Dan Thompson: Gesture Drawing and Anatomy of the Head DVD’s

  • Introduction

Dan Thompson is a very successful artist. He teaches at the New York Academy of Art, the New York Art Student’s League, and is co-founder of the Janus Collaborative School of Art. He has been featured in American Artist Magazine and is considered a living master.

The Instructional Videos

  • “Figure Drawing I: Anatomy of the Head with Dan Thompson.”

I recently acquired two videos from a friend whom is an artist. These videos were sponsored by American Artist and featured the artist Dan Thompson. Dan Thompson is an instructor at the New York Academy of Art. I never studied with him, but my classmates always spoke very highly about him and his ability to teach. I even had one classmate swear by him. They all recommended I take his class, but my schedule didn’t allow it. When receiving these videos, I felt I could now at least get to see to what my classmates were referring.

The first video is entitled: “Figure Drawing I: Anatomy of the Head with Dan Thompson.” This is a great and informative exploration of the structure of the human head. Mr. Thompson first discusses the major landmarks on the human head by using a 3-dimensional clay model of the human head for reference. He even uses toothpicks to identify these major landmarks. He also discusses the geometrical structure of the head before moving into drawing.

He establishes the head with long straight lines and also establishes major landmarks within the structure of the head with straight lines i.e. brow, nose, furrow of lip, etc. He is an advocate of simplicity and is reiterating this concept throughout the video.

After establishing the basic shape of the head and neck, he then begins to create shapes within the head with mass line. He uses what he calls “false values” or an even value tone in the shadow areas and a blending stump to create an even tone of value throughout the head.

He then goes into the five values that should first be found in a drawing: the darkest dark, the lightest dark, the middle light, highlight, and the darkest light. Mr. Thompson proceeds to establish these and solidifies their shapes with a blending stump.

He then discusses each of the features of the face individually using 3-dimensional clay references again, and afterward continues to draw, adding more values to the underlying structure that he’s established.

  • Figure Drawing II: The Gesture with Dan Thompson

In the other video I watched, Mr. Thompson begins by recommending two books: John Vanderpoel’s The Human Figure and Frank Fowler’s Drawing with Charcoal and Crayon For the Use of Students and SchoolsI own both of these books but have only read through one of them.

He also discusses materials and their preparation.

He then moves through several gesture drawings from a live model and discusses such topics as the 1-line of action, creating an armature, and indicating major landmarks. He goes on to discuss what he refers to as the 10 directives of proportion which are:

  1. Linear Extension – Extend lines to determine placement of things.
  2. Fixed Coordinate/Variables – Find the parts of the figure that are most concrete and stationary.
  3. The Environment – See how surrounding elements help with placement and proportion.
  4. Notional Space – Consider a flat envelope that frames the figure.
  5. Draw First, Measure Second – Have something to measure before measuring.
  6. The Halfway Mark – Measure in halves. Use the minimum amount of measurements possible.
  7. The Plumb Line – Find verticals and horizontals that extend through major points of the figure.
  8. Two-Point Measurement – Compare distances and angles of drawn lines.
  9. Three-Point Measurement – Find triangles then encapsulate certain areas of the figure and compare to others that can be found.
  10. Major Anatomical Landmarks – Know the major anatomical landmarks of the figure.
  • Conclusion

These two videos are very informative. My classmates were right; this man is an amazing teacher. By the way he talks and draws, you can tell that he really knows his stuff. It’s even fun to watch him draw: it’s like he’s sword-fighting the paper. It’s very animated and poetic. This is a highly recommended addition to any representational artist’s library of information.

(The above is my interpretation of the viewed videos. I, by no means, represent the artist or any of the places mentioned. I now share my regret if I have in any way mis-characterized the intentions of the artist.)

Thank you for reading,


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