Human Anatomy For The Artist
MICHAEL M HENSLEY: CRITICAL REVIEWS
Michael M Hensley: Critical Reviews (Printable PDF)
Born into an environment steeped in the arts. Michael Hensley developed a keen interest in painting while in his late teens. At the age of 18, he moved from New Mexico to New York and began his formal training, which included a disciplined study of anatomy. Mankind’s place as an integral force in nature and the struggle of man, is the core of the inspiration with which he approaches his large and passionate paintings.
Art & Antiques-
Michael Hensley’s figure drawings and depiction of human drama, “Ascent” and “Descent”, add a dimension rarely seen outside the world’s great museums.
Art & Antiques-
Michael Hensley’s work is formed with aspiration.
Tally Richards, Art Dealer-
Michael Hensley created a book before he started to paint some of his masterpieces, a book of detailed and exquisite anatomy. Each muscle, each limb of the human body is rendered in the utmost detail and accuracy. Hensley knows how each muscle works, how each looks when still or when in movement. After he finished his book, he moved onto a canvas to create a museum-quality painting of more than one hundred figures, all anatomically correct, all beautifully rendered and all in one massive room size painting. The time Hensley spends on his work is indicative of his philosophy. “Art should be something people strive for, work hard at and dedicate their lives to,” says Michael Hensley, “not something you randomly knock out in half an hour with no thought at all. Create to the best of your ability, and let history take care of the rest.” Artist’s who take pride and time with their art, who put in years of study and personal passion, are unusual in today’s world of “marketable” art. Unlike other artist’s who’s works have no warmth, nothing personal, the paintings of Michael Hensley, shall we say, seem to have a soul.
Hensley’s drawing, The “Voice of Silence” won Best of Show and the People’s Choice award. Hensley’s nude figure studies are impeccably rendered. His work has almost a Germanic draftsmanship quality not unlike Albrecht Durer.
Michael Hensley’s “Genesis” must be seen to be appreciated. It is a simple figure painting, but the musculature, color scheme and size carry a nearly religious power on the shoulders of the powerful man represented.
Paintings, in a sense, are like a symphony orchestra; there can be so much going on, that one can get away with a lot. But a drawing is like a solo voice or instrument: naked; it all hangs out. Only the most ruthless honesty will work. Hensley’s figure drawings are in the great tradition, and it is encouraging that so comparatively young an artist has had the guts and patience to submit himself to a discipline only too often neglected in these hurry-up days.
Be sure not to miss the massive mural sized canvases of Michael Hensley. This is a spiritual & surrealistic body of work (with great attention to detail of the human form) that is not to be missed!
Taos Today, A Walking Guide-
Where do we come from and where are we going? Michael Hensley commented on this in his colored pencil drawing “Genesis,” which comes from a series created around the same subject. “Everything is cyclical,” the artist said. “Genesis” deals with the emergence of life and creation. All the figures are connected in some way. We all depend on each other for survival. The great thinkers are contemplating what is truly important in life amidst the chaos around them. All that truly matters in this world is kindness and how we treat others.” “Genesis” is grounded in a mass of large heads, some with eyes closed to represent the great thinkers of past ages: Tolstoy, Lao Tzu, Leonardo Da Vinci, Ludwig Van Beethoven, and others. These heads are connected by elongated nude figures weaving in and out of each other. He said “everything is done with exaggeration, physical strength is used to represent intellectual strength.” Nothing lasts, not even this show, so stop by the museum and see it before it’s over. It’s wonderful to have such strong work featured in Taos.
Taos Art Museum–
After graduating from high school, Michael spent the summer in Woodstock, New York, studying with Vladimir Bachinsky, considered one of the great artist and muralist of the century. Because of Bachinsky’s inspiration and enthusiasm for art, Michael acquired a genuine passion for the masters of the past as well as the importance of great draftsmanship.
Michael was particularly inspired by the masters of the High Renaissance. With Vladimir’s recommendation, Michael left home at the age of 18 to attend the Art Students League and the National Academy of Design in New York City. Because he showed so much promise as a Draftsman, Michael was granted a full scholarship at the request of his instructor Gustav Rehberger. Passionately interested in the human figure, Michael was constantly drawing from life. When unable to draw from live models, he spent all his free time studying canons of proportion and human anatomy. These masterful drawings done in his late teens show all the struggle and determination of a young artisan learning to master his craft. The comprehensive collection of Michael’s youthful figure studies is considered by many to be a masterpiece in its own right and as a result those studies have been compiled into book format and are awaiting publication. Michael began exhibiting his work with the Park Slope Art Association, Salmagundi Club, the Brooklyn Conservatory and the Brooklyn Museum of Art. After only one year, his instructor, Rehberger, told him that “he had learned his lessons well and continuing with a formal education would only hamper his individuality and growth as an artist” and “it was time to follow his own path”.
This time coincided with the period in which his mother’s health had rapidly declined. While raising his son Havean, Michael’s interest in philosophy and classical literature began to make its way on to the canvas. Working on mural size canvases, Michael began his pictorial Tour de Force the “Ascent” and “Descent”. Using his knowledge of anatomy, Michael set out to fill these masterpieces with human figures in every conceivable position. The finished paintings were a culmination of several years work.
During this time, Michael had also begun two other large emotionally charged paintings. One a crucifixion entitled “Sangre de Cristo,” which was painted as a tribute to his ailing mother and a very personal painting entitled “Prometheus Bound.”
After his mother’s death, Michael painted “Allegory of Time” a tribute to her memory and one of his most personal and moving paintings. At this time Michael was also creating a new surrealistic body of work. The images emanate from a divine creator both figuratively and metaphorically. Intermingled human forms bursting with nervous tension and energy are harmoniously interlocked with the great sages of the past who are seemingly contemplating mankind’s predestined fate. It is here in this broad, humanistic conception that Michael aspires to convey the unrelenting spirit of mankind while still enjoying to work from live models. It is this theme that currently permeates his thoughts. The Taos news wrote, “Michael created a book before he started to paint some of his masterpieces - a book of detailed and exquisite anatomy. Each muscle, each limb of the human body is rendered in the utmost detail and accuracy. Hensley knows how each muscle works, how each looks when still or when in movement. After he finished his book, he moved onto a canvas to create a museum-quality painting of more than one hundred figures, all anatomically correct, all beautifully rendered and all in one massive room sized painting.”
No doubt Hensley has given and will continue to give his own special gift of timeless beauty and awareness to all of humanity through his exquisite work. Michael summarized it well when he said “You do what you can, and history will take care of the rest.”
Portales News- Tribune-
Stop and look at Michael Hensley’s meticulously drawn series of “Knowledge Seekers of the World” based on history’s most contemplative and philosophical figures. In his pencil drawings and watercolors with pastel, he depicts more than what Plato and Aristotle might have looked like in their day-you can feel the inner spirit of a wisdom seeker.
Taos Today, A Walking Guide-
Michael Hensley is a kind and modest artist of great skill who would rather engage you in conversation about his children and yours than to talk about his artwork. For all his own personal modesty, it is a near impossibility to walk into a room where his art is hanging without having it dominate your attention. Not just because some of the work is 16 foot tall, monumentally framed oil on canvas, but because it calls forth with immediacy an intimate reflection on human nature, myth, creation and metamorphosis – the symbols, the mystery and the core of human existence and fate.
To view his recent drawings, is to spiral in these subjects, their symbolism and their perfection of form, so eloquently portrayed with, at times, just a wax colored pencil.
Hensley grew up in Taos in the 1960s and 70s, the son of painter Jackson Hensley, in the small but rich world of academic fine art. After high-school he apprenticed with Vladimir Bachinsky, a muralist in Woodstock, New York, where he was surrounded and inspired by the works and writings of the masters – Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Dali, Rodin and Bosch – Hensley endlessly practiced drawing the human figure and his drafting skills. He was encouraged to attend the Art Student’s League and the National Academy of Design in New York City. He was driven toward perfection. He excelled in his abilities and interest in anatomical drawing and today the human figure is the central imagery in his creative work. Hensley has authored several books; instructional works teaching students to accurately render human features and anatomy. He has also shared his techniques in demonstrations for the young people at several local schools.
Hensley’s wealth of classical skill, seldom seen mastered today and nearly forgotten in modern times (except in a few institutions of fine art), has mixed in Hensley with a furnace of creative curiosity. The outcome is not trompe l’oeil portraiture, or still life, but animated, energetic forms arching, grasping and leaning into symbols, dreams and one another in a truly inspiring example of the innate human ability to create and at the same time, honor creation.
Five Magazine, Issue 36-
Taos Students Learning The Art of the Human Form-
Local artist Michael Hensley is teaching Taos students how to draw one of the most difficult subjects to master — people. In his “Artistic Anatomy” class, offered for free to students from grades 6-12, Hensley said it is important to give students confidence and encouragement. “I try to really simplify some of it initially. Sometimes it can take years to get halfway decent. It’s certainly a challenge.”
The class is held each Monday at Taos High School but typically includes students from all over the district. “We usually average between 28-36 kids a session,” said Hensley. “We have kids from quite a few different schools, which is nice.”
At the Feb. 28 class, the session focused on drawing the human arm, from muscle structures to skin surface. A life-size skeleton and smaller statues showing detailed layers of muscle and bone stood in the middle of the group. Hensley gave the students instructions and time to work, moving from student to student and giving individual pointers while they worked. He also quizzed the young artists on muscle groups — from biceps and deltoids to pronators and the “clavicular portion of the pectoralis.”
Hensley said Taos High School senior Zoe Larsen initially invited him to teach the series of classes. “Michael is also my soccer coach, so I always ask him for help during the soccer season,”. Larsen said she was excited when Hensley offered his expertise; she said drawing is a hobby she wants to continue to pursue, and if she can master drawing the human form she thinks she could draw almost anything.
Hensley said hands and faces can be particularly tough to draw realistically. According to a release he prepared about the class, “accurately depicting the human form is arguably the most difficult task an artist will encounter.” Besides examining physical aspects of the human figure such as musculature and facial structure, the class analyzes topics such as gesture, facial expressions, shading, action and emotion.
“Everyone knows what the figure looks like, and if it doesn’t look normal it’s pretty obvious,” Hensley said. He also said he’s been teaching some “extremely talented” students, even from the lower grades. “The progress is really starting to show,”.
He hopes to keep the program going over the summer and during the next school year. Hensley said he sees the after-school class as a good option for many students, particularly those whose advanced-placement or honors classes’ conflict with arts classes during the day. “This is a nice option for the kids that are really serious,”.
Djuna Carlton, a seventh grader at Taos Charter School, said she has learned a lot from Hensley’s instruction. “I’ve been drawing a long, long time,”. “It’s a really great class.”
The students’ work will be showcased at the Millicent Rogers museum for a month, with an opening to be held April 11 from 5-6 p.m. For more information, visit www.artistanatomy.com.
Matthew Van Buren
The Taos New-
Art of the Human Form: High school artists display their work at Millicent Rogers Museum
The human figure is an endless source of inspiration for local artist Michael Hensley and he is infusing a new generation of teenagers with his enthusiasm.
Anatomical drawings by his students from the Taos Arts Club/Teen Art Studio will be the focus of “Artistic Anatomy: The Art of Drawing the Human Form,” an exhibition that opens with a reception Monday (April 11), from 5-6 p.m. at the Millicent Rogers Museum, 1504 Millicent Rogers Road. Admission to the reception is free of charge
According to Faith Hensley, public relations manager for the Millicent Rogers Museum, and who is married to Michael Hensley, the museum’s staff wanted to address the lack of affordable summertime art opportunities for teenagers in the 12-18 age group. Michael, a figurative artist who has been studying anatomy for more than 30 years, volunteered to do eight sessions on anatomical drawing for teenagers. Attendance was great, Faith said, “and the work they were doing was so fantastic that they wanted to continue it.”
Taos High School culinary arts teacher Mary Spears volunteered her classroom on Mondays from 3-4:30 p.m. for what became the Taos Arts Club/Teen Art Studio. Anywhere from 28 to 40 students have been showing up, with an average of 30. “This is classical training, blending of the math, science and artistic parts,” Faith said. “They’re learning the names of the muscles and how they work. They’re also focusing on mathematical proportion. Just seeing the work from the kids, I’m amazed at what talented kids we have.” “I thought the content would be a little advanced but they actually seem to be thriving in it,” Michael said.
He based the curriculum on how he was taught at the Art Students League and the National Academy of Art and Design in New York City. He began with gesture drawings to develop the students’ confidence in line and to expose them to the idea that they did not have to erase their mistakes — mistakes can be blessings in disguise leading to discoveries and individual styles.
He built up to planes and geometric shapes to simplify the approach to various body regions, in particular the ribcage and pelvis. After the students started understanding line and shape, Michael Hensley broke down body parts into anatomical structure, emphasizing the skeleton to impart an understanding of bony landmarks in terms of proportion. Currently, he is introducing his students to muscle groups. “In the beginning we gave them enough time and kept it relatively simple and they’ve been building on it. I’m surprised at how good they’ve been doing for their age, especially having no experience with it at all,” Hensley said.
He feels that high school students are particularly neglected in terms of school programs. “They love intellectual stimulation but there are not a lot of opportunities for them, especially in the arts,” he said. Professional workshops often start at $800 and teenagers don’t have the funds or feel comfortable alongside the adult artists, according to Hensley. The Taos Arts Club/Teen Art Studio fills a niche, he said.
Hensley grew up in Taos and had the opportunity to learn from community members who were giving back to the community. “I feel like it’s a nice thing to do that in return,” he said.
His own anatomical explorations are on display at his website, www.artistanatomy.com, featuring figure drawings, art studies and anatomical plates that can be used for study guides. “It’s there for the taking for anyone who wants to use it,” said Hensley.
Unexpectedly, he has had as many medical students as artists using the site, for help in anatomy and physiology classes. They get access to good information, but poor drawings, and they find Hensley’s studies more accurate with respect to live structures, he said. When he established the website, he was inspired by his own efforts as an art student to find encouragement and instruction. “It makes me feel good that it helps somebody,” said Hensley.
Meanwhile, the Hensley’s hope to keep the Taos Arts Club/Teen Art Studio going, for “an age group that’s been under-served in the community,” according to Faith. They plan to do another free, eight-session workshop at the Millicent Rogers Museum in June and July.
The Taos News-
The Dark Wood, "Peekaboo" by Michael M Hensley