Archive for June 18th, 2012

Foreshortening is frightening.

But we see foreshortened shapes all the time.  When you look at a face in a front view, the nose is foreshortened; when a person sits in a chair in front of you, the thighs and forearms will be foreshortened.  So, how can this be frightening?

When you draw a foreshortened limb and you really have to look at that shape, it looks weird.  It’s so frightening, you go into denial.  Can’t be, your eyes say. Your drawing hand will aid and abet this denial, by elongating what in fact is seen to be compressed.

When I announced that we would do foreshortening next class, a student said, “sounds like surgery.”  So I brought flowers to place near the Barcsay nude we were going to work from.

Jenö Barcsay’s book Anatomy for the Artist, makes a fine reference book.  I have blown up one of his reclining nudes to three feet.  When it’s tacked up on a wall, I can be very specific in guiding the students in the seeing process.  How do you approach this thing?  Well, first, you need to find a unit of measure.  Take the head.  Whoa, the head is half the picture! So counter-intuitive!  But that’s how foreshortening is.  It will drive you crazy, unless you have a disciplined approach that measures and aligns various points with one another.  It’s the only way, you can’t wing it.

One student, Isabella, insisted on working out her drawing with chiaroscuro effect. Quite an accomplishment.

Like upside-down drawing, foreshortening has the effect of focusing the mind. The students who did not completely work out their Barcsay nude, still benefited from the rigorous seeing process, and then produced satisfying drawings using various other images to work from.

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.




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