Friday, June 23, 2017

Book Review: Portrait Drawing by Mau-Kun Yim

I recently had a chance to read a copy of Lessons in Masterful Portrait Drawing: A Classical Approach to Drawing the Head by Chinese-born artist Mau-Kun Yim.

The book consists mainly of Mr. Yim's charcoal portrait drawings from life.  


The book includes many step-by-step sequences that show his process. He starts with a foundation of straight lines to establish the structure of the head and the placement of the features.

Then he adds masses of tone in a sculptural but painterly way. He describes drawing as "painting without color," and he compares making a drawing to building a house. Edges and highlights are reserved for last.


The title of the book, "Lessons in Masterful Portrait Drawing: A Classical Approach to Drawing the Head" is a bit of a misnomer, because it's not really presented as specific lessons to follow so much as ideas and drawings to be inspired by. 

The book is helpful for the drawings themselves, which are well reproduced. A gallery section of full-page examples takes up the last 50 pages of the 144 page hardcover book. I found the book is also helpful for understanding his philosophy, which he has developed through his study of many traditions of drawing: not only Chinese, but also European, American, and Soviet. 


He quotes the teaching of Soviet master Konstantin Maksimov on the principle of wholeness: "Start with large blocks, straight lines, and masses of light and shadow, before gradually moving on to the features, details, and expression in a drawing. If you can get the relationship between the building blocks right, then a harmonious whole will emerge."

He is a believer in keeping a sketchbook. "Sketch often and sketch slowly," he recommends. "Is faster better in sketching?" he asks. "Not always! I've seen many private studios in the West, Hong Kong and Taiwan where the time allowed for nude sketches is so short that the paintings come out looking like wild scrawls."

There are several videos showing his method on YouTube, such as this one, sponsored by Nitram Charcoal. There are other videos on his own YouTube channel, where he also shares his masterful oil portraits. (Link to YouTube)

His website is Mau-Kun Yim

1 comment:

Daroo said...

Of all the tools and materials, I find paper choice to be (almost) the biggest determining factor in the final look of a charcoal painting. Does he mention what paper he uses?

Thanks for posting.