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Ifat Glassman

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Basically, I have two sets of training: One in which I focus on anatomy, and the other when I tell myself to forget all about it and draw from imagination.


Then I also do sketches from imagination but purely for anatomy (without artistic content). Then I can compare what I did to reality and see what needs further work. I can notice, for example, that I was unsure how to do the armpit in a certain angle, and then invest in that.

So here is one drawing that I did from imagination (or memory), with a lot of focus on anatomy. It shows the process of learning I was talking about.


Edited by ifatart
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It's not just an ability I want to develop to impress myself :) for me it is an absolute necessity. The reason for that is that a central theme of my art is expression of character through body language - body pose and facial expression. It is only possible to do it spontaneously and fully creatively if you draw it using subconscious content that easily "flows" to you. If I had to stop at every moment and think of the bone structure or look at a model it would mess up the expression of the image/ idea/ feeling I have in mind.

It is only by automatizing anatomy that I can fully express my inspiration (like I have in the older paintings) and at the same time do it realistically.

I don't know that it's only possible that way, but I think your approach is interesting. Keep at it, Ifat. I enjoy watching your development.

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I don't know that it's only possible that way...snip...

When I recommended Loomis, given Ifatart's goal of drawing from imagination, I did not mean to imply that Loomis did such a thing exclusively. He highly recommended working from live models.

He understood anatomy and perspective, and he created his own stylized or simplified "manikin" [idon't mean an actual object, but a drawn "manikin"] which he could use to sketch out ideas. He would try out some idea with various thumbnail or small images -- it's more effective and efficient to work out pictorial ideas in small, rough sketches -- and then, once he was certain of what he was after, he would use whatever was necessary, live models or photo references, etc. -- he kept his own photo reference file, saving photos over time -- to the create his final work. Same with Norman Rockwell.

If you have a general understanding of anatomy and perspective -- which Loomis, for one, presents in his various books (See how he tackles the problem of placing a figure in a scene, true to the perspective of the scene, for instance.) -- you can generate more convincing initial sketches. When you find the one that grabs you, then you can draw on whatever else you might think to be helpful.

Norman Rockwell would do this. He said that he would always start by searching for an idea (for a painting), and, interestingly, he always started the same way, by drawing (sketching) a drunken sailor leaned against a lamp-pole. That done, he was off and running in his stream of consciousness quest for THE idea.

After finding that big idea, he would then ask his wife, for one, what she thought. He wanted a confirmation that his idea would have impact with others as well. (He was after all creating paintings for mass appeal, like the covers of Saturday Evening Post.)

And, needing models, he would ask locals if they would model for him. He would direct them, demonstrate what he wanted from them, set them up as the characters he was looking for, and take lots of photographs.

Ultimately, using such references, he would do a full-sized charcoal drawing of his planned painting, working out his composition, values, etc. The drawing was detailed, labored, basically like his finished painting, but without color. Although he used photo references, he was no slave to them. They were but means to an end.

I think that he would also do small color studies, simplified color paintings, so that he could decide on his basic colors. Again, working small and in general, not detail, he was being efficient and effective, exploring possibilities in his quest for the right colors.

Then he would paint his final painting.

Point is, one's assumptions of what is necessary can get in the way of progress if they are incorrect.

Certainly, Loomis and Rockwell, etc., depended upon drawing (in both senses) from their imagination, but they also had no problem with then problem solving, doing or using whatever means they could think of to create their final work.

Norman Rockwell has a book, How I Make a Picture, in which he explains his process.

Edited by Trebor
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Norman Rockwell would do this. He said that he would always start by searching for an idea (for a painting), and, interestingly, he always started the same way, by drawing (sketching) a drunken sailor leaned against a lamp-pole. That done, he was off and running in his stream of consciousness quest for THE idea.


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The Idea — Backbone of Story-Telling Pictures

In a picture which tells a story, the idea itself probably is the most important element of the entire illustration. Certainly if the idea is not good and if it does not interest and intrigue people, any other good qulalities which the picture may possess will be lost because they will not be seen. It is an utter waste of effort to paint a beautiful, story-telling picture unless it is based on a good central idea — one which can be readily understood. I will now explain just how I develop a magazine cover idea. Whether you follow my method or not is up to you. I suggest that you try it at the start. Later you will probably develop a method of your own. In all my years as an illustrator, sudden inspiration has never been the source of a single idea. I have had to "beat my brains out" for each one. And each time I go through the same preliminaries.

I know of no painless process for giving birth to a picture idea. When I must produce one, I retire to a quiet room with a supply of cheap paper and sharp pencils. My brain is going to take a beating — and knows it.

First, I invariably draw a lamp post. I have found that I must start somewhere and if I did not start with the lamp post or something else, I would spend the day looking at the blank paper. So I start with hope and prayer — and a lamp post.

Next I draw a drunken sailor clinging to my lamp post. Now I have an object and a person. Then I give my brain a little exercise. Through association of ideas, I am reminded that sailors must do their own mending, so I put that down. That reminds me of a mother sewing up Junior's trousers with Junior in them, and I draw that.

At last I am on my way, but where I will end I never know. I keep hoping and praying for a knockout idea. And I keep on making sketches. Usually the first session gets me nowhere. Most authors, composers, playwrights and other creative people seem to have the same experience. Somehow you must condition your brain to think creatively. So I generally end this first session of two hours or more completely discouraged. I feel that I never will develop another idea as long as I live.

Then, perhaps next day, I go at it again. By this time my poor brain seems to be beaten into shape to develop ideas. I keep making sketches which no one but me could understand. I throw them down beside me as I work but I do not discard them. Often, by going over these sketches later, one of them will suggest something which escaped me at the time but which may be the very germ of the idea I am seeking.

One thing I know. When I do get a really good idea — the idea — I will have no doubt about it. When that time comes bells ring and lights flash! Then I get all excited. I do not want to try other ideas. I want to try out this one on my wife, my neighbors and — if they like it — I want to get to work on this one — the bell ringer.

How I Make A Picture by Norman Rockwell p. 28; Chp 1. "Getting the Picture Idea"

Edited by softwareNerd
Fixed typo in title, per author's request
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From memory, Richard Schmid has a video out, "The Captain's Portrait," in which he paints an oil sketch-portrait of a sea captain on stage in front of a large auditorium — a demonstration followed by a brief question and answer period.

During the Q&A at the end, a young girl asks him, given that he has stressed how important it is to paint what most interests oneself as the artist, how he decided what that was.

He asked her, how do you know the cutest boy in the room?

[sometime I'll watch that portion again; if I'm badly off, I'll try to remember to correct what I've said here.]

Another artist, David Leffel, in a still-life demonstration he gave (video), stressed the point that you should not begin to paint until the arrangement looked beautiful to you.

Edited by Trebor
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Okay, I watched that portion of Richard Schmid's demonstration.

Her question was actually: "How do I determine my center of interest or my focus?" [schimid read it from an index card; she did not asked it, but the camera focused on her, so I assume it was her question.]

His reply: "That's the thing I want to paint the most. It's like, how do you pick out the cutest guy in the room, see. Or girl. It's the one thing that you want to express more than anything else. Our job is not to paint everything in sight. We can pick and choose. We are the artists. We are the creative people."

Edited by Trebor
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Yes, I completely agree. The pleasure is incomparable. There is a way though to use references creatively (few options I noticed): One is if you start with an idea, draw a sketch, and then create or look for a reference to help improve the execution. An artist I admire, Boris Vallejo, uses this method, and his work is great and very creative. I think a reference can help reduce the complexity, like skin tones, light patters (especially if there are multiple light sources). Though I don't think it can ever be as fun as painting purely from imagination (and possibly not as artistically good for what I want to do).

The second - (works for me with faces) - is to use the reference mainly for patters of light and shade, but still inventing my own facial features, and change the expression as I like (though it can't change too much else the reference becomes useless).

That's how I also like using references. I either have them in order to improve the execution or I use them for practicing, where I might for example copy someting and then change value, color, features etc. There's alot that can be learned from studying references, but as you've said the ideal is to be able to create something entierly from imagination(which I think is by far the most difficult thing you can do as an artist).

Yes, that's exactly how I feel too. When painting from imagination it's like the rest of the world disappears. Not so when you're putting a lot of focus into the technical part.

Another aspect to this might also be that when creating something from imagination you need to look at things like an artist. A technical aproach easily gets analytic, meaning you paint more from your aquired knowledge instead of how you see things. Imagination implies having some sort of vision and even though you can take a techincal aproach it is by default more visual.

Yeah, I agree. I found a solution for that. Basically, I have two sets of training: One in which I focus on anatomy, and the other when I tell myself to forget all about it and draw from imagination (using automatized knowledge in anatomy I have acquired). I train myself to have a "flowing creativity" - by that I mean that there are no psychological blocks stopping my ability to express myself. It is very easy to fall into such a trap, like you said, by focusing only on the technical part. An artist that ends up with nothing but technical ability is finished.

Very well put. This is something i've started to understand more lately. I've always had a very theoretical aproach to things so when learning to paint i've had a very technical aproach. The teaching at school has a similar aproach, and i've thought alot about why I just feel bored and miserable... I mean, I "should" love it, but when you make all about technical ability and take away all forms of self-extpression you're sort of reduced to a camera(well, if you develop that level of skill, which is actually very unlikely if you only take a technical aproach). Not that it's bad to understand the theory and techniques, but it's something that should be done for the right purpose

Jeez, thought i'd make a longer response here but I just got too much work and too little time at the moment. I really enjoy this discussion and I hope this thread continues to grow(and I also hope to see more of your work), I might get back with a few more thoughts as soon as I got the time.

I really enjoyed this discussion. It's very fun to see another artist feeling about art like I do and having the same thoughts.

Thanks, and likewise! :)

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When I recommended Loomis[...]

I don't think there's anything wrong with that aproach, but I don't think it's necessary to use models - nor is it limiting not to. It's just a tool, like any other, and the way you use it(or not) should depend on your purpose. If your purpose is to create a fictional person I don't think the use of a model is a good idea(and not too many references of the same person either).

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I have had to "beat my brains out" for each one. And each time I go through the same preliminaries.

I know of no painless process for giving birth to a picture idea. When I must produce one, I retire to a quiet room with a supply of cheap paper and sharp pencils. My brain is going to take a beating — and knows it.

I find it interesting that it is the opposite with me. Ideas come most easily to me and in abundance. I find it a very good thing to have. For me it is connected with joy of living. I think so because in times when I don't feel that life is great, I also don't get ideas or want to draw.

I'm wondering if this is true in general, for everybody.

See, I think the reason why I have abundance of ideas is because I find certain things very beautiful and respond intensely to them. I think if I had held my values with less emotional attachment, I would have to whack my brains over every new idea for a painting. Instead, when I start drawing a human figure, I feel strongly about it, and creating a certain expression comes naturally because of it. It's like - the act of drawing and the beginning of putting down a subject on paper triggers the corresponding concept in my mind, which puts me in a certain mood which makes it easy to be creative. For example, I can start by drawing legs, and think that they belong to a human, a woman. That brings to my mind things like lightness of feet, joy, and implicitly - pride, confidence, giving in to a feeling. In other words it brings to my mind the ideal human and how he or she would feel (well, in my case it's usually a she, because that allows me to express feelings which are more personal. This doesn't mean, by the way, that I think of myself as perfect, just that I have such an image in my mind - it reflects my core values, my evaluation of what should be, but it does draw from my experiences and feelings).

You could take it one step further and ask; why do some people feel more intensely about their values than others? I don't know, it's a very interesting question, I wish I knew the answer.

To continue my reply to the quote: For me the problem is technique (and not ideas): If I don't think I can execute an idea technically well enough I can put it off for a long time or even forget about it. I don't think that's a good decision, thinking about it now. It's better to execute an imperfect thing but yet give birth to your idea than to put it off indefinitely.

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  • 4 weeks later...

An oil painting I finished recently without using a reference (as I explained this is the goal I am working toward - to be able to paint from memory/ imagination)


By the way, if anyone is interested I am selling prints of my drawings on heavy weight paper for $8 and prints of some of my paintings (like this one) for $18.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...

And oh yeah... There is something new on my website: I added an option of subscribing to receive an email newsletter when I put new content on the website.

It doesn't happen very often (though sometimes I am more active), so this is a good way to get updates.

So if anyone is interested go to http://www.ifatart.com/ to subscribe.

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  • 1 month later...


Thales: I used a picture of Angelina Jolie as reference. I wasn't going for a portrait though (wasn't aiming at resemblance of facial features). Resemblance still evident though. Personally I can't see it very well. If it was somebody else's work I'd probably be able to see better.

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  • 1 year later...

Alrighty... time to display some of my new stuff. I've started studying full time at an art school that offers classical training: Georgetown Atelier.

It's been a while since I posted here so I have a lot to show. I'll start with the works I've been doing at my Atelier.


A 3 hour drawing (so not a finished work):


This one took 3 weeks. My first rendering project (meaning, using full value range and not just blocking-in the figure/object).


Another 3 weeks project (though this is not the latest picture):


Now to the ones I made before the Atelier. The one I'm most proud of (from everything I've ever done), in terms of its spiritual value is this unfinished painting:


And another one I did was this:


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