Sketches from the Art Institute

Amy is my classmate from the painting studio. Amy and I have been going to the Chicago Art Institute and drawing statues. And an odd painting. Statues are wonderful models – they keep a pose, don’t get tired and never complain! They don’t throw tantrums or hissy fits and are always on time – very professional. Amy and I have been drawing like this for the last month. I have many complaints about Chicago – weather… parking… you name it… The Art Institute is not a part of this list – it is a true blessing!

Here are results from several sessions (click on a thumbnail to see it larger):

1. A head from the Indian gallery (stone) and a figure from Early American Classics gallery (marble). I forgot to take notes whose head and figure are these.

2. Aphrodite of Knidos (marble) – a copy of a Roman 4th century statue

3. Nydia, the Blind Flower Girl of Pompeii 1858 (marble)

4. Solitude of Soul, Lorado Taft, 1914 (marble) – my very first male nude.

5. Solitude of Soul, Lorado Taft, 1914 (marble) – female. I am just wondering why is this composition called “Solitude” if there are four figures in it?… I’ve sketched two so far.

6. The Lute Player, Gentileschi, 1612-1620 (oil). I got tired and skipped the actual lute… oh well… fabric folds and drapery were hard enough. We really wanted to sketch from Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus, I hoped to do that foreshortened arm. But the painting wasn’t in the Caravaggio’s gallery, must have gone back to London, it was on loan here. The Lute Player was there in its place, so we did that.

I am getting better at it, and faster as well. Practice seems to be the key. As usual.

Graphite in my sketchbook.


21 thoughts on “Sketches from the Art Institute

  1. Alex.These are wonderfully fun.I am drawn to the “Lute Player”. I see some cross contour along her back and left shoulder and thigh that give her a little bulk as well as an outline. One place to be able to capture people is at the library. One can usually find them reading in a chair or at a table and it can lead to some interesting drawings. Nice post and I envy you having the Art Institute! Excellent post. Thank-you for this vision! 🙂

    • Thank you, Leslie! The Lute Player came out the best of them all, it was also the last one I did – I am getting the hang of it :). Also the 3D to 2D conversion was already solved for me in this one, so it was easier. She was so wonderfully plump, I looked in my friend’s book, and her girl was coming out regular body weight, so I really tried to preserve the plumpness. I can’t always do this at will yet and am very happy I managed.

      What is “cross contour”? I had no idea I was doing that! Is it something bad? Should I not say these words in front of my mother? LOLjust kidding

  2. Alex, your drawings are done with great skill and care. Like you I like to draw in a museum. It is quiet (if you are lucky) and you can draw things you could never do at home. I would prefer to work from a statue rather than a photograph. Great work! Linda

    • Thank you, Linda! Care – yes, I worked very hard on these. Skill – not yet, but I feel that they are getting a little better with each new drawing. My hands and feet are really pathetic so far, but I am working on it. Statues are indeed a great learning experience, I get to draw from photos a lot, the difference is amazing. Come and visit, we will go drawing together! Seriously, drop me a note if you are planning to come to Chicago and have some time for a museum.

    • Hi Arifur! Thank you for your interest in my work. I am honored by your request to publish it in your magazine. My decision is not clear to me yet, I am only a student and haven’t thought about marketing or publishing yet. I will need a little more time to think about it. Could you tell me why this work is of interest to you? These are definitely not cartoons, how do they fit into the tOOns MaG context?

    • Oh, Carol, I have a story for you. I have been terribly intimidated to draw in public, even through I wanted to draw in a museum for a long time. I would go to a museum and carry my sketchbook in my bag, and then leave without taking it out. It was an impossible thing to do. Until this one Tuesday I came to the Art Institute, my sketchbook safely in my bag like many times before, and discovered a crowd of second or third graders in the Impressionists gallery. It was a field trip, teachers hovering strategically in the background. The kids were sitting cross-legged or lying on the floor, copying from Monet, and Degas, and Cezanne, pushing and laughing, having a great time. When I wanted to see their drawings, they rushed to show me their stick trees and circles of fruit and see-through bug-eyed people with pride and joy and generosity. They thought they were producing masterpieces, and they were right. I felt envious, I wanted to have this much fun and joy as well. And then I realized that nobody is stopping me, but the voice in my head. So I went to a nearby gallery that was empty at the time and got my sketchbook out. An hour later, when I had my first sketch, I realized that no-one had paid me any attention – I was just another person sketching a statue. And that was the story of me starting to sketch in public. I am still not brave enough to sketch in a cafe or a library, but I am over the first barrier.

      I hope you will get over your fear and hesitation soon. There’s no-one stopping you. That voice in your head is no good.

  3. Thanks Alex, great story which I appreciate very much. I will try and take your advice. Unfortunately there are many voices in my head and they are all yelling at me!


  4. You have done a great job.
    I like a lot to admire beautiful statues.In France are many…every castle has few statues that are made in an original and beautiful way.
    Your drawings are magnificent.
    I wait next one 😉

    Enjoy the moment!!! 🙂

    • Thank you, Alina! I am glad you liked them. I remember seeing a lot of wonderful sculpture when I was in Paris some years ago. I have to come back to France and draw them. That would be great :).

    • Thank you, Ryan! After portraiture figure interests me the most. It also seems to be harder, but perhaps it only seems so because I am only starting it. More practice is needed ;).

  5. These are very enjoyable sketches. Even though the figure isn’t all that high up on my list of “Things I Most Enjoy Drawing” (the top two being portraiture and comics), I always find the way others depict the human form interesting for the technical aspect of it: there are so many lighting combinations and style possibilities available to the artist, as well as the various positions.

    The way you draw the shadows is interesting, it looks like some kind of hatching, very classic.

    Oddly enough, despite the fact that I usually get really nervous and weird in public (I’m EXTREMELY reclusive), I find it to be really fun and relaxing to sketch people around me in class or elsewhere. Everyone who notices seems to love it, for some reason.

    I also decided to try something I’ve seen you do on here: my next drawing is 8×8″, with an unusual crop.

    • Hi Sam! I want to say something about you being “reclusive”. We never met in person, as you know, but I have a sense that you are a lot less reclusive and introverted than you make yourself sound like. I think you tagged yourself with “reclusiveness” and now are living into it. That’s is totally fine if this is your choice, but I think you are too intelligent to overlook this distinction. I personally find you an open and generous person and relate to you as such.

      I am so pleased you liked my sketches. I think they rather shaky, but I would think that, wouldn’t I?… I don’t know what is my list of most enjoyable things to draw yet, so I am trying everything, but I know what I want the most to learn – portrait is #1 and figure is directly after that. I had no idea my hatching was “classic” – yay! I just needed to do something dark around my figures to suggest that they are white marble. Another artist friend commented on this post that she liked my cross contours – I had no idea I was doing cross contours, I didn’t know what it was, LOL. I just drew whatever marks that made sense at the time. Amazing how much there is to learn!

      I am looking forward to your new square cropped work. Isn’t 8×8″ a little too small for you? I, on the other hand, am planning to go bigger – a quarter sheet for my next painting, if I won’t scare myself off…

      • A quarter sheet is 11×15″, right? That’s quite large; I believe the biggest drawing I’ve done was 12×15″ (don’t much care for how it came out but it was with an unfamiliar medium – Russian Sauce). I’d imagine that that’ll be a great size for your painting as far as doing details are concerned. I know that on the rare occasion that I whip out the oil paints, I prefer canvases that are at least 12×16″. Good luck with that, I still haven’t got up the nerve to try watercolor any larger than 9×12″.

        My “standard size” is 9×12″ for anything except oil paintings. The largest graphite drawing I’ve done was 11×14 and it took too long, IMO, but there was no way I could have fit in details on anything smaller for that particular one (the nude women holding up the bedsheet). Basically all I did was crop a photo down to 8×8 and cut out the excess. It seems to be coming along quickly.

        As far as reclusiveness is concerned… you’re right with your observation, I’m actually fairly friendly after I’m familiar with someone, it’s just that I’m very uncomfortable around strangers or crowds. In a group of a few acquaintances, I’m completely at ease. I prefer staying home most of the time.

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