I recently landed a part time position at Cal State Fullerton teaching a course on constructive anatomy. Painting and Drawing the Head and Hands is an upper division life drawing course dedicated to the specific study of the most expressive elements of the human body.
My syllabus integrates elements from different areas of study in order to give the students a broad understanding of the structure and significance of the head and hands in fine art, illustration and animation, drawing from different disciplines such as anatomy, visual perception, observational drawing, art history, and psychology of emotion.
One of the first assignments I introduced was project in which students make plaster casts of their own hands to draw from. There is a long tradition of drawing from copies of master sculptures, or from life casts. Modern methods of silicone and alginate molds provide extremely life-like replicas, registering the texture of the skin and hair follicles.
As a painter, I am constantly struggling with dilemma between the use of photographic source material and the necessity of working from observation. As convenient as digital cameras can be, the reliance on photographic materials as the primary source for my paintings presents its own unique problems. I have returned to observational drawing as a way of focused study of the human figure using the cast.
The method of drawing I used in observational drawing is called Sight-Size. Positioned next to the cast, is my drawing board at the same vertical angle, in the same light. In this case, the casts were viewed only from a distance of about 8 feet. It is from this distance, that the comparisons and decisions are made, advancing towards the drawing and making the mark from memory, to retire again for further comparison.