Studio Mysteries

August 31, 2009

Mapping The Land Of Golf Balls

Filed under: 2D Anatomy Course, Anatomy — Tags: , , — Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries @ 5:49 am

It’s all very well to learn about bones and muscles from anatomy books, where everybody stands like a soldier at attention and conveniently has no skin. That is the first step in learning artistic anatomy – memorizing what’s where.

The second step is no less challenging, perhaps even more so. The second step involves looking at an actual human body, or even a representation of it in figurative art, and identifying what it is that you are looking at. To me, it feels like reciting the Bible backwards in a foreign language while doing a handstand. Just when you thought you got a handle on it, somebody takes it upon themselves to bend a limb and rotate it as if to mock every diagram ever drawn and labelled, and you have to discover America all over again while the native people point and laugh.

It’s week 8 of the 2D Anatomy course, and we are doing exercises that at first seemed competely impossible: taking a master drawing or sculpture, tracing its outline and drawing the muscles and bones within it. The first few assignments, I would look at a figure, and it would be covered with a myriad of completely random bumps, as if the model was wearing a pelt of golf balls. “Who are you, Random Bump # 317? I demand a valid identification!” I would shout, and the golf balls would dance and undulate as if to mock the very concept of sobriety.

Now it’s a bit better. I can look at the work of even the most beef-happy artist, like Michelangelo or Rodin, and identify at least a couple of bumps. And once you get a handle on a couple of bumps, you can get them to snitch on their neighbours! If bump X is an elbow, there are only so many possibilities as to what bumps Y and Z can possibly be. I correctly triangulated a scapula off a muscle the other day, and it was almost as much fun as ice-cream.

This is Rodin’s Thinker. His forearm is basically a sea creature family reunion, but hah! Science named them all. Score one for Team Darwin.


August 24, 2009

Actual Creative Project I’m Working On

Filed under: Drawing — Tags: , — Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries @ 6:59 pm

It’s a really big drawing. About 5 by 4.5 feet. I was going to call it Family And Friends, but now I am thinking of naming it Big-Ass Drawing That Took Forever To Do.


The reason it’s going to take an ice age to finish is that I am doing the whole darn thing in pencil. Although this is the first creative piece I tried starting with a middle tone rubbed into the paper with charcoal. I absolutely fell in love with this technique and the kind of soft, velvety shifts in value you can have with it.


The other new thing I am loving is lost and found edges. I used to separate everything a lot more, and now I’m seeing how clearly you can show something with edges completely dissolved in places. The eye just fills in missing information, and if anything, it looks more convincing than something that is meticulously outlined.

Contemplating The Menu

Filed under: Being a Professional Artist — Tags: — Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries @ 5:17 am

I will never get tired of saying this: Los Angeles is a feast of art learnin’. My biggest advice to anyone¬† who is doing a self-directed study like me, is to set limits on how many teachers and how many courses you deal with at a given time. It’s so easy to overdose! I find that having two or three classes per term works great, an immersion level that propels you forward and generates momentum. But any more than that and all the new exercises and skills become much harder to absorb and retain.

Also, put together a teacher team you really like, and don’t let that team get too huge either. Here, especially, there are more fantastic teachers than you can shake a stick at. It’s absolutely painful to edit in any way, but¬† I think it’s important to focus and mine a select few for all the knowledge they got. Every teacher has a particular set of strengths and methodologies, and if you work with dozens, you will run out of brain room way before you get to benefit from those strengths in any kind of depth.

Looking back over the 5 months I have been studying in LA, I am stunned that it’s only been 5 months. It feels like years! Aside from adapting to a very drastic change in my living circumstances, I also took in an enormous amount of new information. Here are courses I have done so far:

  • Head Drawing with Bill Rogers
  • Academic Figure Drawing and Tonal Drawing with Rick Morris
  • Figure Quick Sketch with Steven Silver
  • Analytical Figure Drawing with Kirk Shinmoto
  • 3D Anatomy/Ecorche and 2D Anatomy with Rey Bustos
  • Still Life Oil Painting with Michael Siegel

I also took a one-day Drapery Workshop with Marshall Vandruff, and did a month of Head Drawing class and Quick Sketch workshops with Sang Bang.

That’s quite a lot in a few months! All on top of trying to obtain a driver’s license in Los Angeles, which is roughly on par with launching a space shuttle, in terms of sheer project magnitude.

So far I have signed up for three courses this fall:

  • Analytical Figure Drawing with Rey Bustos
  • Painting Fundamentals with Eric Pedersen
  • Academic Figure Painting with Grigor Chillingarian

There is a long list of other courses I want to do. But I feel like I need to sit down and really process what I’ve learned so far, before taking on anything more. I have piles and piles of notes, techniques, methods and exercises that haven’t received their due (or their blog post) yet. I don’t want that pile to get any bigger. It’s already an insurance liability.

August 19, 2009

Tonal Drawing With Rick Morris, 2 Week-Pose, Week 2

Filed under: Drawing, Rick Morris, Values — Tags: , , , , — Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries @ 6:53 pm


Not finished, but this is probably the furthest I have gotten in a class assignment. In the unlikely event I have free time, I would like to finish it – right now the value range in the body is much lighter than the head. Her head dwells in darkness! (Oooh.)

August 16, 2009

Drawing Stages: Now Slightly Further

Filed under: Drawing, Values — Tags: , — Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries @ 8:19 pm

In my last Head Drawing post, I talked about the stages of doing a drawing from start to full finish, and how there are generally three. I haven’t learned how to get a drawing All The Way There yet, because in my classes thus far, I run out of time by Stage 2 or so. The last post, however, actually shows a drawing that is some way into Stage 3. So here is my revised list of drawing order:

Stage 1: The Blueprint. A linear drawing sticking down all the elements of the composition. Sometimes it’s called the block-in if only straight lines are used to describe the form, or a lay-in if it’s using curved lines.

Stage 2: The Cow Pattern. Defining light and shadow as 2D shapes.

Stage 3: (Haven’t named it yet, but that’s where the full value range and final finish happen.)

  1. Laying in a mid-range flat tone for the shadow shapes.
  2. Defining the dark value range by doing the darkest areas – those will have most of the dark range except for the very darkest tones.
  3. Defining the darkest value. It’s basically the opposite of the highlight – rather than a whole area, it’s a shadow anti-highlight. Usually, but necessarily it’s in the area of greatest drama. Usually, but not necessarily it’s in the area that receives the most light as well.
    (The area of greatest drama may not have the darkest dark, but it should have the most contrast.) <– that right there is one of THE keys to an eloquent painting or drawing.
  4. Defining the lightest value. Should be in the area of greatest interest.
  5. To be determined! (Very determined).

Tonal Drawing with Rick Morris – 2-week pose

Filed under: Drawing, Rick Morris, Values — Tags: , , , , — Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries @ 7:57 pm

It is said that she who knows what she is doing with values can make a successful painting, even if she is a total mess at handling colour.

With this in mind, I am studying with a teacher who really understands values and focus as a storytelling tool. This class is already helping me a lot with my actual art-project-type drawings (still at it! pictures coming soon!), and I hope the skills I am learning will also bridge me back into my painting projects with less frustration therein.


In this exercise, we toned the paper with charcoal powder first, to a middle-dark tone. Then we did a block-in with charcoal pencil, erasing the lines carefully and re-blending the powder with a bristle brush.

The actual work with values started with defining light and shadow by squinting and looking at them as 2D shapes – what I call doing the cow-pattern. (You know? Those black and white blotch cows?)

Then we started building up darker shadows with vine charcoal, blending it in some more with the brush, so it’s really worked into the paper surface, and to get rid of streaking. Texture in shadow distracts from texture in light.

At this point, Rick surprised me by coming over and sticking a big ole highlight on the lady’s forehead. I am still used to keeping the highlights for the end, reserving them as a sort of magical sword that will make the whole thing work somehow. But no, Rick sez if you are setting up the dark value range by building in the darkest areas, you should also introduce the brightest points in the composition at the same time. Then you’ll know how light or dark everything in between the extreme points of the value range should be.

We picked the forehead because I wanted the model’s face to draw the most attention.

Guess what all the male students picked as their point of dramatic interest? No, guess.

Oh, alright. It was the boobs.

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