Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sunday at the Met

Karen and I paid a visit to the Metropolitan on Sunday. I missed the Francis Bacon show. Not that I’m a fan of his work, but it’s always good to see a large body of work in a retrospective fashion from any artist. I was very surprised to find that the American Wing Painting Galleries are closed until 2011. This would be very unfortunate for the first time visitor. However, many paintings have been moved with majority of the well known works being moved to the Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art or as they now call it…visible storage. This is a large room with aisles of large glass showcases that house an amazing array of American art examples from the decorative to the fine. I must admit that it was nice to see Madame X’s head at eye level for the very first time. If you don’t mind viewing work behind glass it is a great opportunity to see many works up close at a foot away.

I was glad to see that my all time favorite portrait still remains in the HL Center; Alfred Collins portrait of his wife “Mrs. Alfred Q. Collins”. I don’t think I have ever visited the Met without stopping by to see this painting. If anyone knows where I can find a good color image of this painting I would be very grateful.

One my favorite landscapes “Banks of the Loing” by William Picknell has been moved to the Robert Lehman Wing for an exhibition of American Landscapes. Here you can see some of the greats from the Hudson River School including Frederick Church and Thomas Cole.

Although I was disappointed at first with the temporary closing of the American Wing Painting Galleries, I still left fully enriched by seeing some old favorites in a new light...literally.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Powdered Graphite & Denatured Alcohol

With the upcoming portrait drawing workshop on August 14th, I am posting part my recent correspondence with Gary Brookins, the cartoonist from the syndicated comic strip “Shoe”. Here you will find a brief description on how I use powdered graphite and denatured alcohol in my drawings.

Gary Brookins to Paul
Hi Paul-

I came across your work on your Web site several months ago, and really liked what you're doing . . . very nice work. I am especially intrigued by your pencil portraits, and was wondering if you can give me a brief description of your process? How you mix the washes? What brushes do you use to apply them? Are they put on before or after your "drawing" stage with pencils? Which leads do you use (2H, HB, 2B, 4B, etc.) Anyhow, I'm planning on taking your one day workshop in Raleigh in November. But I would like to try some of your techniques before them, if you don't mind passing them along. (Many years ago, I did a lot of graphite drawing, often spending a hundred hours or more on a drawing.)

You can look at some of my work at:

Thanks, Paul.
Gary Brookins

Paul W. McCormack to Gary

The process is difficult to describe without writing a short book. I love "Shoe", so let's give it a shot.

Washes are mixed with denatured alcohol and powdered graphite. Cretacolor powdered graphite works the best as it's more forgiving...DO NOT buy Generals. Using a watercolor palette and some old watercolor brushes the graphite is diluted with the alcohol and applied in the same way as a watercolor glaze. Be sure to test the value first on a piece of scrap. You can tell the wash is dry when the yellow tinge of the alcohol is gone. Using a large flat wash brush you then brush off the excess graphite, this will even out the tone.

The above is done after a fairly tight line drawing has been executed. Paper of choice is Strathmore 3 ply Bristol plate 400 or 500 series. The heavy ply will keep your surface from buckling.

Using the powdered graphite my washes are built up to a light, halftone and dark. This begins with the simplification of light and shadow splitting the form at the bedbug line. My darkest darks are then established with a Nero pencil. This pencil has a bit a charcoal added to the graphite achieving a much darker dark than a 6B graphite.

Now that I have my darkest dark and lightest light (the white of the paper) established I proceed to render with graphite pencils. I use a range from 4H to 4B being careful not to press too hard. Too much pressure or too many layers will give the surface a shine and uneven finish.

Hope to see you at one of my workshops.


Gary Brookins to Paul

Thank you for your response. And in much less than a short book, you described the process perfectly, where even a cartoonist could understand it! I'll let you know how it works for me.

I would love to take the three day workshop in August, but I don't think I can fit anything else into my schedule . . . we have several big things going on up through September, and it's doubtful I can squeeze anything else in. However, if things change in the next couple of weeks, and it looks like I can do it, I'll get in touch. Otherwise, I will be taking the one in Raleigh in November.

Thanks, Paul. I appreciate your help.


Daughter of Hope

Daughter of Hope
Pencil - 36" x 23"

Abby Rose

Abby Rose
Graphite & White Charcoal on Toned Paper - 20" x 16"