‘LOOK. SEE. THINK. DRAW.’
Life drawing has been a life lesson as well as an academic one; and one I am very glad to have learnt. As an artist, it feels almost like a right of passage towards being taken seriously. It’s frustrating. It’s brilliant. It’s terrifying… at times.
Unfortunately, I had to miss the official first week in the studio, and was nervous that I would lag behind the others in class. Drawing people has always been tough for me, meaning that it was often avoided. And it’s not everyday that a random stranger strips off in from of you and you are expected not to giggle.
Despite the frantic and tiring nature of life drawing, I really enjoyed my first class, and learnt a lot from the hints and tips that where given throughout the lesson. I think I probably learnt more from this one lesson than any other in terms of an approach to tackling each pose. Over the next few weeks I began to sink into the classes a little better, and the frantic element was somewhat removed, which was a relief. I found that instead of drawing quickly, badly; it is better to take your time and draw well, even it it remains unfinished. Slowly your drawing will become ‘quickly, well’.
At first I was not confident with my life drawing skills; my people seemed lanky and flat, lacking in perspective and depth, and weren’t very well grounded, they had no weight. I am reminded of a portion of Burne Hogarth’s, ‘Dynamic Figure Drawing’ which describes how I see my work.
“Seeing the body as a flat silhouette encourages a simplistic description of the figure as a mere area, and a drawing of this flat shape commonly assumes the character of an outline, or contour, drawing only. Shape-mass, on the other hand, demands to be understood as volume structure in three dimensions; this makes it possible to draw the figure in deep space projections, putting the human form into the most inventive and varied conceptions of foreshortening, advancing and receding in space.”
However Mike’s belief in us really kept me motivated, and although slow, I can definitely see progress in my work. It may not be massively visual, but on a personal level, I am far happier with the process. I only hope that I am not overly optimistic.
Week 2 drawings(my first week)^
Looking back, I think I was a little hard on myself. They’re certainly not beautiful drawings, or even lovely cartoons. But they aren’t far off ok. From the first class I decided to do some research into a few methods of getting a rough figure down on paper quickly, as time was an issue for me. I already knew about line of action, and on an ‘outline’ basis, had thought I would be pretty good. This was not the case. Mike explained to me that starting at the top and working down with an outer line was too time consuming, as well as being a difficult method to capture anatomy and movement. Plant the feet. Draw a line of action. Ribcage. Navel. Nipples. Slant of shoulders opposes hips. Pinch and stretch. All things I now think when I draw. My fault was that I didn’t find the time to practice enough. I watched videos and read books, but didn’t put what I had learnt into practice until the next week.
Week 3 drawings^
Chair week threw me a little, and I knew I would have to go back and do more perspective work. The chair seemed hard enough, never mind the model. For a few weeks, I felt like I was going backwards. I think this is to be expected when you completely change the way you would naturally do things. But those weeks have been essential in learning how to capture gesture. What is nice to see, is that 5 weeks down the line, I can see what I would do differently and I know that it comes from practice at home. I only wish I had done it earlier!
Week 4 drawings^
In week four we focused a lot on quick 30 second poses, which was daunting, but fun and less pressure. I loved focusing on the faces in five minute poses, and would love to do some more practice with this.
Above is a sample of work from the last few weeks. I think you can see an improvement in proportion, as well as gesture.
Above is some practice work that I did at home, with the help of an online life drawing program that flicks through photographs every 5, 10 or 30 minutes, whichever you set it to. I feel like this was the moment that a lot of things clicked for me. The model on the site had heavy hips, which really helped in learning how to pinch and stretch the waist to show gesture. I paired this practice with another tool which I found to be extremely helpful; a series on Youtube by ‘Proko’. He has a multitude of videos, ranging from drawing the head, to dynamic poses, to shading and texturing. He has loads of hints and tips on visual landmarks that help a drawing to come together.
Week 8 drawing^
Now that I could get a relatively good figure down on paper, I wanted to add bulk and weight to the drawing. This is something I am still grasping, but in the last few weeks, I feel like I am getting closer to being able to achieve more in the short time frame given. The reading material, in particular ‘Burne Hogarth’s Dynamic Figure Drawing’, really helped me to get a grasp on the 3D structures of muscles, and the effect of movement on each one. The superman homework also helped me a lot in terms of neck and shoulder muscles, and the effect of perspective on the jawline.
I really enjoyed the homework each week, and thought that they were picked extremely well to push us in different directions. I definitely learnt the most from the superman homework. If I were to make any changes, it would be to include more worksheets in the homeworks that include sections of the body and how they change with motion.
Coming from an illustrative background, it was frustrating not being able to produce something beautiful to begin with. I also had trouble drawing exactly what was in front of me as opposed to imagining something different. I now realise that these are skills that I can and should use to my advantage. Exaggeration has become important in my work over the weeks; as has using appealing lines and curves to indicate motion.
Moving forward, I hope to begin to capture more muscle definition in my work, and to continue trying to add weight and solidity to each pose. From here on I plan to practice for 30mins every other day at least to speed up my progress.
Hogarth, B. (1970). Dynamic figure drawing. 1st ed. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications.
YouTube. (2016). Proko. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/user/ProkoTV [Accessed 14 Dec. 2016].
Line of Action. (2016). Figure study practice tools for artists. [online] Available at: https://line-of-action.com/practice-tools/figure-drawing/ [Accessed 14 Dec. 2016].