Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Kadir Nelson.
He has an incredible command of human anatomy and and renders it in a way that emphasizes his subject's persona. Kadir has illustrated and written the book We Are the Ship and he has illustrated many others. He lives and works in San Diego, which is cool for our students to see.
He works primarily in oils but the students used chalk pastels to achieve the intensity in color that Kadir displays. The pastels also offer students flexibility in blending colors and correcting mistakes that some other mediums do not.

When we look at his work I emphasize that one of the things that makes his figures look so real is his use  of light and dark colors to show the volume of the figures and where the light is coming from. He doesn't necessarily use shades of colors to create shadows. He more often uses dark colors to define these areas. There is often a contrast between warm areas of light and cool areas of shadow.
One of the other elements that makes Kadir's work realistic is his use of implied lines along the edges of shapes. He may outline shapes when mapping out his compositions, but these outlines are not present in the final work. People do not walk around with black outlines around our bodies, so he does not paint them that way. This concept is often difficult for students to execute or get the hang of, so you need to make sure that you emphasize it during the introduction to Kadir's work and while they are working on their own projects.

For this lesson I provide students with black and white reproductions of Kadir's work and they may copy one of those images onto a 12 x 18" sheet of colored paper, or they may come up with their own figure composition. They may also alter his images, like changing the type of clothes, direction of the lighting, or the gender of the subject.

1. with white pastel draw out the composition lightly with contour line
2. very lightly outline edges where light areas meet shadow areas
3. add dark colors to the shadow areas in the drawing
4. add light colors to the light areas
5. gently blend those areas to create a smooth texture on the figure. you can blend where the light and dark meet to create a transition between the two, so the lighting won't seem so drastic
6. add color to the background elements, using light and dark colors accordingly to make shapes seem 3d, but treat these shapes more simply than the figure, so the background doesn't compete too much with your focal point
7. when complete, spray drawing with hairspray or fixative. if stacking drawings, you may want to put tracing paper in between to minimize colors transferring from the back of one piece onto the front of another

1 comment:

  1. s for sharing the article, and more importantly, your personal experience mindfully using our emotions as data about our inner state and knowing when it’s better to de-escalate by taking a time out are great tools. Appreciate you reading and sharing your story since I can certainly relate and I think others can to