Drawing, My Favorite Names

Who steals what?

In school we learn that copying is cheating, and it is probably true in many areas of our life, but when it comes to art the rules are different. Copying from masters always has been a normal practice in every artist’s workshop where young apprentices would learn their teacher’s technique while copying their drawings and paintings. Edgar Degas even said, “You have to copy and recopy the masters and it’s only after having proved oneself as a good copyist that you can reasonably try to do a still life of a radish.”

Inspired by this idea, I started drawing from great masters, and one of my copies looked like that: 

I sent it to a friend of mine to get feedback and he said, “Cool, I immediately recognized the Duchess from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”

“What are you talking about?” I was stupefied. “I copied the drawing of Leonardo da Vinci, and he lived looong before Lewis Carroll…”

He sent me this picture to prove his point. The Duches truly looked somewhat similar to da Vinci’s caricature.

John Tenniel’s illustration to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

I went googling and discovered that John Tenniel, the first illustrator of the Lewis Carroll’s famous story created the image of the Duchess using as reference the painting of Quentin Matsys called The Ugly Duchess (also known as A Grotesque Old Woman).  It was created in 1513 when Leonardo da Vinci was still alive.

The Ugly Duchess by Quentins Matsys

So, did Quentin Matsys copy from da Vinci? Nope, as it turned out, on the contrary. Leonardo da Vinci who was always interested in all kinds of anomalies and was obviously impressed with this quite disproportional face (which by the way belonged to a real woman) made a couple of drawings after Quentin Matsys’s work.

Quite a confusing story, isn’t it? I felt like Sherlock Holmes while searching the information. And now, only Pablo Picasso’s phrase comes to mind, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” No doubts anymore, it’s true.

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Drawing, My Favorite Names

7 Best Places to Learn Drawing Online

A person who wants to learn to draw but has no opportunity to attend an art school (for lack of time or money etc.) today has another option called Internet. YouTube is the biggest source of free art tutorials that you can watch at any time, so it seems ideal, right? Not so much, as it turns out. YouTube is full of people who are ready to teach you while they are not well trained themselves. As a result, you pick up their mistakes instead of real knowledge. And when you are a beginner you can’t see the difference. The only way here is to choose those who know the craft for sure. As I have already past this period of looking for great teachers I can share what I have found. Of course, my list is incomplete and quite subjective, but anyway it can serve someone who is serious about learning to draw but doesn’t know where to start.

Ctrl+Paint

First place to visit is the web site Ctrl+Paint.  The artist behind it is called Matt Kohr and he is able to explain quite complicated things in a short and clear way. The website offers a very big library of free tutorials about basics of drawing and digital painting, as well as various in-depth classes that cost $10 each. I really love this web site.

Proko

Stan Prokopenko

Proko is a name of a web site and also a YouTube channel founded by the artist Stan Prokopenko who creates free short video tutorials that allow to learn complex subjects in small portions. Proko teaches an academic approach to drawing and the major subject here is human figure and portraits. Lately the authors started a caricature course which follows the same scheme of short and entertaining tuts. Those who are ready to pay can buy detailed in-depth courses on anatomy, figure and portrait drawing and caricature. I am subscribed to Proko’s YouTube channel to stay in tune.

Marshall Vandruff

Thanks to Proko, I discovered Marshal Vandruff, a fantastic artist and teacher who explains perspective better than anybody I could find. On his web site you can download 1994 Perspective Drawing Series (it’s kind of old, but the perspective rules don’t change, you know) which consist of 12 lectures, each is about 30 minutes long. It costs only $12. Also, Vandruff conducts seminars on such subjects as human and animal anatomy, composition, visual storytelling etc. Check his web site to know more, I’m sure you’ll find something that will work for you.

CreatureArtTeacher

Aaron Blaise

Aaron Blaise is a wild-life artist and animator who worked for Disney for about twenty years. Today he dedicates his time to personal projects and educating artists. He creates hours-long tutorials on animal and human anatomy, character design and animation that you can buy on his web site. The average price is $60-75 for a course, but the courses are often on sale, so if you are patient you can buy them with a big discount. Plus you can buy a yearly subscription which includes everything that is already on the web site and will be issued during the year. You can find sneak peeks from the tutorials on Aaron Blaise’s YouTube channel, as well as regular online sessions where he demonstrates his working process when creating illustrations from a sketch to final touches. Aaron Blaise is very inspiring, and I love one of his paintings so much that I installed it as a wallpaper on my PC screen.

Schoolism

The founder of Schoolism Bobby Chiu claims that he created it to be able to learn from the best visual artists and that he often takes classes himself hiding behind a random name. The level of classes on Schoolism varies from beginner to advanced and the spectrum of subjects covers everything, from fundamentals to portfolio reviews. Whether you want to study realistic oil painting or caricature, storyboarding or environment design, concept art or sculpting you’ll find it here. Just to mention some names, the teachers are Thomas Fluharty, Nathan Fowks, Jason Selier, Stephen Silver, Terry Whitlatch and Bobby Chiu himslef. To get an access to classes you have to buy a yearly subscription that costs $299,40. Bobby Chiu also has his YouTube channel where he discusses a wide variety of issues and posts interviews with outstanding artists.

SVS Learn

Will Terry

The Society of Visual Storytelling is an online art school founded by artists Will Terry and Jake Parker and oriented mostly at illustrators interested in children’s literature. The classes are of different length and level, from beginners to advanced, and the subjects are also very different: fundamentals, inspiration sources, drawing animals, character design, perspective, color, composition etc. The prices start at $10, but you can also buy a monthly or yearly subscription which gives you an access to the entire video library. The monthly pay is $14,99, but I heard the prices are planned to be doubled quite soon. Check this web site, I am sure you will find something that will suit your needs.

I also follow Will Terry’s YouTube channel where he shares his personal and professional experience connected to the world of kidlit and answers his followers’ questions.

Barnstone Studios

This web site offers a quite unusual approach to drawing which I am sure you cannot find anywhere else. It is based on geometry and Golden Ratio – the principles that Myron Barnstone considers the most important in the classical school of drawing. The course I watched is called Introductions to Drawing Systems. It is pretty expensive ($349), very interesting, very informative and very complicated. I had to see every lecture for three times to truly get what Barnstone meant. But it was totally worth it because it is so much easier for me now to analyze form and composition, and I can even understand – finally! – how to inscribe a sphere in a cube. I have to add that Myron Barnstone passed away in 2016, but his legacy of teaching lives on.

Well, that’s it. This is the list of the web sites I find helpful for those who want to improve their drawing skills. Congratulations if you were able to read it all through! If you are aware of a great source of knowledge I haven’t mentioned, please leave your comment to share it with everybody else.

My Favorite Names, Writing

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, bee keepers and cats

When I first saw this work by Pieter Bruegel the Elder I had an impression that I was looking at a scene from a very weird dream: a faceless person who performs a strange and meaningless activity near to another person huddled up on a tree. “He was the first surrealist in the world!” I felt exited. “And it’s only the 16th century!”
To my surprise, after reading a book about ‘the first surrealist ever’, I discovered that the artist didn’t have anything surrealistic in his mind. The picture was a fragment of his engraving where he simply depicted bee keepers at work. The strange things on the faces are the masks to prevent bee stinging, and the barrels in the hands are the hives.

Totally ashamed of my ignorance, I kept reading the book, and not in vain. The book informed me that Pieter Bruegel the Elder is notorious for avoiding painting human faces. He is an author of many works with dozens of people, but almost each person looks back or aside or their faces are covered with hats, or the faces are so small that you simply cannot distinguish any features.

Why? The book didn’t give the direct answer but hinted that the artist didn’t actually liked people as a kind. He preferred nature which is the major character in his best works.

Hum, I thought, so, maybe my first impression wasn’t so wrong. Even though those people are just bee keepers at work, the artist still didn’t see the point to give them a personality, to express their feelings or thoughts. People are faceless and meaningless, after all. A strange turn, isn’t it? One should trust their first impression, no matter what – that was my ultimate conclusion, and I closed the book.

To end up this musing, I would love to share a painting created by the Russian artist Vladimir Rumyantsev who, obviously, loves Bruegel the Elder almost as strongly as he loves cats – alas, there’s again no much place for people.

Writing

Restart

There are many people who start a blog, then drop it and later come back. Obviously, I am one of them. In 2014, (it is a bit scary to think how long ago it was) I decided I needed a blog, and for a long half a year I struggled with it trying to prove to myself God knows what. Then, exhausted, I left it to gather tons of virtual dust.

Now I have a wish to revive it, though I will change many things. First of all, the major subject. I will keep looking for inspiration and ways to be creative, but I won’t think anymore why I should write. I believe now that all you do in life, at least in your spare time, should be done not because it has to be done (for whatever reason), but simply because it is fun and you enjoy doing it. So I won’t push myself to write daily or even weekly. Once in a while I will simply think aloud about things I find interesting.

My interests, by the way, shifted in the last years. Drawing has become the centre of my life and is pushing aside all other hobbies. That’s why visual arts will become a leading theme of my blog. Funny facts about art or drawing techniques, some artists’ fantastic works or a cloud that looks like a pencil – anything will do. If you are curious about what is going on in my head you are welcome to read this blog. Weigh anchor, ahead we go!

Flash-fiction

Nobody… Anymore…

04_illustrations

“Don’t cry.” She presses the doll tight to her chest and whispers, “It will be fine. Nobody will hurt you anymore.” She stands outside the burning house watching the firemen extinguish the remnants of the fire.

The policeman wraps her up in a blanket. “What’s your name?”

“Annie.”

“How old are you, Annie?”

“I’m seven.”

“Do you live in this house?”

She nods.

“Was your mom in the house when the fire started?”

“No, she wasn’t there. Mom’s still at work.”

“So you were alone?” The policeman writes in his notebook.

“No, Bill was home.”

“Who is Bill?”

“He’s Mom’s boyfriend.”

“Can you tell me what happened?”

“Today or yesterday?”

The policeman looks puzzled. “Something happened yesterday?”

She nods.

“Tell me about yesterday.”

“Bill made Mimmy cry.”

“Is Mimmy your sister?”

“No.” The girl shakes her head and points at the doll, “This is Mimmy. And he made her cry.”

“What did he do? Did he hit you… or her?” The policeman frowns.

“No. Bill told me to come to his room. He took Mimmy and dropped her on the floor. Then he took off his pants and lay on the bed. He said, “Come here and sit on it.” I didn’t want to, but he made me. Then he said, “Don’t tell Mom.” I took Mimmy and went to my room. Mimmy cried all night. It hurt. It still hurts.”

The policeman keeps writing in his notebook, his fingers tremble slightly. “Did you tell your mom?”

The girl shakes her head. “No, he told me not to.”

The policeman nods. “Now, Annie, can you tell me what happened today?”

She nods. “Bill came home and called for me.”

“You were in your room?”

She nods. “I was with Mimmy. She was afraid.”

“Then what happened?”

“I took Mimmy and came downstairs. Bill took a beer from the fridge and told me to come to his room when he called for me. Mimmy and I waited in the kitchen. Mimmy cried.”

“Did he call for you?”

“No. Mimmy wanted to hide in my room, but Bill told me to wait for him in the kitchen so I had to stay there. I waited for a while. He didn’t call for me so I tiptoed upstairs to see what he was doing. He was sleeping. I went downstairs to the garage. I know where he keeps gasoline. I took the can and went back upstairs. I spilled gasoline in front of his door and then went back to the kitchen. I know where Mom hides cigarettes and a lighter. I took the lighter and went upstairs. When the fire started I took Mimmy and we left the house. Lucy ran away too.”

“Who is Lucy?”

“She’s my dog. She’s over there. She got scared when the firemen arrived. I’m not scared. I’m waiting for Mom.” The girl smiles at her doll. “And Mimmy is not crying anymore.”

Sketching

Self-Made Boundaries

I think I’m a reasonable person. At least most of the time. But still, pretty often I find myself doing a very strange thing. I procrastinate.

I know what I like to do and why. I know what goal I want to achieve and what exactly I have to do to get there. But I don’t do it. I used to look for excuses, like, I have no time, I am not ready, I need to learn more about how to do it… Now I know it is all crap. These all are made-up reasons not to do what I have decided to do. So I don’t look for an excuse anymore. I just don’t do anything. Yep, as simple as that. I don’t even promise myself I’ll start next Monday. I know so well that Monday will come and go, and I won’t move a finger.

I believe every psychological issue has a root, and there’s no sense to try to fix yourself until you find this root, the seed that caused the whole problem. Looking for this seed, I have read so many articles explaining reasons for procrastination. They all make sense, but something is missing. I understand why people procrastinate, in general; I understand it, really, but I can’t apply this knowledge to change my own route, my personal approach. All those ready answers, like fear of failure or fear of success, don’t help; they don’t seem to be right or personal enough to explain what forces me to sabotage my own plans when I have developed a step-by-step strategy and a strict schedule. Am I that lazy or don’t I care enough? Maybe my goals are not really mine? Maybe I’m nuts and ask too many absurd questions?

“My doctor told me I shouldn’t work out until I’m in better shape.” This is my vicious circle. Thank you, Steven Wright, for putting it in words for me. I can’t start changing until something changes, who knows how and when.

Can it be that procrastination is my destiny and all I have to do is surrender? I think it can be, especially if I choose Steven Wright as my best adviser. “I bought some batteries, but they weren’t included.” Yeah, exactly, I know what he’s talking about.

 

The Daily Post

Sketching

The Turmeric Turmoil, or The Danger of Easy Solutions

“I look old and I hate it,” I say to a friend over Skype. “Should I try some fancy anti-aging cream?”

“Try a homemade mask,” she says and sends me a Youtube link. “It’s a Brazilian woman, she’s very popular.”

I don’t speak Portuguese but click on the link anyway. The ‘Brazilian’ woman is blond and speaks English with an Australian accent.

The recipe of the homemade mask that promises youth and beauty in ten minutes and forever is simple. A tablespoon of turmeric powder, some milk, two drops of oil. The ‘Brazilian’ applies the mix to her face to demonstrate how smoothly it looks. Then she washes it off and claims that, due to this mask, she always looks young and fresh and pretty without any make-up.

“Well, she is young and fresh and pretty,” I think. “She barely needs any mask at all.” But I have an hour before my son leaves school so I decide to give it a try. What do I have to lose?

I prepare the pumpkin-colored mix and spread it over my face. When the mask dries I rinse it off and look at myself in the mirror.

My skin looks fresh and smooth and pretty. And it’s bright-yellow.

“Oh my god!” I’m ready to faint. “I have to leave in half an hour! And go outside! Where there are people!”

I grab face cleanser and nervously rub it into my face. My face is still yellow. I grab soap. It works. The yellow turns green. My skin is still surprisingly soft and tender. I could be the most attractive corpse in the cemetery beauty pageant.

“I have to leave in ten minutes!”

I call to the friend who sent me the damn link and skip all the preambles, “My face is green because of this stupid mask! Was it a prank?”

My friend sounds innocent and surprised, “Has it stained your skin? Really? They should inform about this, don’t you think?”

“I’ve no time to think! What can I do?”

“Uhm… Well… Maybe, try olive oil. They say it cleans the skin.”

I hang up. I won’t add greasy glitter to my already olive face. I take a deep breath and think. Then I grab a bottle of baby cream and a roll of kitchen towels. After five minutes of aggressive scrubbing I sit before a huge pile of dirty paper, and a desperate red face with greyish-green spots all over it looks at me from the mirror.

I give up. Seven blocks of shame on the way to school are inevitable.

In the street, I fix on the tips of my shoes. I don’t look at people. They look at me.

I rush into the school, grasp my son’s hand and turn to leave.

“Are you all right?” My son’s teacher stares at me. “You seem… agitated.”

“Uhm… Yeah… I don’t feel well.” I put my hand on the stomach to prove it and pull my son outside.

We almost run home and bump into Mrs. Gossip right next to the house.

“Hi Joan! Have you heard what happened to…” She breaks off and stares at me for fifteen long seconds.

Great! Now all neighbors will talk about my green face.

“You look… somewhat younger,” she finally says. “Have you used Botox?”

I search for sarcasm in her eyes but find only disapproval and envy. She keeps talking about how inappropriate it is to do what I’ve done, but I don’t listen. She said ‘younger’! The mask works! I’ll have to do it again!