Friday, November 26, 2010

Operation Portrait

Last week while developing a portraiture lesson plan for 9th and 10th grade, I was forced to consider the process of capturing a likeness. I designed a series of questions (Pre-drawing goals, chosen technique, post drawing assessment) so that students can document their process and depending on their success make adjustments.

Before I presented the lesson I tested the questions on myself. I found an image, made a list of goals, stopped to record my process and assess my success.


SKETCH 1: The focus on this exercise was capturing a resemblance and the energy of the subject.
I liked his youthful energy, his style, his warmth, and that the image felt like a moment in time. Attempting to capture energy this first sketch was done very quickly:
While I like the drawing and feel it was energetic, I felt I failed to capture a likeness so I started again examining my process.

SKETCH 2: This time I began with focus on accuracy first and energy second. I blocked in the shape of the head and built up the face paying close attention to relationships and distances. I exaggerated some features for emphasis, his eyebrows for example are much higher. While the resemblance was important I wasn't interested in photo realism but a recognizable interpretation.This time around I felt much better about the resemblance but found that having to block in the shapes and constantly test the likeness slowed me down. I felt I lost energy and was relying on value to test the likeness. It made me appreciate artists like Al Hirschfeld who can do all of this so effortlessly with only line and shape.


Finding a likeness can be a fascinating/infuriating process. I like both of my drawings but I find the likeness requires some refinement. Each drawing was done with a specific goal and a slight shift of focus. The nice part of using the questions was that when moving from one drawing to the next, intention and technique were more clearly defined. The steps break the process into stages and it is fun to watch the evolution of a portrait taking shape. By making each drawing distinct it became a process that I could learn from rather than feel thwarted by. The drawings now feel like experiments rather than failures.

Does anybody else out there have a technique for capturing a likeness? Any favorite portrait artists that you can turn me onto?

If you are interested in the photo of the old fellow above here is the website I was looking at while drawing it: http://www.chrisstevensonline.com/

Here are the questions that I was working with, maybe you could try them out and let me know how they work for you!

Section One: Pre drawing

1) Do you often draw portraits? Do you find portrait drawing challenging?

2) What is the feeling or mood you want to express about your subject?

Section Two: Your process

3) Proportion: Is your face accurate or distorted? How did you approach capturing a likeness?

4) Where or how did you start your drawing?

5) What technique are you using? Line, shape, tone?

Section Three: In conclusion

6) How successful do you think you were in capturing your subject?

7) Are you satisfied with your work?

8) What do you think could have done better?

9) What was most difficult for you?



-James

Friday, August 20, 2010

Art School Vs. Elementary School Part 2

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I call this Art Vs. Elementary school for a reason. Art school changed my perception of art. Before Art school my art was whatever I wanted it to be, there was no real pressure. Sure I had standards but it was personal, individual, and all mine. Art school made me reexamine the kind of artist I wanted to be. It exposed me to things I would have been too stubborn to find on my own. It made me a better artist and my standards of art were raised considerably. So much so that during school I felt crushed by them. Post college I fought like mad to live up to them. When you have time and boundless energy it is a complete joy to work on a drawing and hone your skills day in and day out. Then I discovered teaching. It was a complete accident but I loved it and once the ball got rolling It felt like somewhere I'd like to be. Of course working as a substitute teacher and getting my certification in grad school was suddenly eating up a considerable amount of my time and energy. I had to loosen the reigns and simplify my objectives. Art became less about the challenges and more about the release.

I posted some drawings in June that I had done while working as a substitute teacher here are some more from that same time. Most of these were done on my breaks in school or on the train or bus.

I wonder what other artists do when in this position. This is how I get unstuck, what do you do when you've raised the bar so high you find you can't (or don't have the energy or time to) reach it?

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James Jajac,color sketch

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I know this is a massive post, I had meant to do this in sections, but summer came and summer went so here it is all at once. It is kind of like that scene at the end of "The Crow" with Brandon Lee, where he gives the bad guy back all of the pain that he caused and the guy falls off a church in the rain and gets impaled by a gargoyle, only with crayon drawings and sketchbook doodles and instead of falling on a gargoyle you fall into a basket of candy and are serenaded by baby turtles in top hats*. Does that make sense?

-James

*Hopefully.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Art School Vs. Elementary School Part 1

I have been substitute teaching for almost three years now and I have found myself continuously inspired by childhood art work. It is so unselfconscious, so raw, so...spontaneous! It has sent me off onto a new path. I have been preoccupied with trying to find what comes most naturally to me. There are a lot of styles you can cultivate, and concepts to explore, but I want to see what comes out in that pure trance like state when I am not even thinking. I want to reconnect with what made me want to be an artists in the first place.

These are a collection of drawings that I have done on my break inside of class rooms, or with materials that the children might use themselves. Crayola markers, dead Crayola markers, crayons, etc.

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I have not had much time to post in the last few months so I have a good bunch of these, I hope you like them!

Viva (almost) Summer!
-James

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Subway, New York City!

This is my homage to the J train, my favorite subway line.
I always feel so at home. There is nothing nicer than staring out the windows of the J train on a nice sunny breezy afternoon.

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I used to draw in this style a lot in 2005, it has some how organically, slowly, returned to me. I am having fun trying to reteach it to myself and develop it. The reduction of it makes it easier for me to express my feelings about things. I can be more symbolic without the pressure of being photo realistic.

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I took this photo waiting for the J train last week, see ya soon!

-James

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

ZZZZ City

This is exactly how I felt while riding the train to class yesterday morning.

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THE END

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sunny day in Queens.

Yesterday was a nice day. I worked at a new elementary school as a substitute teacher In Queens. I biked out to Ozone park, and then to Queens College for a seminar. In total I did about 20 miles on my bike and on such a beautiful day it was amazing. I felt like I could have done 20 more. On the way home I missed my train and spent an hour of quality time doodling in my sketch book.

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I am playing around with some of the different styles I have been drawing with through the years. I am hoping to pick one to do a series.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Space Invaders

I am not sure what the context was when I drew this but based on the time, date, and subject I am thinking I must have been working as a doorman. Probably the 4- midnight shift which I must have finished on the subway or the bus ride home (based on the sharp dip in the quality of the art). I don't have relatives like this but boy did I run into some feisty folks as a doorman. One day I hope to redraw and put a polish on all of these old sketch book comics, some of them are really fun. It is nice going back and finding them.

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"Snow-day"
-James

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Count to 500,000,000,000,000,000,000,000...

I think I forgot I had a temper. Well it is back. To the point where I realize something may have to be done about it. I have not been dealing with my new schedule/commute (health) lately and I have found my anger completely unmanageable. I am sitting here recovering from a ridiculous and completely out of line outburst. This is a drawing from the LIRR from a few days ago. I need to learn how to relax. Manage multiple (multiple, multiple, multiple) tasks and manage just about everything better during this time. Have a headache, wish me luck!

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Sunday, February 7, 2010

One color fun in sketch book town.

While cleaning out my old bedroom at my parents house (or at least trying to) I have been going through a bunch of the old one color illustrated children's books I own. This is my quick slap dash train ride home homage to the printing found in those books. I love when the color screens are slightly off center.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Comic Book Heaven

I decided to put up some of my favorite super hero related drawings I've done.



Reeve's Superman will always be of my favorite movies. Even Superman III (mos def).

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Ferrigno as the HULK is better than religion. I don't even need to pray, I just watch an episode of the Hulk and I am back on board and life is good again. I painted this in college and sold it almost ten years later last year for some one's wedding anniversary.I hope with Ferrigno on their side their love will last forever.

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Jack Kirby. Copying a Kirby drawing is is like trying to decipher an alien language. His drawings always look like they weren't drawn but fell fully formed, like a rubber stamp, out of his unconscious mind. I drew this because Captain America had been blinded by Red Skull and his eyes creeped me the fuck out.

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I still own one of the first comic books I remember reading.It was an issue of Brave and the Bold featuring The Karate Kid and involves time travel and his girlfriend and this guy with the shooting staff named PULSAR. This is me drawing comic characters and ice skaters in my sketch book into the wee hours.

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BLACK GOLIATH!!

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I copied this panel because it was this one really affecting dramatic moment in a pretty average run of the mill book. I felt really sad for Flash. I didn't quite capture his look of despair.

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Here is a distorted copy of a bunch of comic book thugs talking about GHOST RIDER.

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This begins a brief theme I was exploring in around 2006. I was inspired by old comic books and rock and roll posters and the junk store knock offs of these big iconic characters. I was going for surreal and trying to see how far I could take these images before they completely lost their impact.

Mr. Crunch Horn- GREEN LANTERN

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Sultry sex hero- Cross eyed WONDER WOMAN

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Melting existential BATMAN

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Mr. Walrus Hat- Inspirational FLASH!

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BOOTLEG Spiderman Movie Import

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And I close with some old sketch book stuff.

A Hulk toy I used to own.
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This is a silly little thing drawn on the J train. I was trying to do one of those old fashioned huge signatures that look like something you would brand onto a horses ass.

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And finally, man my style has changed so much since college:

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Afterward:

The last comic books I bought were an issue of powerman and iron fist and the creature commandos, both from 83, respectively. Not to mention the more recent BATMAN 80 page giant which has an old friend Nelson X Asencio inking the story "fire and Ice". Nelson and I worked years ago at the Comic Den in Kew Gardens NY. He got his start inking SHI with Billy Tucci and segued into toy design with his own successful company Story Box Ink. Check it out, he is a great guy!


I hope you enjoyed this forage through my comic book memories!

Have an exciting action packed day!,
James
JAJAC

The Elemental Delegatates of Artistic Science