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Archive for the ‘Life drawing’ Category

14EACshowFeet2

This very fine exhibit opened a few days ago and will be up til Feb 16.  Come in whatever you can throw on to keep warm or slip into your most retro patent leather boots, but do hoof it over to the Evanston Art Center to catch this show.

14EACshow114EACshow214EACshow314EACshow5

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13AnatomyYesterday was the ninth of twelve classes in this fall term.  We had been working on all sorts of topics:  drapery, still life, shading, three-dimensionality, hands, faces, contrapposto, composition, upside-down drawing, the works.  All difficult issues.  Why not add more difficulty, I thought, and give them the difficulty of choosing what to work from.  I set up a still life and brought in images of faces & hands to struggle with.  And then one more thing:  pages from Barcsay’s anatomy book.  To my surprise, most of the class went for the challenges of anatomy.  It’s the driest of topics, but there they were, eagerly gathering around the table where the xerox copies of the muscles and bones were spread out.

You get a work out when you try to draw all these muscles in their right place. It’s an accomplishment in itself and a valuable exercise that helps you draw more loosely and with more confidence when you face the live mode.

When the anatomical studies are placed on the same page, crammed together and made to partially overlap, the result is greater than the sum of its parts.  The page (above, by Gaby Edgerton) is clearly about studying anatomy, but the rhythm created by these dense forms nudges the composition out of mere academia and into the category “art.”

13BarcsayMusclesJenö Barcsay’s (1900-1988) anatomy book has been around for about forty years.  I like to use it in class, because the illustrations lack flair and heroism.  It’s actually a little boring (just the facts, ma’m)   and that spurs a more advanced student on to invent a way of drawing and a way of putting the body parts on the page that perks us up because it feels a lot like art.  Killing two birds with one femur.

(There’s some glare on the photo of Gaby’s drawing because I use a little instant camera in a room with rows of ceiling lights.)

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13StudioGallKaren

Now it’s my drawing students’ turn in the Studio Gallery.  There are thirty-three drawings on exhibit, grouped by artist.  The work stretches over a two year period. You’ll see a variety of styles, in both still life and head/figure studies. 

13StudioGalMaggyDrawing is an intimate medium. You can’t look at a drawing from across the room.  You have to get up close and personal.  This is the medium that gives you the feeling that you are entering another mind as it tries to grasp the complexities of perception. Drawing is closest to my heart.

13StudioGalLinneThanks to Cynthia Bold, Linné Dosé, Gabrielle Edgerton, Karen Gerrard, Ale Podestá, and Maggy Shell for submitting your work.  Thank you, Ale, for helping me with hanging the show and applying your good eye.

13StudioGallAleThe work is for sale, at negotiable prices.  The show closes Oct 27. 

13StudioGalGabyDrawings are hard to document by camera.  You’ll just have to come in and see.  Here’s the notice from the Evanston Art Center web site:

http://www.evanstonartcenter.org/exhibitions/sketches-studies-studio-gallery

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130516LifeStudiesKEH3BlogThese are two-minute poses. Between poses, there’s no time to switch to another page.  All six poses are scribbled on the same paper. I encourage my students to let the figures overlap because overlapping takes us away from the clarity of illustration and into greater tension and dynamic.

Above, the page I did in class.  Below, the page as I developed it later in my studio.  I used the Stabilo-All-Aquarellable pencil on gloss paper, 11 x 17.

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130516Classroom1blog

When we have a model in class, I sometimes draw along.  These are ten-minute poses.  I worked with the Stabilo-All-Aquarellable pencil on gloss paper. Height of drawings, 11”.

130516Classroom2blog

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130328DraperyArchMeg

It’s never JUST drapery. Drapery is uncanny stuff.  It has a way of looking like something else.  Its round, merging 130328DraperyArchMeg1shapes are reminiscent of the human body, so that if you practice drawing drapery you’ll find it easier to draw from the figure. When this drawing was almost done, the artist/student Meg, said, “it looks like muscles.”  So it does, like an arm and a shoulder.  We talked about the option of drawing more of the drapery in the still life and filling up more of the page, but the shape of what she already had looked complete in itself.

The shape is an arch.  Is the arch archetypal or symbolic?  We’ve had it in our architecture for about five-thousand years.  The Egyptians used it, the Etruscans developed it further and the Romans celebrated its grandeur and exploited its 13RomanArchunassailable transfer of stresses.  In western architecture, to the end of the 19th century, it remained the sturdiest and loveliest form for a portal, an entrance, a gate.  With the glass skyscraper, we abolished the distinction between outside and inside and, so, who cares about portals, it’s all the same, whatever.  I do love glass and steel, but give me a Roman Arch…and to get back to the question about archetypal and symbolic, I don’t know, but I can see and feel that it’s round.Life forms are round, all of them.  Round is where we live.

When this sliver of an arch appeared on Meg’s paper, it had enough life in it to stand alone.

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12Gaby4OneMins11

By tradition, Life Classes start with a few one-minute poses. This is called “warming up.”  What does that mean and what are we warming up, exactly?

Warming up is what athletes famously do and have to do so that they will not strain a muscle.  Warming up for an athlete means going slow and easy, stretching gently and gradually increasing tension, weight and speed.  That makes sense.

But in an art class, warming up means going fast.  Drawing a figure in one minute, believe me, is fast.  It’s actually a bit scary, anything but slow and easy, as with athletes warming up.

Why, then, do we do it?  We do it in order to switch on our heightened seeing, which means seeing the whole figure all at once.  Psychologists call it the “Gestalt,” the whole thing, no bit by bit scanning. On the way to class, as we drive and walk, we’re scanning the visual landscape through which we navigate.  But to draw, we have to see intensely.  To switch on this intensity, we—POW!—we draw a nude body in one minute.  Then another and another, all on the same sheet of paper, because, well, because there’s no time to take out another sheet and position it on the drawing board.  What we’re warming up is the mind.

The result is a lovely play on lines,  creating a rhythm on the page.  What’s most important is that we don’t get continuous contour lines when we draw with this speed.  The contour lines are interrupted.  The drawing breathes. It suggests life and it engages the viewer.

Drawing by Gaby, graphite,  December 2012

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12LinneHeadOfNude

In the recent posts about The Contour and Leonardo’s sfumato I said that a drawing can be described as “painterly.”  The difference between linear and painterly is this:  a linear style outlines the figure and separates it from the ground; in a painterly work, the figure and the ground flow into one another.  In studying Western art, the Swiss art historian Heinrich Wölfflin (1864-1945) noticed that the earlier art is linear and then in the 16th century, the line opens up and the image becomes painterly.  You can find the whole theory in his “Principles of Art History,” a book that is surprisingly lively and readable, considering when it was written.

Contemporary art teachers wouldn’t go into that kind of scholarship—and I don’t, in class.  Basically, what we want to get at is, “Hey, everybody—loosen up!”  Easier said than done. The tendency for beginning students (as with our ancestors) is to firmly outline your subject.  Opening up the contour is far from being sloppy.  It involves a whole other way of seeing and thinking. You see the contour and visualize it as you draw, but you don’t state it directly.  This requires tremendous concentration and getting to that ability to concentrate takes practice over time.

12LinneNudeHere, then, is Linné’s recent drawing from a model.  I sometimes blow up my students’ drawings at the Xerox machine so that they can appreciate their own progress.  It’s also helpful to isolate one passage, such as the head, in order to take it out of context.  Cropping your drawing like this helps you focus on the qualities in your drawing, rather than your representational skills.

Learning to draw can often be discouraging, but actually you’re better than you think. You develop not gradually, but in spurts and part of my job is to help you notice that you just made a spurt.

Yeah!

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These drawings were not demos.  I encourage my students to take risks when they work from the figure. When we have a model, I sometimes do some drawing myself.  I want to show how scribbly my own work is and how I leave every line without erasing.  The quest for perfection is paralyzing and perfection itself –well, we don’t even know what that is, but I can tell you it’s boring.

Above, three quick head studies in pencil, 11 x 17.

A figure study, pencil, 11 x 17.

Figure study in Aquarellable Pencil and watercolor wash, on index (non-glossy), 11 x 14.

Let’s crop that last one.

So much more immediate and engaging.

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Hands are considered hard.  So is playing the Moonlight Sonata.  You do have to practice the hard bits.  And then, when you’re working on drawing the figure, the head or the torso, getting the hand in there will be a delight.  Here are some classroom examples.  Notice how lively a page of studies of hands can be.  Just hands.  Love it!

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