Wednesday, February 13, 2013

George W (not that one) Thumbnail

George Washington, First Commander of the First Continental
Army, a pencil  study of CW Peale's drawing, 5 x 7"

George wasn't as homely as I thought he was. We always see that one portrait where his face is looking jowly, his hair--or wig--is triangular shaped and he looks like he's asking the artist when is this sitting over? Charles Wilson Peale drew him as a young, nice looking guy and gave me a picture to copy that I didn't mind spending an afternoon with.

Peale's drawing, my reference photo
 I read in front of the fire while I ice my knee first thing in the morning. I have to ice six to eight times a day, so I'm getting a lot of reading done--mostly McCullough, but Schmid and Paul too.  This morning McCullough's John Adams was my fare and Washington, my man of interest.

Adams appointed Washington Commander of the First Continental Army, poor guy. He may have been a top gun, but his 9000 troops were untrained volunteers--farmers-- more knowledgeable about planting beans than  the ways of war. When 20,000 British landed in Manhattan and started firing at them, they had a tendency to run away much to Washington's frustration. It wasn't till the winter in Valley Forge that the colonial forces came together as a a disciplined army in spite of the horrible weather.  Payment for their service and bravery had a lot to do with them shaping up and standing up to the enemy. Not to mention
the drafting of Rules of Behavior becoming a military man and Disciplinary actions when those rules were broken.

Charles Wilson Peale  painted all the big wigs of that time and something more interesting and quite contemporary. A century before Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending the Staircase, Peale painted and constructed this interesting combination piece of trompe l'oeil, actual door casing with an actual a bottom step into the viewing space--or inviting the viewer to climb the stair with the artist .  This painting delighted me.
  
Peale's Painting of artist ascending the staircase.

Peale projects the painting into the space by framing it with
door casing and adding an actual step.  Brilliant! 
I didn't dress for the occasion.

My drawing of the first George W is small, a thumbnail if it wasn't as developed as it is. I did a real thumbnail
devoid of detail, for an idea I had while sitting and icing by the fire.  After setting up my photographic equipment just so. I shot a self portrait of these icing/reading days with the thought it might make a good painting. Thumbnails are great for analyzing and laying out more complicated compositions. They tell you what's important and what isn't. And more importantly, the relationship of values.



Fireside Morning, a thumbnail pencil study 4 x 5"


26 comments:

  1. Nice job! Drawing someone is an intimate thing, don't you think? Really, you become so familiar with the most intricate details of their faces you almost know a little too much at times.

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    1. I adore it. The look in their eyes, the tilt of the smile, their posture are all telling. I do find portraiture intriguing--informal portraiture. That's why I do prefer working from photographs. It's the only way to catch someone being themselves. To translate the reference to canvas believably though, life drawing classes do show the way photo lighting differs from natural lighting--or studio set ups.

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  2. I admire your drawing and sketching skill, you really keep those proportions together. Me I can't sketch if my life would depend on it, should practice though... Good work.

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    1. Thanks Roger. But this sketching is getting to me. I'd like to be getting paint all over my hands in the studio instead. It's so neat in there, I need an anxiety pill when I peak in.

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  3. Love the thumbnail of you, it illustrates very well the benefit of making thumbnails! And planning and exploring. I am amazed the your drawing of GW is so small, it has such a big presence. And Peales framing is brilliant! You have made me smile today!

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    1. Thanks Sharon. I can draw small; I can't paint small. To me, paint brushes call for broad, gestural strokes. My gestural strokes fly right off the edge of 8 x 10s and smaller canvases. It's also how I hold a pencil or a tiny brush versus how I like to hold a brush: on the end of the long handle from a distance. Long handles are my preference. Anything with a short handle is meant to be held like a pencil. Charcoal is comfortable too. I hold it between three fingers--thumb, index and middle--and draw with the side of the stick, like pastel. I held the pencil the same way for George--using the side of the pointed lead. Analyzing how one creates is sort of interesting; it points out your comfort zone.

      Five by 3 3/4" (I rounded up in the caption) is big for a thumbnail by some artist's standards, but fit the composition I already decided upon in photoshop when I cropped the original shot. While the fireplace was black in the photo, in a painting, I would lighten it up a bit and let the pants dominate. The work involved in getting the shot dominated my morning as I tried the camera in several spots with several poses and took several timed test shots till I saw a possible painting. There was a lot of lugging around and adjusting of the tripod.

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  4. I enjoyed the stories as much as the painting and sketches. Together they have made for a favorite post. You could be a writer!
    Hope your recovery is on schedule. How long do you have to keep icing?

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    1. Sure--you too. Blogging as much as we do, writing becomes our second art. I'd love it as much, if it wasn't for those damn typos that slip by me every so often even though I've proof read a couple of times.

      When you're reading a lot more than painting, what else are you going to write about, but the info you picked up? Our founding fathers were remarkable men, but also human. It's there humanity that keeps me reading.

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  5. Your first sketch is sooooo good! And your bottom one is so powerful, excellent values. I hope your knee gets feeling better. What a bummer to have to ice it that many times a day, but it is good for reading right? ;)

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    1. My icing schedule is worse than feeding a new born, new borns at least can go three hours without attention, my knee, just two--but at least it does scream :-)) Thanks Crystal, George did satisfy my urge to draw something, anything while nursing myself. But that little boy you're doing is going to be just spectacular. Colored pencil is a great medium,that's what I started out with before deciding to blog and experiment with others. You're always in control, but you do have to work slowly. Errors are very difficult to correct. I can't wait to see it when you're done.

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  6. Nice thumbnail sketch, Linda. Can't wait to see the painting! I hope you have a fast and full recovery so you are ready for plein air painting when the warm weather comes.

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    1. Thanks. You got me thinking thumbnails from your 30 thumbnail challenge. Paul got me thinking photographic studies covered in his book. So I combined the two practices one morning using the only live model around my house. I'm waiting on some 16 x 20s and 16 x 12s, which I noticed were popular sizes with both Paul and Schmid. Enough with these 8 x 10s! Portraits need a larger stage. JSS would agree.

      Plein air is the reward at the end of this ordeal--which was yesterday. I've been set free from PT, but told to do my PT at home regularly and ice too. Being self directed, I'm good for that. Thanks for visiting and commenting. I appreciate your interest as well as your teaching/painting skills.

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  7. the drawing of Washington is cool...and thanks for posting the Peale painting with the real step. Wow! I agree, you should paint you in front of the fire..it would be a great painting! Hope your knee is feeling better!

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    1. It's fine, thanks. I've been released. I still have to workout regularly, but don't we all? And icing is something I will continue as well, but not as much. I do not like taking anti-inflammatory medications. Ice takes care of that.

      George is alright for an invalid stuck in a chair for hours--and the proposed painting is reminiscent of Whistler. I think my originality died at forty. --Now that thought just coming out of my head just like that is quite annoying. I have to poke my inner child! :-))

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  8. Linda!
    Great job on George Washington! Up the rebels!
    Big snowstorm here in the Northeast! Two to three feet of snow and higher drifts. Good to have power and be online to check out my art blog buddies work!
    Thank goodness for wood burning fireplaces!
    Nice job Linda!
    Your snow art buddy,
    Michael

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    1. Hang in there Michael. The ground hog says there's going to be an early Spring. I saw my first sign of it this morning. Four Mourning Doves were perched on my deck rail contemplating the big blue spruce as a possible nesting spot. They come every Spring. I'm hoping they know something I don't. This gray is really getting tiresome. Time to throw some color on a canvas to liven up the place.

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  9. Great work, Linda, really interesting post all round. Love the history too. Try 'The Enduring Journey of the USS Chesapeake' by Chris Dickon. I confess that until I read this book (yesterday) I hadn't really understood that there were two wars between US & Britain! The Revolutionary War 1775 - 83 and the Naval war a bit later 1812 - 1815 which fizzled out into the Treaty of Ghent. If there had been email this second war would never have happened: the Americans wanted the Brits to withdraw certain embargoes etc the Brits agreed but the agreement took a month to get to the US, unfortunately it arrived 2 days after the US declared war on Britain.

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    1. So that's what the war of 1812 was all about! Okay. I always was a bit vague on that one-- EXCEPT, the 1812 Overture was the record Ellis played to romance me the first time we made out. His weirdness made me laugh and very agreeable :-))

      Ships are beautiful, but don't hold my interest as much as stories about people past and present. As the valley girls say, I'm a people person PP.

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  10. Hi Linda.
    Great drawing, Thumbnail and photos of peale`s painting and yourself. You are doing great with your reading, and portraits of who you are reading about. Good stuff Linda, more please. All the best.
    Vic.

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    1. Thanks Vic. I'm just trying to keep a pencil in my hand while I strengthen my leg and core muscles and then ice from different pains than the knee gave me. The brave lads of early American history are giving me the encouragement I need to persevere.

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  11. Today most of the day was used for scintigraphy ... but we were prepared for which there has not been a particular stress.
    Things happen like a mosaic, a piece at a time.
    Anticipating sorrow not need!
    I know you're already fighting an after arthroscopy and I understand that is bringing trouble, but you reacted in the right way. Working well as you can, reading so interesting history, resting and letting go of things when you can not do otherwise ... I'll be really happy when you go to paint with his usual energy,dear Linda! A big warm hug Rita.
    (Ps. I saw the original message in Italian and English on gmail.
    My translator is microsoft, because google translator does not work now on blogger platform.,
    Friends told me my GoogleTranslator not to be able to translate and I changed ...)

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    1. Really. I didn't know that. Anyway, I'm glad you saw I made the effort to converse with you in your tongue on Valentines Day my friend.

      Hang in there. Danilo has to do what he has to do to relieve the pain and get mobility back. Time does pass and things do improve. My best to him. (My knee benefited from the arthroscope, but muscle strengthening is killing me. I had gotten so weak from doing nothing in the gym for so long, after these intense workout sessions I still have to ice. I'm hoping after I build up again, things will get better. It's only been a week of concentrated effort. --Maybe that's why I'm enjoying reading about the determined first Americans who went through hell to get what they wanted. Their persistence and endurance is encouraging).





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  12. I am so impressed by your tiny capture of GW! So small but you got it right. I don't think I could ever do a portrait in such a small space. I keep trying to make mine a bit smaller in life class but can't seem to do it. They fill the page. Sigh. I always heard portraits should never be larger than life size but I can't seem to get myself to follow that rule. Love the photo of you by the fire - it will be a good painting. And thank you for the all the history. I find McCullough's books entirely fascinating.

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    1. Me too. Too bad he didn't write the text we had to read in American history. I might have done better.

      I can only do small in pencil. Put charcoal in my hand or a paint brush and I draw grand gestures with my whole body that need some space. Pencils are for making small marks--writing. Everything else is for filling the page. After carefully noting the sizes of Schmid's paintings and Peale's and Trumbull.s and Sargent's, I ordered three 16x12s (the smallest size that was noted) and three 16x20s, the size most noted. --George's small size was achieved by printing out Peale's drawing in a small size.

      My thumbnail is technically bigger than a thumbnail because I measured the cropped photo then scaled down based upon possible canvas sizes. I could go life size with this. Whistler did--well, just a tad smaller.

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  13. Very nice sketch of George, and I love the thumbnail and its potential! That trompe l'oeil blows my mind! I am sorry for your ordeal with the knee, but glad that this is just part of the process of bringing you back better than before!

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    1. I could hardly leave George out--and I really should do Ben Franklin who was old (70) and mostly asleep at the meetings of the first congress--but I'm losing interest. It's time to get back to paint. I'm spinning wheels here and making a permanent dent in the couch.

      Isn't that painting something ahead of its time--though Trompe l'oeul was very French and the French had a big impact on our new nation. So far Peale seems to me to be the best of his times--though the other portrait artist of note was Copely and I looked closely at his work yet. Peale's flesh tones seemed warmer and more human at first glance.

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