Portrait Drawing Demo & Artist AMA with Leo Mancini-Hresko!


Johanna: Welcome everybody who is joining us from around the world to this Live Stream from our studio in Huntington Beach, California. We will stream for 2 hours. You can watch on YouTube, Facebook, and on Instagram. You can also ask questions. Just type them in your chat below, and I will speak them out loud. If you miss parts of this recording, it will stay on YouTube and on Facebook. New Masters Academy is the largest online
subscription library of master instruction of drawing, painting, sculpture, anatomy, perspective, and much more. We also are offering a special promotion only for this weekend for new subscribers. Starting right now you can sign up for a 30-day free trial. You will have full access to the art instruction library. Go to nma.art/leo to take advantage of this offer right now. Tonight we are welcoming Leo Mancini-Hresko to do a demonstration of a portrait drawing on toned paper. Leo is a New England-based, internationally renowned artist. Leo was the director of the drawing program of the sculpture department of the Florence Academy of Art. Sorry, that’s long. Leo is our newest instructor to join New Masters Academy. For the last two weeks, we have been recording a fantastic video series for New Masters Academy that breaks down the atelier sight-size method in a very clear, comprehensive way. This series will be added to the New Masters Academy library in early 2019, so be sure to subscribe to our website on NMA.art. The model today is Caleb. I am Johanna, and we are very excited to have Leo Mancini-Hresko here with us today. Thank you. Hi. This is Caleb. I’m Leo. Today I’m going to draw a portrait. Caleb was very nice to agree to sit for a couple hours. I know that we have all been waiting to start. I’m excited to draw. The light is really nice. A lot of what I have been focusing on during the time I’ve been here working the past week or so has been that concept of getting really nice light and how to draw with a sense of tone and value. I think I’m just going to start in, and if you guys have questions and comments, I think they’ll call them out from time to time. But, I can talk to you more during the breaks that Caleb will need to take. I think I’m just going to start. So, this process of drawing that I’m using is called sight-size. Most of what I’ve been doing since I was a student has not been if not in this technique, influenced by it.
It’s particularly nice for portraiture. I’m always trying to place the head and shoulders in tandem. I’m one of those artists who likes to work on the sense of the whole. What I hope for in a pose like this is to achieve a nice sense of rhythm throughout. All I’ve been placing is from my point of view, sort of the bottom of the opening of the shirt, his chin, top of the head, and I’m just starting to place the shoulders. I’ll see if I can get some sort of movement
and rhythm happening throughout. His forehead is back a little more. Can you guys see okay? Yeah. Johanna: Leo, somebody is asking what medium you are using. Leo: So, I’m just drawing with a vine charcoal, but I have a variety of different types of charcoal and white chalk in front of me. This is a really nice sheet of watercolor paper that I hand stained with some ink, some India ink, which is a really, really nice surface I’ve been using for a long time. My teacher at the Florence Academy in Italy, Dan Graves, was nice enough to show me. He was preparing paper for charcoal drawing so that you could erase on it all day, and the color wouldn’t come off. So you can create some really beautiful tones and patches. Actually, I like a bit of color and waviness. It’s handmade paper, not a store-bought sheet of gray paper. I think that’s really quite nice. I also have some Nitram charcoal, and the Nitram charcoal is particularly useful for doing sort of fine mottling and stuff. But I’ll use vine charcoal for placing almost everything in a drawing because it’s so flexible and nice. Johanna: Leo, somebody wants to know, do you use underlying structure? Leo: Yes and no. I am always conscious of the underlying structures, but I’m purposefully as I’m working trying to draw the light pattern that I see when I squint. The school that I went to is very much steeped in the Boston school kind of tradition, which is a mix of sort of 19th Century French Academy way of thought and optical Impressionism. So, I’m both trying to remember all of the structures, but I’m also just trying to place the light and shade pattern throughout. Johanna: That question was asked by Robert Bodem. Leo: Hi, Rob, how are you doing?
That was a pretty good question, Rob. Johanna: Leo? Leo: Yes? Johanna: She is saying Iris wants to say something. Leo: Hi! Johanna: He says, I miss you, daddy. Leo: Awe, that’s my son. How you doing, buddy? Are you watching me? That’s so sweet. Hi, baby. That’s so cool. I’ve been here in California working for the better part of a week, and my son is 4-1/2 and I obviously miss him. But being able to sort of do this in real time and he watches is so nice. Johanna: Mark wants to know, do you only use sight-size? Leo: No, I paint quite a lot without sight-size, but I think it’s a useful tool in portraiture in particular, sort of what it was designed for in many ways, and also here at the New Masters Academy I’ve been kind of trying to focus on it, to give them a little bit of that approach and that way of thinking for their courses. For me, it was an invaluable tool learning to draw sight-size. But like all drawing tools, it’s a tool, and I pull it
out of my tool kit when it’s most useful. Johanna: People want to know, did you stain the paper yourself? Leo: Yup, it’s hand stained paper. Very, very beautiful to work on something that’s handmade rather than something that’s store bought, I think. Is someone keeping time of breaks for Caleb? Let me know when you need a break. Johanna: Jim is asking, is sight-size a good way to improve accuracy? Leo: Unquestionably. Speaking about all these different tools that exist in drawing, I think that sight-size is a tool that is particularly good at that job. One of the things I’ve been teaching here at New Masters Academy throughout the course of the past week and I’m continuing to do has been the bargue drawing approach, which can be done in sight-size. They are master drawings that are intended for artist copy, and they are literally designed for improving accuracy. So the answer to that question is an unequivocal yes. At least it was for me, and I think many, many people that I know. Johanna: Iyush is wondering are you starting out by blocking the shadow and the edges? Leo: Yes. That’s basically exactly what I’m trying to do.. Big shape. So that big movement that I talked about at first and then basic shadow pattern, and we’re only going to place the features after that Johanna: Jade is asking how long on average does it take to do one drawing? Leo: I so wish I had a clear answer to that. Sometimes the drawings that I think will be very, very fast I end up working on for many sessions. Often I’ll do a drawing in a day that I’m pleased with, but I just finished a portrait commission the week before I came, three children, and it took me quite a bit longer than I had expected. I try not to think about time when I’m working and to focus on quality more, if that makes sense. Johanna: Lucas is asking do you aim to be 100% faithful to reality, or are you comfortable with taking liberty with the
model if you feel it would make a better drawing? If so, is that an early decision or does it happen as you draw? Leo: That’s a—yeah. If I am drawing to study, if my intent is to study, and what I would recommend to a student is to be as true to nature as possible. But, if I’m doing something on commission, undoubtedly, I’m also thinking about flattering the subject a little bit. Johanna: Somebody is asking if you like turtles. Leo: I feel pretty neutral about turtles. I haven’t ever had a strong relationship with a turtle, but I’m open to them. I’m going to guess that’s Nigel. Hi Nigel. Johanna: Do you have advice for someone who gets frustrated in the early stages of a drawing. Leo: Drawing is meant to be frustrating. Getting past that frustration by working responsibly, finding methods to keep control of the drawing, and doing sort of academic study like I’ve been teaching here, I’ll suppose we’ll be online sometime in the next couple of months, has been for me the right way to do that. Drawing is often frustrating, but that’s not necessarily a negative thing. You’re nervous and you’re frustrated because you care. Spot the eyes lightly. Johanna: Adrian says hi from Australia. Leo: Why hello. It must be morning there. Johanna: People are wondering if you see a slightly different perspective than where the camera is located? Leo: Very good question. Yes. So the way the sight-size technique works is only from this one fixed position. Right? The camera is sort of over my shoulder so it’s close. It’s close enough for you guys to see the likeness, but from where I am, I can see on the camera that you can see Caleb’s ear. Here, let me grab something you can see better with. I can see on the camera here that you guys can see Caleb’s ear. I cannot see Caleb’s ear. The T of the face, this sort of T of the face is turned a little bit more for me than what this camera sees. Unfortunately, we’ve been working very hard to make the best possible videos we can this week. It’s for the sake of video and photography, the only way that the camera can see exactly what I see is if I don’t stand there. We try to get it as close as possible. Johanna: Nicole is asking, what is your opinion on the different methods of drawing such as constructive versus sight-size, etc? Leo: I don’t think it’s a versus situation. They are both really useful tools. I will often take out a plumb line or a knitting needle or brush and use that to take some comparative measurements. I’ll measure the model’s head and take a 1:1 measurement on my canvas if I’m painting sometimes. But in this situation,
I love the ability to flick my eye back and forth and seamlessly see the subject and my page.
It’s a big advantage for me. Johanna: I hope I pronounce his name correctly—Convier is asking, have you had difficulties with trying to make the form fill out when using straights? How do you deal with this? Leo: I sort of believe that straight lines are your best way to round forms. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but finding long straight lines that sort of encompass what the form is doing is invaluable. Besides the Bargue drawings, that’s very much related to cast drawing. Yeah, I would say that studying cast drawing is one of the best ways to start learning how to do that straight line to make round forms concept. So, what’s on my page is relatively simple. I have a bunch of little and long straight marks, but I’m starting to get some sense of the pose and sense of the model as well. At this point, for the first time I sort of have a visual impression, and I can just flick my eye back
and forth between the two. Johanna: Preston is asking speak a bit about why you’re stepping so far back to view both. Leo: Yeah, thanks, that’s a good thing to talk about. I’m not actually drawing when I’m here. The way this concept works is that when I’m stepped all the way back there, this is both my observation point and my drawing point. I am looking at the image that I see, purely visually, I’m just flicking my eye back and forth trying to get it to snap into focus on my page. But, when I am here, I, of course, see him in an entirely different perspective. This is not just my observation point, it’s also technically my drawing point. The sight-size thing also helps you develop memory, not just drawing nonstop. Another thing that I like about stepping so far back is that it gives me an opportunity to see the whole, and it slows me down a little. As an art student I always drew too fast, and this is a very slow and steady kind of work that needs to be done. Johanna: Andrea is asking, what is your stance on exaggeration to put up front the features that makes the drawing look more like the model. The pure academic drawings sometimes might lose the spark of life. Leo: Yeah, I like characterization and caricature. Some sense of caricature is probably helpful while you’re trying to draw the sense of someone. It’s not what I’m doing here, but I think it’s a really useful sketch technique. I don’t know. Sometimes academic drawing sometimes can look stiff, and one concept that I would sort of put out there to think about for somebody trying to work with more of a likeness is this concept of freshness. If the drawing just aligns and the calligraphy on the page looks good, I think that’s quite important. That sort of helps to combat that stiffness I think he’s talking about. Johanna: People from India are tuning in. It’s 6:30 in the morning. Leo: Good morning. That’s super funny. Johanna: Wilfred asks, don’t you want to use a knitting needle to always get the accurate measurements? Leo: Yeah, that’s like we were talking a little bit before about the comparative measurement technique. If it don’t have a knitting needle I’ll often use a brush. You’ll see me pick this up to sort of look at an angle, hold it up against the model if I want to see something. In this technique where I’m looking more just across back and forth. It’s not based on having to measure with a knitting needle all the time. Also, keep in mind I’ve been drawing like this for a long time. It’s very comfortable for me. If you were to see a student using the same technique they would have at every minute of the day a plumb line in their hand, sort of holding it out trying to find where each of these marks are, taking width measurements and carrying them across, width of the shoulders perhaps, see how big that is. Width of the head overall. Take another measurement of that. From this point, where I’m standing in sight-size, all of those measurements should line up fine. I’ve been doing this for long enough that I sort of do these things visually. If you don’t see me doing that, it doesn’t mean I am not considering it. I’m going to put down my vine charcoal now because I’m fairly pleased with the initial block-in. This is a block-in stage in a drawing. The school that I used to teach at, and in the class that I’ve been working on for New Masters Academy, this is the block-in stage. It’s just an overall sense of the whole. Not detailed. Not dark. Still a ways to go. Johanna: Hector is asking, do you like Mexico? Leo: I haven’t been but I’d love to go. I ate Mexican food for lunch, and it looks beautiful. Johanna: Do you use a brush, a fan brush to erase sometimes? Leo: Yeah, if you just saw me working with a brush, it’s really just to unify the drawing, sort of take the excess away. It’s a cool tool. Some people like paper stump, and I’ll use that sometimes also, but I think for working sort of fast and loose, I like the brush very much. Johanna: What is your approach for imagination drawing? Leo: That’s a good question. Imagination drawing. It depends what it is. I work from imagination and memory a lot. I’ve been working the past few years painting quite a lot of landscape, and when I’m painting a landscape there is really limited time that you have with the subject, so I really try to use that concept of memory as much as I can because I’ll often be working on a painting months after it’s done, and I don’t really work from photographs of a landscape. I just sort of stare at it and try to imagine what the painting needs from me. In the case of figure drawing, I didn’t touch—for years I would just work on the drawing with the model and walk away from it. Throw down my charcoal and that was it. Whatever I would get, that would be it. Now I certainly mess with shapes and likeness and expression a little bit without the model. It’s tricky working from memory. I believe you sort of have to destroy a few drawings and paintings in order to know where that line is. Johanna: So, GraphitePencil says hi from Mexico. What’s your best advice for beginners? Leo: Draw. Draw all the time. Drawing is the primary. Leo: I think everybody out there can hear me. The model is taking a break for a moment. When that happens, I usually just start to clean up my drawing a little bit. I’m looking at the T of the face. I want to make sure that the angle of the mouth, the angle of the eyes, nose all line up. I sort of brought this eyebrow up a little in the last session. I want to take a look at whether this eyebrow is going to come to match it or the other one will come down. Johanna: Are you muted? Leo: No, I’m not muted. Can you hear me? I think there is lag. There is a delay. Johanna: It’s working now. It’s back. Leo: Okay. Did you have a good break, Caleb?
Caleb: I did, thank you. Johanna: So, GraphitePencil says, my question killed the audio. Leo: It is certainly not her fault.
So, yeah, everybody out there in the internets, I think there is a couple minutes lag between the questions you’re asking and when I’m answering them. Leo: Do you guys have any questions? I mean, I have all these nice people here. How about you? You probably have a question. Johanna: The advice for beginners—can you say that again? Leo: Oh yeah. Sure. Advice for beginners. Draw all the time. Draw all sorts of different subjects. Draw slowly and accurately. Do not rush. Try to work as accurately as you can at any speed that works for you. I think one of the most common mistakes that beginners and people starting out make is they just try to rush as fast as they can through projects. When people come to study with me in my studio in Boston I often spend weeks, months, helping them slow down. If you work with your only focus being on quality and accuracy, it won’t matter how long it takes you. Johanna: I’m from France. Have you done any animation? What is your mindset when drawing complex poses? Leo: You know, I’ve never done animation. I like animation. Drawing something once is already a lot of work for me, generally, so the idea of drawing it many, many times —I would rather draw a complex pose once than to work through every iteration of a pose. I wish I had a better answer for you, and I could say I’ve done lots of animation. Have you done any animation? None. Johanna: By the way, great model. Leo: Isn’t he nice? We like him. The New Masters Academy folks have been really nice finding great models for me to work with. Good models help. Somebody who actually understands taking a dynamic pose that you want and how light is going to work. When to take a break. Will talk to you when you want to talk to them and will be quiet when you need to work. A professional model is just the nicest thing in the world to have, and it’s always a privilege to work with good models. We’ve had a number of them. Johanna: You may have to remember to repeat sometimes what I’m saying so everybody can hear. Adele is asking what is the best practice for drawing. Drawing with casts and bargue plates
or trying portraits and figures? Leo: Adele is asking, what would be the proper process to start drawing in this sort of academic fashion that I learned at the Florence Academy, and whether it would be a good idea to start with casts and bargue plates or whether it would be better to start with portraits and figures. There is a really simple way to think about this. Bargues and old master copies are a solution that is already done in two dimensions. A two-dimensional thing to copy will always be easier than anything three-dimensional. They are great beginner projects, but you don’t want to spend your whole life copying from two dimensions because the job of the artist is to translate the three-dimensional world to think about this side of his head as I’m drawing the front plane of the face. If you spend all your time doing 2D copies, that doesn’t give you a lot of ability. I recommend moving from bargue plates to casts and spending as long on casts as you need to because a cast is three-dimensional, but it doesn’t move. This is one of things that I’ve been working on the past few days here. That separation and correlation between working with the bargues and the casts. And now I can probably say pretty confidently that all of these things are interrelated. When was a student, I started with a bargue. I moved toward the cast, and I started with simple figure drawings, moving towards more complex ones. The course that we’ve been working on just sort of works through those projects in succession. It’s more about the process than the product. That you get strong, clear work is more important
than the quantity that you might do. Johanna: Do you think that feedback and critique are necessary for artists to improve? Leo: She is asking whether feedback and critique, whether I find them to be necessary for an artist to improve. I think that often we are not the best
judges of our own work. I remember when I was an art student, I would look at what I did and think, huh, that’s pretty good. Then I’d see the same thing later and go, oh, that’s terrible. Learning to gauge that space is a very, very difficult thing. I call it working responsibly. Some of my friends have talked about this a lot over the years. How to figure out what to work on next. To always be making your work a little bit closer,
to make it look more like your subject. Johanna: Hello from Saudi Arabia. Leo: Wow, hi. Hello from Saudi Arabia. Hello from California. Leo: SpaceLanding is asking how many times I draw per day. Today this is the 2nd drawing that I’ve worked on today, but I’m working on a drawing course for you guys to be able to see on New Masters Academy. NMA: They’re seeing some clips of that right now. Oh, wonderful. They’re running clips of it too. When I am in my studio in Boston working, I might be working on paintings. I am still drawing. I believe that drawing and painting are inexorably connected, that one cannot exist without the other. It is drawing that is the more important of those two. Design and drawing are two concepts that are similar but not quite the same, and they are at the heart of about
70% or 80% of all the issues in painting. NMA: We also have people saying hello from Brazil and Toronto. Leo: Brazil and Toronto. People saying hello from Brazil and Toronto. Those two aren’t very close to each other, are they? NMA: It’s not the same person. Leo: Not the same person. Okay, just checking. [laughter] That’s so neat. Thank you guys for watching me draw. I think it’s the biggest compliment that people want to see what I do. Drawing and painting is sort of all I talk about and all I think about with my friends and family. It’s always neat to meet people that are really interested in doing it. Johanna: Jim is asking, as a student, did you find something which made a dramatic improvement in your drawing, or was it steady progress all the time? Leo: The question is—I remembered to say it—the question is, whether when I was a student if I felt constant improvement, or whether it was sort of up and down or there was a tremendous improvement? So, I was very fortunate that I found a school, the Florence Academy of Art. When I was only 18 years old, I was on a study abroad trip in Italy. I was supposed to be there for like three months. I literally just stumbled across this school. There was no real presence online at that time. When I saw the school, I thought, whoa, everybody here can paint. What I didn’t realize was it was a school of people working very hard at drawing. It took some of the frustration out of my student days drawing and painting to do it in the academic approach that I learned there. But the improvement isn’t always clear
and easy and flowing ahead. Johanna: Patrick is asking what exactly is the sight-size method? Leo: Patrick is asking—look at that, I remembered again. Patrick is asking what the sight-size method is. We’re going to cover that in depth when my whole portion of what I’ve been teaching here gets released, but essentially the way that he is set up from my viewing position where I am standing back, when I flick my eyes back and forth between these two, they exist on a horizontal axis to one another. His head is right at that level. His chin is right at that level. By not moving my easel, by having the model in a fixed position, I have limited my variables. There are things that can always stay where I put them. It’s an immensely valuable technique for me in drawing and painting. There are great websites. A guy I know called Darren Rousar has a website all about sight-size with many different articles about it. There are books on it. It is an approach to drawing which is based on one-to-one back and forth comparison. Leo: Jade said that she feels bad for Caleb having to sit there so long. Caleb, should she feel bad for you? Caleb: No, I’m fine. Leo: Caleb says he’s fine. Look at that smile. That was a very genuine smile. You can smile once in a while. You don’t have to look so serious. The truth is, it takes models and working from nature to really go deep into your exploration of drawing sometimes. You know, I can do a quick sketch of Caleb that sort of looks like him as a sort of caricature sketchbook approach, but this way of drawing is based a little bit more on trying to get a real likeness. I’m pretty happy with mine right now, so I’m going to go ahead and fill in my shadows a little bit more. Notice I’ve stayed with this kind of straight-line approach this whole time. Leo: So Robert Bodem is recommending, in order to improve someone’s drawing, to keep working on their sculptures? I would certainly agree and listen to every word of what Rob Bodem is telling you because not only is Rob Bodem a very accomplished instructor who is also coming here to teach, he is also my cousin-in-law, so I do trust him, and I think you should too. The truth is—it’s 100% true. There is no difference. If you are working responsibly between painting, sculpting, drawing, drawing is at the heart of all of those things. The mistake that people make is that they separate them, They think, oh now I’m painting. Then they paint all loose and lose whatever likeness they had started out with. I think it is far more important to keep drawing at the forefront of what you are doing in whatever medium you are working in, and not just drawing but design. Design encompasses line, composition, balance. These concepts are at the absolute heart of working from nature. I hope you agree with that, Rob. NMA: We also have artists saying hello from Chile and Paraguay. Leo: Artists are saying hello from Portugal, Madeira— where else? Chile. Hello people in Chile. We see you, too. Johanna: Lucas is asking, when you draw, do you assign a value to colors or do you treat your model as if it were monochromatic like a cast? Leo: Lucas is asking if I look at nature and assign values to colors or try to imagine it monochrome? Johanna: Monochromatic like a cast. Leo: The answer is yes because I think both of those things are sort of the same thing. Try to divulge what tone something is often more important than figuring out what color something is. Color has three attributes. Three. Hue, value, chroma is the common parlance that people are using today. Value is unquestionably the heaviest weight of those things. Value is the one that does the heavy lifting. I’m doing a charcoal drawing here for you guys, but I do a lot in full color. The school that I went to is really focused much more on tonal accuracy than it is on color. Over the course of the week that I’ve been here working with the folks at New Masters Academy, I’ve been doing a course based mostly on tone and visually accuracy. Through the study of that, it will make you a better colorist if you study color after. It is a separate course of study that also must be studied. Johanna: Peoter says really good job. Leo: Someone said really good job? Johanna: Yeah. Leo: I like her. It’s a him? Oh Peoter, like Peter? Yes, I like him. Johanna: Really good job. Leo: I think he’s doing a good job too. Johanna: Do you ever do café drawing, whatever that is? Leo: Ask Peoter if café drawing, if he means like sanguine or red chalk, stuff like that. Johanna: That was SpaceLanding. Leo: Oh, that was SpaceLanding?
Well, you can still ask Peoter. I’ll bet he’ll know. NMA: Kay says bravo, thank you. It’s inspiring what you’re doing. Leo: Kay says it’s inspiring. Thank you. I’m so touched everybody wants to watch me draw. I wish every day people wanted to watch me draw. Johanna: Jeremy is asking, have you drawn any digital art? Hello from Manitoba. Leo: Hello from Manitoba to Jeremy. Jeremy is asking about digital art. I have an iPAD pro with a pencil, and me and my son do drawings on it together, but I’m not an accomplished digital artist at all. I know some painters who become incredible digital artists, but I think in my heart I’m just an oil painter. I’ve worked in watercolor. I’ve worked in drawing media. I work in metal point, which is a really interesting Renaissance drawing medium. I think deep down I just love painting in oils. Caleb, would you like a break? Caleb: I’m doing fine. Leo: Really? Caleb: Yeah. If you want to show them an example of metal point that might be a good idea. Leo: That’s a good idea. Caleb is suggesting I show people some of my drawings. I have a portfolio here full of drawings. It’s good for me to take a break from my drawing anyway. I think it roughly looks like him in the pose,
but I’m not actually sure yet because I’ve been working on it so long that my brain is
starting to tell me, yeah, it looks good Yeah, I have some metal point drawings here. This is a copy of a Raphael. Maybe if I hold it here you can see it clearly also. When I was learning to draw in metal point I did a few master copies just to help me understand the technique and how it might work. The way it works is each of these—here is a cast drawing. Each of these is drawn with a metal stylus on a paper that has a ground on it. This is not pencil. It’s a piece of metal that’s rubbed on it. If I take off my wedding ring and rub it on the corner, it will make a lighter mark than this because this is silver point. This is silver point. This is gold that I just did. That’s a fun thing that I’ve spent a lot of time doing in past years. Here is a little self-portrait in silver point. As you can see, it’s shiny like graphite. It’s actually the metal reacting with the surface of the paper, so that shininess is kind of fun. They tarnish. They actually rust a little bit over time. If you frame them and they start resting it looks awesome. It’s a very faint medium. It takes a while to build it up. If you don’t work too long on a drawing you don’t get a lot of value. That’s a nude in metal point. Here is another one. It’s silver point and white chalk. Maybe you can see that there also. It’s a wonderful medium, but unfortunately you can’t really erase at all. Here is a watercolor. I paint in watercolor sometimes. That’s a one-shot watercolor sketch. A watercolor self-portrait. I was very unhappy during that period, as you can see. You have your audio back? Hi, Johanna. Johanna: Hello, I’m back. Hello world. I have a voice again. Leo: Welcome back, Johanna. How nice having you here. This is a similarly stained sheet of watercolor paper drawn on with charcoal and white chalk. I really like this handmade approach. It’s my favorite thing to draw on. It’s something that has either a paper with beautiful texture or something that I treat with sort of mixed media. This is a cast drawing. It’s actually a life cast of sculptor. Her hand that she had done. It was a beautiful cast. I set it up. I just wanted to test. This is metal point, pen and ink, and lead white highlights. It’s fun to experiment with materials. Here is a portrait drawing. This is for a commission. We have lots of little drawings here.
We can flip through it some more. Caleb, do you want to keep working? I bet people want to keep working. Do you want a drink or something? Do you need anything? Caleb: I’m good, just make sure I get back in the right position for you. Leo: Caleb, is this your first time modeling? Caleb: It is. Leo: It’s your first and look at that. It’s almost perfect right off the bat. Whoa, that’s a round of applause. Caleb, can you bring your chin down ever so slightly? That’s perfect. Can you turn just a tick towards me like that. There you go. A little bit more. Yes, excellent. I have this angle from the zygomatic down to his chin a little bit too angled. I start chipping away at what I have. I’m not going to take questions for a minute because I need to work while my eye is fresh. Every time I take a break I get this little superpower for a moment of actually seeing whether I’ve done a good job or a terrible job. Oftentimes, those drawings that I think are going well I think, oh, the head is way too big or too small or whatever it may be. But I always try to tell students to use their fresh eye. Take a break, walk away from their work. Do not look at it for a moment. Then when they come back, make a bullet list of the things they need to do. That’s sort of what I’m doing right now. I’m running through all over the drawing trying
to figure out the things I need to deal with. Johanna: Are you ready to answer questions now? Leo: I’ll answer a nice question. Johanna: So, SpaceLanding is clarifying what he meant by café drawing. He meant just going into a café and drawing the people you see around you. Do you ever do that? Leo: Oh. Yeah, no, sorry. SpaceLanding, café is a color in Greek. My wife is from Greece. I just assumed you meant color. Café drawing, yeah. Drawing in a sketchbook is great. You can’t really sight-size out of a sketchbook, but what’s nice about drawing in a café is you can draw all incognito. Gyno set up an easel, a sort of painting kit that he finished on the outside. He sanded down the edges, painted it black and put a logo on it so it looked like a laptop. He would go to a café and paint for a couple of hours and nobody would be able to tell he was painting them. I always thought that was brilliant. So yes, café drawing, any drawing is good. There is no, there is nothing wrong that you can do as long as you are really trying to work responsibly from nature and be truthful Johanna: He is saying, wow, I like your paintings. Leo: Somebody likes my paintings? Johanna: Yes. Leo: I like my paintings too. Thank you. Caleb: I like your paintings too, Leo. Leo: I love this guy. Johanna: How do you arrange this works from the important to less important? Gesture, structure, anatomy, perspective? Leo: To rank those in importance? That’s all important. That’s like asking me to pick my favorite kid or student or something. It’s a bit unfair. I will tell you that everything that I work on, and my students in Boston will certainly recognize this line. I try to run everything through a matrix first. Number one, improve the drawing. Improving the drawing includes proportions, structure, includes design, composition, likeness. Number two, improve the tones and values. Number three, improve the color, paint technique, paint thickness and surface. Those things are all of huge importance to me. Can somebody give me a sense of time, how long we’ve been working? NMA: We’ve been going for about an hour. We had a late start. We were originally planning on going for two. Leo: We’re planning on going for two. Let’s say I’m about at the halfway point. Yeah, I feel bad because we had some sort of technical difficulties in the beginning, and all these nice people came out even physically watch me draw for a while. I hope I’m doing a good job for you guys too. I’m not getting any questions from you. Johanna, will you take some questions from the people that are here. NMA: She has been fielding some. Leo: Has she? Johanna: We have been also taking in questions from the live audience here. NMA: Does anybody have any? Johanna: Somebody in the audience is asking it looks like you have some white chalk on there. How are you establishing that? Leo: Yeah. That’s true. It’s just some white chalk. I am hinting at some of the highlights, catch lights on the eyelid. I am eventually going to go in and put this highlight in the eye. I’m trying to—actually, let’s do that now just for fun. Let’s see if we can get it close to the right spot. I am not finishing my drawing right now. I’m just sort of laying these up and helping me place them. I’m looking at the placement of this highlight in relation to this highlight. I’m looking at the placement of this
highlight in relation to that. I am drawing in the three-dimensional space of his head. I’m sort of moving things around forward and back, and the white chalk is just helping me do that because it brings it visually towards us. Eventually, I’ll probably put some here in the shirt. We’ll build up some more tone, but I think it’s nice just to get a general sense of the form to use the white chalk to ease up on it. Keep in mind I can go a lot brighter than this. That’s white, white. I can go a lot darker than this. That’s black. I’m still staying in the sort of safe, middle range between the two. Yeah, we’ll see. We’ll see how much chalk I end up putting here. Johanna: Iyush is asking, didn’t it make you nervous the first time you drew publicly? How did you overcome that? Leo: What is her name? Johanna: Iyush if I’m saying it correctly. Leo: That’s something a lot of people struggle with. We draw and paint in the comfort of our studios and our homes, and then New Masters Academy asks you to do a live stream which is going to go on YouTube forever and everybody can watch it, and probably should be more nervous about that. The fact is, the best thing for getting over that is something I do all the time, which is I paint in public. I paint landscapes. I paint cityscapes. I go outside and I paint and I deal with random passers-by who say everything from wow, that looks amazing to what is it. You get every sort of different type, and I frankly have a very thick skin to working in front of people now. I’ve done demos in front of really live, large audiences. I don’t know. I guess I’m just used to it now. The other thing that’s nice about landscape painting is because you’re distracted all the time. It’s gotten me so much better at talking while doing a demo or teaching because for a long time while I was at school I needed absolute silence to be able to think. Now I just sort of think out loud as I am drawing. Does that make sense? Do you agree with that? Johanna: Jack is asking what’s the importance of classical arts in this age of modern-day—basically the modern arts booming? Leo: Art in the humanist tradition goes back thousands of years. Classical art or whatever people want to call it frankly a celebration of us as a species and our relationship to our planet and each other. When you draw and paint in this fashion you are sort of entering the same covenant the ancient Greek sculptors and architects, all these brilliant minds before you thought about. Classical art doesn’t go anywhere because it is a reflection of us. It is a not—how should I say—product based. By making your focus truth and beauty, your art can be hopefully timeless. That’s why I try not to really think about style or things that are going on today. I’m always instead trying to think about the artists that I admire from the past. My heroes. Yeah, a lot of them happen to be dead, but that’s okay. The art stays and remains accessible to us. Johanna: Elie is asking, why are you holding off on the darkest darks? Leo: Is that a Florence Academy student? Johanna: Beau is the name. She doesn’t say, maybe. Leo: That might be a Florence Academy student. Yeah, so I sort of have my own way of drawing these days. It’s really influenced by the school that I went to, but I like slowly creeping up on a finish. I want the last things that I do to be sort of putting accents here on the eyes. Not just that—I’m creeping up on a visual impression. We have limited time here so I want to move forward slowly and sort of deal with everything in order rather than jumping ahead and then having to step back. I’m slowly going and darkening a bit, the hair, and doing it in a series of passes rather than just rubbing it in right away. I always try to keep in mind the amount of time that I have when I start. Right? I told myself two hours. You’ll see me work slowly, and then bit by bit working a bit faster, hopefully. Johanna: Robert Bodem just wants to make sure you know he’s still here. Leo: Awe, cousin Rob. How are you doing? I hope you’re watching this. My friend Rob Bodem, who is a really fantastic sculptor, Rob and I have worked together for years. We taught together. I was the main drawing instructor for a long time at this program. I worked with him for the better part of 10 years, and I’ve known him for twice that nearly. The guy is a great sculptor. For those of you watching, he is also coming later this year—I think in January. Is he coming in January? February to do some teaching for the folks here. Maybe everybody will convince him to do a live demo too. Who knows? Johanna: We’ll have to convince him first. Leo: Yes, we’ll have to convince him first, they are saying behind me. Rob is a wonderful artist, and he’s teaching a workshop right now in Manchester, Virginia. Is that right? Do you remember? Johanna: Yes. Leo: Everybody should look up his work.
He is a hell of a figurative artist. Johanna: Adrian is wondering, do you find it difficult to talk while drawing? Leo: You know, I’ve been talking while drawing for so long. Not just in my lifetime, but during this week I’ve been trying to think of every little lesson from my training that I can to record on video for people to be able to watch later. It is certainly difficult to talk while drawing, but I think I’m getting used to it. Johanna: Stephanie is saying thank you for the inspiration. Leo: Thank you, Stephanie. Johanna: Is your drawing process different when you draw from imagination—John is asking. Leo: Well, I don’t draw portraits from imagination because I’m always trying to get a likeness. At this point, portraiture sometime feels like a job because I’m so caught up in minute changes. The tough thing, and I’m sure everybody who is working at home has had this experience, you get something off by a millimeter or two, and it just doesn’t look like them. It goes from looking like a person to kind of looking like their cousin. Yeah, that margin of error is really, really small in portraiture, but they are so much fun to draw and paint. Johanna: Ricardo is asking, can you please recommend a book for academic drawing and painting? Leo: Yes, I can. Ricardo wants books on drawing. Let’s start with drawing. Harold Speed. Harold Speed wrote an excellent book on drawing and a book on painting. His book on drawing is, oh it’s got to be nearing 100 years old. It is still entirely valid and so similar to some of the things that I’ve been talking about. The Practice and Science of Drawing, Harold Speed. The next book I would recommend is Soloman J. Soloman. You just have to remember Soloman and you’re halfway there. Soloman J. Soloman. That book was out of print when I was an art student. I had to read it whenever I could in my teacher Dan Graves’ studio because he had a copy, and the copy was worth so much at that time. It has now been reprinted just like the Harold Speed book. You can get it on Amazon for 10 bucks or something. The Soloman J. Soloman book is excellent. Johanna: Mitchell is asking, do you see any advantages to just drawing in black and white with value gradation, of course, versus painting in color. Sometimes I think color is a distraction from form and value. Leo: What was her name?
Johanna: That was Mitchell. Leo: Oh, that’s a guy. Mitchell. Probably a guy. Sorry, I apologize to people out there if I get your name wrong. Anyway, yes, I definitely agree with you. The John Sargent line is color is an adornment of form. You get the form correct, and the colors are the fancy stuff that goes on top. Color is often a distraction. That’s true. That said, color gets all the credit. Everybody that wants to take classes at my studio, they want to paint. They want to paint right away, and they want to paint real colorful. It is through the careful study of tonality that you can become a better colorist. I love color. I want to paint everything in color these days. But I am doing this course with charcoal, chalk, pencil, all of the beginning academic materials to sort of show a trajectory of what you can start and certainly where that has gotten me after all these years. Johanna: Andreas from the audience has a question. When you were a student at Florence, were there instructors who had different ideas and approaches in drawing? If so, was it confusing for you having to grasp those different concepts? Leo: This is Andreas? Oh hi. Hi, Andreas. Yes, there was a myriad of different opinions about how to do the same thing. Liken a school like Florence Academy to a classical conservatory or a really incredibly exclusive music or cooking school. Within the academic theory there are a bunch of different opinions. Inevitably there would be some teachers that I would agree with more or less. That said, what’s nice about that school, and I guess my approach has always been, find the professional artist that you like their work and listen to what they have to say because there is a greater chance aesthetically that their opinions might line up
with your own. Does that make sense? Johanna: It does make sense. Meg is asking, hi Leo, what are some methods for bringing a portrait back when you’ve made a mistake midway that throws the likeness off of the rails? Leo: That’s a great question. Sometimes I just start over because, as I was saying in the beginning I’m sort into the concept of freshness. I want something to have an energy to it. If I start to lose that energy entirely, I might just start over on a new sheet, frankly. That portrait commission that I was talking about that I though was going to be fast and ended up being— I think I started one of the heads over three times. That said, if you just focus on—I’ve simplified this so much. On our model Caleb there is all these different tones and colors, and I’m really just trying to work on the pattern and separation of light and dark. I’m juggling less balls as I’m doing it. I’m not forcing the issue, if that makes sense. I hope that makes sense. I hope something I’m saying makes sense. Johanna: Hello from the Philippines. Leo: Hello to you, too. Notice I really held away from all these details. Nostrils and irises and all this stuff is falling into place because I spent some time— well, hopefully going to fall into place. Let’s not speak to soon. But spend some time sort of laying out where everything I though should go. I am continuing to move stuff around.
I just noticed a pupil here. The iris can move a little bit over, which brings that highlight over. It can’t be a bad thing. Alright, at this point, I want to give our model our break. Not because he wants one. This is like the most stoic guy ever. It’s his first time posing, and I’m going to ruin him if I really make him keep going. It’s not just that. He’s doing such a good job sitting still, Caleb is, but the face is starting to lose animation after a while. I just want you to sort of stretch out your shoulders and relax because you’re doing a good job, but you’re starting to look like you’ve been sitting there for a while. In my studio when working, I almost always speak to my models as I’m working, try to get them to light up a bit. Obviously, in this case, he doesn’t have a microphone on. Even if I tell him my dumb jokes you won’t be able to hear him laugh. Can I ask one of you guys to grab me a drink? NMA: Yeah, we can go back to the portfolio. Leo: Yeah, Caleb, take a break for a second, man.Let me pull out some more drawings. I would like one of those sparkling waters, please. Here is another figure sketch. These are sort of fast. This has a ground on it also. Old self-portrait sketch. I was a lot younger. Sanguine drawing. This is another silver point if you can see that silvery effect again. Johanna: While you show it can you talk about if you ever do master copies? Leo: I do, actually. One of the first ones that I pulled up is a master copy. I am a big believer in doing master copies. I still do them. The past few years I copied a Frederick Judd Waugh. Frederick Judd Waugh was perhaps the greatest painter of the sea in the late 19th and early 20th century, certainly at the level of skill of Winslow Homer, who is obviously much more famous. Waugh is one of the great painters of the ocean. That’s something I’ve been thinking about so I copied one of those. I copied a Velasquez 2 or 3 years ago with a painting friend at the museum in Boston. I would advocate to everybody that if you’re going to do master copies to do them from the real painting, to not just copy off, like any real painting. Johanna: Can you show us the last drawing one more time? We didn’t see it. Leo: This one? Johanna: Yes, it’s visible. Thank you. Leo: Yeah, to copy from the real painting is useful. Here’s an etching of my dad. I don’t know why this is in here. That’s my father. I’m terrible at etching. I only did it for a couple of weekends, but it’s fun, and that one survived for some reason. Here is another silver point. You can see that flash again. I like using a variety of different media. And I really do like this approach of just working within the limits of time and the medium that you have.
Feel better? I feel better too. Student: It’s looking great. Leo: Thank you. NMA: New Masters Academy thinks the drawing looks fantastic. Leo: Oh, excellent. I just hope his wife and kids like it. Johanna: When you paint, what pigment colors do you suggest for using a limited palette? Leo: That is an easy question to answer. The Apelles palette is the palette that goes back to ancient Greece. What we would recommend is to pick a white. It could be lead white. It could be titanium white. Whatever you can get and would like to use is probably fine. Yellow ochre. Yellow ochre is an earth yellow, and frankly it’s just similar enough to skin tone. A red, it could be vermilion. It could be English red. It could be cad red if that’s what you can get, and a black, ivory black ideally. That assimilates white, yellow, red, and black. The theories around it are really interesting. The concept of the limited palette you can read a little bit about in Phillip Ball’s book, A Bright Earth,
which is a great book about pigment history and goes into a little bit of the
mysticism of the limited palette. People these days always talk about a Zorn palette, but Zorn is just one of a million other artists who used a limited palette. He’s been getting a lot of credit for that recently, but he’s certainly not the only person that used the limited palette. The nice thing about working with just a few colors is that —where’s that drink? Hi. Could I have that? Thank you. The nice thing about working with
just a few colors is that you can really concentrate on the space between the colors. That’s too dull. Grab a new one.
Where is the ear? I lost it somewhere. Johanna: Earlier you said you were drawing from your standing position some distance back. As the drawing progresses, do you abandon that and begin to model by simply observing from the easel? Leo: No, I’m never looking from the easel because it’s just such a different position. That said, I start to step closer and closer throughout so I can see more detail. The concept from back here is that I only see the big shape, the big impression of light and dark. When I start to step closer
I can see a lot more of the detail. This nostril is a little small. Johanna: Hello from Bulgaria. What do you think about mixing mediums? For example, a pencil and pen on paper and 2D digital media? Leo: Yes. I like that. I don’t do much of that. In my drawings I mix it around a little bit, but anything that gets you there. I think doing art is a by any means necessary kind of thing. Whatever tools are helpful for you. The important part is that focus on quality. Johanna: Do you know the artwork of Frank Mulvey? Robert is suggesting to take a look. You might like it. Leo: Oh, thank you. Johanna: Can you explain the process you use to dye your paper? Leo: Not easily without showing you, but the basic concept is that it is equal parts, it is stained mostly with India Ink. India Ink has some shellac in it, so when you are drawing on top of the wash that you create it doesn’t remove it. The shellac keeps the wash in place. There is sort of a technique to it. For those that are familiar with watercolor, it’s a wash like anything else. Leo: Go ahead. Did I scare Kelly? Johanna: So Beau is asking, all your edges seem hard at this point. Do you blend at some point to soften them? Leo: Here, I can soften a little bit here and there. I’m keeping it slightly sharp overall because I want to really delineate the edges of all these shapes. I’m trying not to—I’m trying to sort of make sure I get everything drawn with a lot of character. I can soften a little bit later. It’s sort of the opposite of what I would do in paint. In paint I usually start off kind of soft, general towards specific. Oh there is a catchlight in his eye right now.
I’ve been waiting for that. Don’t move. Johanna: Robert Bodem is saying there seems to be a distant vision of how this was built up, where it would arrive. That must be difficult to teach. Leo: As you know, Rob, it is very difficult to teach. Johanna: He is correcting—he says a distinct vision. Leo: It is super difficult to teach pacing and patience. I think one of Rob’s lines that he uses while teaching that I really like is leaving yourself little breadcrumbs that as you are going throughout you’re just finding little points that you can hold onto. Put a pin in it and remember it for later. Part of learning to work from life is certainly learning to imagine what you would like it to look like. Johanna: Sara is saying, wow, if you see this, you are so good at drawing. I wish as I was talented as you are. I’m just an 11-year-old that is bad at drawing. Leo: You are exactly the right age to be drawing all the time. That is the sweetest thing ever. I wish I had my eyes on trying to draw traditional drawings from the time I was 11. I would like for—what was her name?
Johanna: Sara. Leo: Sara, you should get Andrew Loomis. Andrew Loomis is an American Illustrator. He wrote a series of books about how to draw, imagine the head, the figure, and they are sort of written for illustrators, but he has a great sort of step-by-step system for imagining all the structures and forms. I am no more talented than you are at 11, but I’ve just had a lot more time to work. The time working helps a lot.
Do you guys agree with that? Student: Absolutely. Leo: Yeah, okay, good. Johanna: There are a lot of artists in the audience, and everybody is agreeing very much with Leo right now. Leo: Are you agreeing with me, Johanna? Johanna: I am agreeing with you. Leo: It seemed like you were abstaining from that one. Johanna: Sara, keep practicing…What’s that? Leo: It seemed like you were abstaining from that one. Even Caleb laughed. The man is stone faced. Johanna: Sara is saying, thank you so much. I’m tearing up right now. Thank you so much. I will take your advice. Thank you. Leo: You are welcome, Sara. That’s really sweet. Johanna: GraphitePencil is saying how do I prevent my drawing from looking like a photograph? Leo: Don’t draw from photographs. Draw from nature. Sorry if I’m being short there, but I think the importance of working from life cannot be overstated. What you’re referencing is a little bit aesthetics. I do not ever want my work to be confused with a photograph. I want it to be a celebration of the medium itself, a celebration of the subject, but I never want to confuse it with a mechanical image. I am not a meat camera. I am a human being, and I want to show my hand and my personality just a little bit through what I do. My recommendation is if you’re already thinking about that you’re probably moving in the right direction. Johanna: Adrian is asking, do you use the squinting method to help the overall forms and tones? Yes, I definitely use the squinting method all the time. I don’t know if I’m squinting much today because I’m kind of distracted while I’m working, and I’m trying to talk to everybody, but squinting is one of your most valuable tools. Leo: Do you agree with that, Andreas? Yeah?
Johanna: Andreas is agreeing here. Johanna: Ariel says hello from Chile. Don’t get confused by my name, I’m a guy, LOL. Where do you get your materials? Paper, pencils, charcoals? Leo: Ariel, I am drawing on watercolor paper. The watercolor paper exists everywhere. Here, let me write some materials down. That camera there can see me, right? Hold on, this is a better one. Take a break for a second. It’s just Arches drawing paper. I am using Nitram charcoal mostly. Nitram charcoal is integral to this process to sort of academic drawing. I’m going to be talking a lot about that throughout the course of the online course of study that New Masters Academy is doing. I am using white chalk. I am using a moll stick. I have a mirror and a plumb line, and these are all the tools that I need. You can get them pretty much anywhere. If you can’t get Arches, any sort of watercolor paper would work. It is stained with India Ink with water, and the Nitram charcoal you get everywhere in the world now. You might have to order it online, but that stuff is special. It does work better than other charcoal. Thank you Caleb. Caleb pointed out that this moll stick—will you hold that for a second? This moll stick I made myself. That’s just a simple wooden dowel. We took some newspaper, padded it up, put a bunch of tape on the outside so I can rest my hand while I’m working. Caleb, you helped me make this. You did. It’s not a hard thing to make. You can buy them at the store, but I usually just make one out of a dowel. Johanna: Meg says hi from rainy Boston. Can you talk a bit about balancing. Leo: It’s raining in Boston. Oh no, I’m from Boston. Who’s this? Johanna: Meg Weeks. Leo: Hi, am from Boston, and I’m really sorry to hear it’s raining again. Johanna: So, despite the weather she also has a question. Do you want to hear it? Leo: No, I just want to talk to her. [laughter] I miss Boston. It’s sunny every day here. It’s really weird. I miss New England. Johanna: Can you talk a bit about balancing points or areas of precision with larger masses of less detail? Do you find this helps your approach to landscape as well? Leo: Yeah, everything I do is about balance. If I do this, what happens there? If I do that what happens over there? It’s all about this constant fine balance between one part and the other. I’m trying to work the whole, and if you’re in Boston, I would hope you’re familiar with the Boston School painters at the MFA. Look at the work of Frank Benson. I think in particular he is one of the outstanding members of that group. It’s that sense of the whole that I am always after. But I am really sorry to hear it’s raining in Boston. I heard yesterday was beautiful. Fall color in Boston has been so pronounced this year. It’s just seems like it’s slightly late. Enjoy the trees. If it’s raining I hope there are still some leaves up. Do you think there any leaves on the trees in Boston? Student: Maybe not. Johanna: Does the stick help prevent smudging on the paper? Leo: Yeah, that’s the whole idea. The stick prevents smudging. I just rest my hand on it. When I started working on the eyes and the underside of the nose a little, I just wanted to get in there. I used the moll stick. Johanna: Somebody in the audience is asking, if it treats the drawing differently if the paper is toned by hand versus buying a toned paper in a store? Leo: Was that for me or the online audience? I mean, who are asking? Are you asking YouTube and Facebook? You’re asking me? Sorry, I’m joking around. I’m trying to have a very light approach because I’m starting to be a little bit stressed about finishing this drawing. Yeah, I think making a hand toned piece of paper is of immense advantage if you want to show the hand of the artist. I sort of have a technique that I want to show, whether in paint or not in paint, charcoal, silver point, pencil. I always like to show a little bit of my personality in the human hand. The paper is a really nice way to kind of show off the fact that every aspect of this drawing is homemade. This is straight from Dan Graves, the guy who founded the Florence Academy rediscovered the Charles Bargh drawing course, or at the very least reintroduced it to atelier students. He is the one that showed me how to do this paper. I’ve not only done it but I’ve helped students do it for so many years now. I love it. I think it’s a really nice surface. Leo: Yeah, so what Joshua is telling me is that I’m getting a little close to the drawing, so I apologize if you’re not able to see from one moment to another. The truth is I start off distant, and then I slowly get closer and closer until I’m working at kind of a furious pace, hopefully. Apologies if I’m obscuring your view from one moment or another. Johanna: Peter is asking, what is your criteria for calling a drawing finished? Leo: Sometimes I finish a drawing and sometimes a drawing finishes me. I don’t know. I just, it’s really hard. Something looking complete is nice. Something can look complete at the stage, whatever stage it’s at. It can be finished. My wife sometimes helps me and says, you know, you should stop messing with that. I have art dealers that will at times come to my studio and say, can I have that? I’ll say, no, I’m not done with it. They’ll say, but I want to sell it. And I’ll say, okay. That’s how that’s finished. Johanna: So Anika in the audience here would like to ask you a question directly. Is it easier to use pencil or charcoal? Leo: Is it easier to use pencil or charcoal? I think it is easier to control pencils for a long time. Not always, but for a while I think it’s a little easier to control pencil. But charcoal just has this boldness to the approach which I really like. It looks immediately kind of like a brash statement because you’ll go in and make something darker. It feels really immediate. I love that about working in charcoal. But either, Anika. Either is good. Whatever you like. This stuff is about personal taste. Johanna: Somebody is responding to Sara’s comment. Sara who is 11 years old.
Leo: I hope he’s being nice to Sara. Johanna: He’s very nice and I’m going to read it to you. He’s saying drawing is a skill. Age is irrelevant. When it comes to drawing and execution there is an 11-year-old artist in Nigeria who draws like this, apparently good. Sara is saying thank you.
Leo: That’s good. Johanna: Mike from Rhode Island. Have you ever tried Walnut Ink for toning paper or for pen and ink work? Leo: Yes, if you use walnut ink, which is beautiful. I wonder where you’re from in Rhode Island. My mother is from Federal Hill, and I grew up in Rhode Island a lot. I was just in Rhode Island the other day. The framer I use is in Rhode Island. Sorry, that doesn’t answer your question. Yeah, walnut ink is really nice. You can make it yourself. Walnut ink or Bistre ink are both really wonderful, traditional, old school inks. The problem with them is that sometimes if you stain the paper you can erase it off a bit. If you want to try to tone paper with that stuff, just add a little bit of shellac to it, and then you should be able to draw on it just fine. Just like starting to place his pupils there. Remove a little bit of the underside to show the light in his eyes. Did Mike tell me where he’s from in Rhode Island yet? Probably not. Johanna: So, Joshua from the audience has a question. Leo: Why, hello, Joshua. Joshua: Hello, Leo. My question is how do you think about reflected light. I’m noticing you’re leaving some room in the jaw there. How would you actually go about mottling in there or would you? Joshua. Would you let it just sort of group and fall off? Leo: What a great question. Joshua is asking—were you talking to the microphone there. Wonderful. Yeah, I sort of avoid working on the reflected lights until I have the light and shade pattern set up. I don’t want to overstate them. I find that students will often go in and sort of put this bright mark in there to show the reflected light, but that’s almost as light as something in the light half, so I tend to sort of recommend to people to leave out the reflected light and then find the few points that are a little darker around it. That starts to illuminate it on its own, if that makes sense. Kind of like that. That way I build it up naturally and I don’t overstate where something is. I like that he’s wearing a light shirt. I like this big, open shape I made when I was showing off what charcoal does, so I’m just going to leave that. Is that okay with you, Caleb?
Caleb: That’s perfect. Johanna: Somebody is asking, how to know when and where to keep the outline in the final drawing like charcoal drawings of Steve Huston and Sargent. Leo: How to know how to keep an outline in a final drawing? Johanna: Where and how to keep the outline in the final drawing. Leo: You can almost always keep an outline in a charcoal drawing. It looks really great. It separates the figure from the background so if you look at Alfonse Mucha, the really wonderful painter and artist, everything is heavily outlined. It’s personal taste too. John Sargent certainly didn’t outline everything, but it can look good. Johanna: Mike is saying I’m in North Providence and make my own walnut ink from black walnut trees. Leo: Mike, I’d like to buy some from you. My studio is in Waltham and I’ll be at Central Falls at the framer sometime soon. I’m sure you can email me. I’d love to see your ink. Johanna: Would you rather recommend beginners to go through Loomis’ method first? Leo: Loomis is a great starting point. It’s not the only starting point, but it’s a good one. It really helps with characterization of the features. Johanna: As a beginner, is it better to try out different constructive methods or just go with observational drawing? Leo: There is no right answer to that one. You need to see what techniques look good to you, what things look interesting to you. That’s the best thing to do. Learning to paint and draw is like food. Some people like Italian food and some people say that they don’t, and they’re wrong. Some people like sushi and the people who don’t are also wrong. It’s a little bit like personal taste like that. Johanna: Mike who makes the walnut ink says awesome. He would like your email address. Leo: He can find it on my website. Johanna: Hello from Sacramento. Smoky skies here. How has the Bargue drawing course helped you with portrait drawing? Joshua: There are fires up there. I think that’s what he’s referring to. Leo: Yeah, I know. I’m so sorry to hear about the fires. My wife is from Greece and we were there this summer with the family just after the catastrophic fires there this past summer. It’s horrible. I’ve been there for the fires a number of times, so I’m a little bit familiar with the terror, sort of the havoc it wreck. Sorry, I just remembered the fires. What did he say? Oh, Bargue drawings. Yeah, it’s great. Do Bargue drawings. They are immensely helpful. Without them— they are a great starting point to get you working more accurately. Johanna: Irina is saying the drawing is fantastic. I’m really thankful for this kind of streaming because it makes me want to go back to drawing, as I’ve been struggling with it a lot lately. Leo: Thanks, Irina. Johanna: Adrian is asking what connection does New Masters Academy have to either individual artists or art institutions in Australia? Johanna: Well, we do have subscribers all over the world, so there are a lot of subscribers in Australia as well. You can subscribe from anywhere. Joshua: Yeah, this is Joshua speaking. So, the way that the website works is that we do have group accounts that schools and companies like Disney Animation studios use to give to their artists, but the way that it works is it just a subscription library. Anybody can subscribe from anywhere. Just like people are watching all over the world now, people are accessing the library. And so this series that Leo has been working on with us is going to go into that library. If you subscribe on the website, and right now there is a 30-day free trial, nma.art/leo. But when you subscribe to the website you get everything. That’s how it works.
Johanna: Thank you, Joshua. Johanna: Mark is asking if there will be lessons in Spanish. The answer is we would like to do that in the future. Johanna: Patrick is asking for artists starting off in their mid-20s to take the craft seriously, digital for me as well as drawing with pencil and ink, what is the biggest advice you have for setting personal goals? Leo: What kind of goals are we talking here? Some days I just want to cook myself some food. No, I’m sort of joking. The major thing, like the really, the hard discipline thing, and the good thing is you’re getting started. I think you can make a routine of just working every day. Treating it like a job. Getting up and getting into the studio, getting to the place that you do your work, wherever it is. Yeah, just do it over and over and over. For better or for worse, this is something cumulative. You need to cover miles of canvas and miles of paper to feel confident. I would really recommend to you guys watching this out on the internets that you should just make it an integral part of your life. The beautiful part about being an artist is the more you give to it the more it gives to you. It is a discipline as much as a craft. If you are willing to give it your all it gives back a lot to you. It’s not an easy life, always, but it’s beautiful. Sort of sit and contemplate beauty and what you’d like to represent. You get to come up to a personal answer to that. It’s a really great privilege. Johanna: I’m trying to draw the same portrait at the same time, but not even close, similar to yours. Mine still doesn’t look real. Leo: Joshua can you do a better job for her? Caleb, sorry. My brain is like mush talking to everybody at this time. We’re at two hours? Give me five more minutes. Can I have five more minutes with everybody? Johanna: So we are reaching our two hours. We can, right? Five more minutes? Joshua: We’re fine to keep going. Caleb, are you okay. Caleb: Yeah, I’m great.
Johanna: Caleb is fine. Everybody’s fine. Leo: You look wonderful. Thank you, Caleb. Leo: Yeah, let’s try to just put a little more finish on this before we call it a day. Johanna: Mike is asking, do you have any advice for getting hair to look more realistic? Leo: Clearly not today. I just have a blob up there. The truth is, hair is a mass of planes. I think if you start drawing individual strands of hair, you’ll be here until 2019, and you’ll never get them all down. What I try to do is observe the light and dark planes within the mass. I think about the head as having a structure of side, top, side plane, and try to sort of express that with as little effort as possibly, hopefully. But yeah, I don’t think today is a good hair day for me. It’s a good hair day for you, though. Once in a while I’ll go in an lighten one of my highlights. Give it another pass. That’s looking much better on the outside of the face. I’m so happy I didn’t stop when I was supposed to. Sorry. This is fun. I mean, that’s part of it. Drawing and painting, it’s a weird thing. Johanna: So, Sierra is asking, first, loving the stream. Do you take more stock or do you find it more important for someone to recreate something perfectly or can interpret something new. I’m worried my work lacks a voice. Leo: I think through the study of nature you can come up with a lot of new things. Everybody today is obsessed with novelty. Frankly, I’m not sure that that’s the search that really gets you there. I’m after truthfulness and a kind of reverence of the world around me. It makes me happy, at least sometimes. Okay, now before I let him go, I want to give a last pass to his eyes. Johanna: Who will keep this drawing afterward? Leo: It’s for sale. I think Caleb who has been so nice sitting for me, he is actually here waiting. His whole family, wife and four kids. I think it’d be really nice to show it to his kids and make sure they like it. If they do I think I’m going to let him have it. Caleb: That would be an amazing gift, Leo.
Leo: Yeah, you cool with that? You haven’t seen it yet. Johanna: What is the size of the paper? Leo: This is a quarter sheet. Maybe a half-sheet? That’s a half-sheet. Sorry, that’s a half-sheet. Johanna: How do you decide the size of the paper or canvas to work on? Leo: That’s the nice thing about sight-size. It’s exactly one head and shoulders big. I just sort of hold it up next to it on the easel next to my subject, and it really helps. Johanna: Iyush also wants to say he is a guy, not a woman. Leo: Who’s that?
Johanna: Iyush, and you thought Iyush was a woman. Leo: I said it was a woman? Johanna: I think you referred to him as her at one point. Leo: I apologize profusely. I also got his name wrong once. Yeah, sorry. Johanna: Is New Masters Academy going to do these streams more often, and the answer is, well, if people keep watching it we will do it way more often. Leo: It’s been nice doing this with you guys and New Masters Academy. It’s been a hell of week working through all the projects that will be online after editing and making sure that everything is said really nicely and concisely and clearly for the people that want to study this sort of drawing and painting. This really is a painting-based drawing approach. What I’ve been working on with the team here at New Masters Academy… Johanna: Adrian is asking how much for the drawing. Leo: I’m very sorry. I already gave it to him. Johanna: It’s already a gift to Caleb.
Joshua: So, Caleb, how much for the drawing? Leo: Is it still for sale, Caleb?
Caleb: A thousand, right now. No, it’s not for sale, guys. Leo: Come to my studio in Boston sometime. Everything is for sale. I really do, I like drawing and painting in front of people. I’m comfortable doing it while I talk. I hope this is useful. The primary thing is I would like to be useful. When somebody sees a project like this to help them along their way is kind of a privilege for me. I’ve been very lucky. I’ve received really wonderful instruction from amazing teachers. I’ve got a community of wonderful artists around me. My studio in Boston and here in California where I’ve been visiting. I feel very fortunate, and doing demonstrations like these are a nice way for me to give back a little bit, and I really do mean that. Knowing that people are watching and hopefully learning or gaining something from something I do is a privilege, and I want to thank everybody. I think I’m done. I could keep messing with this all day and all night. Johanna: Thank you, Leo. Thank you very much. Thank you, everybody for watching. We are done here too in our studio here in Huntington Beach, California. Leo: I’m going to get out of the way of the drawing. Leo: Thank you to everybody. Seriously, it’s kind of fun doing this live. It was really nice getting questions. To my friends and family, my son watching, it’s pretty cool. Maybe we’ll do something like this again sometime. Who knows? Joshua: Thank you.
Johanna: Thank you.

20 thoughts on “Portrait Drawing Demo & Artist AMA with Leo Mancini-Hresko!

  1. This is a trip, I was just reading the video description, but before I had read it I was insisting (to myself) that I know this guy… I mean it's weird, and I can't place where it is that I know you from.
    And then I read the description, and you're from the area… so now it's gonna drive me nuts! I'm from Fall River, I've been a bass player for….too long, but I just figured out that I can paint and draw, I always got too discouraged and gave up whenever it came to visual arts….
    Did I know you through Kevin Goff and Nathan Farias? I used to hang at risd in the late 90's and early 00's…?
    Ugh! Going to figure this out

  2. по моему натурщик остался за кадром, так как этот портрет не похож. 2 разных мужчины

  3. Wow, so finally will we have an academic/atelier approach? That's great! I remember asking you guys on facebook about the academic approach such as Bargue drawing, but I never got an answer. So I'll be waiting for it. Thank you!

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