Here I am working in the restored village of Strawberry Banke in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Its my blog, I can put my picture in it if I want to. Besides, some of you may be wondering if I look like a junk yard dog or not.
When I opened the comments page tonight there were six posts, each with an excellent question. I think I will answer those questions in the post tonight as I hope to make their answers useful to the larger audience of this blog.
I was also asked if we were aware of what was going on at the official art schools, and how we felt about the popularity of gesture drawing. I am a little embarrassed to say we were pretty contemptuous of the art schools of that day, but we had all fled them to the atelier, and those schools we had left behind were pretty bad.
THE PURPOSE OF AN ART SCHOOL IS TO PROVIDE EMPLOYMENT FOR ITS INSTRUCTORS.
I think we would have been wise to do some more short poses, if not "gesture drawings", but not at the expense of the longer poses. I have always enjoyed twenty minute poses when I am working in pencil.
I was asked if I look back on those times fondly, I do not. It was a time of endless labor and not enough to eat. I had no contact with anyone outside the studios, so I was deprived of the company of women which I have always enjoyed. It was a monkish sort of existence. I guess it is like asking someone if they miss boot camp. They are glad they did it, and wouldn't give up what they learned there, but wouldn't want to go back either. After a year or so in the studio's I was really tired of the shower trail, and not having a kitchen or a bathroom, or "real electricity", decent heat, and clean floors.
Another question was whether there were any women artists in the atelier. There were not. Ives didn't want to teach women. He was a bit of a misogynist. He put so much work into a student, I think he was afraid that a woman would leave the profession to have a family at exactly the most critical years in her artistic development. To Ives credit though, after my time there, he changed his mind. I think it remarkable that a man his age and from the Edwardian era still could radically revise his attitudes, but he could. I think the rise of feminism provided him with a new kind of female student and he recognized that when he saw it. A woman named Susan Stokes, a former fashion model from the Carnaby street era in England convince him to allow her to study under him.
Another reader asked : Gammell seemed pretty committed to developing imaginative/narrative paintings in his own oeuvre...did he ever have you guys do inventive composition exercises or memory drawing?
I didn't do much designing of imaginative and narrative paintings because I was so involved in learning the basics below that level. I did some of that on my own but I don't think I showed them to Ives. He would have said I was getting ahead of myself. I remember some other students doing some of that . We did do memory drawing. Ives was interested in Lecoq de Boisboudran who was a 19th century writer on the training of the visual memory. There was a period of time where I did that as a regular discipline. I guess I should do a post on memory drawing.
I was asked to do a post on going from student to professional and I will get to that as my autobiographical posts continue. I am spacing them pretty far apart as I don't intend to make this blog about me. It is a tutorial , and I want to stay mostly on that track. The personal history does have an instructive value in that it gives a picture of how I got here , things and people I have seen along the way and so that you will know who it is you are reading .The transition to professional is a chapter or two out, but I think you will find it interesting if not harrowing.
I was asked what Gammell thought of Dean Cornwell the American illustrator. I remember him speaking warmly about Rockwell and I am sure he knew who Cornwell was, but I didn't. The early drawings he showed me when we first met had the look of Howard Pyle to them. I have said this repeatedly, but it is instructive to remember that there were no books on any of the artists of the 19th and early 20th century who were not part of the modern camp. Even Sargent was reviled and ignored until the Ormond book came out in the mid 70's there wasn't even a book in print on him. We spent our time looking at old prints of French academic painting and looked at a lot more old master art
Another reader asked , do you find sight size valuable enough for amateurs to learn? I have done it a little, but it is hard for me to see how it applies to painting outdoors. It seems to me like relative measuring is usually good enough.
I do think that sight size is a good thing to know how to do, all knowledge is useful at one time or another. It is most useful in a master pupil; situation where the teacher is making corrections that can be readily pointed out and justified. It is also useful for painting portraits. I will do a post on how to set up a still life in sight size soon. There is a danger for the landscape painter in working sight size, in my opinion. It encourages the selection and copying of a "window" selected from nature rather than a design using the landscape in front of you as a opportunity to select and arrange your design.
I was also asked if we talked about the value of doing the "grueling" sight size training, I don't remember any of that, in the studios. As I became more of a landscape painter I came to question its value outside, and then became uncomfortable with it in general. It is a wonderful teaching method but I think it carries some danger of the aritst falling into purely visual draftsmanship. I discussed that here.
One of you asked if I had any of my old figure drawings to show. I have nothing from the Ives Gammell era. I worked so hard during that time, but I have moved repeatedly and it has long ago been lost or destroyed.
I have been invited recently to join a group of artists drawing figures up in Manchester and if I do , I might show you what comes from that. As I am a professional landscape painter, I feel like I should show what I do best .
One of you e mailed me and asked me what I do about health insurance, They are on their wife's policy now as she is employed .That is often how artists are able to deal with that problem. I do carry health insurance. As I have a family I must. It costs a fortune and I have a high deductible. This is one of the things that crushes small businesses. But you must have health insurance. After my mortgage health insurance is my greatest expense.
I have been speaking with some people who would like me to do a workshop later this summer over in Western New Hampshire. If you have an interest in being a part of that, e mail me and let me know. email@example.com
I think I will start the great reader critique either tomorrow or the next day.