Do Your Homework | Everett Raymond Kinstler on Drawing

“There are three things that are important: feeling, imagination, and the means to communicate.” What a beautiful trio. Everett Raymond Kinstler, one of America’s leading portraitists, shared this insight in the newest issue of Drawing (Winter 2014). His feature article focuses on the importance of the sketches of his models and subjects, and how he’s able to convey not just their appearance, but also their essence. Keep reading for this excerpt of the article and to view a small sampling of Kinstler’s drawings, and click here to share his quote with your followers on Twitter.

Doing His Homework: The Sketches of Everett Raymond Kinstler
by John A. Parks

Throughout his career Kinstler has used sketchbooks as a way of developing ideas and also as travel diaries. He values these books as private places where he can work without anyone looking over his shoulder. When he is commissioned to paint a portrait he will make sketches of his client as a means of getting to know the person’s characteristic gestures and poses. Like his paintings, the sketches combine great freedom and fluidity with passages of exceedingly acute and thoughtful observation. Above all they display his ability to cut to the chase and grasp what is important and telling about a subject and leave everything else out. He likes to quote Benjamin West, who said, “Whatever object you are painting, keep in mind its prevailing character rather than its accidental appearance.”

Drawing of Katharine Hepburn, by Everett Raymond Kinstler

Katharine Hepburn (1982; graphite, 10×8) by Everett Raymond Kinstler

Kinstler’s clients have included many movie stars, and the artist has a particular fondness for Katharine Hepburn. His sketch of her is a miracle of economy in which her entire presence is conjured in a few swift lines. Hepburn was impressed by the care with which the artist made his sketches. “She said to me, ‘I like you–you do your homework,’” Kinstler recalls. “It was a compliment that I treasure.” The artist’s sketch of Gregory Peck was made in preparation for a commissioned portrait. “With Peck it was the square jaw that struck me,” says the artist. A few decisive lines in ebony pencil nicely capture the even features and demeanor of the actor. In short, it feels like Gregory Peck.


John Wayne (1978; oil, 44×34) by Everett Raymond Kinstler

For Kinstler it’s even more important to give his viewer a sense of recognition and feeling for the subject than to insist on total photographic accuracy. “You can get something that feels more like the person than the photograph,” he says. The artist recounts a commission he received to paint a portrait of John Wayne for the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, in Oklahoma City. Wayne posed for Kinstler in California, and the artist did a great deal of preparation, sketching the actor from life and taking photographs. Once Kinstler finished the painting he checked it against his photographs and almost panicked. “The nose was too big, and the eyes were too small,” he says. “but someone watching over me told me not to change it. After I delivered it, Wayne’s son Michael called me and told me that I’d captured the ‘quintessential’ image of his father.” ~JAP

Kinstler is loved by many, including me personally. To learn more about his drawings, get your copy of Drawing (subscribe here). As a special bonus, I’d like to share with you several articles about Kinstler and his work that we’ve posted at–they include a personal tour of his National Arts Club studio, a webinar Q&A, and more, not to mention more examples of his famous paintings. In addition to being a talented artist, he’s a fascinating individual, and it’s my pleasure to bring his work to you.

Until next time,

Cherie Haas, online editor**Free download: How to Draw People Using the Block-In Method
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