Forgot to factor in breaks! Considering I have not picked up a pencil since 15 December and this was a three hour pose it worked out better than I thought.
I was disappointed that I was not able to achieve all my objectives – principally experimenting with other materials and papers. This drawing would be great as a starter for a painting. However – the sketching still needs work. What I would benefit from is doing more exercise in tone. I would also like to introduce ink wash into my drawing and working back into them with crayon, charcoal etc. Some of the line work is too harsh.
Anyway as a starter for ten for the beginning of 2017 I am pleased to be back on it again.
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
For the third life drawing session I decided to break the no eraser rule. But not to rub out mistakes but instead to help add tone to the form. I was also keen to keep with the objective of not seeing the model as a human form – don’t worry this isn’t some latent sociopathic tendency I possess but moreover an attempt to not over complicate the process of drawing the life model.
This session was also pleasing because in the last pose (30 mins) – I really explored further the application of negative space. It really helped me to understand what was a complex pose.
I also thought it was time to start introducing other media and used the quick pose phase (1 minuters) to use a technique that I used a lot in art college – drawing each pose with a different colour pencil. I find this quite a liberating exercise because what you end up with is some unexpected and abstract forms. These forms can often be abstracted further into dynamic three dimensional forms in their own right or interesting surface pattern. The possibilities are endless!
Coloured pencil on paper – I minute poses
This exercise was not the best outcome but I will be using this technique again. It’s worth sticking with.
Reinforced negative space which helped with foreshortening
Begun to model the 3D form and picking out subtleties of form
Started to introduce other media and used the putty rubber judiciously
Areas to improve – what didn’t work?
Tone though moving in the right direction needs work
Lines still a bit heavy in places but I do wonder if experimenting with softer media such as chalk will mitigate for that. However I must persevere with pencil a little longer before cutting corners on this issue.
Explore foreshortening in more detail
Finally – I need to move to a different part of the room so I can get more frontal and 3/4 poses. I also need to gain the confidence to move around the room a little more. At the moment I am clinging to my the same position in the sessions.
In the intervening week I had spent some time doing quick drawings at home – simple objects using mugs, tools – anything to hand. My objective was to start to apply the use of negative space to understand the relationships between objects and create a sense of perspective. I also needed to revisit foreshortening again. All of these things are crucial in any good drawing ability and never more so in life drawing.
Session Two was great – we had not one but two models – a male and a female. It was a first for me because we got to draw them both together in quick poses – one minute to ten minutes.
Unless you are going for some sort of abstract interpretation or you cannot answer to the affirmative on any of those points your drawing is wrong – nice shading by the way!
Once you understand the relationship between forms – drawing complex objects like the human body become less intimidating. I remember Jeff Phillips, my life drawing tutor back in my foundation days telling us there is a simple rule of thumb in this game – step back, forget about style – look at your drawing and ask your self if that figure suddenly came alive could they walk? How does one limb relate to the other? Would they look out of proportion if they stood up? Unless you are going for some sort of abstract interpretation or you cannot answer to the affirmative on any of those points your drawing is wrong – nice shading by the way!
I have decided to go back to my college days for the next month or so and stick to very simple pencil and paper – 2B and some decent cartridge paper. I also gave myself the rule of no eraser to be used. The reason for the no eraser rule is its good practice to work through your mistakes – however messy. Its a bit like a maths problem that you are trying to work out.
The reason for the no eraser rule is its good practice to work through your mistakes – however messy.
I must admit this is the first time I can recall ever using a sketchbook for life drawing session. Normally I have been in a formal studio setting with an upright easel in a college or arts centre – here we were in a vault in the Little Man Coffee Shop in Cardiff!
I enjoyed the freedom a sketchbook gives you – the drawings start with quick 2 minute poses – working up gradually to 20 minutes. This I really welcomed – it stops you over thinking – you just have to get on with it – sink or swim! I’ll leave it up to you if you think I sunk or not.
My main objective for this first session was to get rid of any barriers I had in my mind about starting again and just draw in a mechanical way as possible. Don’t get wrapped up in the artistry of it – just train the eye to look at what’s in front of you and nothing more.
…just train the eye to look at what’s in front of you and nothing more.
The best way to describe this session- carrying on the machine analogy – is I felt a bit like walking in to a manufacturing plant that had been mothballed for years – taking the covers off the robots, dusting them down, and sort of re-calibrating them. Hence there were and will be a few false starts but always positives to take away and refine for the next attempt.
I still had an understanding of proportion and was not frightened to think quickly. Also the sense of construction was there as well – I wanted to stop thinking of the life model as a human form but as an object like any other to be recorded.
I was tram-lining too much. What is tram-lining? Its when you draw over the same line but extend it slightly creating several lines where just one will do. This is a bad habit to get into because the drawing can quickly lose clarity and intent.
I remember my old life drawing tutor giving me grief for this back in 1992. He ended up making me draw in a 6H pencil as punishment for a couple of sessions. It worked! But I guess I need to get more confidence first in overall form before I inflict such a punishment on my self – which I will. Another good remedy is to draw with pen – NOT a byrow – that’s cheating! With a pen its permanent – all or nothing.
He ended up making me draw in a 6H pencil as punishment for a couple of sessions. It worked!