Monday, October 28, 2013

Ife - Yoruba Portrait Sculpture

Today, I decided to highlight some art I found particularly inspring. The Yoruba city of Ife in West Africa was the birthplace of a particularly incredible series of portrait sculptures in the 12th-14th century AD. I find it particularly interesting that a tradition of highly skilled naturalist sculpture developed independently from the Western Greco-Roman tradition. Evidently an interest in depicting people and things as they are is not necessarily unique to the West.

Head, Possibly a King - terracotta
Ife King - bronze
Mask with Vertical Line Facial Markings - terracotta
King Obalufon II - copper
The Yoruba artistic tradition was centered around the concept of àṣẹ, the source of divine power that runs through all things on Earth. The head (orî) is considered to be the center of the àṣẹ in human beings. This philosophical understanding is the basis for the varied and exceptional sculpture of the Yoruba kingdom.

The concept of the inner and outer head is also a central feature of the Yoruba portrait. These images above are sculptures completed in the city of Ife, following the depiction of the outer head (its naturalistic physiognomy). The city of Ife was particularly proficient during the period of the 13th to 15th century in creating highly naturalistic sculpture work, possibly by a handful of artists working in a close-knit setting.

Yoruba portrait sculpture can also be highly symbolic to better depict the inner head in its metaphysical state - here I have only posted the naturalistic "outer head" sculptures due to their visual accessibility to us. In the sculpture of King Obalufon II, it is interesting to note that the purity of the copper (96.8-99.7%) surpasses the sculptures of Ancient Greece, Rome, the Italian Renaissance and Chinese bronze casters. (Blier)

Although we do not have a great understanding of who these artists were or their technical process, their work speaks for itself and crosses time and space to reach artists and art appreciators. I hope you can appreciate it.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Studio Visit

Recently a few students and I had the opportunity to visit the studio of Joshua LaRock, Michael Klein, and Brandon Beckstrom. We were in for a real treat. Rodrigo and I came over to see Michael's paintings  before they were to be shipped out for a show to SR Brennen Galleries while Jessica and Charlie came to see some of Joshua's recent finished portrait commissions before they will be shipped out overseas. Being there felt a little like what the public must have experienced at one of those Salon de Paris exhibitions during the 19th century, just one gorgeous painting after the other, one on top of the next. What a group of talented and skilled artists. I have to admit, we all left feeling very inspired that day.

Rodrigo Mateo, Michael Klein, Brandon Beckstrom, Charlie Mostow, Jessica Artman, Leeanna Chipana, Joshua LaRock, and Tom LaRock

Floral painting by Michael Klein

"Beauty Veiled" by Michael Klein

"Studio table with Flower and Glasses" by Michael Klein

Always the consummate entertainer Brandon doesn't miss a chance to make the group laugh. Here he poses playfully with the studio skeleton. Talented and funny? Ladies watch out!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Friday Afternoon

Last Friday, our model unfortunately fell ill - sometimes nature doesn't agree with the quotidian schedule of the academy. Without our regular model, many students left and worked on other projects. Our teacher in the figure room that afternoon was Scott Waddell.

 There were four of us by the time we asked our fellow classmate, Audrey, to sit for us. Scott joined in and drew alongside us, and we ended up spending an enjoyable afternoon sketching Audrey and proselytizing upon such diverse topics as the existence of mermaids to the contemporary state of art and everything in between. Three hours can't go by much quicker, nor pleasantly.

Scott Waddell
Jon Brogie
Rebecca Gray
Connor de Jong

Thursday, October 10, 2013

September Works from the Core Program

Here are some of the works from last month - all by core students.

Niki Covington

Niki Covington

Zoe Dufour

Will Jones

Shihwen Wu

Jon Brogie

Liz Beard

Liz Beard

Liz Beard

Mark Popple

Niki Covington

Rebecca Gray

Sarah Bird

Sarah Bird

Jon Brogie

Jon Brogie

Jessica Artman

Grant Perry

Grant Perry

Devin Cecil-Wishing

Connor de Jong

Audrey Rodriguez

Patrick Byrnes

Alexandro Berrios

Allison Parker

Allison Parker

Anthony Baus

Anthony Baus

Athena Kim

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


 by Anthony Baus

 figure drawing by Rebecca C. Gray 

This exercise begins with a fully rendered figure drawing. Construction of the background adheres to rules of linear perspective, creating an environment of a scale relative to the chosen scale of the figure.

The first step is to decide on the height of your figure using either the model’s actual height or a chosen height, I went with her actual height which was 5’6”. The units were divided as such and placed on a vertical to the left indicating one foot increments. The units were also placed on the horizontal ground line at her feet. All objects equidistant as the figure from the picture plane can be measured by these units both vertically and horizontally. Any objects forward or beyond the ground line will adhere to units receding or projecting from the ground line via the central vanishing point. The horizon line was set by eye level when the figure was drawn from life.

A station point (my distance from the picture plane) is decided upon, dictating the visual incline of the ground plane. The further away the station point the flatter the incline. I proceed to construct a grid on the ground using basic 2 pt. perspective and plot my original one foot units back into space. I try to place as many units back into the space as needed depending upon how deep the space will be. You will see that the further back you go the closer the units become, rendering them indecipherable in which case judgment by eye will help you most when placing objects at further distances. Use of the central vanishing point is used to locate larger distances even deeper into the space.   

This environment basically consists of three objects: a candelabra with goat heads, a figural flagpole base (both actual objects located at the New York Public Library), and a turtle.  These objects have been multiplied to showcase the potential depth of a picture and remind the artist of their power of illusion. By simplifying these objects into basic geometrical shapes they can now easily be plotted on the grid and can be pushed around the space as needed.

A - footprint of acanthus leaf bowl atop candelabra
B - footprint of model's forearm

I begin with the foreground candelabra which is carefully placed so that the figure’s arm rests on the front of the acanthus leaf bowl atop. This was done by locating the arm’s footprint on the ground as well as the candelabra’s footprint and proceeding to construct accordingly.

The geometry of the tilted candelabra on the right was figured by 2pt. perspective operations along a vertical trace using basic vanishing and measuring points. The upper left corner of my picture has the geometry for the flag pole base. It is multiplied and pushed deeper into the space using the central vanishing point and measuring points.  The turtle exists in the middleground and background by simple use of the central vanishing point, indicating it’s height and width at any given depth in the space.

With the geometry of our objects carefully planned out we can now proceed with drawing them within their given geometrical boundaries, being sure to place our easels the same distance in relation to the object as indicated in the drawing. Sometimes this may be difficult as in the case with the tilted candelabra and high up flagpole base. As for the former I was lucky enough that it was raised off the ground allowing me to sit below it and close in order to achieve its illusion. The same goes for the flagpole base which is not as high off the ground as my picture indicates. When setting up my easel I imagine drawing a line from my eye at the station point to the object and positioning myself along that line of sight, allowing to adjust the easel accordingly.

Shadows were constructed as the final step in the process.  Knowing the angle and bearing of the original light source used when drawing the model was considered in figuring the overall light effect. This will however be a subject for a future blog post!

Anthony Baus is a fourth year student. This past summer he co-taught a perspective workshop
with Sam Wisneski, Perspective Drawing Workshop: Beginning to Applied. GCA will be offering
a perspective class this spring as well as another workshop this summer. Stay tuned for our upcoming

Monday, October 7, 2013

Better than Ever: Coney Island's Resilience Mural

Recently I spoke to Jeremy del Rio who co-founded and directs 20/20 Vision for Schools, a movement to transform public education that launched in New York City in 2008. His organization services under-resourced communities by affecting them in a positive and lasting way. Since the summer 20/20 Vision for Schools has been collaborating with GCA's own Sam Wisneski and the local community. Together they are creating a large-scale mural at a public school in Coney Island hard hit by hurricane Sandy.  PS329, also known as "The Surfside School," sustained approximately $1 million in damages during the storm. The mural is part of the community's post-Sandy recovery efforts.

Water Street Atelier Alumni and GCA instructor Sam Wisneski directs volunteers.

First, the wall is prepped before drawing and painting takes place.

Volunteers transfer Sam's drawing using a grid.

Close up of grid transfer.
The Process:
In May students were asked to submit design ideas on the question "How do you help a neighborhood in need." Faculty and parents read the submissions and identified themes that emerged. As artistic director, Sam Wisneski used these to create a composite design. With the assistance of hundreds of volunteers including students and parents, the design was transferred to the wall using a grid. Next, the base-coat of color was added. 

Jeremy, expressing admiration in Sam's stylistic range said "Although they (murals) are departures from his realistic work, his classical training gave him a perspective on how to scale a project like this which in hindsight was how to handle a project this size."

Skilled Artists Needed to Volunteer

Skilled artists are very much needed right now during the final stages of the mural. Artists will be asked to supervise and coach non-skilled volunteers along the way,  and to help with the finishing work on the finer parts of the mural that require a higher level of competence such as facial features and shading.

When to go? Anytime Monday through Friday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. and Saturdays 9 - 5 p.m through October 19th. Skilled artists are encouraged to show up ready to paint.

Take the D, F, N, or Q to Coney Island/Stillwell Avenue and then either walk about 15 minutes down Mermaid Avenue or hop on Bus 74 until you get to West 30th Street and take a Left.  Before/after go for a walk on the Boardwalk, ride the Cyclone and/or get a Nathan’s Hot Dog! Send us a pic!

PS 329 School Yard
2929 West 30th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11224

Read more about the "Better than Ever: Coney Island's Resilience Mural"by clicking here.

More than 150 volunteers have had a hand in executing Coney Island’s Resilience Mural.
Jeremy says his group envisions doing more for schools for a number of reasons. One reason is that he believes that co-creating something like a mural is beautiful, offering a "cross-pollination" for stake holders in a community. The mural  itself becomes a metaphor with a significant message to populations that come from difficult circumstances.  Every dollar his organization receives provides the opportunity for projects like this to come to life.

To donate to 20/20 Visions Schools please click here.
To learn more about opportunities for artists click here to contact Jeremy del Rio.

Later this Week...

Stay tuned for more images of the mural in its final stages and my interview with Sam Wisneski where we discuss more of the artistic process behind the creation of this large-scale mural.