The teaching program of Frank Reilly consisted of communicating an accumulation of knowledge and skills beginning with the elementary and building to the complex. He primarily taught the craft of drawing and then painting the nude figure. Each step in his lectures followed logically upon the step which had been previously taught. His students moved forward in their learning with a degree of confidence as skills were accumulating. The lectures included drawings on a blackboard and always began with something humorous. We continued to attend lectures while in the painting class. There were no grades and the length of study was decided by the student.
Mr. Reilly contracted to write four books that were neither completed nor published which is the reason for my undertaking this project. A complete survey of his program, if it existed, would be far more extensive. “The Frank Reilly School of Art” is an honest account of his teaching as I experienced it during the four years or so that I was his student and monitor during the 1960s. It accurately describes the substance of his teaching.
- Doug Higgins
“COMPOSITION” by Doug Higgins, based on the teaching of Frank Reilly.
DRAWING THE FIGURE
The classes were from seven to ten o’clock each weeknight and included a ten-minute break every hour. The time was kept by the monitor who called the poses and kept order. After a pose was called students were not allowed to enter the room and disturb the class. The poses were five, fifteen and thirty minutes in length beginning with the fives. A nude model was on a model stand two to three feet high and the male models wore jock straps.
A floodlight was placed a few feet higher than the model and directed at about the center of the torso. The placement of the light was such that the entire figure was about 3/5 in the light for the the forty or so students. There were three rows of seats and the row farthest back was elevated. Where the students sat depended on arrival time and preference. The monitor sat in the middle of the first row.
We drew on 9″ x 12″ sheets of loose, smooth newsprint or tracing paper, with a kneaded eraser within easy reach. The paper was secured by a clip at the top of a masonite support. Using a razor blade and fine sandpaper, we fashioned a chisel edge on a 4b or 6b charcoal pencil which kept its shape due to the way it was used during drawing…
Hold the charcoal pencil thumb up swinging the wrist and arm to create a graceful line and rest the fingers lightly on the paper. When holding the pencil as if writing and moving the fingers, it can be moved only a few inches but when holding the pencil thumb up and moving the wrist, the range of motion is greatly increased. I began to think of drawing as similar to dance…
Sit with the drawing at a 45 degree angle supported on the back of a chair…
The pencil is in motion before it hits the paper (sometimes with a few mid-air test swings). Draw in a downward motion initially using the “fat” portion of the charcoal for a light wide line. Twist the pencil and use the edge for a sharper, darker line or tip up to the point.
MR. REILLY’S SIX LINE FIGURE
The six line figure is not the way to draw, it’s the way to think…
The axis, #4, is an imaginary line through the center of the figure which appears to be straight when viewed from the front. Side view…
The abstract figure becomes more life-like as anatomical features are added…
Mr. Reilly’s six line abstract figure is the way I was taught to think about the relationships of the various parts and proportions of the figure when drawing. I would initially visualize the abstraction and draw with a wide light line and then, as the drawing progressed, adjust more closely to the forms of the model. As I became more certain of placement the lines became darker and more committed…
One great difficulty is the tendency to, ‘tack things on.’ Which is to say, parts of the figure are added to parts already established and the relative lengths and placements are misstated, (frequently due to the model moving). This was overcome by imagining the abstraction and ‘seeing through’ to visualize attachment points, the lengths of body parts and their positions in relation to one another. It was not necessary to ask the model to move to the original position.
BEGINNING A DRAWING
In a standing pose with the weight on one leg, I knew about where the head was, the feet and the center of the figure so I began with these, (known quantities). Related to the head, I knew about where a thrust out hip was, the other hip in relation to this, the angle of the shoulders, (with the rib cage), and so on…
Action is the direction of the movement of the figure, initially established with a wide, light line.
A line comes from somewhere and goes somewhere. I formed the habit of constantly looking for relationships when drawing, making certain every line was in relationship to something else.
By first indicating the head, then the center, (crotch), and then the base, I didn’t draw from the top down and hope the feet would be on the page.
A drawing isn’t exact so mistakes were made on the side that would help, eight heads high instead of seven, for instance.
The word relationship in this context means that the position of everything on the figure was found by finding imagined connections.
“Relationship” was the word most used by Mr. Reilly, (drawing and painting) and was key to placement, shape, balance, proportion and structure.
Art school drapery studies. The cowboy and the man with the sunglasses are from photographs…
When drawing a figure with clothing, be conscious of form, action and tailoring. Think of supporting surfaces, gravity, pull points and structure based on the six line abstraction.
Drapery is used to design a figure and is mostly fairly straight lines and the shapes of folds is generally triangular.
Keep drapery on the form underneath…
HOLDING A LOCAL
This demonstration piece shows a White, a Gray and a Black cube. These are their local values. The White cube is lightest in the light and the shadow, the Gray cube is intermediate in the light and the shadow and the Black cube is darkest in the light and the shadow. These relationships remain constant on the three visable planes of the three boxes. The cast shadows do not change. A simple way to say this is that… a White box will not be Black on the shadow side. Holding the relationships of the values (and color) true in both the light and the shade is called…’holding a local’.
ADDITIONAL TOPICS COVERED IN THE BOOK
SIX LINE FIGURE IDEAS
Bones and muscles of the head
Light and shade
Planes of the head
FEATURES OF THE HEAD
One point perspective
Two point Perspective
Three point perspective
Black, white and gray backgrounds
General abstract ideas
MUNSELL COLOR WHEEL
Simplified color wheel
Art school palette and supplies
Required paint, their values and chromas
Wash-in for figure painting
Order of importance
Order of doing
A figure painting is most dependent on…
Graduations and progressions
Types of illumination
Four light conditions
To Frank J. Reilly, my undying gratitude for lighting the way and providing an excellent example of how to live a life.
Rudy Hornish had been a professor of English at Seton Hall University before he came to work at the Prudential Insurance Company where I first met him. We both became New York actors and stayed in touch over the years. Rudy eventually became an Executive Producer with Paramount Pictures. Thank you, my friend, for your guidance and encouragement.
Charles Movalli, is the editor of number of fine art books and former contributing editor to American Artist Magazine. Charles is an accomplished and gifted artist as well and a friend. Thank you for your helpful and needed editorial advice and content suggestions.
Candido Rodriguez had been the monitor of the drawing class when I first enrolled in the Reilly School. He has been of great assistance, supplying me with details missing from my Art School notebook.
My appreciation to Susan McGarry, former editor-in-chief of Southwest Art magazine who began this project by suggesting I write an artist statement and recommending a list of possible headings.
And, for your interest, thank you! My great hope is that you are finding my books worthy of your time and of assistance.