridgman’s architectural methods of constructing the human form.  Copy Burn Hogarth’s drawings to learn how he achieved his pumped-up super-humans.  Participate in Kimon Nicolaides self-help style, 365-day drawing program. 

But remember that when Nicolaides wrote “There is only one right way to learn to draw and that is a perfectly natural way,” he should have inserted the words “to me,” at the end of this sentence.  I’m sure Nicolaides way of learning to draw did feel “right” and “perfectly natural”… to him.  If you want to draw like Hogarth, then yes, Hogarth’s method is the only way to get there.  If you want to draw like Bridgman, he wrote volumes detailing how to achieve his style. But hopefully you do not want your drawings to be mistaken for Hogarth’s or Loomis’s or Vanderpoel’s or any of the other drawing book luminaries, as much of an accomplishment as that would be.

You want to learn to draw like you.  Learning how you draw will be a unique endeavor through which you will learn from many masters, adopt many of their techniques, reject some, adapt others and develop some of your own.

This is the process I have been, and am still, going through.  My drawing process continues to evolve as I develop a fascination with new artists or rediscover old favorites.  Keeping one foot in tradition while reaching out with the other to test new ground, is the most powerful way I have found of learning and growing as a draftsman and teacher.

The Visual Trickery of Drawing / An Introduction to the Work of Brent Noel Eviston by Brent Eviston

At the age of 15 I experienced a brief and sudden illiteracy.  After hours of copying anatomical drawings I opened a book to read a bit before bed.  I, a voracious reader, could not make out a word.  Instead of legible letters and words, I saw only a collection of abstract vertical, horizontal, diagonal and curving lines and marks.  

A successful drawing requires the artist to leave behind the names and often meanings of familiar objects and places.  Instead the artist sees a collection of shapes, relationships and values. I had glimpsed the world as pure, elemental form and for a moment I had difficulty shifting back to seeing things as I always had. 

My drawing induced illiteracy lasted only a moment, but that experience formed the foundation of my work. For two decades I have explored drawing from the classical to the contemporary with a focus on how the mind interprets, and often misinterprets, information.

I remain fascinated by drawing’s ability to alter perception. and the visual trickery required to produce a successful drawing.

Here are some examples of my recent work.  These three drawings differ in style and subject, but they are conceptual kin.  Each one explores the visual trickery inherent to drawing in a different way…

Figure Study of Vincent / Red Pencil on Paper / 16x19 / 2016 / Click for full image

The first, a 2 hour representational figure drawing utilizes the classical techniques of rendering form through light and shadow to produce a believable figure.

 

Graces from APOPHENIA / Black Pencil on Gessoed Wood Panel / 24x12" / 2015/ Click for larger image

The second piece from my Apophenia series relies on the phenomenon of pareidolia wherein a viewer sees people or faces in meaningless form.  The subjects of this drawing are random crumpled pieces of paper that are positioned in a way that triggers the minds mechanism for recognizing faces and figures.  From there viewers often experience apophenia, or the perception of meaning in meaningless or random information.  Viewers report assigning genders, ages, activities, relationships and even narratives to the drawn collection of twisted torn and contorted piece of paper.

 

A is A II / Black Pencil on Vintage Book Pages / 16.25x11.25" w/ Mat / 2014 / Click for larger image

The third piece is from my A is A series.  A is A, one of the classical laws of logic, states that a thing is itself and not anther thing. Ergo, an aardvark is an aardvark, not a barracuda.  The image on the left is an italicized letter a. The image on the right is a drawing of a human brain tilted to mimic an italicized a which the mind quickly accepts as text. This piece states a is a, and simultaneously contradicts the law that says a thing is only itself. The series demonstrates the inherent perceptual flaws that hinder humans relationship with logic.

It is easy to assume that traditional drawing is more honest or uses less visual trickery, but a quick examination reveals that traditional representation is just as duplicitous, we’re just more familiar with it’s tricks.

As drawers, we must always remember that we are illusionists, scraping dirt across paper, and depositing it in a way that we fool ourselves and our viewers into thinking they see 3-dimensional form and space, and, beyond that, life, emotion, meaning, and narratives.