Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The role of gesture

One of the hardest things in teaching life drawing is convincing students of the value of gesture.  Gesture drawing has a lot of confusing meanings and uses, everything from just loosening up to much more.  The more can be defined as establishing the movement or pose of a subject or object as well as the proportions or character of the subject.  Think of it as quickly establishing the verb and subject - the 'what' and the 'who' in the very first moments of a drawing.

What is posted here is an exercise I did with both my Humber and Seneca College students in which we started with a 20 minute study of a skeleton. It was followed by 10, 5, 2 and 1 minute studies of the same skeleton. In each the focus would be to reduce the drawing to the essentials for the allowable time.

In the end the purpose was to show them that regardless of the length of time allowed, the drawings began the same way, but just allowing for more work to be done.

I suggest the same exercise for anyone wishing to understand what is truly essential for the start of any drawing, regardless of subject or time.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Dream of being a cartoonist

Eons ago I thought of becoming a cartoonist. I even had a strip in a few small newspapers for a while.  But plans change and other stuff took over.  I guess the kids' books have been the later expression of that dream.   Never the less here is a sketch I found from that time.  I did have a beard and I often was stuck for ideas not realizing that they were never very far. Some things never change. Except the beard.  It's gone.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Royal Agricultural Winter Fair 2014

I went today to the Royal with my students for a day of sketching. Didn't get much done other than assisting students, but then, that's what I was there for.  However near the end of the day there was some time to myself. Posted below are a few done for myself.  Wish I had time to return.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A note to myself on what to remember

I recently found a  note that I wrote to myself following a book I illustrated in 1998.  It was pertinent then and still is now.

I need to glue this to the wall in front of my work area.  Especially find exclusive time.

August 1998


Find exclusive time

§  sketches
§  photos
§  pages
§  space
o   Establish characters
§  Location
§  Colour sketches

COMMUNICATE -  don’t hide – admit what you don’t know

Re-Learn your colours – what comes off easily /who can cover who
o   Skin tones
o   Colour in shadow and light (what colour is a shadow)
o   Colours under different moods and illumination
o   Colour harmonies
o   Paint anything and everything
o   Ask what is the nature of this thing
o   Paint  - mood
§  -texture
§  Personality


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Flora Asleep

My granddaughters  were up this weekend.  Flora at 3 months is just a feeder, sleeper and giggler.  A joy to draw.  Should have done many more. More to come.

Last Boat at Old Woman River

It's September and many have packed up and returned to civilization, leaving the beauty of the Bruce Peninsula behind.  I took my sketch pad out on the the first day of what might as well be called the New Year and did this watercolour of the last boat on the shore of this tiny sandy beach.  Welcome to the real New Year!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Winnie's 100th anniversary and my son's Steiff bear

Today is the 100th anniversary of the real Winnie - the bear cub who went to England with Canadian troops and inspired A.A. Milne to write the stories so beautifully illustrated by E. H. Shepard.

I've always loved the drawings of Shepard and can never look at them without amazement at the man's ability.

Shepard was inspired to his design by a Steiff  stuffed teddy bear.  That got me remembering a sketch I did of my son's Steiff. The bear was passed down from his great grandfather and  one evening, two year old Christopher lovingly tucked him in on the couch before he himself when off to bed.

The bear ended up in a book for a German publisher, although in a very tiny way on the rocking

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Shoreline Sketches

August 22 L. Huron from Old Woman R. w/c on arches  4.5 x 9 in.
Some pencil and watercolour sketches done around Lion's Head this summer.  Rock patterns and light over water and reflected off the cliffs here are endlessly fascinating.  Hopefully these sketches get worked up into larger paintings in the coming weeks or months.  But if not, it's just nice to sit outside and throw paint and draw lines.
August 23 Lion's Head cliffs  watercolour on arches  9x12 in

shoreline patterns  graphite on BFK  4.5 x 13 in.

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

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.