Monday, December 9, 2013

Jeffrey Kahane, pianist and conductor

Pianist Jeffrey Kahane led the Bard College Conservatory Orchestra in Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto yesterday.

I sat in the second row with my watercolor pencils at the ready. Because I was so close to the stage, there were no other audience members around me, and there was enough spillover stage light to see my sketchbook.

I sharpened up three water-soluble colored pencils: ochre, brown (really red-brown), and black, and also had the black and clear water brushes ready. The decision what to hold in your off-hand is crucial, because you can't fish around once the music starts.

Jeffrey Kahane, pianist and conductor

Mr. Kahane was in constant motion, acting both as soloist and conductor, directing the orchestra from the keyboard.

I watched him without drawing for the first five minutes to look for characteristic poses. In keeping with Beethoven, his poses went from fiery to lyrical to explosive to vulnerable. The most typical pose was with the head thrown back and the left hand up.

Once I decided on that pose, I had to commit to it entirely, even though I would only see it again in glimpses.

I don't usually touch up sketches at home, but I was dying to use a few dabs of white gouache to define the front planes of his face, plus a few white scratches with a knife to suggest the hair over the collar. This detail is the size of a postage stamp or an SD card.

MediaCaran D'Ache watercolor pencilsMoleskine Watercolor NotebookNiji water brush filled with fountain pen ink. Lettering with Waterman fountain pen.

More about the performance last night and the Bard Conservatory.
Wikipedia on Jeffrey Kahane. Watch him play a little Mozart in this video clip.


Steve Gilzow said...

Wonderfully done, Jim. I'm glad you gave in to the temptation to add the gouache at home.

Also, in regard to the diorama post of a couple days ago, readers may want to check out yesterday's New York Times obituaries. There's one for Fred Scherer, a diorama painter mentored by James Perry Wilson. Scherer died recently at the age of 98. He makes a fleeting appearance in the video you posted a couple days ago.

James Gurney said...

Thanks for mentioning that, Steve. Also I'm told that Tomas Newberry, a foreground preparator died within a week before.

Leif said...

I'm glad to see this post because I've been wanting to ask you about strategies for capturing people in motion. I find it almost impossible, and it seems you've broken some kind of magic barrier to doing this. No doubt that's from your talent and diligence, but nevertheless I am eager to find some "framework" for approaching this. Here are some methods I've tried or considered, in no special order:

1. If the subject moves into a new pose, start a new sketch. If s/he reassumes a pose I'd already started a sketch for, then rotate back to that sketch. So you end up with many partial sketches on one page.
2. Practice "memorizing" a fleeting pose in my mind's eye, maybe close my eyes & visualize it internally before trying to sketch purely as a memory (to strengthen this ability).
3. Similar to 2, but use a still subject from a photo. Look long enough to remember all the major shapes. Then look away and draw. Then look back at subject, to compare with the sketch. Then refine the sketch from that memory, and repeat, etc.
4. Develop an internal model of what a typical person looks like in all kinds of poses, by drawing from photos & other still references. Then, when drawing a moving person, use verbal memory ("left hand in air, head tilted back") to remember the key aspects of the pose, and simply construct the drawing from the mental model.
5. Just try to throw down rapid gestural strokes to get the major shapes of a pose. Then fill in the details by thinking somewhat analytically about how s/he would look in that original pose, based on parts of the subject revealed as s/he continues to move about.

If there's a book that really gets into techniques like these (or hopefully better ones) in a serious way, I'd love to know about it. Most of the field sketching books I've seen are just a gallery of the author's work, with very little advice about how to methodically improve one's own results. Do you have any recommendations?

Adam Rex said...

I like that you mentioned an SD card as reference, for the kids who don't know what a postage stamp looks like.

James Gurney said...

Thanks, Adam. I only thought of the SD card because there was one sitting out on our breakfast table. Love your stuff, by the way.

Leif, these are all great strategies. Let me digest them a bit and I'll do a future post on the topic, though I only wish I had broken through a magic barrier. For me drawing a fast moving subject is mind-bendingly difficult, but I LOVE the challenge.

Kate said...

James I'm SO glad that even you find painting a moving target difficult (although it doesn't show!).

And the stamps vs SD cards is current - just did a post about stamps and have discovered that my 'uncool' hobby is becoming more popular again.

Christoffer Gertz Bech said...

I guess Darren Roussar's 'Memory Drawing' would be a helpful book. While it's not directly about sketching people in motion, it's about training the visual memory which I guess is an important skill for that. I have the book but haven't studied it in depth yet, but it looks very promising.

Another strategy I try to use when I sketch people in motion (or just people or animals where I don't know when they'll move!) is to decide what the most difficult part is - what do I need to look at, and what can I fill in from memory. Personally, I often find that clothing is the most challenging part - the perspective of a collar around a neck, light and shade on folds etc.

Elizabeth said...

Leif, there is a book by the creator of the old Tarzan comics, Burne Hogarth, called Dynamic Figure Drawing. The premise being, that if you understand the basic body shapes and can juggle the perspective, you don't need a model from which to draw. Or in your case, you wouldn't need a still model.

greenishthing said...

what mix of colours did you use for the skin?