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Posts Tagged ‘face’

14DavidWilmette3
The Wilmette Public Library has a life-size replica of David’s head. It was a gift to the library some 14DavidWilmette4years ago and then the library didn’t know what to do with it. Who knew!? Well, very few people. It’s in an acrylic case, in the basement, behind the elevator.
What a treasure! Anybody can go behind the elevator with a drawing pad and a pencil, pull up a chair and treat her-himself to a couple of hours of studying that head. I took my drawing class there recently. Drawing from plaster casts 14DavidWilmette1was standard practice in art schools through the 19th century and well into the 20th. I can’t think of a better way to study the anatomy of a face. Look at the eyes, for example, you can clearly see how the eyelids wrap around the sphere of the eyeball.
Of course, Michelangelo’s David is an idealized, heroic figure. The fate of all heroism in our age is parody. I have my own mild caricature of dear old David, from about thirteen years ago.

01MyDavidSpoof

For a few more, see
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syVGfnuDXDE
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14KarenPaperBagDraw.  Draw anytime.  Draw anything. There’s always something lying around that begs to be drawn.  A paper bag, for example.  I recommend that students practice and here’s an example of a motivated student, Karen Gerrard, producing a fine drawing at home of, what else, an inspiring paper bag.  It probably was a little more wrinkled than the drawing shows, but she simplified the planes to great effect.

14KEHpaperbagBetter than the drawing I did during class.  A face kept coming out and I ended up shading the right side of the bag to obscure the grimace.  Happens all the time with inanimate objects—oh, look, there’s a face.  Once you see it, you can’t not see it.   Drawing is always an adventure, full of unexpected turns and–crinkles. Simplify, simplify!

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1304AlejandraFaceCrop

I promise, we’ll move on to other topics besides cropping, but the power of cropping cannot be underestimated.

This face was one of four studies on the same page. The model was a magazine add with strong shadows, selling jewelry of all things. In setting up the exercise, I stressed that we were not after a likeness of this beautiful woman, but were using her as a point of departure for expressive studies of the face.  We already know that beauty and expressiveness are incompatible, a major thread in these conversations.

1304AlejandraFaceThe page as a whole did not work because the faces were too similarly drawn and were all the same size.  What to do?  CROP!  You can see the edges of the strips of paper we used in cropping.  The result is an expressive face.

But wait, there’s more.  What if we crop even more radically!  What if we slice the image through the eye on the right edge.  That’s the image at the top of this post.  It’s far removed from literalness, from illustration. Now we have a provocative image. It’s truly an image, in the sense that it is more than what it represents.

Let me point out just three things that make this image so rich.

1304AlejandraFaceCropLines*The left half of the page is all texture.

 *The contour of the face is varied, so that as we trace it we travel over three different “landscapes.”

 * One eye is in the middle of the page. Uncanny! There’s a study of this phenomenon (I can’t remember the author’s name now) that shows that portrait artists will compose their subject in such a way that one eye of the sitter is in the middle of the canvas.

 —————————————————————— Velazquez(1599-1663), Portrait of Juan de Pareja

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In my drawing class I like to sit next to students and draw along.  Well, first I ask for permission because sometimes people just want to noodle by themselves.  When they invite me in, I sometimes draw quietly, but most of the time there are questions and then I comment on what I’m doing, what to look for, how to connect this and that, etc.

I recently worked with Jackie, a new student, who was drawing from a magazine photo of a standing figure.  Without further comment, I’ll just let the “before” and “after” speak for themselves.

When I’m drawing, I lose all sense of time.  I think we worked together for about twenty minutes.  That is to say, I drew and demonstrated how to approach the figure, how to put the contrapposto lines down first, why leaving the head to last is a good idea (so counter-intuitive!), how to put in the T-face, do side studies of hands, see the V-shape in the hand, see the plumb line between the neck and the heel to make the figure stand convincingly…stuff like that.  Doesn’t take long.

After my tutorial, she produced a much-improved drawing and brushed her “before” drawing aside. “So much better,” she said. Reflecting on her former teachers, she added, “I have to tell you, all art teachers are not created equal.”

Somebody had an aha-moment.

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What the!

Yes, it’s a spray bottle wearing a pair of glasses.

I get paid for thinking up stuff like this.

Let me explain. This exercise combines two topics: perspective and profile.  In the previous class we had worked on the topic of perspective. Nothing elaborate, just one-point and two-point perspective, using architectural images to find the vanishing points.  For our purposes in this drawing class, perspective is not crucial, but it’s a useful tool.  It comes in handy, for example, when you draw a face in three-quarter view. The eye farther away from the viewer (the one behind the bridge of the nose) will be smaller than the eye closer to you.  That farther-away eye is tricky to draw, so we didn’t even go there.  It’s enough to just get the point of diminished size.   And to get that across, I set a pair of glasses on a spray bottle, one combo for each student.

Notice, that the perspective in the glasses is exaggerated in these drawings, according to my instruction.  Students are universally reluctant to exaggerate anything for the simple reason that they want to draw what they see.  Fine.  But to add drama and to make a point, you need to summon the courage to exaggerate.  Add that to the lesson in perspective and profile.

All in all, a profitable class.   Initially, eyebrows were raised at the goofy sight of spray bottles wearing glasses.  Then followed the challenge of getting all the elements together, representationally and technically.  The motif only works if the drawing technique is fairly precise and the object is shown matter-of-factly and in its entirety.  This is why one student found it necessary to add a strip of paper at the bottom of her initial sheet.  A fourth lesson learned:  it’s ok to do this, if you run out of paper, just tape on an addition.

I have since learned that one of these drawings has been framed and hung in a law office.

Do this at home:  grab a spray bottle, put your glasses on it, reflect on the complexity of reading a face.  See?  Not goofy at all.

(To enlarge, click on image.)

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There’s nothing like drawing from a live model.  It’s inspiring and invigorating and you can see the forms clearly.  In a pinch, if you feel the urge to draw but can’t get anyone to pose for you (good luck trying to find someone who’s willing and able to sit still these days), you can draw from photos.  But photos are so 20th century.

Instead, I recommend that you draw from YouTube.  Name a person, a topic, or an event, and you’ll find it on YouTube.  If you want to practice drawing faces, pick one of the thousands of clips of talking heads.  Run the video and decide which angle you’ll draw.  Stop the frame.  Voila.  Your model is sitting for you.  If you’re in the mood for gesture drawing, find a sport or a ballet.  Stop the frame.  You can be sure, no model would ever hold these poses.  You will get a work out, guaranteed.

Above, a page of studies after a ballet by Nacho Duato, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkC0hHat_ik

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The discussion in the previous post (2.8.11) finds ample illustrations in “real life.”

Here are some of my own life drawings that show the model displaying the neck-meets-jaw angle. Notice that this requires a foreshortening of the face, with the chin being prominent; the nose seen as a triangle (from underneath); the bridge of the nose very short;  the eye, a mere arc; and the forehead losing all of its real height, because it is the farthest section away from the eye of the artist;  oh, and the hair on the top of the head barely makes an appearance.

Pulling this off takes practice, both in seeing and in drawing.   Errmm–has anybody noticed!– that’s the theme running through these posts on technique.  Practice!

(The drawing at the top consists of five  three-minute drawings.  The standing pose, above, is a ten-minute drawing.  The seated pose, left, is a fifteen-minute pose.)

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