Friday, January 26, 2007

John Singer Sargent and Drawing - and my drawing class

Thanks to both Maggie and Belinda for reminding me that the Fall edition of American Artists' Drawing Magazine contained a long article by about the article by Mark G Mitchell on Drawing out Sargent. I think that it was that article which really began to make me think about studying JSS - initially in relation to the drawing of heads - which the article focuses on.

At the end of this post I have my work from last night's 'Drawing the Head' class but first JSS!
Clearly, he was always drawing,” says Miriam Stewart, an assistant curator of drawings at the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “The body of Sargent’s drawings and sketches over the course of his life shows that he was an indefatigable draftsman, constantly drawing and taking notes wherever he went. We have sketchbooks from his years as a teenager that provide the basis of some of his early training.”
The above drawing in charcoal is of Henry James and was executed (and signed) by JSS in 1912. It's not untypical of a number of charcoal drawings he did - note how the background and clothing are sketched in very roughly and yet again there is an emphasis on the full range of values and marked simple shapes. The loose background and clothing contrast with the sensitive way in which the head has been drawn.

There are a number of sources of further information about JSS's drawings:
  • An article from the New York Times comments on an exhibition of JSS drawings in 1985.
  • Copies of his portrait drawings can be found in the Dover publication. Click the link to read the reviews of others who have bought this book. Personally I think it's a great resource for those who are trying to find a looser way of drawing which still represents good drawing practice.
  • You can also see the drawings and sketchbooks of John Singer Sargent kept on the Harvard University Art Museums Database. This now includes sketchbooks and drawings and expanded information for some 800 images. To search the database, select 'search' from the menu, then select search all images and click submit query and this brings up all the images on the database. I'd recommend spending some time reviewing just some of the pages to get an idea of how he drew.
Now for my efforts from last night (click image for larger version)! The first is a graphite sketch on the smooth side of a half sheet of Canson Mi Teintes in a pale blue shade. I couldn't get the white crayon to show up too well and need to try another colour. I was working with softer graphite than usual and made a big mess of my hands and the paper! My sketch of the beams provided an interesting background. The second coloured sketch is on the same paper but drawn quickly at tne end using willow charcoal and a few sticks of conte. I always find it interesting when making two drawings to see how faster and looser the second drawing is. I think I need to work more at differentiating background and clothing from the head at the same time as working on the hard and soft edges. I think my drawings in the next class might be all in charcoal - if I remember the wet wipes!

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1 comment:

vivien said...

wet wipes????? don't be a wimp! you just wear black so's you can wipe your hands on your top or trousers! and you aren't an artist without the smudge of charcoal across the cheek :)

actually I was at uni with a nice man who wore pale chino's and a white shirt to class to paint and use charcoal in and never got a mark on him - unlike me :(

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