Traditional, Unconventional, and Just Plain Bizarre

You can tell a lot about an artist's point of view by how they draw people. It sounds simple but in fact the diversity of vision and execution is pretty vast. There are contemporary artists out there practicing in a traditional vein dating back to the Old Masters. There are also established artists who are a little more unconventional in their approach, and then there are emerging artists who work waaaaaaay outside the box in terms of narrative. Here are three skilled artists who not only know how to draw people realistically, they also put their indelible stamp on the work they do, marking it unmistakably as their own.

How to Draw Traditionally–Jacob Collins

The sense of classical tradition with which Jacob Collins imbues his work is unmistakable. I look at his work and see clear references to Greek and Roman sculpture, Renaissance masters, as well as the Beaux-Art tradition of the 1800s–rightly so, as these are the influences that shape the curriculum of Collins' Grand Central Academy in New York. There is a certain amount of stasis in Collins' work, a stillness that likely comes from drawing people in such a heavily referential and established tradition, but there is also a loveliness and facile beauty in that stillness that is undeniable.

Carolina by Jacob Collins, graphite drawing on paper, 18 x 14.
Carolina by Jacob Collins, graphite drawing on paper, 18 x 14.

How to Draw Unconventionally–Abby Sangiamo

As a chair for four departments at the Maryland Institute College of Art during his 40+ years there, Abby Sangiamo definitely made an impact on the students, graduates, and professors he came into contact with. Drawing people, however, is where he stands alone as an example of how portrait drawing can bear the stamp of the unconventional. His frontal portrait series includes dozens of drawings that have strange narrative undertones–figures emoting everything from banality and blankness to sexual forwardness and threatening demeanors–but physical application of the marks are what interest me most. There is so much visual landscape to go over in any one of his drawings, and he works so differently, making marks that seem breathed so lightly and delicately onto the page to strokes that seem carved into the paper.

Portrait 02 by Abby Sangiamo, drawing, 1971-72.
Portrait 02 by Abby Sangiamo, drawing, 1971-72.

And Just Plain Bizarre–Jason Yarmosky

A young artist out of the School of Visual Arts, Yarmosky is currently drawing people in peculiar ways–images of elderly figures dressed in costumes but left isolated on an otherwise blank page, with no sense of activity or environment to anchor them. The works, skillfully drawn, tend to polarize viewers. Some take the works as lighthearted and liberating–older personages in youthful, playful roles. Others find the vulnerability of the figures uncomfortable and question if the portrayals are mocking, making their participation in the viewing of the works all the more disturbing.

Portrait of a Shieldless Captain by Jason Yarmosky, drawing.
Portrait of a Shieldless Captain
by Jason Yarmosky, drawing.

What unites all three of these artists, as unlikely as it seems, is that they are drawing people their way. And that is what is exciting to me. Furthering my understanding of just how many ways of drawing there are is a big step toward figuring out where I would want my work to land along that continuum of the traditional to bizarre. Draw: Teach Yourself How In 30 Lessons gives me even more food for thought and allows me to hone my skills with concise, straightforward lessons along the way. Enjoy!

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

One thought on “Traditional, Unconventional, and Just Plain Bizarre

  1. I am glad that some have the patience and desire to paint or draw realistic figures.
    My hat is off to them and their abilities.

    To me, realistic painting was a necessity before the camera when it was the main method of reproducing the likeness of a human form. Today Kodak does a fine job of reproduction and frees many of us up to just paint by imagination without the confines of expectations of perfection.

    I love and appreciate the versatility of Artists of the last decades and really respect that artists like Sangiamo dared to do it their way without hanging onto tradition.
    Just my humble opinion.