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.
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.
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.
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.
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 people
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. Drawing the Figure: Lessons from Modern Masters and Top Instructors gives
me even more food for thought and allows me to hone my skills along the way.