Sunday, September 13, 2009

Week 3 --Go for Throttle Up! Daniel Sprick at PAFA

Boy, week three of the Fall semester was a doozie--we went Full Throttle this week! All of my classes were running at Uarts and so my Tuesdays and Thursdays are long 14 hour days of teaching and learning. It was also a very bitter sweat week as a long time friend Traci, lost her battle with cancer and funeral arrangements are pending. When things like this happen it really sharpens things even more, you notice your life more, the edges more, priorities more. Sometimes they do get screwed up and we fret and get blistered over things that are really not important. If a friends passing can give you something, as strange as it may sound--a better appreciation for the time you shared and that we should focus on the good, on life, on being positive--then they can give you something that makes living on after the sadness and mourning, a better experience, a richer more focused life. A few weeks ago we got to share some dinner and a few laughs and I will always cherish that memory.

One the opposite end of life, the up side, this week painter Daniel Sprick can to the Academy to give a talk on his work for the MFA program and to give a drawing demo. Sprick is one the the top realist artist working today, his beautiful and intricate still lifes, figures and landscapes have a magical quality about them, a sense of design and light that reminds one of Vermeer and Lopez. He is also such a great sharing and such unassuming person for such a talented artist that you can't help but like his work even more after meeting him.

That to me makes a huge impact when I meet an artist who's work I love or admire, if they are a great person as well an an artist--and it is great that the school facilitates these events for the students. Just like the Vincent Desiderio workshop I took last spring, the talk and demo by Sprick were both informative and inspirational--inspiration that will last a long while--it's a great charge on one's battery. As important as peeling back the veil is technically, that is a hallow exercise without intellect and poetry to guide it and during his slide show and talk and during his demo he talked a lot about these subjects as well as being an artist who's working every day and making his living at it and the gallery side of things.

Sprick did a portrait demo for us and my buddy Jole (A Dirty Palette Club Founder) volunteered to pose. That paid off nicely in the end as Sprick graciously gave Joel the drawing and signed it to him. Now one of the things I love to see is another artist at work. I guess it's like watching a great singer belt out a tune or a musician play a great song--it's so enjoyable and also a way to pick up ways of working and techniques--techniques in service of an idea, not just of techniques sake. Using Pitt Compressed Charcoal, the charcoal Sprick prefers (due to the fact it doesn't have a waxy binder so it releases better) he proceeded to start teh drawing by blocking in the large mass with a contour, he works very lightly and say to work as lightly as possible in the beginning.

Here Sprick talked about how often he would place a mirror to fill the shadows with a reflected light from the main light source, and he did try setting up a mirror next to Joel, but decided it didn't work for this drawing.

Sprick went back at the drawing lightly blocking in the masses, the entire mas then the shadow mass, then took a piece of paper towl and rubbed it all down, massing or compressing the tones, then he went back to working all over the drawing. he talked about how having a few sharp edges in a drawing can give it a PUNCH as so often we are to at school to never have sharp edges, to soften every edge. he pointed out where the hard edges were and indicated them then went back, establishing the core shadow and working into it and out of it.
he said that the eye lids and the nostril angle and shapes are a few of the key things that really help define the likeness of a person.

Working back and forth, all over Sprick brought up the drawing equally, he said that at any moment you might have to stop the drawing so you want the drawing to be 'complete' at every stage.

using a bit of spit he dabbed the tip of the white charcoal pencil to get it to deposit more charcoal onto the paper over the darker charcoal. He also pressed a kneeded eraser into a sharp point to pick out thighlights on the forehead, nose, cheek and mouth. he always keeps his charcoal sharp, often usinga grinder to make the charcoal long and sharp, like a spike. he talked about finding and angle on the figure, moving you charcoal, or whole arm over the angle on the figure then pulling that line, drawing it on the paper. he told us to work slow, to not rush, to only work as fast as you can be accurate and watching him you never felt he was rushing, it was very much like watching a slow dance, a slight line here, another longer time there, a scrumble across the entire mass...he seemed relaxed. he said he would sometimes employ a mall stick when drawing with charcoal to support his arm at getting angles or details. I watched him as he would angle his hand or arm to slowly, precisely draw in a eye or a nostril, adjust a contour or shape.

The thing that was sort of amazing is that it seemed that almost suddenly with a few dabs of the kneeded eraser he was done in what seemed no more than an hour, less than a hour of actual drawing time.

The final drawing of Joel.

While takinga break Sprick talked a lot about how it's too much responsibiluty as a single artist to try and change art, to find the things that you are interested in drawing or painting, and that dealers and galleries really often want you to just paint the same things over and over. if you sell a few still lifes, well they want more so they can sell those even if it's only one thing you might be interested in. Again he was really open to answering any questions. he did a few more quick sketches and then was off to give private critiques to the MFA students, and I have to say I was a bit jealous and wished I had my studio then to get him to give me a crit as well--but alas it won't be till next fall I get my 3rd year studio.

A great figure drawing Sprick did in the Thursday night drawing session we have at school every week. I was also really happy to hear Sprick say, and can see how he loved the work of Nicoli Fechin which you can see in the drawing here. Not a lot of teachers at PAFA like his work and they also tend to bang on artists who use photos as Sprick does for detail in his paintings, but he is never a slave to them and talked about that. So it was a great experience and so far worth my tuition this fall just for this experience alone. I am pretty pumped up and inspired and ready to tackle next week's classes!


John said...

Hey Michael, I just recently started following your blog and I just wanted you to know that I really appreciate you taking the time to do it. I have always wanted to attend art school and it is really enjoyable to hear what you are learning each week as well as check out the comics and drawings you are working on. Thanks

John Kelley

अर्जुन said...

Thanks for the glimpse behind the scenes.

There is a vehement process cult that confuses the means with results. Most of them can't properly use reference photos so they demean those that can.

Where is your Thursday night drawing? It seems like Sprick had to stub that rear leg to fit it on the paper.

Michael Manley said...

Thanks John, welcome to the ride!

Michael Manley said...

अर्जुन, technique is how we do something, but while it is important what we do is more important, technique in place of a vision or poetry is just masturbation as one of my teachers so succinctly put it.

The hobbiest, the young and inexperience are always the ones most concerned with it, the layman too.

I think Sprick put the leg just where he wanted it ;-0