It's December in California, so we took to the great outdoors to tackle a master class. The mentor? None other than Fra Angelico.
Before tackling this Fra Angelico project, take a bit of advice from Leonardo: "It's easier to resist at the beginning than the end."
Even though this project looks extravagant, you will be able to resist the urge-to-resist at the beginning if you take the time to look.
Look closely at the top of the "canvas" where the profile line begins. Is it directly at the half-way mark, or closer to two-thirds? Trace the profile contour as it gently falls in a curvilinear manner toward the bottom left-hand corner.
When placing the eye, look at where it sits on the "page" in relation to the forehead and nose. How many fractional parts does the eye represent. In other words, how many eyes would fit in a line from the left-hand edge and the bridge of the nose?
What kind of curve is the eyebrow? And what kind of strokes is it made of.
Look at the color of the lips. Notice how the color is used to warm the cheeks with a soft smudge.
Ask and look. Continue to ask and look.
If you do, you will have conquered the most difficult part of the project at hand. Drawing is more about engaging in the process of looking than anything else. Beginning at this beginning will embolden you to press in to the end.
This work began by students blocking out a great section of our Guild courtyard patio (5 by 6 feet). Next they painted the entire space with white, water-based tempera paint to create a canvas of sorts upon which the drawing could take shape. Next, the students studied the placement of the line that divides the drawing— the great contour of the angel's silhouette. And when they were certain of the line, the laid it down using a flesh-toned soft chalk pastel. They continued drawing and shading the profile, using their hands to smudge and soften details. Once satisfied with the angel, the students painted the great halo using gold tempera.
After three hours of joyful focus, the work took on incredible detail, materializing on the cement with the depth of an oil painting and the essence of the original.
So begin at the beginning and enjoy the persist. Persist straight through to the end!