Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Vilppu Drawing

During one of Vilppu's demos I grabbed my pad and sketched him drawing. 

It was fascinating to watch his hands carve, almost caress the drawing out onto the page. His hands moved elegantly,  feeling the form with lines and tone emerging seemingly effortlessly, yet within his mind there must have been innumerable calculations going on both in measure and emotion.  Drawing, he said, is in the mind.  'No rules, just tools.'   The man knows his tools.. And the rules.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Drawing Workshop with Glenn Vilppu

day one combined study of 5 minute poses with Vilppu's notation in red below.

Today I had the great fortune to be a participant  in a weekend drawing workshop presented by Taafi, the Toronto Animation Arts Festival International featuring none other than the master Glenn Vilppu. As anyone in the animation industry knows, Glenn Vilppu is internationally recognized for his work with the industry for his workshops with studios and animators around the globe.

Thanks to Taafi and its sponsors such as Seneca College, we are able to have Glenn here for over a week. 

Day one has been an excellent experience and looking forward to more tomorrow.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Flora day 2

today I met my new granddaughter and had a moment to sketch her. Amazed that her eyes were following her mother's voice.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Slow down and sketch the willows

Too many  mornings I leave to walk the dog along the river only to regret not taking a sketch book with me. Usually because there's not a lot of time to stop and draw.  This morning despite a pressing schedule on a new kid's book the  sketch book came along.

For a few minutes I paused along the way to quickly sketch some imposing old willows I pass each morning.  They must be over a hundred years old and remind me of Durer.  Next time I'll take paints.  The silly thing in all this is that I've forgotten how brief a moment it takes to make a even a small notation that would in the future unlock a memory and perhaps inspire a larger work.  Lesson here: slow down and sketch the flowers. (or the willows)


Thursday, April 3, 2014

SlapJazz Danny

Met a most imposing regal gentle giant the other day. 

SlapJazz Danny was in Toronto from his home in San Diego to perform at the Percussion Festival at Harbourfront.  Regrettably  I missed his performance, but when we bumped into him outside he graciously agreed to sit for a few minutes to allow us to draw him. 

I'm surprised I got anything down;  he was fascinating to both watch and to listen to as he told us about the origins of his body percussion. Dating back to a slave rebellion on Sept 9 1793 in South Carolina, the slaves used their own bodies to communicate when drums were banned by slave owners. His on work builds on that history. 

I truly wish I had seen him in action, but the opportunity to even sketch him for a few minutes and to hear both his and the story behind his work is something I won't forget. The man could be a king in any story.

more on him at http://slapjazzdanny.blogspot.ca/

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Caribou Leg studies at the ROM

Had a bit of time to do some leg studies of the caribou at the ROM this week.  Danger of sitting too close is to screw up the proportion (as I did in the lower right study).  One word only: ouch!  Need to pay attention next time.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Variations on a gesture

Gestures can have many purposes: warm-up, expressive exploration, form studies, or even basis for skeletal or muscular studies.  They can be the loosest of scribbles or focused surgical strikes of lines.  They are probably the most honest of drawings since they are more from the heart than the head.  We feel,  we empathize, we react on a visceral level rather than a thoughtful considered one.  An most of all, they are a singular individual signature.

All that said,  I came across this image of variations on three gestures.  Each began with just some quick lines that reacted to the pose. From those lines I chose to explore the simple form of boxes, the nature of the skeleton within a pose, and finally a gesture developed into the muscular anatomy of the figure in that pose.

It's a great exercise.  I encourage you to try it.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Study of Van Dyck's Icarus at AGO

Study of Icarus from Van Dyck's Daedalus and Icuarus at the AGO Toronto.  A perennial favorite of mine whenever I visit. He painted it when ony 21 years old. Stunning.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Child and Stag - New Year's Eve clean up find

Last post for 2013 and thought I would put this up: something I found this evening while cleaning up - a drawing done more years back than I want to think, but something I plan to pursue in the New Year.  It was done way back in  '88 or '89 when I was walking in a wood outside of Heidelberg Germany. 

There was a fenced area with deer. Inside was a beautiful stag. On the other side of the fence a small child dressed up for some occasion looking in.  Both seemed to be aloof and yet both held by some bond.   Coming across this sketch seemed fitting given the animal drawings of this year.  Time to return to it, but on a larger scale.  We'll see. 

All the best to everyone for a safe and creative 2014!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Another Day at the ROM

Spent another day at the ROM with my students. Got a few sketches in.  Even though they'll be cartoony for next book, it's good to get real studies of the animals I'll need.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Sketching again at the Royal Ontario Museum

I've been at the ROM a lot lately, but not a lot of completed works. It may not be much of an excuse but it's due to working with students while there.  But I managed a few studies.

Today while leaving I thought what a wonderful project it would be to go in for maybe a week and draw as much as possible without stopping. Wonder what that would bring since there simply is so much there that is truly fascinating. Maybe it's a summer project in the making.

I can imagine a complete summer just drawing, drawing, drawing and barely scratching the surface. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Sketches at a Wedding

We were at a lovely wedding on the weekend.  As usual there were speeches, and although heartfelt, they tend to go on a bit long.  Happily I remembered I had my pocket sketchbook and a pencil and brush pen with me.  So while others politely listened, I had my fun. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Muscles of the Arm

The muscles of the torso are often thought of as chest and back muscles, when in fact most, other than the obliques and the abdominals, are really muscles of the arm.

I've posted these diagrams that I've begun to prepare for my anatomy master classes this summer in order to help others who find this area confusing.   All these muscles coming off the ribcage and the scapula can seem confusing, and though not without complexity, are not that hard to understand.

Once again I emphasize the need to know the skeleton since once you understand the origins and insertions of the muscles as cables, then no matter where you position the arm, it becomes self evident how the form should follow.

More about future anatomy workshops  this summer to follow shortly.

Feel free to copy these images for your use.  

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Gestural Elegance of a Tree stump.

They may just be trees or stumps but for me there is as much learning in them as in the study of a leg or arm.  Beautiful form, structure, flow and rhythm. 

Years ago I would take my Sheridan Animation students to draw a beautifully gnarled rotting beech trunk. It had as much expressive gesture as the best model.

These studies were done with my Humber Animation students at the nearby Arboretum.  Same lesson to be learned by all of us.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Another day at the ROM

No end to the subjects to draw there. My only frustration is that I can't move around the specimens.   Yesterday was studies of fox and wolf for up-coming book.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Day at the Royal Ontario Museum

Assorted studies and doodles done for students

 Had a day at the Royal Ontario Museum with my Humber  College students yesterday.  It made me realize that if only I lived closer I would be there almost every day.  There are simply so many wonderful and fascinating things to study and draw, from armour to amazing animals.

Grizzly cub

I admit that while I am fascinated by the myriad of animals, reptiles and birds there is a part of me that feels sad that so many were killed to create these collections.  The only comfort I hope to get other than the opportunity to study them closely is that perhaps if we become more aware of the diversity we can try to preserve them from extinction through our own explosion over the planet.  It's only a hope but that's better than nothing. 

Samurai uniforms

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

New Semester Begins

I'll be busy this fall with teaching at two colleges: Seneca & Humber.  At both I'll be giving classes in Life Drawing as well as mentoring an illustration course on Children's Books at Seneca.  I'm excited about all of it but a bit apprehensive about how much time and effort they will take to execute to the level I wish.

One could give only one course and have your complete time absorbed since as you teach you're also learning things you weren't aware of,  discovering new things to share with your students as well as ever evolving your approach, understanding and delivery.  I've never given the same course twice as hard as I may try to nail it down.  This applies even to the same course given twice in the same day.  But it makes life interesting never the less.

I've posted a drawing of gestures since the depiction gesture is ultimately the true focus of any life drawing course as I see it. Gesture is life: it is expression, attitude, pose, thought caught in a moment, as well as any  action or inaction as it holds for a moment before moving on.

The beauty of animation, and the reason I feel it is such a priviledge to be part of an animation faculty is that animation is life.  Anything can have life in the mind and hands of an animator.  An object like a cube, or a flour sack, or anything at all, can come to life. It can move and better still make us believe that the thought behind that movement is coming from the object.  It has atitude, emotion and a story.

Ultimately that is the challenge of life drawing: to distil life into gesture.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Artists I wish I knew about when I was young.

Artists I wish I knew about when I was young.

Many times in teaching I’ve mentioned artists’ names only to see blank looks on my students’ faces.   Rather than be frustrated by this lack of awareness, I remind myself that I too once was unaware of these artists who would so greatly influence my life and work.   

I still remember clearly the day a friend showed me a book of Andrew Wyeth’s work at the U of Guelph library and how deeply his drawings and paintings impressed me.  And the same went for on for many other names and styles that I came across in studies at Guelph as well as discovering since.  Each day new names and works come to my attention, of artists from long ago as well as contemporary. Such is the beauty of the ease of Internet searches, Facebook friends’ offerings, and of course books I can’t cease buying.   

Never the less, there are a few that I think most art students should be aware of for, amongst many things,  their superior drawing abilities.

So I’ve decided to put together a list of artists.  By no means is it meant to be complete and all-encompassing list nor meant to be a survey.  With today’s easy access to collection, museums, and bios as well as images on the web, it takes very little effort to find their work and explore others.   I hope this will encourage more exploration beyond the realms of Manga and comic art**.

As to this list,  they’re simply some of the ones that I’ve found interesting and influential.  I’ve put in quick links to their drawings for a quick tour, but encourage you to get to know them and their times better.

So here goes in no particular order. Once again, all are chosen for their superior drawings and graphic abilities:

Antoine Watteau    his drawings captivate and fascinate me.  ‘his line has an electric fleetness’

Francois Boucher  expert draughtsmanship in a playful line.  Simple yet powerful  


Pieter Breugel  what a mind, what an imagination!

Rubens  I am simply in awe of his drawings. Truly a giant.

Rembrandt   to me, his studies of life on the streets is what café is all about.  His quick pen lines tell a thousand stories in one stroke.  

Gericault (his studies of horses) Stunning studies

Delacroix  fascinated by his anatomy studies and sketch books of his travels.  Another café great

Degas   sensuality in line, tone and colour.  

Raphael   Can’t think much to say other than devine intervention.

Gustav Klimt  Beautiful sensual studies.

Egon Schiele  Intense drawings of the figure.

Heinrich Kley   Amazing ability, simply put.  I can see how he would have influenced animation.

Vincent Van Gogh   Power of creativity and soul behind his lines.

Adolf Von Menzel  beautiful drawings unfortunately considered academic but to me full of life.

Hans Holbein the younger  for the clarity of line and power of sight (attributable to the lens according to David Hockney in his book Secret Knowledge) 

Kathe Kollwitz for the intense humanity and powerful force of her work.


John Singer Sargent for the beauty of all of his paintings and the strength of his drawings.

Bernini for the power of gesture and expressive force of his sculptures.

Of course Michelangelo and Leonardo   No need to say much about them.

This is the list that comes to mind. I am sure I have missed many names that will come to me later. But these are the giants I look to in awe and try to learn from.

**in no way is this meant to disparage comic or manga artists; rather it is meant as an encouragement to  young artists to explore beyond those styles and look into the artists and works that preceded them.  They may be surprised to see the similarities in expression and storytelling.