Peter Paul Reubens was born on June 28, 1577 in a city near Antwerp, Belgium. His father was a leader in the Calvinist (Protestant) faith and his mother was strongly Catholic in a time of great religious upheaval in Europe. Growing up in such a religious environment led Reubens to be a deeply religious man. He became a voice in the Catholic church and many of his paintings depict religious subjects. Reubens entered an apprenticeship at age 14, where he learned primarily by copying works of the masters. He graduated and gained master status, then moved to Italy to continue his studies. After eight years, he returned to Antwerp and set up a thriving studio with several artists working under him. Reubens became a leading Flemish painter for altar-pieces and religious scenes as well as portraits done for noble families.
His work was quite stylized and illustrates a lot of the popular opinions of the day. He favored using robust and curvy women (usually nudes) for scenes to show his views of women as lesser to men in social standing, as well as virtuous, fertile and beautiful. Men on the other hand, were shown as extremely muscular and usually in athletic, aggressive poses, showing his views of men as capable, forceful and powerful. He included a lot of symbolism in his paintings as well as religious references, even in his portraits. (This style preference has lead to the term Reubenesque to describe someone who is chubby.) Reubens is also known for his luminous style to painting. The faces almost seem to shine, he did this show the spiritual light coming from within.
Today we will try creating a portrait in a style like Reubens. By using chalk on a darker background, we can get a similar luminescence (or the look of light shining) from the face you will draw. Have the students pair up to draw portraits of each other. Teach these tips to get a realistic portrait.
Make a large oval and draw a light line down the center or slightly to the left or right with your pencil. (From forehead to chin.) You can do it however your partner is sitting, but it will look more natural if the person is looking a bit to the side rather than straight on.
Now lightly draw another line across (ear to ear) about halfway down the face. It is best to give it a little bit of curve as well.
Now draw the eyes with the base on the line.
Divide the lower half evenly into thirds (it doesn’t have to be perfect!) make the bottom of the nose on the first line. You can do this by making a shallow “u” and then upside down “u”s on each side.
Finally sketch in the lips on the bottom line.
Now take the chalk and shade and fill in the face and the features, including hair.
When the portrait is complete, let the students bring them to you or the teacher and spray them very lightly with a bit of hairspray from about 6 inches away. This will help set the chalk so it doesn’t smear.
Katsushika Hokusai was believed to be born on October 30, 1760 in Edo Japan (which is now Tokyo, Japan). The records from this period are scarce and not very clear, but he is thought to be the son of an artisan that made mirrors for the Shogun, who is a local military leader. At age 12, Hokusai was sent to apprentice with a bookmaker and he became very skilled at the woodblock carvings which were used to make illustrated books for the upper classes. His master, Shunshō was an artist of ukiyo-e, one of many different styles of woodblock prints that were used at this time. Often the prints were of Kabuki actors or Courtesan and generally used for entertainment. Hokusai eagerly searched for new techniques from other schools in the area and even studied works from as far away as France and Denmark. He was expelled from Shunsho’s school after the master died and it was taken over by a rival student. He said later that this was the cataylist for his artistic growth. “What really motivated the development of my artistic style was the embarrassment I suffered at Shunkō’s hands.” Hokusai went on to take his skill above the general artisan level to that of a true master, developing new techniques and creating images that are still reproduced and popular today. He moved away from the popular subject matter of courtesans and Kabuki actors to landscapes and images of daily life for people of different classes. Throughout this time, Hokusai changed his name several times, which was a common practice for artisans in Japan in the 1700-1800s.
By the time Hokusai was in his early 50s, he enjoyed fame and success. He took this time to write a serious of art instruction books. As well as cartoon-like books which he called Manga. These would heavily influence comic books as they are today. (Anime is also known as Manga today.) After this period, he changed his name to “Gakyō Rōjin Manji” (The Old Man Mad About Art) and did many of the works that are famous today, including “One Hundred Views of Mt. Fuji”. Hokusai was constantly seeking to produce better work, it is said that on his deathbed he exclaimed: “If only Heaven will give me just another ten years… Just another five more years, then I could become a real painter.” He died on May 10, 1849 at the age of 89.
Today we will make our own carvings. It takes so many hours and a lot of skill and practice to carve wood. We will try out cork which is a lot softer, but still a bit tricky. Please really emphasize the need to be careful with the nails to the students. I have done this in an after-school program and the kids loved it, but we will need to keep a close eye to make sure everyone is safe. We will be using nails, please emphasize how sharp they are and how important it is to be very careful with them.
1. Lightly draw your initial or a very basic design with pencil on the top of the cork. Keep it simple! Remember straight lines are easier than curved ones.
2. Next you will carefully use the nail to press into the area and indent the initial or design. I find it easiest to use the nail to make dots along the line, then scrape to connect them.
3. Finally, press your stamp onto the stamp pads to load them with ink and press onto the paper.