Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Quick Review of Dan Thompson Video On Artist Network TV

My notes and drawing from watching Dan Thompson's video

I took advantage of a free 4 day trial of Artist Network TV and watched "Figure Drawing 1: Anatomy of the Head with Dan Thompson" last night.  After being initially thrown by all the technical anatomy terms, I found myself learning quite a bit and really thinking about how to approach a drawn (and painted) portrait.  While my notes are fairly haphazard (I was drawing he taught), I record some key points here.

Dan really focuses on anatomical landmarks -- not the ones you'd imagine.  Terms like glabella, sternocleidomastoid, hyoid bone, and infraorbital foramen were quickly identified through the head and neck using a clay model and toothpicks jabbed into areas to show key relationships.  I would not do that portion of the video any justice here (or probably anywhere), but he did recommend some light anatomy reading -- The Human Figure by John H. Vanderpoel, Human Anatomy for Artists: The Elements of Form by Eliot Goldfinger, Atlas of Human Anatomy for the Artist by Stephen Rogers Peck, and one by Robert Beverly Hale -- probably Anatomy Lessons from the Great Masters, but I didn't write down which one. 

Dan starts by taking a measurement on his actual model -- one from the tear duct to the bottom of the chin.  He marks this length on the side of the paper and then doubles it.  *** The tear duct is approximately 1/2 way from the top of the head to the bottom of the chin.****  He then starts to place his portrait on the paper using long gestural straight lines.  He places the head closer to the top of the page so that he can include the neck and shoulders.  He makes the point that this is how you know the movement of the person.  From here on out it is wonderful to see him develop the piece using only long straight lines to indicate how angles relate to each other.  *** For Dan, the EAR is the most pivotal feature in getting a portrait right -- he seems to measure all the angles of the face from the ear.***  He is looking for Action, Proportion, Shape and Overall Design at this point.  He is "sneaking up on the head" as he calls it -- dancing around the entire drawing working out relationships and angles until he finds the ones that work. 

Dan's drawing in the video

After he has this straight line drawing in place, he works in one "false value" to indicate the areas in shadow.  The he goes on to tonal development -- massing in a 5 value drawing.  He first articulates his darkest dark to establish range (usually in the hair or clothes),  then the lightest dark, then middle light, then highlight, and finally the darkest light.  Dan used a 2H and a HB for darkest dark -- he uses a lot of layering and a blending stump.   The darkest dark is the tone anchor.   The false value is too light for the shadow, so next he works in the lightest dark.  At this point, he still is not committed completely to a likeness. 

Tip:  Avoid "shading the shadow:"  we should compress the range of values in the shadow so that we have more values to play with in the lights.

Dan goes on to explain alignment (making sure all features are in alignment/perspective), morphology (the spacing between features)-- the specifics of the individual's face, and finally he breaks down all the features by planes. I love planes. I have Katherine Hannigan (one of my college teachers) to thank for truly understanding planes and thus understanding how to draw the human form -- before that it was all line, and I was never quite accurate. 

I highly recommend this video!  I know I will watch it a few times - -there's a lot here -- perhaps I will even have time to update with more info.

This is Dan's website:

Dan Thompson (1972-)
Self Portrait
Oil on canvas
32" x 28"

Dan Thompson (1972-)
The Warrior
Oil on canvas
40" x 30"