Blog Index
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As a part of my teaching practice, through the blog Drawing Connections, I share with my students a variety of references from the field. Creativity, communication, invention, and design innovation are the broad thematic blog categories.


Industrial Design Patent Drawings

Rex Marsh Atomic Pistol. Patent drawing from the US Patent office. True views.

Just for fun, visit the Patent Room: The Art of Industrial Design to see a growing archive of actual patent drawings, "...a collection of early 20th Century industrial design discovered in the U.S. Patent Office archives." It includes drawings from the 1920s-1950s.


Chuck Close: A Systematic Approach to Portraiture

In this collage portrait of Phillip Glass, titled Phillip, by Chuck Close, one can see an overall structure of tonal values, whereby the artist successfully employs a full range in scale of white-to-black. Notice how values are placed according to similarity and proximity, and it is this carefully selected combination that makes it possible to render the portrait. Also, see how significant the grid system is in this piece, with incremental units evenly divided.

In order to create such a rendered composition, one must acutely observe the subtle shifts in light and shadow, form and volume. It is an organized, laborious, and systematic approach to constructing an image, and relies on the artist's ability to maintain extreme focus at every stage of the execution.

This can be seen in another Chuck Close example of a portrait, titled Georgia, which is constructed of handmade paper. Evident, as with so many incredible examples of his work, is his highly methodological, formal analysis of information.

"The remarkable career of artist Chuck Close extends beyond his completed works of art. More than just a painter, photographer, and printmaker, Close is a builder who, in his words, builds "painting experiences for the viewer." Highly renowned as a painter, Close is also a master printmaker, who has, over the course of more than 30 years, pushed the boundaries of traditional printmaking in remarkable ways.

Almost all of Close’s work is based on the use of a grid as an underlying basis for the representation of an image. This simple but surprisingly versatile structure provides the means for "a creative process that could be interrupted repeatedly without…damaging the final product, in which the segmented structure was never intended to be disguised." It is important to note that none of Close's images are created digitally or photo-mechanically. While it is tempting to read his gridded details as digital integers, all his work is made the old-fashioned way—by hand.

Close’s paintings are labor intensive and time consuming, and his prints are more so. While a painting can occupy Close for many months, it is not unusual for one print to take upward of two years to complete. Close has complete respect for, and trust in, the technical processes—and the collaboration with master printers—essential to the creation of his prints. The creative process is as important to Close as the finished product. "Process and collaboration" are two words that are essential to any conversation about Close’s prints." – via Chuck Close: Process and Collaboration

Chuck Close Exhibit at the Walker
Chuck Close Exhibit at the MOMA
Chuck Close Portfolio at Pace Prints
Self Portraits: Young Artists Create Oil Pastel Mosaics
Young Students Collaborate to Make a Portrait


Oskar Fischinger: Inspiring Motion Paintings

Featured here is the admirable modernist creator, Oskar Fischinger (1900-1967), an abstract painter and avant-garde filmmaker, whose non-objective “visual music” paintings, films and stills have inspired many artists, including painters, animators and filmmakers.

According to Peter Frank, "we now understand Oskar Fischinger not only as a link between the geometric painting of pre-war Europe and post-war California but as a grandfather of the digital arts."

He was a true master, coordinating symphonies of musical notes with syncopating forms, lines, colors, values, light motion and time. His work, both easel paintings and animations alike, was concerned with spatial dynamics, conveying complex perspectives, orbiting planetary bodies, buoyancy, weight, dance, and gravitational pull. Optical depth, rather than perceptual flatness, was achieved through penetrations, pulsations, saturations and resonance. The following quote briefly describes the one of his animated works, Allegretto:

“In the 1936 short Allegretto, diamond and oval shapes in primary colors perform a sensual, upbeat ballet to the music of composer Ralph Rainger. The geometric dance is set against a background of expanding circles that suggest radio waves.” – via NPR.

“Fischinger’s influence on the development of avant-garde abstract films is profound, with the genius of his vision acknowledged by 20th Century luminaries such as Orson Welles, Wassily Kandinsky, Moholy Nagy, Lyonel Feininger, Leopold Stokowski and John Cage. Fischinger's artistic innovations in film, recognized in Hollywood where he moved to work in 1936, eventually evolved exclusively into painting. In that medium he distilled his ideas in non-objective abstraction, presaging and significantly influencing Los Angeles‚ contemporary hard-edge abstract painters.” – from Arts Cenecal

“Concerned with more than mere formalist issues, Fischinger like Bauhaus master PauI Klee whom he greatly admired, sought to invoke in his abstractions Nature's operative laws. As a result, his forms in the spirit of Klee's, maintain an aura of vital forces - of growing, maturing and evolving in emulation of the powers that animate the cosmos to enter a Fischinger painting is to transcend the restraints of particular tirrie and to touch upon universals. It is this voyage he offers the viewer, launching thought visions on the winds of galactic visions into transcendent flight, that Fischinger's achievement resides.” – Susan Ehrlich Ph.D. 1988

Now, four decades after his death, one can see a select collection of his musical animations, in a recently released DVD titled, Oskar Fischinger: Ten Films, which can be found at the Center for Visual Music. Learn more about the artist at

A portfolio sampling of Oskar Fischinger’s exhibition may be viewed at the Jack Rutberg Fine Arts gallery web site.
Jack Rutberg Fine Arts
357 North La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90036-2517
Tel (323) 938-5222 Fax (323) 938-0577
Hours: Tuesday – Friday, 10am-6pm; Saturday, 10am-5pm


Hand-Drawn Lettering and Experimental Typography

This beautifully hand drawn alphabet is by Blake E. Marquis.

Graphic designers take note, there is an interesting traveling exhibition, titled Alphabet: An Exhibition of Hand-Drawn Lettering and Experimental Typography, which can be viewed now in Orlando, coinciding with the AIGA Conference.

“Focusing on an ordinary subject that we see each day, often in the hundreds of thousands, Alphabet presents 26 letters as more than just shapes for conveying information. The 48 artists and designers in this show conceive and interpret the alphabet in surprising and inventive ways, ranging from graceful and polished to witty and unconventional. The 60 alphabets featured in Alphabet were created by artists in North America, Europe, and Asia, and represent work from well-known typographers and designers as well as rising artists and design students.” – excerpt from the exhibition website.

Below are selected samples of some of the alphabets shown in the exhibition. Complete character sets (A-Z) of each alphabet in the show can be seen in the exhibition catalog or at one of the exhibition venues.

A set of 26 table and chair frames built from steel tubing, Interiors forms a lowercase alphabet when viewed from certain angles. While some of the letters such as the h, m, and b look like basic chairs or tables, others like the e, t, and x become abstract, rather than functional, furniture.
Fabrication: Joel Wolter

Representing the pair's first collaboration, Hyper Type's obsessively detailed letterforms were created by Ramsey and Purdy in two marathon, ten-hour days.

Constructed with Chinese Tangram puzzle tiles, Seven Board of Cunning takes the concept of Tangrams--that the tiles may be arranged into a variety of shapes--and applies it to typography, creating multiple versions of each letter.

Pushing the limits of legibility, Imageability is a series of five fonts based on ideas from the book of the same title by Kevin Lynch. By reducing each letter to a minimal set of forms, Imageability explores the identifiers we use to navigate our landscape and language.

Exhibition info:

Travel information
Alphabet will be traveling through 2008. Upcoming and past shows include:
October-November 2008 / Southern Illinois University / Edwardsville, IL
December 2007 / Ohio Northern University / Ada, OH
October 2007 / Cooper Union / New York, NY
July 2007 / AIGA Orlando / Orlando, FL
February-March 2007 / Minneapolis College of Art & Design / Minneapolis, MN
January 2007 / Pennsylvania College of Art & Design / Lancaster, PA
November 2006 / Northern Illinois University / DeKalb, IL
March 2006 / Workhorse Gallery / Los Angeles, CA
January-February 2006 / M-80 / Milwaukee, WI
November 2005 / Heaven Gallery / Chicago, IL
August 2005 / Lump Gallery / Raleigh, NC
July 2005 / Maryland Institute College of Art / Baltimore, MD

Select list of artists, designers and students, who are featured in the exhibit:
Andrew Byrom
Danielle Foushee
Arjen Noordeman
Paul Nudd
C.W. Roelle


One Point Perspective: Adoration of the Magi

Adoration of the Magi, by Leonardo da Vinci. "The preparatory drawing for the “Adoration of the Magi,” the painting commissioned to da Vinci for the main altar of the monastery of San Donato a Scopeto near Florence, reveals the Italian genius’s innovative approach to art. His originality and mastery of perspective are evident in the magnitude of the illusionary space that he created. He drew the ground first, then a plan for the buildings and finally animated the scene with human figures and animals. Using a millimetric ruler, appointed stylus and very fine threads, da Vinci created the perspective grid to transfer the drawing on a larger scale as a painting on a wooden panel." From Share the Perspective of Genius: Leonardo's Study for the Adoration of the Magi, an online exhibition hosted by The Library of Congress.

Leonardo da Vinci's work is really wonderful to look at when learning about drawing, not only how to draw in perspective, but also how to build form with line, to represent volume, to diagram, to explain thoughts, and so on.

With regard to perspective, as it is represented in Adoration of the Magi, see the following observations: Notice vanishing lines lead to a central point, called the central vanishing point. There is only one vanishing point in this drawing, and therefore we call it a one-point perspective drawing. The point at which the central vanishing point sits is called the eye level, or horizon line. For those viewers who are are not familiar with thinking of space depicted in perspective, note how objects that are closer to the viewer are larger, and objects that are more distant appear to be smaller. Imagine standing on a long stretch of flat road. One can see the painted lines of the road converging and eventually merging at a place where the road seems to disappear. It is that point which is called the "vanishing point."

The Museum of Science has an online exhibition, Leonardo da Vinci: Scientist, Inventor, Artist, featuring Leonardo da Vinci. Below is an exerpt from one section, titled Artist:

"Leonardo got his start as an artist around 1469, when his father apprenticed him to the fabled workshop of Verocchio. Verocchio's specialty was perspective, which artists had only recently begun to get the hang of, and Leonardo quickly mastered its challenges. In fact, Leonardo quickly surpassed Verocchio, and by the time he was in his early twenties he was downright famous.

Renaissance Italy was centuries away from our culture of photographs and cinema, but Leonardo nevertheless sought a universal language in painting. With perspective and other realistic elements, Leonardo tried to create faithful renditions of life. In a culture previously dominated by highly figurative and downright strange religious paintings, Leonardo's desire to paint things realistically was bold and fresh. This call to objectivity became the standard for painters who followed in the 16th century.

No slouch when it came to the techniques of the day, Leonardo went beyond his teaching by making a scientific study of light and shadow in nature. It dawned on him that objects were not comprised of outlines, but were actually three-dimensional bodies defined by light and shadow. Known as chiaroscuro, this technique gave his paintings the soft, lifelike quality that made older paintings look cartoony and flat. He also saw that an object's detail and color changed as it receded in the distance. This technique, called sfumato, was originally developed by Flemish and Venetian painters, but of course Super-Genius Leonardo transformed it into a powerful tool for creating atmosphere and depth.

Ever the perfectionist, Leonardo turned to science in the quest to improve his artwork. His study of nature and anatomy emerged in his stunningly realistic paintings, and his dissections of the human body paved the way for remarkably accurate figures. He was the first artist to study the physical proportions of men, women and children and to use these studies to determine the "ideal" human figure. Unlike many of his contemporaries -- Michelangelo for example -- he didn't get carried away and paint ludicrously muscular bodies, which he referred to as "bags of nuts."

All in all, Leonardo believed that the artist must know not just the rules of perspective, but all the laws of nature. The eye, he believed, was the perfect instrument for learning these laws, and the artist the perfect person to illustrate them."