drawing without friends

after brocade in Cezanne portrait of Hortense Met

I was supposed to be drawing with friends Sunday, but I misplaced them.  My drawing group was meeting at one of the other museums on the mall and I had planned to join them.  But I could find nowhere to park until too late, and that parking space was quite far away.

However, I did draw at the National Gallery of Art, making some drawings after Cezanne. Above I drew one section of the curtain in the Met’s painting of Hortense, the artist’s wife. You can find the section of a fruit with leaves on the lower right below.


I also drew some faces from two other paintings.

after Cezanne Hortense

Both of these are portraits of Hortense.

after Cezanne

Love drawing Cezanne.  Sorry I missed seeing the friends.  But glad that I did get to make drawings after Cezanne’s beautiful paintings anyway.


more drawing with friends

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Back at the National Gallery again, this time in the sculpture galleries, with different friends than my last post, I decided to draw one of Rodin’s studies for his Burghers of Calais.  It’s a largish drawing: the head takes up a lot of space on a 14 x 17 inch sheet.  And I don’t altogether like it.  But I learned a great deal making the drawing, and sometimes its good to keep pushing through a drawing even when it isn’t very appealing just because of the information that collects inside your brain.  All that stuff comes to some use eventually.  I worked very freely (maybe it shows — haha!).

I am in still life mode in the studio, but I draw all sorts of things when I’m at the museum.

Here’s my guy, seen at a different angle.  Note the zoom feature.


drawing with friends

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I was at the National Gallery of Art yesterday drawing with friends.  I had planned in advance to draw from Cezanne’s Still life with Apples and Peaches because it relates well to my own still life paintings of the moment.  My drawing of one section of his still life is rendered approximately actual size. I have been doing more work on it at home too, using the image on NGA’s website and the zoom feature.

Our drawing group had a good turn out yesterday.  (And of course I consider Cezanne a friend too.)

Here’s Cezanne’s painting for comparison.  Even if you are far from the gallery, you can copy it too.


stealing figs

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One of my flower paintings has a bowl of figs in it.  I confess I didn’t grow these figs or even purchase them.  I stole them.

And you can steal some too even if you live very far away from the source.  I got them from the bowl that you can find below.  They’re Snyder’s figs.

And this isn’t the first time I’ve stole them.  I go back and steal them several times.  The drawing above is the first stage of the most recent theft — it’s as far as I got at night before bedtime.

If you want to steal some too, get them here — there’s a zoom at the link’s end.


my old haunt

rodin after NGA sculpture feb 18

Been busy this week cleaning and organizing my studio — and getting ready for an even bigger cleaning event — the BIG SPRING CLEAN!  So not so much painting in the last few days.

However I did go to the National Gallery of Art yesterday for a few hours and while I was there I made this drawing after a Rodin sculpture.

Spent some time looking at still lifes too in anticipation of my switch from landscape to still life which is coming, coming — soon!  Every time I am out where cut flowers are for sale I am thinking also about still life.  Soon, soon!

Here’s what I was looking at:


In front of Manet’s still life

Always something to  learn when retracing


the visual steps of the old masters through a careful scrutiny of their works.

I’ve always loved that ceramic cup in the corner with the lemons in front of it.  Here (above) I was making a copy using crayons, and I was mixing colors on the paper and getting slightly different color effects than one sees in Manet’s more subtle and monochromatic but beautifully colored canvas where silver gray predominates.  I was able to copy the objects almost the same size as they appear in the painting, but I chose just the right hand corner for my small notebook. Below you can see what I was copying and its context in the painting as a whole.

Some art teachers will pester you about getting ellipses correct. And I urge you, Reader,  to notice how out of kilter Manet’s plate and cup are!  And yet — for some mysterious reason, perhaps known only by Manet’s astute visual imagination, the painting as a whole is immeasurably better, more dynamic, more psychologically intriguing by virtue of these “mistakes.”  Clearly he knows how to draw things in perspective.  Just observe the wonderfully foreshortened fork.  But the plate and the cup are a thousand fold more lovely by virtue of the quirky perspective.  Trust your instincts.

You can draw Manet’s picture too, even if you’re far from the museum by using Gallery’s zoom feature at their website.  But not yet!  The links are redirects ….  http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/Collection/art-object-page.46427.html

EXCEPT — when you wish to zoom on the ceramic cup which ends up being covered by part of the zoom widget itself.  However, never fear — WikiArts to the rescue.  A large version of the image is available here — click on the picture to access:

Between the two sources you can get a lot of visual information about the painting.



Drawing in the Museum


Bonnard’s bright colors, his impulsive and sensitive rendering of paint into landscape forms are qualities that I’ve adored about his art for many years.  Some of his paintings  are on exhibit again at the National Gallery of Art after a long time spent in cruel storage. On the walls again, they light up the room where they can bring us much delight. I’ve intended to make some drawings after various favorite National Gallery paintings, and yesterday I got a chance to begin doing so; I started with this little crayon drawing, above,  after Bonnard’s “Stairs to the Artist’s Garden” reproduced below.


Making my drawing in front of Bonnard’s painting, I felt like I was in conversation with the old artist.  Copying also lets one see the image more keenly and experience it with more depth and immediacy.  Vicariously I stood with Bonnard in his garden.  I wanted to stay there longer, but sketching some of the large elements of the scene was a fun beginning.

My drawing measures 8.5 x 6.75 inches.  Bonnard’s painting measures 23 5/8 x 28 3/4 inches.  He painted his picture about 1942. I made my drawing about 4pm yesterday afternoon!

A sketchy sensibility can be very close to Bonnard in spirit.  In a gouache drawing of the artist’s own, the forms are put down through many delicate veils of color as illustrated here in a drawing “La Route, Paysage au Cannet” auctioned at Sotheby’s:


Lacking a brush and working with different materials, I made mine initially in the fashion of a graphic drawing and only afterwards used rubbing, smearing (and a bit of spit) to dissolve marks into tints. But I think I was able to manage some faithfulness to Bonnard’s general method-in-the-madness of big raw shapes.

To learn more about the Bonnard drawing, here’s a link to the Sotheby site:




after Rembrandt

At the National Gallery of Art in Washington I made a study of the head of a Rembrandt portrait.  I was consciously trying to think about the drawing in a way that fit what I know of Rembrandt’s drawings.   So I was looking at the painting, but thinking about Rembrandt drawing and trying to imagine what an early version of the painting might have looked like — when Rembrandt was drawing in the features with his brush.

New and Old Worlds

The garden I walk through this Columbus Day morning is Cezanne’s Vase de Fleurs.  Its corridors and hedgerows, its flowering trelis and mossy banks, and fragrant shadows provide my autumn refuge.

In fourteen hundred and ninety-two Columbus sailed the Ocean Blue, and from the outshirts of a city named to commemorate his oceanic leap into the unknown, I write near the District of Columbia.  I wander paths planted and pruned by nineteenth century French transplanted Cezanne on this day of Our Lord, October Tenth, Two Thousand Eleven in the U.S.A.

Just me and my handy dandy ball point pen.  Five hundred and nineteen years later, bringing various fellows named Paul along for the ride since “time is not linear.”

Rubens, master of the first blockbusters

In times past I spent many happy hours in front of Rubens’s magnificent Fall of Phaeton.  I made a bunch of drawings of this one horse alone, which are scattered throughout several notebooks. 

Sometimes I just stood and looked without a notebook.  Phaeton is a mesmerizing tour de force.  Once I stood for forty-five minutes in front of the painting, looking, staring, pondering — sometimes getting up close to marvel at details, sometimes standing back to admire the sublimity of the whole. 

A museum guard stood nearby, aware of my marathon watching, and deep into my session he finally ventured forward to help me (I must have seemed to need it), saying vaguely, “um, er, if you have a question about the painting, there’s a plaque here with some information.”

That’s when I decided perhaps it was time to go, that I had bewildered the guard for long enough.  But I could have stood there a fortnight.  Rubens is better than the most gripping movie.

“I should be happy to give 10 years of my life,” said Vincent van Gogh while gazing at Rembrandt’s Jewish Bride in Amsterdam in 1885, “if I could go on sitting here in front of this painting for a fortnight, with only a crust of dry bread for food.”

That’s kind of how I feel about Rubens.