Tag Archives: Drawing

The Nitty Griddy

jim grid

“It doesn’t upset artists to find out that artists used lenses or mirrors or other aids, but it certainly does upset the art historians.” – Chuck Close

A few friends have asked me how I drew James.  Apparently, “With pencils, paper, and a well-worn eraser,” wasn’t a sufficient answer.  So for those of you who are curious about my methods, I used a grid.

Originally described by Leon Battista Alberti in his treatise, “On Painting,” to explain how a landscape could be accurately transposed using a gridded window, Renaissance artist, Alfred Durer, used the grid technique to draw live models.


By looking at a model through a window frame, strung with a grid of black thread, Durer could draw an accurate image of the model onto a corresponding gridded piece of paper (as seen in the image above).  This technique allowed Durer to capture a truer likeness of the model by breaking a complex subject down into smaller, more manageable bites.  Since my uncle lives in Paris and wasn’t available for a live drawing session, I used a gridded photo that I took of him as the source for my drawing.

I have heard some argue that using the grid technique is cheating and that an artist should be able to draw the likeness of a person using freehand only.  My recent drawings of Maya and of Tommy Kane were both done without the use of a grid, so I’m confident that I can draw reasonably well.  But if Chuck Close, Paul Cadden, and Jonathan Yeo sometimes use a grid in their paintings and drawings, then I figured I could too.  Some of my favorite artists even trace projected photos that they have taken onto a canvas before they start painting.  Artists have long employed technology in the production of their works, but their ideas and talents are no less impressive because of it.

I appreciate seeing how other artists create their works, so I took some “play-by-play” photos of James with my iPhone.  These photos are not as clear as the final scan, but I thought it would give you a good sense of how I approached this drawing.

P.S. For an incredible story on how one of the world’s most famous artists used tools and technology to create his paintings, I recommend watching the documentary, Tim’s Vermeer.  This film surely upset some art historians.

Hyperrealism and the Spurning of Milli Vanilli

James_sm    James (8″ x 11″), pencil on paper

“A face is a road map of someone’s life. Without any need to amplify that or draw attention to it, there’s a great deal that’s communicated about who this person is and what their life experiences have been.” – Chuck Close

The other morning, Stacie said, “You know, it would be a lot easier if you just took a black and white photograph and told people you drew it. You could be the Milli Vanilli of the art world!”

When I started painting a couple of years ago, I thought I wanted to paint like Vincent van Gogh, or Canadian artist, Tom Thomson. So I surprised myself when my artistic interests gravitated away from Impressionism and towards Realism, and most recently, Hyperrealism.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Hyperrealism is, “realism in art characterized by depiction of real life in an unusual or striking manner.” Hyperrealist artists capture meticulous detail in their works (mostly aided by high-resolution photography). But they go beyond just reproducing a photograph, and often express some underlying message or narrative: hence why Merriam-Webster includes, “in an unusual or striking manner,” in its definition.

After seeing paintings by Chuck Close and Gottfried Helwein, and drawings by Paul Cadden, I was inspired to give Hyperrealism a shot. I am not yet confident enough with oil paints, so I figured that for my first attempt, I would try a pencil on paper drawing of my uncle. James is the result.

Drawing James took me over 30 days to complete (mostly in 30 to 45 minute increments before work), and given the continuous attention to detail (particularly in the beard and the plaid shirt), there were times when I thought my head would explode. James is nowhere near as good as Paul Cadden’s drawings, but I worked through a challenge, and I learned a lot in the process.

I appreciated Stacie’s suggestion, but I admire the talents and work ethic of hyperrealist artists. As Igor Babailov said, “It is far easier to debate about realistic painting than it is to paint one.” There is no easy way to produce hyperrealist art, and after completing this drawing, I have even more respect for Chuck, Gottfried, and Paul.

P.S. Chuck Close is one of America’s greatest artists, and he deserves a separate post. Gottfried Helnwein’s works are disturbing and not easily forgotten, but they are important – for why, read this article. Separately, I took to Helwein as much because of his dedication to his family, as I did due to his paintings. As for Paul Cadden, he’s a good Scot, who can just bloody well draw.

Drawing in the Afterimage

Maya (drawing) - compressed

After completing the drawing of Tommy Kane (see my last post), I wanted to draw another artist who inspires me.  If you have followed my blog over the past year, you know that I am a fan of Artists Anonymous (“AA”), a group of artists in London and Berlin, who are known for painting in the afterimage.  You can read more about AA in my posts, “For the Love of the Game“, and “Artists Anonymous“.

AA’s paintings are impressive.  Even more remarkable is that the afterimages of their works often look more intentional than the originals.  It is rare to find contemporary artists doing something truly original, and yet AA is doing just that.

The members of Artists Anonymous prefer to remain anonymous.  They do so in part to see what happens if they take authorship away from their works.  As a result, AA is as much a social experiment as it is a moniker.  Nevertheless, one of their founding members, Maya van Malden, is their spokesperson, and the only artist whose identity we know.  So in order to draw Artists Anonymous, I borrowed a photo of Maya, and drew her portrait.  Given AA’s unique method of painting, I thought it only appropriate to draw Maya in the negative (see above).  Below is the afterimage of my drawing.

Maya (afterimage)

Artists Anonymous is among my favorite artists, and there is much more to their art than just their painting techniques.  To see some online images of their works, check out www.artists-anonymous.com.

P.S.  It’s been over two months since I wrote my last blog post, and recently, I had been thinking that The Hipping Post experiment had run its course.  But blogs, Facebook, and other social media, can serve a greater purpose than just throwing a voice into the void.  Used thoughtfully, social media allows you to share, collaborate, and connect.  THP has allowed me to connect with people I never otherwise would have met, and for that I am grateful.

I draw and paint for myself because I enjoy it, and I also write mostly for myself.  But I have enjoyed sharing this blog, so I am going to continue with it.  The posts may come more sporadically, but hopefully I will add some value to those of you who continue to visit and give me some of your time to read my posts.

Drawing Tommy Kane

Tommy Kane_smres

Tommy Kane is a New York-based illustrator and ad agency creative director who travels extensively, and draws on location wherever he goes.  His work has been profiled in a number of books, and he recently published An Excuse to Draw, his first full-length book featuring a collection of his drawings.  I ran across Tommy’s work almost exactly two years ago, when I saw this drawing of the Red Hook Yacht Club on the Urban Sketchers website, and I have followed his blog ever since.  Tommy is a talented artist, and if you are interested in drawing, particularly on location, I recommend checking out his blog.

Tommy is also on the  faculty of Sketchbook Skool, an online course that teaches anyone who is interested in drawing how to see the world, and to get the most out of their drawing and journaling.  Recently, Tommy asked his students to draw his portrait, and the result is an amazing collection of different styles and techniques, all based on the same subject (you can see them on Tommy’s Tumblr page).  Tommy also offered to send a high rez photo to anyone else who was interested in drawing him.  So I emailed Tommy and said that I would be happy to give it a shot.  The drawing above is the end result.  Thanks for inspiring me Tommy, and I’m glad you like the drawing.

Why I Sleep Better


My grandfather once told me that the hours of sleep before midnight were better than those afterwards, so he recommended that I get to bed at a reasonable hour.  In order to wake up early in the morning to draw, I try to get to bed before 10:00 P.M.  I always thought my grandfather’s suggestion was just some folksy aphorism, but when I go to bed early, I sleep better – go figure.  Thanks for the advice, Opa.

P.S.  My grandfather’s favorite expression was, “Courtesy costs nothing, gains much.”  He was a wise man, and I miss him.

A Time For Thanks

C & B_babies

I am thankful for these little guys, and for the bigger versions they are now.  Of course, I’m also thankful for the little brother, who after seeing that he was not included in this drawing, told me that I have to draw him next.  It’s a good thing I am still on a portrait kick.

P.S. And thanks to you for visiting The Hipping Post.  Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Portrait Practice


“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.” – Stephen King

As you can tell from a few of my recent posts, I am in a portraiture phase.  I imagine most artists go through a period of wanting to draw the exact likeness of a human face.  All of our artistic paths start by drawing stick figures and smiley faces.  That might be the best time as an artist, as we draw and paint with reckless abandon.  We don’t care whether the eyes are in the correct proportion to the nose and mouth, or why hair is just so bloody hard to capture.  We just draw.


But eventually, the urge for accuracy takes over.  This may be the point when artistic curses take hold.  We try to draw the shape of a head, and wonder why it looks more like an alien’s than a human’s.  We can’t understand why the nose is just so hard to place properly on the face.  And it certainly doesn’t help that artists like John Singer Sargent and Jonathan Yeo make it look so easy.

BART portrait

As Stephen King advises, to get better, we are left with only two methods, study and practice, with practice being the most important.  Included here is some of my recent practice.


I once read that when you are learning to draw portraits, you shouldn’t practice drawing famous people, as others will know when you’ve messed up the resemblance.  Drawing unfamiliar faces is safer and will build your confidence.  There’s definitely not much room for error when drawing a self-portrait.  I asked my son whether the sketch above looked like me.  He said, “No.  Your neck is too skinny and your head looks like a balloon.”  Apparently, children also criticize with reckless abandon.

P.S. Stephen King suggests that would-be writers should read to become better at writing.  This would-be artist likes reading too.  So Stacie, please feel free to surprise me at Christmas with Jonathan Yeo’s new book, “The Many Faces of Jonathan Yeo.”