N is for Nicolaides: A-to-Z Challenge

Continuing on with the technique I learned from Gwenn Seemel, I am still very uncomfortable and yet excited by it.  I get lost in it.  It allows me to SEE better –through my fingers attached to a pen — or to study what I am trying to draw, which is what I learned from Kimon Nicolaїdes (more on him below).  It is not easy publishing pieces that are not my best work, that are sketches of me struggling . . .  I do this because I learn so much from others who share edgy material, their raw sketches!

Kimon Nicolaides with Ann, Gifford, and Philip in New Hampshire, from the Mamie Harmon papers relating to Kimon Nicolaides - Image Gallery | Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

Kimon Nicolaїdes with Ann, Gifford, and Philip in New Hampshire,
from the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

natural way to drawKimon Nicolaїdes has this wonderful lifetime drawing course, The Natural Way to Draw, and I have been studying with him (through his book) for 40 years.   He died in 1938, at the tragically young age of 57.  His book was nearly complete, and finished by students.  His book (a current cover shown right) has moved artists for many years, and inspired the books of other drawing teachers, like Betty Edwards.  I don’t know if you could finish his lifetime of lessons.  The crux of his teachings is that there are three types of drawing:

  • gesture drawing, which is fast and catches what I think of as the essence of the object, stance, or movement;
  • contour drawing, which taught me to look at what I was drawing and not at the paper, or, thinking of what it should look like versus seeing what was in front of me;
  • and a toned drawing style that captures mass, shading, etc.

I used to tend to get frozen, the blank page, what if I made a mistake?!  This was made worse if I had a great drawing going and then wanted to add color — what if I ruined the sketch?   Nicolaїdes had a saying (paraphrasing) which stuck with me: “The sooner you make your first thousand mistakes the sooner you can correct them.”  Nothing was so precious, and so, moving forward, I soon became a better artist!

Gwenn’s technique with colorful markers and the buildup allows me to play with gesture, then contour, and then tone all in one 10-15 minute colorful sketch!

Today I tackled a difficult frontal image of a Hawaiian crow taken by Donna Cooper of the Audubon Society.  I had tried this crow, whose sad face captured me when I found her in searching for crow information on a series I may paint.

Alala, Hawaiian crow, is extinct in the wild and being cared for at the refuge in Volcano. Photo by Donna Cooper / Audubon Society

Alala, Hawaiian crow, is extinct in the wild and being cared for at the refuge in Volcano.
Photo by Donna Cooper / Audubon Society

I failed miserably a while back trying to sketch him using pencils.  Today I tried Gwenn’s technique, and despite several Darth Vader helmet-head crows, I finally began to SEE him clearly, and managed to create an acceptable likeness.  I heard Gwenn saying, “Keep drawing!”

W14 alala hawaiin crow 7


I am now agreeing to the  Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 4.0 International License, which you can learn more about by visiting the site, or, visit my web page for a more user-friendly summary on my terms.  My images/blog posts can be reposted; please link back to dkatiepowellart.
Alala’s image was taken by Donna Cooper, who I cannot reference except in the blog post.
The image of Nicolaїdes and his family is from the Smithsonian.
Further images and even paintings of Nicolaїdes can be found:
http://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/images/detail/kimon-nicolaides-ann-gifford-and-philip-new-hampshire-5497  and

About dkatiepowellart

hollywood baby turned beach gurl turned steel&glass city gurl turned cowgurl turned herb gurl turned green city gurl. . . artist writer photographer. . . cat lover but misses our big dogs, gone to heaven. . . buddhist and interested in the study of spiritual traditions. . . foodie, organic, lover of all things mik, partner in conservation business mpfconservation, consummate blogger, making a dream happen, insomniac who is either reading buddhist teachings or not-so-bloody mysteries or autobio journal thangs early in the morning when i can't sleep
This entry was posted in art, drawing, painting, process, sketchbook and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to N is for Nicolaides: A-to-Z Challenge

  1. Sammy D. says:

    Will come back to study this one when I get home Sunday. Out the door now!


  2. Pingback: Sketchbook Skool Week One | D.Katie Powell Art

  3. Pingback: Silence to Contemplate the Challenge | Lunar Moondae

  4. Pingback: My Picks for the Best Books, Part One | D.Katie Powell Art

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