Saturday, December 12, 2015

Taking Time

Looking at the point of my pencil, it never ceases to captivate me, the idea of how refined form can possibly become if represented to the precision of that fine tip.  Such wonder lead me through creating this eye cast drawing to investigate the subtleties of form at Grand Central Atelier.  My drawing proceeded by taking time to carefully construct gradations that represented specific curvatures of form one section of form at a time.

While  making deliberately constructed sections of form allowed me to closely study each forms specific surface, I also had to consider those smaller aspects in relation to the larger forms on the cast.  With this drawing I noticed I was able to develop more of an ability to retain a sense of the structure of larger forms while making smaller changes to them.  Since I put careful thought into the structure of each form as I constructed them, as I refined the form I could gain a better sense of where I wanted the form to develop and which areas that needed to conform to the specific curve of form I intended to make.  However I often lost sense of the larger forms while working on smaller aspects, such as sub-forms like the folds in the eye brow.  A critique from Scott Waddell showed me how to evaluate the form in the simplest possible way in order to regain a sense of the hierarchy of larger forms to the smaller forms that sit on top of them.

While progressing with this drawing I developed more of an appreciation for the idea that the smaller forms only gain significance when in their proper relation to the larger forms that they depend upon.  Working in a slow form by form method can sometime cause loss of awareness to the integrated nature of form.  But I found that the more time I spend practicing to retain a sense of where I am modeling in relation to the hierarchy of the overall form of the cast I can develop a better sense and ability to properly place smaller forms and larger forms.  I will continue taking time to carefully study form with my upcoming cast projects.

Thanks so much to the great help from all of my teachers for cast drawing, Devin Cecil-Wishing, Patrick Byrnes, Scott Waddell and the teachers who sometimes came by to help and encourage me with my drawing, Josh LaRock, Jacob Collins and Colleen Barry.  I couldn't ask for better instructors.

Thanks again to all who supported my art material fundraiser for school (The Arthur Haywood Education Initiative).  I am very fortunate to be learning so much with the supplies.

Friday, October 16, 2015

A week at the Grand Central Atelier

To offer some insight into my daily experiences at the Grand Central Atelier I am sharing a post that describes a recent week at school that was very helpful for me.

Classes for the core program are in session from 8:30 am - 5:00 pm.  As a first year student I draw from the cast in the morning until 12:30 before having lunch in the school's kitchen through 1 pm when I return to the cast hall to practice block-ins until 5 pm.

Near the beginning of the week I received valuable advice one of my cast drawing instructors, Patrick Byrnes.  In my drawing the light indentation on the eye initially suggested more of a scoop than was actually apparent on the cast.  Patrick informed me of how to more accurately describe that area by slightly lightening the darker part of the form to turn the form more towards the light. While I draw my cast during the weekday mornings I also usually can overhear the advice from instructors, Jacob Collins, Ted Minoff, Will St. John, Josh LaRock and Scott Waddell as they teach the 2nd through 4th year students in the figure room,  and from Tony Curanaj in the still-life room on some afternoons.
One day a week in the afternoons, first year students sculpt copies of casts in clay.  My sculpture teacher Zoe Dufour has been helping us with sculpting. I am sculpting from the same eye that I draw from in the mornings. A picture of us working on cast sculpture can be seen on the GCA instagram page here. This practice has helped me to gain more of an understanding of the three-dimensional nature of form and encourages me to apply sculptural considerations to assist me in modeling form more specifically while drawing in graphite.  Since drawing at GCA is approached through the concept of turning forms darker in relation to how much form turns away from the position of the light source, drawing is essentially sculpting with pencil.

When Devin Cecil-Wishing, one of my cast drawing instructors, came by the cast hall I was about to begin modeling a new form.  I was initially planning to model the lower form underneath the eye, (and a strip of form can be seen where I started working in that area) but after Devin's recommendation to model the lower brow I decided to model that form.  Since the form of the lower brow is connected to a shadow edge it is easier to make a gradation out of that shadow.  Also, it was helpful advice from Devin to move to the forms above the eyelid since they are more curved than the forms below the eye, which allows for an easier task of modeling form where the curvature of form is easier to see.  Since the cast hall is lit by light coming through a large window some of the forms on the cast that are not as round appear even more subtle under the natural light.

Later in the afternoon I took a break from practicing block-ins to see the work in progress from Colleen Barry's stucture drawing class.  It was very informative to see the work 3rd and 4th year students were making in that class and to learn about how they were approaching figure drawing through discussions with them.  The information I have been learning about the figure and form has been beneficial to me while I work on a portrait commission painting after school during the week nights.  One night one of the cast drawing instructors, Justin Wood, was able to stop by the studio in the school that I was working in and offered some very helpful advice on how I can reference master paintings to assist with painting my portrait commission.

Later in the week while I was drawing my eye cast in the cast hall, I could hear the echoes of Scott Waddell's advice in the morning coming from figure studio.  I decided to take a break from my drawing to see how the 2nd year students were progressing with their figure drawings.  I was amazed to see how refined their drawings were turning out during the second week of their month long pose and gained insight into how they pace themselves on their drawings.

During my lunch breaks I have been working on master copies while I eat.  Anthony Baus has an incredible library that he left the school in his Perspective Lab.  I have been utilizing some of his books to make master copies, such as the Carracci copy shown above.  These studies from 17th century artists has given me insight into how I can develop my own compositions, such as the one shown above on the right.  On my way back from lunch I walked past the gallery within GCA, Eleventh Street Arts, and was very inspired by the still-life show on view.  With a greater sense of how my studies are leading to more expressive works of art, off to the cast hall I returned to practice block-ins for the afternoon.

A 4-hour "tippy cast" block-in completed during an afternoon.
My cast block-in instructors, Brendan Johnston and Scott Waddell, come by during the week to give us 1st year students very helpful advice on how to approach making proportional drawings, called block-ins.  Now we are working on the practice of "tippy casts".  With this exercise we tip the casts at various angles that make the object less recognizable.  Through representing the shapes students can develop the ability to accurately copy shapes that are seen, without being influenced by the idea of trying to make a drawing that leans towards the symbolic idea of what one expects a face to look like.  While Scott Waddell and Brendan Johnston are in the cast hall I am also able to benefit from hearing the painting advice they give to the 2nd year students who are working on cast painting and I can watch as they demonstrate painting techniques on student's cast paintings to clarify how to model form.

One afternoon Josh LaRock was nice to stop by the cast hall to help us out after he finished teaching the 3rd and 4th year students in the figure room. While giving me advice on how to adjust my block-in, shown above, he suggested that I would benefit from approaching setting up my cast differently the next time.  The cast that I was blocking in did not have large unified light and dark shapes due to how I positioned it to the light and the angle that I was viewing it at.  Practicing tippy cast block-ins with a cast under a stronger lighting effect would make it easier to draw.  Josh's advice made sense to me that the practice of comparing shapes is easier to manage when the shapes are split into large and obvious light and dark shapes.  Later that afternoon I could hear some excitement from the figure room that the 3rd and 4th year students were painting in and stopped by to find that they were remarking on a figure painting that Josh LaRock brought to the studio.  Viewing the amazing figure grisaille painting of "Sheena"  that he made while he was a 2nd year student at GCA left me feeling so inspired and lucky to study at GCA.

By 5 pm  the ringing of the timer from the figure studio sounded and I could hear the 3rd and 4th year students thank the model for posing.  With that, the weekend has just begun, with more tales from the Grand Central Atelier to come when this cast drawing is done.

In progress...
Thanks again to all who supported my art material fundraiser for school (The Arthur Haywood Education Initiative).  I am very fortunate to be learning so much with the supplies.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Benefits of Master Copies

Practicing master copies has been extremely beneficial to developing my artistic voice.  Not only do these studies offer in-depth research into the effects of light, but they also clarify ways of portraying reality from the greatest masters of translating nature.  Each of these drawings, shown below, has fostered an awareness of aesthetic concerns that I am interested in.

After Ingres
After Bouguereau
Drawing of a sculpture from the Philadelphia Museum of Art
After a Carpeaux sculpture (quicker studies such as this and the one above offer a lot too)
Drawing Copy of a terracotta sculpture by Benedetto da Maiano
After Scott Waddell
     Furthermore, no matter how realistic each master's technique that I studied was, investigating the unique decisions they made revealed their representation of each subject's character and beauty.  Studying nature has been able to teach me much, but there is also great opportunity to discover what beauty is and the choices needed to be made to portray it and each subject's character by studying from the masters.

Studying the Color of Skin and its representation

The color of flesh that one perceives is caused by multiple processes of light reflection.  Diffuse reflection, specular reflection and subsurface scattering contribute to the perceived color of skin.  Through studying how light's interaction affects the color of skin I was able to use that information as a basis to paint skin.

Diffuse reflection occurs when light rays projected from a light source reflect at various angles from its meeting with the surface of a form.
The example above shows only a fraction of the portion of light rays emitted from a light source.  In diffuse reflection, millions of light rays, composed of photons, are projected from the light source to meet the surface of a form and then reflect at various angles.  The diffusely reflected light rays enter the eye at varying levels of brightness to create an image of a form under a light source(s).  This causes the form to appear darker as its surface turns away from the light.

Specular reflection is the mirror-like reflection of light on a smooth glossy surface where the angle of incoming light projected in a single direction from the light source, the angle of incidence, is reflected at the same angle into a viewer's eye, the angle of reflection.  Therefore, the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection. Specular reflection is only visible on a form at the halfway point between the angle of incidence and the angle of reflection into a viewer's eye.  Many specular reflections create a highlight area.

Subsurface scattering is a process of light reflection where light penetrates the surface of a translucent object and is scattered by interacting with the material before it exits the object from a different point than it entered from.

Diffuse Reflection (light ray does not penetrate the surface),  Subsurface Scattering (light ray penetrates the surface)

On human skin this interaction of subsurface scattering allows for the reflection of the sub-dermis hue (the color of flesh and blood) in its combination with the epidermis hue.  While subsurface scattering occurs at various levels of light intensity, this effect is heightened in the presences of a great deal of light.  A hand placed over a flash light emphasizes the effect of subsurface scattering. 
The light penetrates through the outer layer of skin to interact with the reddish color of the sub-dermis before the light exits the surface, in this case on the other side of the light. (4)  Because the epidermis (outer layer of skin) is translucent it can be thought of as a veil through which we can see some of the layer underneath it.

Human skin is made up of many layers and each has its own properties.  The epidermis is the outer layer of skin and primarily exhibits diffuse and specular reflection.  Lights interaction with the sub-dermis of skin (flesh and blood) primarily results in subsurface scattering.  Blood is partially made up of red blood cells, composed of hemoglobin, and its properties contribute to the reddish hue perceived in the color of skin.

Human red blood cells magnified 1000 times (2)
 When light interacts with skin some light rays are absorbed or reflected from the color of the epidermis while some light rays penetrate through the epidermis and interact with the color of the sub-dermis to be absorbed or involved in subsurface scattering before exiting the surface.  Some light rays penetrate even further to reach the bone layer.(1)

All of these interactions that light has with skin creates a specific effect on the perceived color of skin.  Due to the multi-layered process that creates the color of skin, I attempted using a layered painting process to try to represent the color of skin and the effects of light that make it visible.  I experimented with this process on a painting of  an ear and will use that painting to illustrate the thought process that I have been following.

Applying  Light Concepts to Painting

The interaction of light with a painted surface involves diffuse reflection and subsurface scattering as well.  Some light rays interact with the opaque layer of paint on the surface while some light rays continue to penetrate the surface to the color under-layer and then to the color of the canvas before light is reflected from the surface of a painting, producing a combined effect of each layers color.(3)

With these properties of light's interaction with paint in mind, I experimented with representing the color of skin through its light effects in my painting.

I began by making my under-layer reddish in hue to represent the sub-dermis layer of skin.  This layer was painted thinly to allow for light to pass through it before reflecting from the canvas layer.

Then I more opaquely painted the color of the form as I perceived it.  Due to the opacity of the painted layer, it was able to reflect light more diffusely (representing diffuse reflection in the epidermis of skin), while still allowing for light to pass through it to also reflect the more reddish hue of the under-layer (representing subsurface scattering in the sub-dermis of skin).  And the color of the canvas in combination with the amount of light passing through its surface contributed to the luminosity of the color that is ultimately reflected from the painting as light rays exit the surface with properties of the layers that it has interacted with.  This painting seemed to have more of a glow than my other pieces where I used a different process.

3-D Modeling Layers

This painting process was largely inspired by investigations into 3-D modeling.  Many 3-D modeling programs separate the effects of subsurface scattering, diffuse reflection and specular reflection into different layers before representing their combined effect.  The consideration of each specific effect of light contributes to stunning representations of human skin.
Image from David Moratilla

3-D modeled image from David Moratilla

Image with no subsurface scattering on the left, compared to being shown with subsurface scattering on the right

While the painting process described in this post is just an experiment, I am not sure how effective it has been at representing the color of skin, especially in the photograph shown, but these investigations are something for me to continue experimenting with or at least thinking about in the future.  There are many other factors that could be considered to specify the effect of the process, including the specific amount of blood in a given area, the properties of melanin in a given area, the density of hair on skin etc., and each factor could alter the painting process to produce more specific results.  So I look forward to continuing investigations with painting skin.


- (1) Blevins, N. (2006, June 12). Translucency and Sub-Surface Scattering. Retrieved July 15, 2015, from


- (3) Gamblin, R. (2003, October 1). Why Classical and Contemporary Paintings Look So Different? Retrieved July 15, 2015, from

- (4)


Many of these concepts of light are explained in further detail on Doug Flynt's blog and in Scott Wadell's video webisode here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Canvas Preparation

I used a certain process to prepare the surface of the canvas for a commissioned portrait painting that I am currently working on.  The dimensions of this painting are life-size so I had to stretch a large  canvas.  I used an unprimed Utrecht medium texture cotton canvas for this surface. 

To prevent the stretcher bars from bending as pressure would later be applied from stretching and preparing the surface of the canvas I used cross bars (that I used from a store bought canvas that I previously had).  These cross bars were either nailed or screwed into the frame of the stretcher bars.

After the canvas was stretched I applied a layer of acrylic gesso, using the Golden brand of gesso.  This layer was applied by laying the gesso on the canvas with a brush and then using a roller, in a perpendicular direction to the brush strokes, to flatten out the texture of the surface.
     The surface was then sanded with a 220 grit sandpaper and the process was repeated twice. Once much of the space between the strands of fabric on the canvas were filled in with gesso from using the roller, I used a process to make the surface much smoother.

I first applied a large viscous amount of gesso to the surface using a brush.  Then I quickly used a plastic taping knife, shown below, to drag the wet gesso across the surface while trying to hover over touching the previously dried layer of the canvas in an effort to create a smooth surface.

This process of using a plastic taping knife is somewhat similar to laying down an area of concrete.

Once the surface had been flattened with the plastic taping knife, I proceeded to sand the dents and irregularities and out of the surface with a 320 grit sandpaper.  This part of the process took a very long time.  Part of the cause of this was that the plastic taping knife that I used did not have rounded edges for the corners of the tool, which I prefer to use.  The sharp edge of the tool that I used caused it to dig into the wet gesso as it was dragged across the wet surface.  I repeated the process with the plastic taping knife and sandpaper twice to smooth the surface for painting.

A small part of the surface shown on the left, next to the unprimed texture of canvas shown on the right.

Then I transferred the drawing to the surface using an oil transfer method (Doug Flynt explains this process on his blog here).  The process of surface preparation that I used created a much smoother surface to paint on than the texture of the canvas that I started with and was much cheaper than using a large amount of expensive linen.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Thank You!

Thank you so much to everyone who has generously supported The Arthur Haywood Education Initiative through donations and thanks to the kind support of those who have shown encouragement of this project on social media and elsewhere.  I am sincerely grateful for this gracious support that has allowed The Arthur Haywood Education Initiative to reach its funding goal for art supplies!  This support will allow me to significantly enhance my art during my first year of study at the Grand Central Atelier.  

I am sincerely grateful for those who have been extremely generous to donate towards funds for art supplies.  These supporters include, Daniel WK Chow, Kate Williams, Julie Haywood, Lilah Galdi, Andy Heimann and Keanu Baxter .

I have recently purchased many of the art supplies by adding the funds to a Blick gift card and will be using the gift card to purchase a few more supplies (a few more pieces of Artistico Fabriano paper) during the school year.

Updates on artwork that I will be making with the art supplies from my studies at the Grand Central Atelier will be posted on this blog in December 2015 and May 2016.

Thank you so much! 
To view the Arthur Haywood Education Initiative kickstarter page, please click here.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Arthur Haywood Education Initiative

 In September of 2015, I am honored to begin studying full-time at the Grand Central Atelier to gain technical skills that are vital to conveying my visual expressions to their full potential.  To assist in my development,  I have started a project called The Arthur Haywood Education Initiative.
Please view the video above for more information.  For further information and to support by July 24th please visit: my kickstarter page.

I also have prints available until July 24th.  The proceeds will benefit the funding for art supplies during my first year of study at the Grand Central Atelier.  For further information and to support please visit my kickstarter page.
Thank you!

Sunday, June 21, 2015


 Thank you so much to everyone that was able to visit my art show and the kind people who have supported my work through the purchase of some of my pieces. I am sincerely grateful for all of the encouragement and support that I have received for my art work.

I was glad to meet so many great people at the reception. The show will be on display at the Philadelphia Sketch Club for one more week, so thanks in advance in case anyone may be able to view the show during that time.  For more information, please visit

Monday, June 1, 2015

"Study to Synthesis" Exhibition Currently on Display

My exhibition "Study to Synthesis" will be on display from June 3rd -30th, 2015 at
The Philadelphia Sketch Club, located at 235 S. Camac Street, Center City, Philadelphia, PA 19107.
Admission is Free and Open to the Public.  
Gallery hours are Wed, Fri, Sat, Sun from 1 - 5 PM.
Reception:  June 21st, 2 - 4 PM

Below are a few images from the exhibition.  To preview the works from the exhibition please visit the show's Online Gallery