19 July 2011

A different way to start a drawing or painting...

I usually start drawings and paintings with a linear sketch to establish the big shapes.  Once the lay-in is accurate, the modeling of form begins.  I's a common method.  I was recently introduced to a more intuitive approach, in a class with Jeff Watts, which starts by massing in the big shapes...no guide lines.

In the 20-minute sketch below, I started by smudging in a rough background, which also established the outline of the figure.  I worked this outer shape, back and forth with charcoal and a kneaded eraser, until it felt right, then added contour lines and interior details.  I like the result.  It has a fresh, painterly feeling absent from my academic drawings.

Wendy Seated, 24 x 18", charcoal on newsprint

Here's one more...

Wendy Standing 24 x 18", charcoal on newsprint (some edits by Jeff)

Here's the same approach in paint, from a one-day workshop I took in April with Vadim Zanginian.  Vadim teaches a similar approach.  I laid in the background and figure as 2 shapes (using an average hue for the fleshtone), working the boundaries back and forth until an accurate figure shape emerged.  Details were worked up once the big shapes were set.  An advantage of the approach is that the figure (or head or still life) and background form a more integrated whole.

LA model sketch,  12 x 9", oil on linen

If you want to loosen up a little, or you want to do something fun, try this method.  The results may surprise you.  Keep it quick, so there's no opportunity to refine and ruin the result.

02 July 2011

Lessons Learned From Long Figure Drawings

Here are a few figure drawings from a recent class on advanced drawing techniques.  A standard life drawing class is about 2 hours of drawing time, barely enough time to get a solid finish.  In this class, taught by Erik Gist, we had 4 - 6 hours of drawing time...enough to slow down and work on pose idealization, edge work, shape design, calligraphy.

I don't plan to draw like this too often.  I like a loose, painterly result, and I tend to overwork and over-render my longer drawings.  But they are a powerful learning tool, especially combined with shorter drawing exercises.  Each approach teaches something different.   Artistic cross-training.

Some comments on these drawings...

Model movement is a challenge during longer drawings. You can see movement in Jonathan's right leg, below.  It started out lateral on the first day, and moved to center on the second day.  If my anatomy knowledge was stronger, I could have pulled off the drawing.  I left that twisted leg as a reminder to review my leg anatomy. Model movement is part of life drawing. If you're a figurative artist, you learn to work with it.
    In the drawing of Stephanie, you can see where Erik adjusted the lower leg contours (darker lines).  By reducing the size of the ankles and feet, Erik improved the overall feeling of form in the legs.  Some artists idealize form in unique, and sometimes subtle, ways that define their style.  Small adjustments in the right place can have a big impact.

      Stephanie, charcoal on newsprint, 24 x 18", 6-hr pose

      Jonathan, charcoal on newsprint, 24 x 18", 4-hour pose

      If you are a student of figure drawing, get Henry Yan's beautiful book on the subject.  Full of examples of both short and long charcoal drawings, using a variety of techniques.  A good reference book.