Following my mini melt-down during my last life drawing session I decided I needed to go back to basics – grab some fruit and do a couple of quick studies. I love drawing fruit and veg – eggs as well. The reason is they give you a good opportunity to explore how light hits an organic form. Because of their curved nature you get to explore the dexterity of line – to almost none at all to the dark underbelly of the form you are drawing.
Really – drawing fruit and veg for me is the closest you can get to having a life model of your own – if that makes any sense at all!
When doing these very simple exercises I started to think of the possibilities of other experiments I could do. For example I would like to explore using different surfaces such as sand paper. Also using paper with a bit of tooth in it and staring with a dark background. Such as covering the whole surface in charcoal and working back into it with a rubber and a light chalk to achieve a sense of 3d and dexterity of line.
Anyway – though these exercises took me only about 20 mins I started to recognize where I was going wrong in the life drawing session – school boy errors really. Start with lightest tone first and build up.
Giacometti is one of my favorite artists. I find both his sculpture and his drawings an inspiration. I first discovered Giacometti through his sculpture. I liked the tactile quality of his work and his elongated forms which, for me, possess a haunting elegance.
It was on a visit to Barcelona that I got the opportunity to see his work up close and it is there that I became really engaged with is drawings. You could see a direct correlation between his drawings and his sculpture. His use of line is intriguing – you want to reach in and pick up his sketches and start to bend and extrude them. He uses the drawing process almost like a model making phase. Giacometti works and works into the paper – exploring and developing form in a continual state of exploration.
Giacometti’s portraits also have that sense of depth of exploration – working the line over and over again into the paper. Almost like he is using line to go deeper and deeper to try and capture the real soul of the subject.
Another key aspect of Giacometti’s work is the range of techniques he employs. Wash, smudging and swift drawing using quite soft materials like charcoal, Conte crayon as well as ink and straight pencil. There is a very delicate, fleeting aspect to the drawing above. Its as if the figure is shimmering in the distance on a baking hot day – it could disappear at any moment.
The portrait above is actually a painting but still that strong drawing style of Giacometti’s punches through. Its a very ‘constructed’ work in so much as you can see this image forming the basis of another sculpture as well as existing as a painting in its own right. Giacometti, in my opinion, uses the drawing and painting process as a vehicle for his sculpture.
I love the way he works into his paintings and drawings without over cooking them. Despite Giacometti’s working and reworking of line and tone none of his outcomes look labored and muddy. The freshness and dynamism of his work is always present.
I would not remotely, for one single second, ever be arrogant enough to be considered in Giacometti’s class as far as drawing is concerned but I do never-the-less identify with his style. I have wrestled with this for sometime because my drawings do possess some bad habits – however, similar to Giacometti, I see the drawing process and line as a tool to dig deeper and deeper into the drawing. Sometimes that may mean reworking the line – hence the tram-lining habit I an acutely aware of.
I think it would make sense for me to explore his style more – find out what works and see how I can employ the positives within my own searching style of drawing.
Dave, a fellow member of the CLMC enquired whether I had a good week – “Great!”, I replied. He then inquired if I had done any drawing, like responding to a priest who had inquired after my bible studies I ashamedly responded “erm… No.”.
For some reason I my eye was not there. The technique was not improving but instead I was standing still.
That kind of really set the tone of the session because as the outcomes clearly illustrate I have reached a plateau – but not only that I struggled with the session. For some reason I my eye was not there. The technique was not improving but instead I was standing still.
I am keeping this post short because a lot of what I will be saying has already been said. The outcomes are simple:
Focus on tone and shading
I enjoyed this pose because of the sculptural element – but I wasted the anatomical elements of it. It was a bad day!
Awful, choppy drawing (above). Line is far too heavy. Scratched to hell.
This example is a little better – but this is a drawing I rescued. It was a fight from start to finish. Such a great pose as well – wasted!
Quite like the dynamism of this colour pencil exercise I like to do with these quick poses. But – proportions are all over the place. Just could not hit it today!
CLMC began – er – ‘life’ in 2010 – It’s mission is:
To promote the healthy acceptance and appreciation of all body types and to encourage all to feel comfortable in their own skin
To pressure artists and institutes into fair pay for Life Models.
Where is it?
We meet in the Little Man Coffee Shop in Cardiff throughout the week. The group is very relaxed – we just sit round, (clothes on I hasten to add – but new models are always needed – so if interested – get in touch), with our sketchbooks and draw – in-dispersed with the odd bit of witty repartee throughout and the occasional debate on this, that and the other. Then afterwards may be a coffee and wend our way home. No hassle, no politics, just a mutual love of drawing.
No hassle, no politics – just a mutual love of drawing.
If you want a tutored session this group is not it but stop – don’t let that put you off…
There are also occasional themes sometimes based around a graphic novel concept or a time of the year such as Halloween. You also have the freedom to express your own wishes as well. For example there may be a member who wishes to lead a group in order to support a particular concept they are working on – in which case share it!
If you want a tutored session this group is not it but having said that don’t let that put you off – you have to start somewhere. If you are looking for a friendly, supportive, non-judgmental environment to just dip your toe in then this is the group for you. For £7.50 for a 2 hour session you really can’t go wrong!
Today was a different session to the previous four I had attended – we elected the previous week to go for a long pose with a couple of short ones to kick us off as usual. For me this was a great check point session for me. As one of my fellow members quipped – with the longer ones there is no escape! I really wanted to treat this session as the end of the first phase and to use the longer pose as a test of how far I had come since four weeks ago when I took up a pencil in anger once again. My objectives were to evaluate and assess the following:
Proportion and perspective
Use of line – had I escaped the tram-lining habit?
Distribution of weight around the form
Given the length of the pose I decided to take the opportunity to start to analyse and experiment with other aspects of life drawing that shorter poses may not allow. These were:
Shading and tone
Muscle tone and bone structure
Focusing in more detail on hands, feet and head
The risk you take by jumping into new materials straight away is you lose the original aim – or at least mine – which is to draw properly, understand the prerequisites of perspective, foreshortening, tone etc.
Importantly I wanted to stick with pencil one last time as the main media for the session. The reason for this is I believe you should master the basic materials first before going nuts with other media. The risk you take by jumping into new materials straight away is you lose the original aim – or at least mine – which is to draw properly, understand the prerequisites of perspective, foreshortening, tone etc. I agree with my tutor, Al Chrichton, on my 3D design course – he said to us once when critiquing our visuals for a product we were asked to design: “New materials can also lull you into a false sense of security and when that happens your drawings stop being honest and just become over stylized, self indulgent reproductions of what you think you mean. You also view the drawing for the quality or seductiveness of the media and not the draftsmanship. Which from a design perspective is the most important thing.”
You also view the drawing for the quality or seductiveness of the media and not the draftsmanship.
Long Pose One
We were going to do one long 90 minuter but the model understandably realised that to maintain the twisted pose below was a bit of a stretch (no pun intended.) so we opted to go for two. I must admit I had a bit of minor panic on that one as this was for me almost like an exam! I had specific objectives that I needed to achieve so to have it truncated nearly scuppered that! However, it was a blessing in disguise. I was pleased that the shading was much better than I thought and the concentration of the mind made sure that I got all the essential bits in.
Long Pose Two
I was pleased with the second one but disappointed with the quality of the shading. It was too scratchy. However, the understanding of light and shade was beginning to come through. Foreshortening had improved.
Drawing with your eyes half closed
I was pleased with the drawing, all the bits were in and the shading was coming on. He sighed and whispered, “You’ve missed loads!”
The understanding of anatomy on a human form is a great exercise in concentration and analysis as far as drawing goes. I remember, in my foundation year, Jeff my drawing tutor looking over my shoulder during one session, with ten mins to go. I was pleased with the drawing, all the bits were in and the shading was coming on. He sighed and whispered, “You’ve missed loads!” I was surpised by his ambush “What do you mean ?,” I asked. He then said, “Look at the model – half close your eyes, now look back at your drawing.”
I suddenly realised what he meant – its’ almost like putting a different lens over your eye – like being in an opticians, you know when they say “and now this…” – you pick up so much! An apparent flat area of flesh suddenly comes alive with a variation of tone. A bit like a landscape, you see valleys and features you just hadn’t noticed before. It was a revelation and a technique I have always employed – when you think “I’m done” – you’re not!
Why not just use an eraser or smudge it?
It is tempting when shading to short cut the process and finger smudge your graphite or use the end of a plastic or putty eraser to model certain areas. But I do remember an emergency tutorial was called where there was an epidemic of this among our cohort when doing my foundation. I have to smugly point out at this stage that I had avoided this affliction (sorry…). Anyway, the tutors tore us apart over it.
The figures looking like a set of metal martians from a low grade sci-fi movie from the 1960’s or something!
It started very gradually – somebody came in – who was a good drawer and started dashing off these fantastic life drawings – very seductive. That was it – we all went nuts for it (ok, I did indulge once – and inhaled, but to be honest it just didn’t sit right with me…). The smudging epidemic then took hold with a vengeance and sooner or later my colleagues were all knocking out heavily outlined drawings with an almost metallic, unreal quality to them with these smudged, ultra smooth finishes. The figures looking like a set of metal martians from a low grade sci-fi movie from the 1960’s or something! They looked horrible – impersonal and anonymous.
…there is no point using a technique without understanding WHY you should use it or without a basic mastery of what you are trying to achieve.
Smudging is not bad when used judiciously – and I will be using this technique in due course. Well, actually I have used it in an earlier session in week three – but what the tutors were driving at is that there is no point using a technique without understanding WHY you should use it or without a basic mastery of what you are trying to achieve. I am not ready yet to go down the smudge route until I have mastered shading properly.
I believe I am ready now to start experimenting with other media
The basics are now in place
Areas to improve
Shading is still a mess but the understanding of light and shade is there
Try to put the figure in more context when doing longer poses such as what the model is sitting or standing on
Though use of line is improving be more subtle still
I was caught on the hop on this session – not that I minded. I was expecting to do quick one minuters – I was a fraction late – not in a great mood either and just on the cusp of the first pose. I wanted to repeat the exercise I did last session by overlaying poses with different colours for each one. Turned out all the poses were 15 minutes a piece. We had two female models alternating between them.
The colour pencils were very sympathetic and gave good tonal variation.
Undaunted I pursued with my colour pencil – these pencils – WH Smiths cheap and cheerfuls were surprisingly good. I felt like I was drawing with Conte crayon or chalk… The colour pencils were very sympathetic and gave good tonal variation. This was my first longish pose without using graphite 2B pencil. To be honest I felt a bit guilty because though a 2B pencil may not be quite as sympathetic or look as ‘pretty’ I still didn’t think I deserved to use such a giving medium as these colour pencils were. I was also concerned I might slip into bad habits again – tram lining being the chief one.
Though I was enjoying the freedom and the seductiveness of the colour pencils I was acutely aware I had some more work to do on foreshortening – it’s getting there but, note to self, specific exercises are needed.
I still didn’t think I deserved to use such a giving medium as these colour pencils were
I was particularly pleased with the green standing nude (above) because without consciously thinking about it I have understood the sense of perspective and depth needed. What this demonstrated to me was that the exercises I was doing during the week were starting to pay off. It is becoming second nature again.
This is probably one of my favorites from this session simple because of the dynamics of the form – very sculptural and fluid. It reminds me of Art Deco design – much of which is based on the nude form.
What this demonstrated to me was that the exercises I was doing during the week were starting to pay off. It is becoming second nature again.
So… back to graphite – after my indulgence with the colour pencils for the first three poses this was going to be a real test. Would I be tram-lining and scratching the hell out of it? To my surprise – no! Whilst I was frustrated by not scaling the pose to the paper what did please me was the use of line – gone were the tramlines! The only reason I can give for this is that I had the freedom and looseness of the colour pencils to start the session – this gave me freedom to get my eye in. When I compare this drawing to the first two life drawing sessions in particular the improvement in line at least is clear to see.
The final pose was a squat form – again very sculptural. The use of line is strong – tram lines being replaced with certainty. What I am looking forward to doing in a month or so is to experiment with pen and even better – Indian ink and a stick. You get a controlled unpredictability with a stick and it really does give you an honest appraisal of the confidence and progress of your drawing.
…after my indulgence with the colour pencils for the first three poses this was going to be a real test.
My use of line is much improved
It was good to use other media such as the softer chalk like colour pencils
Moving around the model – changing position for each pose is a good move – move more!
Bits to work on
Foreshortening needs more work – though perspective is much improved
Looking forward to a longer pose next week – 90 mins!! This will allow me to focus on other aspects such as hands and feet