Art School Part 1

St. Paul at his Writing Desk is a perfect spot to begin a discussion of painting. Remembrandt goes no where without his "Chiaroscuro" (key-yerdo' skey-erdo) shadow following. Chiarscuro is just a fancy word for dramatic lighting. It's really the best way to teach drawing or capturing likeness. Most Figure Drawing classes will offer you an abundance of Chiaroscuro examples and a bunch of other gimmicky things that end up teaching you things you need to forget, like view finders and contour lines. For now, we'll stick with Chiarscuro.

To draw or paint successfully as a beginner you have to learn to unlearn yourself. You can spend a life time doing this. Picasso was quoted saying something along the lines of, "I spent my entire childhood learning how to draw like an adult and then spent the rest of my life trying to remember how to draw like a child." Cy Twombly and Antonio Tapies can help you with this endeavor. To draw a persons face, or body you must, must unlearn what an everything looks like. As soon as you catch yourself drawing a football shaped oval for an eye, stop and ponder how well your own football shaped tool works. An eye doesn't look like that. Look at someones eye. Very rarely is there a complete differentiation of color surrounding the entire eye. Usually the colors come close to blurring towards the top inner section of the eye and the lower outer section of the eye.

How does chiaroscuro help you do this? If you can dramatically light your own face with a flashlight or a models face with some form of dramatic light (turn all the lights off except one over the models head) you will automatically think of Metallica's Enter Sandman video. While humming "take my hand, offff to neva neva land Doom da do da doom" look at the person's face or body like you would a landscape. From far away you can not tell whether the flowers on the mountain are roses or lilies, you can only see vague colors and shapes. Egon Schiele was rumored to have taken some lessons from Auguste Rodin in regards to drawing landscapes and humans. His advice was actually just the opposite. When drawing landscapes walk around them as you would a figure. Thats all your looking for with Chiaroscuro. When drawing, I'm always picturing a 90 degree angle and configuring it with the shape I see in front of me. That helps to take away a lot of what I've been taught.

In Remebrandt's painting there are a couple of interesting things going on. One of the signature marks of a Remebrandt painting is the single light source usually above the model. This picture is somewhat unique in that it uses a double light source. I like the light that seems to be coming more from the work than the desk. Both sources have Divine implications. There's a good example of the dramatic effects that Remembrandt was known for, because the light coming from the table would reflect more brightly on his face than showing. It's more dramatic than accurate. The wooden divider helps to justify this. The emphasis, or the brightest spots of the painting are the book he is writing in and his head. This is a subject every writer and artist come to at some point. The translation from idea to thought, from thought to word, or word to hand or color to brush or pregnant head to drawn conception, is always, on the head of them (that sounded better in my head).

I just thought I'd add this picture drawn by Rene Descartes a couple of years after Remembrandts painting.