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Posts Tagged ‘figure’

I16novleanphoto encourage my students to draw the whole figure rather than one anatomical part at a time.  Drawing the whole figure right from the start means scribbling and making quick adjustments when you notice that what you’ve put down on paper doesn’t hang together. Scribbling is messy.  Now, remember when you were in third grade and your teacher encouraged you to be messy?  No, you don’t, of course not.  This veneration of neatness that’s taught so early is hard to overcome.  But you can’t make art worshiping in that shrine.

16novleanclassdemo

The pose in the photo is so dramatic that if you approach it one bit at a time, you’ll inevitably make it stiff. When I introduced this photo in class I first did a demo drawing with everybody standing around me.  It took a couple of minutes and it’s a mess.  But you must admit, it isn’t stiff or boring.  It doesn’t pretend to be finished.  But I hope it conveys the excitement of the artist getting into the process.

Jeanne Mueller worked with the Aquarellable Pencil on gloss paper.

16novleanfinal

This means she was able to change lines and shadings by just swiping the paper with a damp paper towel.  Notice what major changes were made before she arrived at the finished drawing.  Notice also, how the invented background of stripes transforms the drawing from an illustration of a figure into a complete composition.

At right is the earlier, more literal  version of her drawing.20161110_145040

Jeanne Mueller, Aquarellable on gloss paper, 17” x 11”

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2016/10/08/how-it-sits-on-the-page/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2016/10/02/drawing-sculpture/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2016/09/30/ptolemy-in-ulm/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2016/08/18/take-the-a-frame/

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

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14OneMinutes copyWhen we have a model, the poses range from twenty minutes to one-minutes.  I like to start the class with a couple of fives and only then go into the fast and furious ones.  One-minute poses are exhilarating and also terrifying.  Hence. the fivers at the start.

We’ll have a set of six one-minute poses.  I encourage my students to draw all six on the same page, allowing the figures to overlap.  This creates a visual intensity and adds the element of time, not only in creating the illusion of motion, but in the urgency of the crowded lines themselves.

13MarchMultiStephI draw along—hey, it only takes six minutes to do six poses.  Students can then see what my page looks like, in all its raggedy incompletion.  While the next, longer pose is in session, I’ll work some atmospheric markmaking around the figures, tying them together and at the same time making them emerge out of and vanish into the invented darkness.  The scribbly anatomy studies then hang together as an image.

For studies like this I like to work with Stabilo on gloss paper.  Gloss paper has no texture and therefore no pressure is required.  Then, for the second stage of adding the dark “background,” the Stabilo, being water-soluble, allows for all sorts of smudging and atmospheric effects.

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

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13HaroldEnigmaWithApronHere’s a painting that Harold Bauer brought to my painting class, where the drift is towards abstraction with a landscape-y feeling.  He made this painting in another class with another instructor and from a seated figure.  It’s a real stretch to see a figure in this, isn’t it!  But if you rotate the painting you discover that you project different expectations into the different versions.  Perhaps a light bulb in one of them?  Perhaps you prefer one of the left-right flips because you prefer the movement in one of them over the other.  When you get 13HaroldEnigmaWithApron180back to the original orientation, you may sigh with relief in the recognition that this does suggest a figure after all.  It’s a disturbing figure, to be sure, but your mind drifts towards that expectation.  Doesn’t it? The mind desperately wants to recognize something and will willingly accept all sorts of weirdness to find some satisfaction.

13HaroldEnigmaWithApronCCWjpgThis painting may or not be finished.  I present this rotation game here to show how we grapple with the mysteries of composition in my painting class.

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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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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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I worked with Utrecht marker on gloss paper, very fast.  The twisting of the feet and the weight-bearing shoulder had potential for development, but not in this medium, which does not allow for nuances. In markers, it’s all or nothing.  The figure as a whole can be seen as a diagonal line, not very interesting by itself.  Should I give up on this drawing?  Giving up teaches you nothing.  I prefer to dig in and see how a little nothing can serve as a point of departure for an exploration.  The figure invited some kind of counterpoint.  Earlier in the class I had given a demo on how various markers behave and so I just reached for some of my brighter markers and created a context for this languid,  passive, pretty boring figure.

Notice what happens with the addition of color in the “background.”

1. The abstract, freely invented background affects the way we interpret the figure. The figure, rather crudely drawn if regarded by itself, now can be read as an abstract design, a play on lines.  But it’s still a nude, with all the psychological and existential pull of that motif.

2. Enter the power of color.  The figure is a white empty space and the so-called negative space or “ground” –because of its vivid, stained-glass colors–now pulls our attention.  You get a tug, a dynamic, call it what you like, it’s the experience that counts.  And what you experience, going back and forth between figure and ground, is the whole image. That’s a paradox and when you’re inhabiting that paradox, you have what you can call an aesthetic experience.

This exercise illustrates the tremendous emotional pull of color.  If you put a scribble in pencil on paper, the scribble would have to dance in a most cultivated gesture to affect the viewer.  But if you take a bright marker and scribble any ol’ clumsy mess on the paper, it will have appeal—simply by virtue of the power of color in itself.

This goes a long way towards explaining why drawing classes are small and painting classes pull in a larger registration.  Drawing is harder.  The only tool you have to work with is a black line. Now, do something with that.  This assignment can be rather austere. You have to stick with it to cultivate your hand and eye.  Whereas, with color, the medium itself makes you sigh, ahhh, how beautiful, I love that color.  Add to that the comfort-food gooiness of the paint, and you’re seduced.  It’s deceptive, though.  If you rely on the power of color alone, you’ll produce sentimental stuff and we’ve seen too much of that, haven’t we.  You  do need to draw.  And once you do, you’ll experience the seductive power of the pencil line.  Or the marker line, or charcoal, or pen, or whatever you want to make a mark with.

Back to the drawing board!  Drawing is, so to speak, the bottom line.

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Artists who work from the figure talk a lot about “gesture.”  When you’re “getting the gesture down,”  you’re talking about putting life into your drawing of the figure.  Life-vitality-movement- dynamic-drama—hey, even attitude.  This is not something that comes later, with a touch here or there.  This vital quality has to be in the very first strokes you put on paper.  In other words, you have to grasp the gist of the pose at a glance.  Psychologists have a word for it: “Gestalt.”  When you see the Gestalt of something, you see the whole thing, you don’t scan bit by bit.  Rather amazing, when you think about it.  We do this all the time, when we recognize a face, for example, or when we recognize a person in the distance by his gait.

If seeing in the Gestalt mode is such a natural part of our everyday perception, what’s the big deal?  Why would we have to make a special study of it in drawing class?  The short answer is, I dunno.  All I can say is that when we start to draw something or somebody we are seduced by details.  This seems to be a universal experience.  The beginning drawing student inevitably wants to draw some detail, like the eye, the lips, the ear, or that luscious waive of hair over the forehead there.  Part of my job as a teacher is to dream up exercises that get the student to see the whole ball-o-wax, to grasp the gist of the gesture.

In drawing class today, we faced this gesture challenge, yet again.  Looking at magazine photos, the student had to get the gist of the pose down in a few sweeping, rough lines.  This involved proportions, of course.  Seeing this way can be disconcerting at first.  It takes practice.

Here’s a page by Karen G.  Notice the literalness in drawing #1. It’s correct, but rather stiff and lifeless.  In #2 she went for the gesture in just  a few lines.  Wow!  It’s all there!  Then, repeating those gestural lines, she developed the drawing further in #3.  The crossed-over leg is too long, anatomically speaking, but it doesn’t matter because the vitality in the figure triumphs over anatomical correctness.

This page, just three drawings,  documents progress in seeing.

Have I mentioned…this takes practice.  But the models to work from are all around you: open a magazine.  See? there’s no excuse.

Below, two more drawings and “models” from today’s class:  Linne D. and Vera C.   Top, a page of  studies I did while sitting next to students and drawing along with them.

Click on images to enlarge.

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