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I have written about the benefits of small plein air painting and how and why it can help improve color observation skills. Suppose you are totally convinced and would like to give it a try or you simply love to paint outdoors, what should you bring? Sure, you can probably load as much gear as you want into your car if you’re driving. But what about plein air painting during your travel or hiking? Over the years, I have traveled extensively and painted wherever I go. The gear I carry with me are pretty much the same. I have listed them below in case you’re interested. Please note that this supply list is specific for small plein air paintings ( 5 x 7 inches). However, my supplies are pretty similar for medium size plein air paintings. The only difference is that I will use an easel instead of a paint box and larger size canvas boards.

List of supplies

Small paint box, paintbrushes, palette knife, easel, masking tape and of course, oil colors – these are all indispensable.

Paint

These are the oil colors that I usually use for mini-landscapes.

The brands shown here are Rembrandt, Winsor & Newton and Old Holland.

In order from right to left: Titanium White, Cadmium Yellow Lemon, Perm Yellow, Medium Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna, Cadmium Red Light, Permanent Red Deep, Alizarin Crimson Lake Extra, Permanent Mauve, Ivory Black, Outremer Violet, Ultramarine Deep, Severe Blue, Prussian Green, Oxide of Chromium, Talens Green Light and Stilde GrainBrown.

Palette

How the oil colors are laid out on the palette.

Brown is sometimes squeezed in between Raw Sienna and Cadmium Red.

Paintbrushes

Mini-landscapes often use up to 5 to 6 brushes per painting. The red round-tip brush on the far right uses badger hair while the blue brush next to it uses mink. The small flat brush on the far left is made from badger hair while the one with the silver stem uses nylon. The third brush from the right is a flagged tip pig’s bristle brush (it’s become blunted through much use.)

Painting Medium

The painting medium I usually use is similar to sesame oil. It dries slightly quicker than linseed oil and if you leave it on a windowsill it becomes more transparent over time (sun bleaching.)

Left: Talens; Right: Driebergen. Both are produced in the Netherlands.

Canvas panels

Two panels can be fitted into the easel, one on top of the other. Small widgets separate the two so the oil colors don’t interfere with each other.

Oil painting canvas glued onto thin plywood with PVC glue.

Three-Legged Stool

 

For information on video lessons on plein air painting, please click here.

Other posts you may be interested:

How to paint small plein air landscape – a step-by-step guide

The secret to color training – small plein air landscape

The post What to bring on a plein air painting trip? appeared first on Yim Maukun.

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I’ve been meaning to write about my friendship with Chen Yifei for a number of years. I put off putting pen to paper however because he had just passed away and it may give the impression of trying to ride on his coattails. Now is a slightly better time to write about it.

好幾年前我就想寫一寫我與陳逸飛的一段交往,但遲遲未動筆,因為陳逸飛去世不久,不好讓人以為我有攀附之心,今天再來寫就可以輕鬆一點了。

Chen Yi-Fei was a household name towards the end of the Cultural Revolution. Red Flag, a Communist Party magazine published by the central government, took the unprecedented step of including his portrait in gouache of Jin Xunhuaas a full-color insert. The painting was an ode to the heroism of Jin Xunhua, an educated youth sent to the countryside. Jin had become a martyr saving timber at a forestry station during mountain floods. Later on, Chen worked with Wei Jinshan and others on a number of original large oil paintings such as Take the Presidential Palace. For a while, his fame surpassed that of the “Four Kings” in Guangdong Province.

Taking the Presidential Palace, oil on canvas, Chen Yifei and Wei Jingshan

陳逸飛在文革的晚期名聲如日中天,共產黨中央機關刊物《紅旗》雜誌以絕無僅有的高姿態插頁彩印他的一張人物水粉畫:《金訓華》,這是一幅歌頌下鄉知識青年金訓華在山洪暴發中奮不顧身地搶救林場木材而英勇犠牲的畫作。在那前後他與魏景山等人又創作多幅大型油畫如:《攻佔總統府》,他的名聲一時蓋過了廣東省的所謂「四大天王」(伍啟中,張紹誠,招熾挺,陳衍寧)。

In 1977, I went to Shanghai to view the “Exhibition of French Country Landscape Paintings.” Before I set off, Liang Junli, a good friend and fellow student at the affiliated high school took me to meet Peng Ning. They had studied at the Beijing Film Academy together. Peng’s father was a general who passed away before the Cultural Revolution. At the time, Peng and Bai Hua were working together on the movie script for Unrequited Love so he was a long-term guest at the Yingbin Hotel in Guangzhou. Peng Ning knew Chen Yifei so he recommended me to his friend Xue Jing from the Department of Directing at Shanghai Film Academy and told me to look up Xue in Shanghai. Peng Ning was a tall man with the forthright attitude typical of Northerners. He was really enthusiastic about the script, and even showed off some of the plot and lines on the spot. The political atmosphere at the time meant such “scar” literaturereally took some courage. When Unrequited Lovewas released, all the accolades seemed to have gone to Bai Hua with little attention given to Peng Ning. (Unrequited Lovewas originally titled The Road Stretches Away; Peng Ning passed away about a decade ago in his sixties.)

一九七七年我到上海去參觀「法國農村風景畫展覽」,行前,我的附中同學、好朋友梁君令帶我去見梁在北京電影學院時的同學彭寧,彭的父親是將軍,文革前去世,這時他正與白樺寫電影文學劇本《苦戀》,長住在廣州《迎賓館》。彭寧也認識陳逸飛,他特別為我推薦了上海電影學院導演系的一位朋友薛靖,讓我到上海找他。彭寧身材高大,有北方漢子的豪氣,那時他正興致勃勃地撰寫劇本,並當場揀出一些精彩的情節和字句而面帶得意,以那時的政治氣氛來說這種「傷痕」文學還很需一點勇氣。後來《苦戀》發表,以乎都歸功於白樺而冷落了彭寧。(《苦戀》最早名為《路在腳下延伸》;彭寧十年前去世,時約60歲)

I went to meet with Xue Jing once I arrived in Shanghai. Xue had a very youthful face and was always smiling. He first took me to see Zhao Dan but Zhao wasn’t home, so I only met his wife Huang Zhongying. He then took me to Bai Yang’s house, a small two-story villa with its own courtyard. The building was looking a little abandoned and desolate by then. Bai Yang and Zhao Dan were both famous actors. Her movies River of My Love and Mistress Xiang Linpractically defined the Chinese movies of the Forties and Fifties. The Bai Yang I met was a kind old lady whose every gesture and every smile felt so cultured. Such cultural sophistication was something new to a props artist from a grassroots theater troupe like me.

我到上海後先見到薛靖,薛靖一張娃娃臉,臉上總帶笑容,一路上他先帶我去見趙丹,但趙丹不在家,只見到趙丹夫人黃宗英,跟著他又帶我去白楊家,那是一座有庭院的兩層樓的小洋房,花園、建物已然有些荒蕪殘敗,顯露出少許的凄涼。白楊與趙丹都是赫赫有名的電影演員,她的《一江春水向東流》與《祥林嫂》幾乎就代表那個四、五十年代的中國電影。我眼前的白楊,一位和靄、慈祥的老太太,一個手勢、一個淺笑無不透露出文化人的修養。對於我這樣工作在底層小劇團的美工來說真是一種文化教養的新發現。

That night, Xue Jin took me to see Chen Yifei.

I don’t remember which street Chen’s house was in though I recall going up to the second floor. There were two groups of guests that night. The group that arrived before us was the Xinjiang oil painter Ghazi Ahrned and two other youths. When it was our turn, we just chatted in general and I suspect neither side left much of an impression on each other that night.

晚上,薛靖帶我去見陳逸飛。

陳逸飛家我記不得在什麼街,只隱約記得有上二樓,當晚就有兩幫訪客,我們前邊是新疆油畫家哈茲和兩青年,輪到我們也是一般性的聊聊,我想,雙方都沒有留下什麼印象。

A year later, an exhibition of Romanian artists was held in Beijing and Shanghai. The exhibition featured Nicolae Grigorescuand Corneliu Bababoth of whom were great masters whose fame and popularity had already reached as far as China. Yu Zesheng had just graduated from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts and had been assigned to a post back in Zhaoqing so we went off to Shanghai together. When we boarded the train in Guangzhou, we just happened to share the carriage with painters from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts including Tang Xiaoming, Lin Yong, Chen Yanning, Wang Yujue, and Wu Qizhong. It was a gathering of crème de la crème of contemporary Chinese artists. When the train arrived in Hangzhou, they got off to visit the Zhejiang Academy of Art. They naturally took us along with them to see the “Legacy of Pan Tianshou Exhibition” and seminar… We got back on the train to continue our journey to Shanghai the next day.

又隔了一年,在北京、上海舉辦了羅馬尼亞畫展,此展有格里哥萊斯庫和柯內留‧巴巴,都是中國早有與聞而令人喜愛的大師。當年,我與剛從廣州美術學院畢業分配工作回肇慶的余澤生結伴趕赴上海。在廣州上火車時正巧與省畫院的畫家們坐同一車箱,湯小銘林墉陳衍寧、王玉玨、伍啟中……真是一時多少豪傑!車到杭州,他們下車要去浙江美術學院參觀,自然把我倆也捎上,看「潘天壽遺作展」,座談……第二天上火車繼續去上海。

The delegation of top painters from Guangzhou Academy were naturally given “special treatment” once they reached Shanghai. They were personally welcomed at the station by Chen Yifei. Chen was the deputy director of Shanghai’s Office of Oil Paintings and Sculptures by that time. He was shaking hands with everyone when he realized that I was in the group too! I hastily explained to him that I just happened to be on the same train as the others (they were all fellow students and old friends I knew well though). When we walked out of the train station, Chen greeted the others then came over to chat with me, much to the surprise of others from the Guangzhou Academy: How come Yim Muukun knows Chen Yifei so well? There was a lot of surprised murmuring and his enthusiasm surprised me as well. After he settled the delegation in at Heping Hotel, Chen turned me to say: “Come and have dinner at my place tonight. Just you and me.” He then gave me the address and instructions on what bus to take.

這載著廣東畫院滿是精英的參觀團一抵上海,「規格」自是不同,來接車的就是陳逸飛,陳那時是上海油畫、雕塑工作室的副主任了,在一一握手之際,陳突然發現我竟也列隊其中!我趕忙向他解釋剛好與省畫院同車而已(當然這些人都是同學、老友,也再熟不過了)。我們步出火車站,陳逸飛與他們招呼過後就走到我身邊與我邊走邊談起來,一時引起省畫院的同志們的詫異:怎麼冉茂芹會與陳逸飛這麼熟絡?而在我們身後指指點點。其實,對於他的熱情我也不勝疑惑。他把他們安頓在「和平飯店」後轉頭對我說:今晚到我家吃飯,就你和我。再詳細交代了地址和公共汽車的乘坐路線。

When I arrived at his house that evening as agreed, his wife was already cooking away in the small kitchen downstairs and dinner was soon ready: I was invited to sit at the small round table in the kitchen. Mrs. Chen had cooked a few dishes herself and they looked quite appetizing. I was about to invite her to take a seat when she said that she had eaten already and went upstairs, leaving me with Chen Yifei. He filled a small glass with liquor and said that this was one of the rare occasions that he invited a guest to eat at his home. I naturally appreciated the high regard he had of me. As the conversation went on, I asked him in a round-about manner why I was treated so differently on this visit. Chen seemed to have expected this and said when Xue Jing brought me here last year, he thought I was just an ordinary regional or prefectural-grade art cadre from Guangdong. At the end of last year (or in early 1979), he saw my new oil painting Warrior Songon the inside cover of Guangdong Literature & Art (the monthly publication of the Guangdong Provincial Writers’ Association) and realized that I “had an exceptional talent for painting.” He then expressed his sincere apology to me for his poor hospitality last time. I was greatly moved by his gesture and we began corresponding by mail.

Warrior Song, oil on canvas, by Yim Mau-Kun

傍晚,我如約來到他家,他妻子正在樓下的小小廚房張羅菜飯,不一會就請我上桌了:這是廚房中的一張小圓桌,陳夫人親手炒了幾樣小菜,看那顏色蠻下飯的樣子,我正邀她入座,她笑說已吃過就上樓去了。就剩下我與陳逸飛倆人,他為我滿滿斟了一小杯白酒,告訴我這是極少有的在自家待客用餐,我當然很能體會他對我的一番特別情意。順著談話的意思我語氣委婉地問他何以今年與去年兩次唔面有顯然不同的待遇呢?陳似早有預料般告訴我,去年薛靖帶我來見他時,他只以為我是廣東地區、縣一級的一般美術幹部而已,去年底(或79年初)見到《廣東文藝》(當年廣東省作家協會月刊)封底裡刊印我的油畫新作《戰士的歌》,方才知道‘你的畫藝非比尋常’,知道上次待之不周。並深表遺憾且言辭懇切,令我大為感動。自此,我們開始了通信聯繫。

During this visit to Shanghai, Chen took time from his busy schedule to introduce me to Cheng Shifa and Zhu Qichuan. He even asked Master Zhu to paint me a few gourds and a length of gnarled vine. I was also taken to visit a few young painters in Shanghai as well.

這次到上海後的幾天陳於百忙中抽時間帶我去拜訪了程十髮、朱屺蟾,還請朱老當場為我畫了幾個葫蘆瓜和一絡老藤。又帶我去見一些上海青年畫家。

I don’t remember which month it was but at the start of 1980 I received a telegram that Chen Yifei sent from Shanghai asking me to meet him at Baiyun Airport in Guangzhou. When I picked Chen up from the airport, I learned that he had also sent a telegraph toChen Yanning. Yanning was away on business so I was the only one there. I used the few “coupons” (only coupons paid for with foreign currency were accepted at large hotels or for high-end imported consumer goods in China at the time) I had to secure a room for him at Dong Fang Hotel Guangzhou. I already knew from last year that he was going to the U.S. and he asked me if I wanted to sit for the exam for the first Master’s degree class to be offered by the Department of Oil Painting at the Central Art Academy after the Cultural Revolution. He said he knew Ye Jianying’sfamily so could help me out there. After he put his luggage away and freshened up, Chen ordered two servings of coffee, toast and fried eggs. From the way he ate, I noticed that Westerners used the back of the fork when eating fried eggs, and it made me realize with a start that his Shanghai background was totally different from a small country boy like me. Chen told me that the only way to get to America was to go from Shenzhen Port to Luofu. He then crossed over to Hong Kong and flew from there to America. He also said that he was going to make some money by painting a portrait or two in Hong Kong. One thing he said at the time really left a strong impression on me:

“There is no way that this ball ain’t going to bounce in America!”

一九八0年初,哪月記不起來了,我在肈慶接到陳逸飛發自上海的電報:請我去廣州白雲機場接機。我第二天趕到白雲機場,接到陳後才知道陳還電報陳衍寧,衍寧出差,只有我一人接機。我用僅有的一點「代用卷」(當時國內大型賓館、高檔進口消費品只收外幣兌換的代用卷)為他安排住在廣州《東方賓館》。我去年已知道他要到美國去,他還問過我要不要考文革後中央美院油畫糸第一屆碩士班,他認識葉劍英家的人,可以幫忙云云。行李收拾好,他盥洗完畢按鈴叫了兩客咖啡、烤土司麵包、煎蛋,我從他的用餐方式發現西式進餐吃煎蛋是用叉背的,猛然醒悟他的上海人背景,非我這小地方的人可比。他告訴我到美國去只能往深圳口岸過羅浮到香港再飛美國,另外,他也得先在香港畫畫肖像賺點錢。此間我印象最深刻的是他說了一句話:

我就不相信這顆球到美國彈不起來!

Chen did indeed bounce in America. He already told me in Guangzhou that he knew Armand Hammer, the CEO of Occidental Petroleum, and Hammer had promised to help. His first exhibition in America was indeed held at the “Hammer Gallery” in New York.

I accompanied him to the platform for the Shenzhen-Guangdong express train the next day and waved him goodbye.

確實的,他在美國彈了起來。在廣州時他也告訴過我與美國西方石油公司總栽韓默認識,答應幫忙,果然,他在美國第一次畫展就在紐約《韓默畫廊》。

第二天,我送他到深圳-廣州的直通火車站月台,揮手告別。

In September 1980 my application to travel to Taiwan to take care of my father’s funeral was approved. When I reached Hong Kong on a one-way permit, I got back in contact with Chen Yifei in America once more. He also sent me a Form I-20 for applying to the Art Student League of New York. The U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong did not give me a visa unfortunately. Shortly afterwards, he asked me to help him auction a large ink painting of plum blossoms by Wang Zhen, the “White Dragon Hermit”, a famous painter from Shanghai during the early Republican years. The auction was conducted through Sotheby’s in Hong Kong and the painting was sold for 14,000 HKD which I wired to him in full. We lost contact after that probably because he was so busy.

80年9月,我赴台辦理父親後事的申請獲得批准,持單程通行證抵香港,再次與時在美國的陳逸飛聯絡上,他還給我寄來《紐約藝術學生聯盟(學校)的入學表格(20 form),可惜美國駐港領事館沒有給我簽證。不久,他亦委託我幫他在香港蘇富比拍賣民國初年上海名家白龍山人王震的一幅大中堂墨梅,得款一萬肆仟港元全數寄了給他,此後,大概他太忙,我們的聯繫就中斷了。

Our next meeting was at the Art Taipei expo in the fall of 1996 when his exhibition area ended up right next to mine. His exhibits were large thick oil paintings of women in cheongsam holding a fan and ordinary people in Tibet. My exhibit was Night Waves on the Channel from my “Crossing of Taiwan Forefathers” series. Both of us had changed somewhat at our reunion in Taipei sixteen years later. The two of us – one from Shanghai and one from Hunan – continued to follow two distinct paths in life. He invited me to visit his personal exhibition that will be held at the National Art Museum of China in Beijing at the end of the year. I went and saw a beautiful violinist in a black dress performing in the foyer, a constant stream of senior figures from art circles, celebrities and high-ranking officials coming up to him to express their congratulations… I just stood there quietly looking at the paintings and also at Chen Yifei as he moved around among the social elite.

Chen Yifei and Yim Mau-Kun at 1996 International Art Expo in Taipei

直到一九九六年秋台北藝術博覽會,他的作品展覽區與我的展畫區緊鄰,他展的是厚塗顏料的巨幅執扇旗袍女郎和藏族百姓,我展出的是先民渡海之一:《海峽夜浪》。十六年後重逢於台北大家都很有些變化,兩個人,一個上海人,一個湖南人,仍然走著很不相同的人生道路。他邀我年底去北京參觀他在中國美術館的個展,我去了,看見展覽大廳前一襲襲黑衣黑裙的美女小提琴演奏,美術界的元老、名角和政界要人絡繹不絕地前來祝賀……我靜靜地看畫,遠遠地看看衣香鬢影中的陳逸飛……

After that, all word I had of him up until he passed away came by the way of auction news.

後來,我就只有在拍賣新聞中聽到他的消息了,直到他的遽然逝世。

The post Chen Yifei and Me appeared first on Yim Maukun.

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I am best known as an oil painter. But before I took the path down oil painting, I spent considerable time practicing Chinese ink painting. My experience with the East and West art systems over the years have yielded some interesting observations, one of them being similarities in principles between Chinese landscape paintings and Cubism pioneered by Picasso.

作爲一名畫家,可能大家最熟知的是我的油畫。但在我走上油畫的道路之前, 我花了相當多的時間在中國水墨畫上。多年來, 我在東西方藝術體系方面的經驗使我有一些有趣的觀察, 其中之一是中國山水畫和畢卡索立體主義原理上的相似之處。

The East and West are two distinct art systems. How then are Song-Yuan Dynasty landscapes related to Picasso and Cubism? Though they seem completely different at first, unusual associations emerge when we subject both to careful study and appreciation.

東方藝術與西方藝術是兩大體系,宋元山水怎麼會與畢加索、立體主義扯在一起呢?他們是風馬牛不相及的東西,但當我們細心地去研究和品味時,會發現兩者之間有著奇妙的相關之處。

The principle of Western Cubism is to take the external features of the subject as perceived from different angles then piece or assemble them together to create an artwork different from the actual subject. Picasso believed that artistic works can only be considered “creative” if they are different to what appears in nature. Almost all modern schools of art embrace this principle. An extension of this principle has produced a wide variety of new styles and artworks.

西方立體主義的原理是將從不同角度看到的物象的一部分,主要是具外型特徵的那部份,拼接、組合在一起,變成一件與真實物象不同的藝術品,畢加索認為藝術家筆下的作品要與自然界的物象不一樣,這才叫“創造”。幾乎所有現代藝術的各種流派都以這個理論作為原則的。以這個原理向外伸延而產生形形色色的新風格、新作品。

In China, great masters such as Li Sixun (李思訓) of the Early Tang Dynasty, Jing Hao (荊浩) and Guan Tong (關仝) of the Five Dynasties, Dong Yuan (董源) and Juran (巨然) of the Southern Tang Dynasty, Li Cheng (李成), Fan Kuan (范寬), Ma Yuan (馬遠) and Xia Gui (夏圭) of the Northern/Southern Song Dynasties as well as Huang Gongwan (黃公望) and Wang Meng continued to explore the boundaries of landscaping over time. The path of “learning from nature, exploration and creation” they found eventually grew into the Chinese landscape painting system. The brushes of the masters not only captured the majestic mountain ranges, high mountains and rushing rivers, unusual peaks and deep valleys of the north but also the winding rivers, green forests and misty sights of the south (Jiangnan). They may all differ in their outlines, shading techniques and brushwork but the same principles in composition and layout are followed throughout the entire Chinese landscape painting system. In other words, each scene is not limited to just one perspective. The landscape is a combination of observations made from the level distance, high distance and deep distance. It is not merely a copy of the scenery as seen through the camera lens either. Instead, the painting consists of real-world scenery that has been recreated within the mind of the painter. Such an approach has many similarities with the techniques of Cubism used by Picasso. Generations of artists have embraced this principle of not being bound by the actual scenery. Master Shi Tao (石濤) perfectly summarized this approach when he said “the painting of all unusual peaks serves as a rough draft.”

而中國的山水畫從盛唐的李思訓到五代的荊浩、關仝,南唐的董源、巨然,兩宋的李成、范寬、馬遠、夏圭,直到元代的黃公望、王蒙等等傑出大師不斷探索下,摸索到了一條“師法造化、搜妙創真”的道路,並形成了一個博大深厚的中國山水畫體系。在這些大師筆下有崇巒峻嶺、高山流水、奇峰深谷的北國風光,也有遠岫江渚、翠林掩映、煙雨空濛的江南景色。他們有各自不同的勾勒、渲染技巧與筆墨特徵,但就取景構圖、結構畫面的原則而言,中國山水畫的體系都是一樣的。就是說,在一個畫面中,不是以單獨的一個視點的焦點透視取景,而是以平遠、高遠、深遠等各種角度觀察山水所得而集於畫面,也絕對不是照相機鏡頭下風景的翻版,是真山真水在畫師心中重組後的創造物。與畢加索的立體主義方法頗有相似之處。這種不拘泥於此山此水和一草一木的作畫原理成為歷代畫家的準則,石濤大師所說“搜盡奇峰打草稿”就是這種方法的傳神寫照。在一千多年前中國的藝術家就懂得用這種“立體主義”方式來描繪山水風物,書寫胸中逸氣。

Whenever I visit the National Palace Museum in Taipei and stand in front of the painting Travelers Among Mountains and Streams by Fan Kuan, I am always moved by how the majestic mountains that rise from the ground, the waterfall plummets from up high, as well as the ancient woods and buildings. I could almost hear the mountain spring and the travelers’ chatter! The landscape painters of China created landscape paintings inspired by nature that becomes something more. The result is a unique sense of interest and aesthetic value in Chinese landscape paintings.

Fan Kuan, Travelers among Mountains and Streams

每當我在台北故宮博物院范寬的【谿山行旅圖】面前時,對著那壯氣奪人、拔地而起的山峰,飛流直下的瀑布,森然的古樹和樓宇,彷彿隱聞山泉、行旅的喧囂,無一次不震撼我的心靈!中國山水畫家們創造了一種既有真情實景,又更高於生活的風景畫,形成了中國山水畫自成體系的審美趣味和美學價值。

Something interesting emerges when we compare Song-Yuan Dynasty landscapes and the works of Picasso side by side. We see that neither present the actual subject of direct observation. Instead, a creative treatment has been applied. Their impact on the audience is completely different though: Most people don’t understand Picasso’s paintings. They may understand the principles of Cubism but may find it challenging to relate to it. Chinese landscapes produce a different response – we continue to believe what we see is real and can imagine ourselves “living, traveling and playing” within the painting. There is nothing jarring or discomfiting about the collage. Maybe this goes back to the philosophical difference between the West and the East – individuality and harmony. This difference between Eastern and Western arts is quite thought-provoking.

當我們將宋元山水與畢加索的作品放一起做比較那就很有趣了。不錯,他們呈現的都不是直接觀察下的真實之物,都做了創造性的處理,但在觀眾的眼中卻有截然不同的效果:畢加索的畫為大多數人所不解,即使瞭解他的立體主義作畫原理也還是難以引起共鳴。中國山水畫則不同,我們仍然相信畫面的真實感,而且可享受到“可居、可行、可遊”的意境。絲毫沒有拼湊起來的生硬感覺和不愉快。這大概是東西方藝術的不同之妙處。

The post Song-Yuan Dynasty Landscapes and Picasso appeared first on Yim Maukun.

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素描的長河

I was a student at the Affiliated High School of the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts in the early 1960s. When I first saw the drawings of the human form that Prof. Guo Shaogang (郭紹綱) brought back after studying in the Soviet Union as an exchange student, I was absolutely stunned! In the summer of that same year, I traveled to Beijing and visited the Xu Beihong Memorial Hall where I saw many of the original drawings made by the great master. Drawing has been my lifelong passion ever since. In the 1990s, I visited Europe and the U.S. There I gave particular attention to the drawings of Da Vinci, Raphael, Rembrandt, Ingres, Degas and Van Gough in the major art museums. I recently flew all the way to Russia to admire the great paintings by Chistyakov, Repin, Serov and Vrubel as well as the collection of the Repin Academy of Fine Arts. I feel as if I had followed in the foot steps of the great masters in taking cruise down the long river of drawing. The sights along the river are breathtaking to behold.

回憶起20世紀60年代初,我正在廣州美術學院附中唸書,當首次見到郭紹綱教授自蘇聯留學帶回的人體素描時,我真是受到了極大的震動!同年夏天又赴北京,參觀了徐悲鴻紀念館,目睹大師好多素描原作。從此,我就被素描深深地吸引住了。90年代,我先後赴歐洲、美國,在各大美術館中,特別留意了達.芬奇、拉斐爾、倫勃朗、安格爾、德加、凡.高的素描作品。最近,又遠飛俄羅斯,將契斯恰柯夫、列賓、謝洛夫、弗魯別爾及列賓美術學院陳列館中的優秀畫作一一拜讀。至此,我彷彿沿著大師們的足跡,遊覽了素描的長河,這長河兩岸景色綺麗,美不勝收。

I moved to Hong Kong twenty years ago then settled down in Taipei a few years after that. Due to popular demand and to make a living, I opened my teaching studio and became an educator. My work in art education over the years meant I accumulated many drawings and made some progress. Confucius was right when he said: “Isn’t there not joy in learning?” I at least enjoyed the exploration of drawing. In continuing to re-examine and think about Realist painting and the teaching of drawing over the years, I gained a better idea of my path in art and enriched my own mind as well.

20年前,我移居香港,幾年後定居台北,或為謀生或應眾要求而開設畫室,作畫之餘兼事教育。多年來斷斷續續的美術教育工作,使我累積了不少素描畫作,也有所長進。孔子曰“學而時習之,不亦樂乎”,真是一點不錯啊!我是樂在素描,至少,享受了素描探索的過程。在這些年,我對素描本身,對寫實繪畫和素描教學的種種再做檢視和思考,不僅清晰了藝術的道路,也深化了自己的思想。

I will briefly outline some challenges that I often come across for discussion.

The legacy of Western Realist painting.

It was not until the Italian Renaissance Period that Western painting evolved beyond two-dimensions with its planes and lines into the three-dimensions with solids, light and shadow that now characterize Western painting. This painting system was developed through the exploration of many artists and represents the cultural knowledge accumulated by mankind. In other words, it is not inborn knowledge. It must be taught and studied in a systematic manner. It cannot be easily obtained through so-called “genius” alone.

下面我將經常碰到的問題,作簡略性的敘述,以此與美術青年晤談。

西洋寫實繪畫的傳承。

西洋繪畫,發展到意大利文藝復興時期,才從平面、線性的二度空間方式進入到立體、光影的三度空間方式,並成為西方繪畫的主流型式。這一繪畫體系是由好多藝術家探索而形成的,是人類累積性的文化知識,也可以說是非先天性的知識,需要系統地傳授和學習,不能憑所謂“天才”輕易獲得。

Drawing is fundamental to painting.

For traditional Western painting this conclusion still holds true. The emergence of the Modernist school as well as the Impressionist efforts to develop human color perception from the 19thCentury onwards led to drawing being neglected at one point in European and American art education. Leaving the modern schools aside, drawing continues to be fundamental to Realist painting. It is in fact of the utmost importance because it solves all problems related to form outside of the color factors. Artists interested in Realism should keep this in mind.

素描是繪畫的基礎。

對於傳統西洋畫來說,這個結論仍然是對的。19世紀以後,因為現代派的興起和印象派對人類色感能力的開發,在歐、美的藝術教育中,素描一環受到忽略。現代諸流派不論,對於寫實繪畫,素描仍是基礎,是第一重要的,因為它解決了色彩因素外所有的造型問題。有志於寫實繪畫的青年絕不可以輕忽。

So what is in drawing?

Proportions, perspective, blocks and spaces are the essential elements of drawing. We study the relationship between these elements and explore how they fit together to define the bulk of objects and how they occupy space; we delve into the forms of art that give shape to this state such as lines, colors and brushwork. Applying all of the above to the depiction of structure and texture as well as expressions and psychology during the drawing of the human anatomy and characters represent an important topic in the study of drawing.

素描研究的內涵是甚麼?

比例、透視、體塊、空間等是素描的本質因素。研究這些因素之間的關係,探討這些因素如何“咬合”著體現物體的體積形及空間佔有的狀態;探索體現這種狀態的藝術形式:線條、色調和筆觸,並把這一切調動到人體素描、人物素描中對結構、質感以及表情、心理的刻劃上,是素描研究的重要課題。

Brutus, 28.7 x 21.6 inches, charcoal pencil on paper

Is sense or sensibility the more important during drawing?

The Russian art educator Chistyakov said that drawing is about sense though this mainly applies to color. Sense, analysis and comprehension are emphasized in drawing because ignorance of perspective and anatomy often leads to vacuity and weak compositions. Drawing is an art however so sensibility cannot be ignored either and must be applied throughout the drawing process. One must draw and sculpt. Making a study does not mean being “pedantic” about every detail. It is impossible for a “pedantic” artist to create oil paintings that feel like a painting and speak to the emotions.

寫實畫式微了嗎?

我親眼目睹世界各類美術館和畫廊中,大多數參觀者喜歡的畫還是寫實風格的,是他們看得懂的繪畫。但是,無可諱言,今天寫實畫的水平是大大低落了。原因是多方面的,照相機的過度使用是其中之一。照相機自19世紀中葉發明以來,對寫實西畫有重大的幫助,它作為對快速易逝的形象和細節的紀錄工具,於畫家不無助益,但是,卻往往限制了畫家想像力和概括力的發展。不少人依賴照相機的結果是生產了大量酷似照片的畫面,畫中充斥著不必要的細節。畫家不寫生了,“君王從此不早朝”,如此景象,令人不勝感慨!

Is Realism a dying art form?

I’ve seen with my own eyes how most visitors to art museums and galleries around the world still prefer paintings in the Realist style. They understand this kind of painting. One must admit to a great decline in the standard of Realist painting today. There are many factors at work and one of them is the over-use of the camera. The camera has been a boon to Realist painting in the West since it was invented in the mid-19thCentury. It provides painters with a very useful tool for recording ephemeral images and details. On the other hand, it often hampers the development of the painter’s own imagination and observation skills. The reliance of many people on the camera resulted in a flood of images that look like photographs. Such paintings are filled with unnecessary details. Like “a king who no longer bothers with morning audiences”, painters no longer bothered with plein-air painting. What a tragic state of affairs.

Erhu Player, 25.6 x 19.7 inches, pencil on paper

素描過程中理性與感性孰輕孰重?

俄國美術教育家契司恰柯夫說素描是理性的,這是相對色彩而言。素描偏重理性,偏重分析和理解。因為沒有透視、解剖知識的支撐,它常常會流於空泛和造型的鬆散。但是,素描既是藝術就離不開感性,而且要將感性貫通於素描的全過程。要畫出來,要塑造,不要將面面俱到的“死摳”當成是研究。因為,一個“死摳”而匠氣的素描者不可能畫出有感性、有畫味的油畫來。

A return to plein-air painting is the only way to correct this malaise of our time. Traditional drawing was based on plein-air painting of actual objects and the expression of three-dimensional objects on a two-dimensional canvas. This is quite different from transferring a flat photograph to another flat plane. Drawing also eliminates the color factor to maintain a certain distance from the actual object. Plein-air drawing is therefore a good way to avoid falling into the trap of photo realistic paintings. Even if a camera must be used, the visual information provided by the photograph must be carefully screened. Don’t let the photograph take over and make you its “slave.”

要糾正這種時弊,唯有回到寫生一途。素描的傳統方式是對實物寫生,將三度空間的物體表現在二度空間的畫面上。這與將平面化的照片轉移到平面有著極大的差異。素描又摒去了色彩因素,與實物保持了一定的距離感。因而,素描這種寫生方式是去照片畫的重要途徑。另外,即使必須使用照相機,也一定要對照片中提供的影像資料作出審慎的篩選,不要為照片所牽引,成為照片的“奴隸”。

Lady in White, 39 x 21 inches, charcoal on canvas

But a drawing can look like a photo, you say. Yes, painting a good likeness does not by itself solve the problem. It must be an artistic likeness that has aesthetic value. This brings up the question of descriptiveness versus expressiveness. The core of descriptiveness is the “artistic rhythm.” There can be no art without rhythm. Rhythm is change – contrast and unity. In painting, rhythm takes the form of layers on a plane and all the different forms of brush work. One must be able to sense all the different textures in the subject in order to translate an actual object to the drawing paper or canvas – the conversion of living reality to artistic reality is necessary to breathe life into what is being described in the image. The painting ability of each person is mainly expressed through their mastery of form and sensitivity to rhythm. The training of both senses and skills is essential. The expression of rhythm is what truly separates craftsman from painter.

素描也可能畫得像照片呀。確實,光是畫得像還是不能解決問題,還要藝術地像,富於美感。這又牽扯到繪畫中的描繪性和趣味性問題。描繪性的核心是“藝術節奏”,無節奏不成藝術,節奏就是變化,是對立統一。節奏的外在形式是繪畫材質在平面上的表層狀態,是各種型態的筆觸。只有從對象感覺到虛實、型態各異的筆觸,才能完成實物到畫面的轉化--生活真實到藝術真實的轉化,才能帶動出在畫面上的主動性描繪。一個人的繪畫才能,主要表現在對形的把握和對節奏的敏感上,這兩種感覺與能力的訓練缺一不可。尤其是對節奏感的表現,更是畫匠與畫家的分水嶺。

Form and structure, mass and space, brush work and rhythm are all there to capture and shape the artistic image. Artistic image is the carrier of our thoughts and emotions. It is also the goal of artistic pursuits. When we look at the history of art in the East and West, the greatest artworks have all won renown and enduring fame through their vivid and thought-provoking artistic image. The shaping of the artistic image takes more than just skill and technique. It takes a sincere and sensitive heart – the sophistication and inspiration of a true artist. This is something that even the best art education cannot provide. It is something that we must cultivate and learn for ourselves.

當然,形與結構、體積與空間、筆觸與節奏,都是為了去捕捉、塑造藝術形象的。藝術形象是我們思想、感情的載體,也是藝術行為追求的目的。綜觀古今中外的美術史,所有的藝術傑作無不以鮮明、深刻的藝術形象而深植人心,屹立不搖。要深刻地塑造形象,絕不止於手法和技巧,那要具有一顆真誠、敏銳的心,一種真正的藝術家的氣質和感動,即使最好的藝術教育,對於這一點也無能為力,要靠我們自己去修煉和體悟。

Woman with Left Hand in the Back, 39.4 x 25.6 inches, charcoal on canvas

The short text above is but a brief discussion of my own personal thoughts on Western Realist drawing. It is only a basic discussion and does not go into the amount of depth that I would like. The description next to the painting mentions the background and my thoughts. Some mention the principles of drawing and painting techniques in passing as well. As this is not a text book a dissection of each is not practical. I do hope that by increasing the reader’s understanding I can make it more approachable and make the book more interesting to read.

以上簡短文字,僅就西洋寫實素描談點個人體會,涉及範圍淺窄,三言兩語未能深入,有言不盡意之憾。附在畫旁的說明,提到了作畫背景和感想,有些也觸及到素描原理和描繪技法,但畢竟不是教科書,不能一一剖呈。只想讓讀者多一點了解,少一點距離,並增加讀畫的樂趣。

Drawing is a wide and beautiful river. I hope more artists can join me in swimming in its waters and enjoy the splash of its waves.

素描,是一條美麗而寬廣的長河,希望有更多的青年朋友與我共泳其中,同享搏擊浪花的樂趣。

(Note: This article was first published in the drawing book How to Draw the Head published by Guangxi Fine Arts Publishing in 2001.)

The post The Long River of Drawing appeared first on Yim Maukun.

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In a movie, there are ninety minutes to two hours to tell a story which usually includes setup, confrontation, climax and resolution. In an ad, there are thirty seconds to catch the audience’s attention and hopefully persuade them to take some action with what marketers call reason to believe (RTB). But how do you tell a story in a painting that has merely a few seconds to catch someone’s attention so that he/she will stop and explore further.

Inspiration of subject matter depends on one’s cultural background, education and life experience.

It could be a book you read, a folk story in your culture, or something you observed in life. But there is a lot more to think about after selecting a subject. For example, who is in the painting? What are they doing? When and where is this taking place? Why are the people doing what they are doing? What is the relationship between these people? I think of the artist as the screen writer, director, stage designer, costume designer and make-up artist all in one and that he has to select a scene from the movie or the play to put on the canvas. And selecting that scene is a journey in itself.

A painting I’m currently working on is Battle of Changde. The source of inspiration is from childhood experience. I grew up next to the Battle of Changde Memorial in the city of Changde, Hunan province in Central China. The memorial was built to commemorate the Chinese soldiers who participated in the Battle of Changde in 1943, one of the major campaigns in the Second Sino-Japanese War during the Second World War. According to Bai Congxi‘s memoirs, a total of 160,000 Japanese troops and 210,000 Chinese troops participated in the battle. The battle saw heavy casualties on both sides. The Japanese began their offensive on November 2, 1943. Changde was guarded by the Chinese 57th Division from the 74th Corps. The division’s 8,000 troops, in spite of being overwhelmingly outnumbered by the Japanese invading troops, stubbornly held on to the city for eleven days and nights. When the Chinese reinforcement finally arrived, there were 100 survivors in the 57th division and all were wounded. The city of Changde fell to the Japanese control on December 6 and was retaken by the Chinese on December 13 after intense house-to-house fighting.

Battle of Changde Memorial in Changde, Hunan Province, China

Growing up right next to the Battle of Changde Memorial, I have always wanted to do a painting about the Battle of Changde and the people who sacrificed their lives defending the country. However, figuring exactly how took a number of years and a few iterations.

Battle of Changde 2011 pencil study

Battle of Changde 2011 color study

In the early pencil studies, I depicted a battle field with heavy fighting. Then I thought it was a bit boring and didn’t tell the story I wanted to tell fully. True, there was heavy fighting and lots of casualties. The same goes for any battle in a major war. How is this one different from other battles? So in the latest composition, I focus on the battle drawing to an end. The few remaining Chinese soldiers are still fighting in the defense of Changde. They are wounded and exhausted. There are dead bodies everywhere on the battle field. There are Japanese troops making a charge in the distance. It’s evening and the sun coming out from the clouds, shining on the city wall, bathing everything in red.  And I leave you to interpret what the sunshine means. Here is a video on the inspiration for the sunset.

Battle of Changde 2018 pencil study

Battle of Changde 2019 color study

Inspiration for Battle of Changde narrative painting - YouTube

I’m currently working on the color study of the painting before working on the full size canvas. I will share the final painting once I finish it. It’s going to take a while. To be continued…

The post Story telling through narrative painting appeared first on Yim Maukun.

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By Iris Yim

We sometimes get inquiries about drawing supplies my father Yim Mau-Kun uses for his pencil and charcoal drawings. Since I’m visiting Taiwan for the holidays, I took the opportunity to take a stock of his drawing supplies.

Erasers and blenders

Pictured here are different types of erasers and blenders that my father uses. From left to right:

1 eraser pencils to create highlights

2 regular rubber eraser

3 and 4 Iken Art Char brand paste eraser

5 tissue paper for blending

6 homemade paper blender made of xuan paper (paper used for traditional Chinese ink painting)

Pencils

On the left are General brand charcoal pencils. My father only uses HB, 2B and 4B.

On the right are Staedtler brand pencils. My father uses HB – 5B.

Charcoal

For charcoal drawings, he uses Iken Art Char charcoal sticks for details and Nitram baton charcoal sticks for background.

Paper

For pencil and charcoal pencil drawings, he uses Fabriano paper. I know, I know, it’s water color paper and I did ask my father why. He said it’s more sturdy and can stand up to being abraded by erasers.

For charcoal drawings, he uses French brand MBM drawing paper because of its capability of pulling charcoal to its surface. He also occasionally uses the back of pastel paper and once uses canvas for a charcoal drawing.

In addition to the drawing tools, one thing I noticed when editing demonstration videos is the frequency and time that my father uses for sharpening his pencils when he is doing a drawing. For editing purposes, it’s all edited out (well, nobody wants to see an artist sharpening his pencils in a demonstration video, they want to see the demonstration), but apparently it’s something very important that he frequently stops to briefly sharpen his pencils in the middle of a drawing demonstration.

When I visited his teaching studio, I also noticed a pencil sharpening station.

There is a Chinese saying, “If one wants to do his job well, he must sharpen his tools” which is perfectly applicable to sharpening drawing pencils for a drawing.

Another tip is that my father says the pencil must be held at a 45 degree, not too high, not too low.

Lastly, we’re offering 25% off for our online video lessons. The offer is valid until January 2, 2019. Enter code “Happy2019” during check out.

Happy New Year!

The post Drawing tools and 25% off online video lessons appeared first on Yim Maukun.

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Miners’ Lament is the latest narrative painting that I finished. The inspiration for Miners’ Lament goes back all the way to my time in China.

《礦山悲歌》的構想起源很久,源自在大陸時期。

Prior to 1980, I worked at Zhaoqing in Guangdong where there was a medium-sized coal mine outside of the city –Ma’an Coal Mine. I went on two painting trips to the mines and also went down to the mine shaft on two occasions, so I knew about the miners’ hardships from personal experience.

1980年前,我工作的地方是廣東肇慶,市郊有一個大約中等規模的煤礦:「馬安煤礦」。我曾兩次到礦區作畫,並兩次下到礦井工作區,對礦工的辛勞有親身體會。

Fast forward to 1997. When I came back to Taiwan from my Northwest painting trip in 1997, I saw plein air paintings of a coal mine in Taipei’s suburbs by my student Liu Ming-yen and was impressed by them.  I visited Jiufen and Pingxi (two coal mines near Taipei) with Liu Ming-yen and my wife. While touring the coal mine museum, I had a look inside the small coal mine that was about to close. All of a sudden, I gazed back at the tunnel entrance and could see the scene in the draft before my eyes.

1997年,從西北寫生回台後,與學生劉明燕、我妻子同去九份、平溪,參觀了煤礦博物館,探看了剛準備關閉的小型煤礦,在洞口內,猛然回頭,仿彿看到稿中的畫面,讓我聯想起這個人類的悲剧。

Miner’s Lament Study

The topic of mine disasters is a common one all around the world. It also hints at the inevitability of humanity’s tragic destiny. For me as an artist, most importantly, when I emerged from the mine I suddenly discovered a very powerful composition, as well as a sense of continuing to move forward despite knowing what fate had in store. After that, I made many trips to Jiufen and Houtong to experience and get a feel for the mining areas.

這個礦難題材有著世界的普遍性質,也有著人類悲慘宿命的意涵,最重要的是,我從礦井走出來的瞬間發現了一個強而有力的構圖和逐步塑造出一個認命前行的強靭生命。對於一個畫家來說,這比什麼都重要!

由此,多次上九份、猴硐礦區去感受、去觀察,終於在三、四年前移入畫布,掙扎至今方告完成。

Since concept inception, it took me nearly twenty years to complete this oil painting. I didn’t dwell on the expressions of the miners as they emerged from the tunnel entrance after the mining disaster. I wanted the audience to focus on the “family members waiting at the mine entrance.” The anxiety and hope in the faces of the miners’ families expressed the heart-rending nature of the tragedy.

這油畫經過近廿年才完成。我幾乎沒有描寫走出礦難已到坑口的礦工的表情,我要觀眾將目光放在「等待在礦坑洞口的家屬」,充滿担心和希望的礦工家屬呈現了悲剧的撼動人心。

After countless drafts and paintings, I eventually came up with the silhouette making its way to the tunnel entrance – the silhouette of a miner. How many mining disasters big and small had this silhouette endured? The bent back, covered in rock and coal dust, was the product of the heavy burden it had borne. It represented a life filled with perseverance as well as futility. He knows that once the mining disaster has been cleared away, he will have to go down that dangerous mine shaft again into the darkness under the ground in order to feed his family.

在不斷的草圖和原畫探索中,我逐漸找到了走到坑口的背影,一名礦工的背影,這背影承載過多少大小的礦難啊!那拱曲的背承担了沉重的工作,滿是石屑和煤灰,這堅強又無奈的生命。他知道,待礦難過去,他還要下去那危險的礦坑,那支持一家生活的地層下的黑暗。

This was the silhouette that I found after many attempts and changes. It is not only the silhouette of a miner but also countless farmers and coolies! To eventually give shape to this image at the entrance to the mining disaster made my visits to the mines worthwhile.

我多次加工、探索,終於找到了這樣的一個背影,他不僅是礦工的背影,也是多少農民、苦力的背影!我終於在礦難之口塑造了這個形象,我的礦坑之旅也可安慰了。

The painting and its theme may seem a bit depressing for the holiday season when we are reflecting on 2018 and looking forward to 2019. But I thought maybe we can look at the painting from another angle, there is light at the end of the tunnel for whatever we have been working on. So with this note, happy holidays and best wishes for your endeavors in painting and other areas of your life.

The post Light at the end of the tunnel appeared first on Yim Maukun.

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It seems that classical bust study is no longer offered in art programs and still life is the common entry level drawing class is drawing classes are offered at all. I seem to have lived under a rock for I have practiced drawing, including cast drawing, alongside my students for more than three decades.

Why do cast drawing? The clean and clear appearance of classical busts makes easier to study light, value and form. Classical bust study used to be an indispensable part of formal art education in ateliers and art academies prior to the rise of modernism. My solid training in classical bust study has benefited me throughout my painting career.

In 1978, after the Cultural Revolution, I visited alumni at the Guangzhou Fine Arts Academy. I ran into a retired art professor in the school. He asked me, “Mau-Kun Yim, you were the President of Academic Affairs of the Student Association. Do you have any theories why your class has so many outstanding graduates?” (There were more than ten renowned artists from my class such as Chen Yanning (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chen_Yanning), 張紹城,招熾挺, I replied, “Maybe it was because there was no education reform at the time, and we spent a solid four years on classical bust studies?”

Step 1 – Block in

Classical bust study is the foundation of drawing. Its clean and clear state makes it easier to study light and value.

First, evaluate the position of the sculpture from every direction. Use reference lines to establish the positions of its top, middle and bottom areas. Find the center point of the sculpture (around the core shadow area under the chin), then locate the mid-point of the sculpture head (around the eyes). Divide the forehead into thirds, as well as the area between the eyebrows and the nose, and from the nose to the chin. Finally, block in the hair, mustache, chest, and base.

The most important point is to use straight lines at different angles to define or cut out the shapes. Omit curves and simplify the subject. This is the key to grasping the shape of the sculpture.

Step 2 – Planar analysis

When focusing on the facial features, distinguish between the front and sides of the face. Mark the lines at the eyes and the mouth, and then find the midline of the sculpture, located halfway between the eyebrows. After the line is drawn, the side closer to you will appear larger due to perspective. Then draw the different dimensions of the nose, its front, sides and base. Position the rest of the facial features in relations to the nose. Pay attention to the bone structures that create shadows and curves, such as the brow bone, nasal bone, cheekbone, temporal bone and mandible. Also, locate the areas where large differences in value occur.

The process may seem very abstract, but it is a key step to adopting a three-dimensional viewpoint on a piece of two-dimensional paper.

Step 3 – Add value

All objects have light, middle, and dark values when exposed to light. The block-in should include not only block-in of key parts of the plaster cast but also the dark areas. In this case, it would be the side planes of the nose, cheeks, and forehead.

The trick is to not make the ark areas too dark. Instead, I use the middle value to block in at this stage so I can easily make revisions to the shape, position, and size at later stages. Once the dark value is fixed, you’ll have difficulty changing it, so for now, keep the dark areas lighter than you want them in the final drawing.

The dark value areas should be treated as a whole at this stage. Create general, big blocks and leave out the details. In this respect, drawing works in the same way as sculpting. It is not necessary (nor is it possible) for a sculptor to carve small details during early stages.

Step 4 – Continue to add value

Further define the dark areas, moving up from the back of the head to the hair, chest, and base and down to the background. These efforts create harmony, focus, depth, and, as a result, aesthetic beauty for the drawing.

It is extremely important to develop the skill to examine all parts of the drawing as a whole and not be tied down by the details. Otherwise, you may tend to see the tree but missing the forest.

Step 5 – Re-examine perspectives

When a drawing looks inaccurate in shape, it’s often due to inaccuracy in perspectives. For example, in this drawing if Homer’s right forehead, cheek, eye and beard were any wider, the drawing would become too flat and lose its three-dimensional feel. It is important to note that the face only looks symmetrical when viewed from the front. When the sculpture’s angle is titled due to perspective, the facial features are no longer symmetrical.

Step 6 – Create details

Drawing details requires you to observe carefully and analyze thoroughly in order to accurately represent the transition in value and edges in a small area. A few things to keep in mind: First, in light areas, pay attention to transition in physical surface and form; in dark areas, pay attention to transition in value and soft edges. Second, avoid making the drawing overly smooth. Reserve the feel of “facets” in the drawing.

Step 7 – Finish up

Lastly, I reinforced the dark areas even more, including the core shadow and some borders of the plaster cast shadows. This adds to the weight and strength of the plaster cast sculpture, making the dark areas seem slightly airy.

For information about classical bust study drawing video lessons, please click here.

For information about drawing book, please click here.

For another post on classical bust study (cast drawing), please click here.

The post How to do classical bust study – a step-by-step guide appeared first on Yim Maukun.

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Renowned novelist Louis Cha Leung Yung (better known by his pen name Jin Yong) passed away on October 30, 2018 at the age of 94. According to Wikipedia, he was the best selling Chinese author by the time of his death. More than 100 million of his books have been sold worldwide, not including unknown copies of pirated versions. News of Jin Yong brought me back to the time when I was an illustrator for the Young Companion magazine in Hong Kong in the 1980s.

Death of Romance illustration part 1

An issue of the Young Companion art magazine featured an interview with Jin Yong and I was asked to do an illustration for the cover. I looked over the photo of Jin Yong and thought a little commonplace so I made a line drawing instead. The editor-in-chief and art editor both loved the result and it became one of the unique covers of Young Companion.

Death of Romance illustration part 2

武俠小說泰斗金庸先生去世的消息不禁讓我想起多年前畫金庸先生的一張線描畫。香港《良友》畫報作了一期金庸的專訪,並請我畫封面。我對著金庸的照片看來看去,心想這個封面畫照片沒啥意思,就特意改用線描方式,總編與美編都十分讚賞,亦欣然接受,也成為《良友》畫刊別有一格的封面形象。

Final Burn illustration

The Young Companion was a very famous art magazine in Shanghai during the 1930’s and 1940’s. The art magazine was revived by the heir in Hong Kong during the early 1980’s. At the recommendation of the magazine’s art editor Chen Xiuming, the editor-in-chief Chen Peishen asked me to be the illustrator for the magazine’s short stories.

Good Fortune illustration

《良友》畫報是上海三、四十年代極有名的一分畫報,八十年代初,繼承人在香港續辦這份畫報,畫報社的美術編輯陳修明向總編輯陳培生推薦我為每期的短篇小說作插圖。

Meeting Up illustration

The authors of Young Companion short stories were the finest in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Most of the stories were based on the society in Taiwan and Hong Kong at the time, making it relatively easy to find the right reference and perspectives. Interestingly enough, I acquired a brush pen by chance and it created lines similar to design drawings and Chinese paintings. I loved that brush and used it to create more than twenty drawings. For some of the illustrations I even went to the trouble of making plein-air sketches. Most of the compositions were the products of the imagination but even today they have their own unique qualities. Looking at the drawings now, I am still amazed by my imagination back then.

In the Subway illustration

《良友》小說的作家都是港、台一時之選,內容也多取自當下的港、台社會生活,畫起來容易找到素材和切入的角度。說來也有趣:我無意中得到一支特別的勾線毛筆,畫出的線條兼有設計用筆和國畫用筆的形態,我如獲至寶,用它抒寫了二十多幅畫。為畫其中一些插圖,還專去畫了場景速寫,多數的畫面倒是天馬行空,如今觀之,仍覺不俗。回頭翻閱,不解當年何以有如此飄逸的情緻?

The post In memory of Jin Yong and my days as an illustrator appeared first on Yim Maukun.

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This is the second post about sketching. In the previous post, we talked about the importance of sketching. In this post, we will talk about how to sketch and strengthen your sketching skills. One of the blog readers asked how to sketch a subject in action. The short answer is relying on your memory and leaving out details. The long answer is below. I have also included a few sketches done in Hong Kong recording daily life such as my mother cooking, people in a fast food restaurant and people on a subway training ride. These are all examples of sketching subjects in action.

How to sketch well?

Sketch often

Painting is art and culture as well as a type of skill. All skills follow the convention that “practice makes perfection”. Without practice, how can you become good at something? Diligence and training may be old-school but that doesn’t mean they do not work.

In the traditional opera community, they often say: “Martial arts must be practiced constantly and songs must be sung frequently”. Diligent practice is therefore the key. What about diligent practice without giving it proper thought? That does not work either. As Confucius once said: “Knowledge without thought leads to confusion, thought without knowledge leads to danger”. If we are curious and respectful of the lives that we try to capture, if we can then practice diligently and think constantly about improvements, we will naturally get better.

怎麼樣畫好速寫呢?

多畫

畫畫是藝術是文化,也是一種技藝,凡技藝就合‘熟能生巧’的常規,不熟哪來的巧呢?勤學苦練四字是老生常談,但是仍然是管用的。

傳統戲曲界流行‘拳不離手、曲不離口’,說的就是要勤練。光勤不動腦筋行不行呢?也不行,所以孔子早說了:「學而不思則罔,思而不學則殆」,有不少人畫了一輩子,數量也很多,不能說不勤,但是,腦袋躺著了,又是孔子提醒我們:心之官則思。腦子是用來思考的啊!如果我們對描寫的生命有一分好奇心、有一分虔誠,再加勤學苦練多動腦筋,哪有畫不好的呢?

Sketch Slowly

Is faster the better in sketching? Not always! I’ve seen many private studios in the West, Hong Kong and Taiwan where the time allowed for nude sketches is so short that the paintings come out looking like wild scrawls. Many people spend years sketching in studios and make little progress. As they made no improvement, they decide that they simply don’t have the talent. Talent may of course be a factor but I think that in most cases they were going too fast. As they say, “nine of ten accidents are due to speeding” so my advice is: If you want to sketch well, “sketch slowly”. First, try to get the proportions right, capture the key features and make everything as simple as possible. Slowing down will avoid misshapen proportions and too much detail. Sketching should be relatively fast but is not all about speed. Start slow, then gradually speed up.

速寫要慢

畫速寫是否愈快愈好呢?也不盡然,我看歐美、港、台有些民間畫室的人體速寫,常常因為時間太短而使得不少畫作像是鬼畫桃符、荒腔走板。很多人經年累月地跑畫室畫速寫,畫了半輩子,還是老樣子,不進步就怪自己沒天分,或許與天分有點關係吧,我看絕大多數的問題是太快!所謂“十次肇事九次快”,我倒建議:要畫好速寫,先畫“慢寫”,先學會抓住形體比例和特徵的方法以及刪繁就簡概括對象的規律。只有先慢一點才不會比例失據,概括無方。速寫練習,相對快就好,絕對不要一味求快,要由慢到快。

Start with a draft, using pale, light lines to define the areas, proportions, dynamics and trends before putting pencil to paper. Do not draw any details at this point. Once the draft is ready, work outwards from the key parts such as the head and hands.

可以起稿,在下筆之先用淡而輕的線條定範圍、定比例、定動態和趨勢,在此步驟時千萬別畫細節,定了之後再從主要之處如頭部和手部畫開去。

Angular rather than curved lines

Sketches can be a little angular like Vrubel or be a little more curvaceous like Menzel. If you are new to sketching however, using more straight lines will make capturing relative proportions and dynamics easier. This technique is often used at the Soviet Academy of Arts during sketching classes. Straight lines may seem a little less sophisticated but the main features and proportions will remain true. Curved lines may seem more lively but can run wild like a mustang in unskilled hands.

先方後圓

速寫可畫得方一點,如俄國的符魯別爾,也可如門采爾,曲線多一些。但是,開始接觸速寫直線用多一點便於抓對比例和動態。這是蘇聯美術學院課堂速寫中常用的方法。直線看似笨一點,但造型的特徵、比例不會跑掉,曲線看似活潑一些,但未熟練時如脫疆野馬,漫無邊際。

Sketch on Subway 1

Use lines more

When you start practicing sketching, avoid adding value. Dispense with backgrounds altogether as well. With lines, what matters is the edges of shapes. Get this right then the rest can be ignored or reduced.

要多用線條

開始練習速寫時,不用或少用明暗、深淺,更不要畫什麼背景。所謂的線,最重要的當然是形體的邊沿線,這個畫對了其他可以省去或減少。

Sketch on Subway 2

Value

In sketching, value have a rhythm of their own:

  1. Value should be used where it can convey volume and height differences.
  2. Use for key features such as the head and hands.
  3. Use value for clothing texture.
  4. Use value for large blocks of black, gray and white.
  5. Use value to convey the texture of the subject.
  6. Use value where it can create strokes like Chinese paintings.

深淺有致

速寫中如果用到深淺也有點規律的:

  1. 深淺放在能表現體積和起伏之處。
  2. 放在頭部、手部等主要刻劃部位。
  3. 深淺放在衣紋等處。
  4. 深淺放在分別黑、灰、白的大區塊。
  5. 深淺放在表現對象物的質感處。
  6. 深淺放在能造成如中國畫中的筆墨趣味之處等等。

Sketch on Subway 3

Rely on memory

When sketching, observe the subject as a whole. Don’t approach the subject too closely to avoid distorting the perspective. Slightly narrow your eyes when observing and do not fix on a point. Don’t glance up at the subject with every line. You should instead, draw a small area for each glance. This is a process of rapid observation and memorization. In other words, half of the work in sketching depends on memory. This is a part of the sketching technique and also what makes it click. Many people don’t understand this so they look up with every stroke and still haven’t mastered sketching after a lifetime of trying.

要靠記憶

速寫也要整體觀察,與描繪對象距離不要太近,以防透視太大比例失調。觀察時眼微瞇,不要盯著一點看,畫速寫並不是看一筆畫一筆,而是看一眼畫一片,是一種迅速觀察,馬上記憶的過程,可以說,畫速寫一半是靠記憶,這是畫速寫的方法,也可說是訣竅,很多人不了解,總以為是看一眼畫一筆,結果一輩子還是不會畫速寫。

Sketch in Fast Food Restaurant

Drawing training is fundamental

High quality sketches require a certain level of drawing ability and knowledge of the anatomy. A solid foundation in drawing is required to produce sophisticated figure sketches because every line and stroke in sketching is based upon the shape and textures of the form. It must also be supported by artistic sophistication.

素描是基礎

速寫要精妙,一定要有素描能力和解剖知識作基礎。要畫好有看頭的人物速寫還非要有一定的素描基礎不可,因為,速寫中的一線一劃,一勾一抹,都以描寫形體的起伏、質感為內涵,也要有藝術修養作支撐。

Study anatomy

It is very important to understand the growth patterns of the human skeleton and muscles as well as the lengths and relative proportions of key body parts. For the skeleton and muscle, draw from books on anatomy while copying and memorizing the names of each part. This is the only way to understand the details and create lifelike drawings.

要研究解剖

了解人體骨骼和肌肉的生長規律,對人體各主要部位的長短、大小比例有明確的了解和記憶是非常重要的。人體主要骨骼和肌肉要對著解剖書臨摹,要將名稱抄寫下來,死背、背熟。非如此,不得精妙,非如此,不得動人。以我的觀察,不少缺乏素描能力和解剖知識的人物速寫非但是嬌柔做作、虛有其表,甚至是裝腔作勢、‘胡言亂語’。

Study for Chinese Painting Nie Xiaoqian

Sketches are art works in their own right

In the past, sketches were used to record everyday images and also as drafts. Advances in technology and the availability of photographic equipment meant that this recording function has almost been replaced completely. Sketching however does not reproduce an object completely. It is a highly sophisticated and inclusive form of drawing that has its own artistic merits. When we look at the most representative sketches of the great masters, we find that they were just as memorable as the masterpieces! In classical literature, the Yuan Dynasty xiaolingand Tang Dynasty quatrains all had a timeless and minimalist sense of beauty. Like them, sketches are “exquisite poetry” that can be appreciated in their own right. The emergence and proliferation of cameras have in fact reinforced the irreplaceable nature of sketching due to its ability to condense and reflect the creator’s personal ability, aesthetic experience and personality.

速寫是有獨立欣賞價值的繪畫

速寫畫在早期有記錄生活形象的作用,也有創作草稿的功能。隨著科學的發展、攝影器材的普及,這種形象記錄的作用幾乎被完全取代。但是,速寫有別於照片對物象的完全複製,它是高度概括、高度簡練的描繪手段下的繪畫,有獨立的藝術品性質。我們發現世界上傑出的大師之代表性速寫與他們的主題性作品幾乎同樣令人印象深刻、回味無窮!有如我們古典文學中元曲之小令,唐詩中的絕句一樣,有著隽永、簡潔的美感,速寫絕對是可以獨立欣賞的“絕妙好詞”。正由於照相機的出現與濫觴,愈是凸顯了速寫的無可取代,她對作者的自有能力、美感經驗和個人性格都是高度集中的反射。當人們發現照片油畫的軟弱無能後,一定會將微笑投給速寫。

Mother Cooking

Sketching is a chronology of life

For a diligent practitioner, sketching is like a chronology. Repin is reputed to have more than twenty boxes filled with sketches! Unfortunately, one of his daughters sold most of it in Eastern Europe during World War I so nothing has been heard of them for the last seventy or eighty years. I don’t have many sketches and I still sketch on and off to this very day. The early sketches were lost during the Cultural Revolution and while I treasure my later sketches, few are satisfying. To me however, each drawing represents my friends and relatives in those years and the people I met in those times… Whenever I open my old folios, my thoughts fly back to those bygone years. The people and events recorded in these sketches are therefore a record of my own life. To me, these “images” feel far more direct than written records and are taken far more to heart.

速寫是人生的編年史

對一個勤於畫速寫的人來說速寫有如一部編年史。列賓的速寫據傳就有20多箱!好像是他的一位女兒在第一次世界大戰時期將其中大部分賣到東歐去了,七、八十年來一直沒有下落,令人婉惜!我的速寫不多,斷斷續續也還在畫,早期的在文化革命時失落了,後來的速寫我自然很珍惜,雖然有可看性的很少,但是對於我自己,每張畫都記錄了那些年身邊的親友、或什麼因緣接觸到的時代人物,一打開舊畫夾……思絮就回到那永遠回不來的時光,記錄這些人和物也就是記述了我自己的生命歷程,這一幅幅的‘影像’比文字記錄來得更直接,更使自己感動。

This post is adapted from the forward from the Sketching Handbook. For more information about the book, please click here. 

For more information about online drawing course, please click here.

The post How to sketch a subject in action – tips from decades of sketching appeared first on Yim Maukun.

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