Project 4 Exercise 2 Three Figure Drawings

The Aim

Complete 3 drawings

  1. standing
  2. sitting
  3. lounging

Look for interesting viewpoints, sketch different aspects before deciding on final format

The Exercise

Standing

I had no access to a life model for this exercise so I chose a pose out of Cody, J. (2002) Atlas of Foreshortening: The human figure in deep perspective. John Wiley and Sons, Inc: Canada

This book contains some very interesting poses in, as the title suggests, deep perspective. For this exercise however I chose a simple standing pose in which the model is almost shrugging his shoulders and thrusting his open palms forward. The act of making preliminary sketches to see what might be interesting became an exercise in turning the pages to decide on the pose. I chose a very simple standing pose with the model standing in ‘anatomical position’ because it reminded me very much of a drawing by Georg Baselitz that I had been admiring. This drawing seems to be layered, with the artist using the skeleton beneath to build up form through quite heavy clothing. I have come across these images whilst doing research into artists using underlying structure and I liked the idea of trying to draw layers. The model was clearly a body-builder and had very pronounced musculature especially in the arms and legs,

To start I did a quick line sketch of the pose in pen and then charcoal next to the drawing by Baselitz that I like.

Studies for standing pose
Studies for standing pose

I didn’t want to use drawing pen for the next part as I was going to be working on A1 paper. Charcoal at this point was not the effect I was after either, too smudgy for a base drawing. I chose to use a graphite stick.

Study of standing in graphite, A1
Study of standing in graphite, A1

The drawing was not a great success for the following reasons:

  • I had intended to draw the whole figure but kept getting bigger and bigger until I ended up with just the head and torso! Clearly I should have gone smaller to fit him all on! I stopped at this point and abandoned my layered idea (for reasons laid out below).
  • I have not got the proportions quite right, the model was longer waisted that I have drawn him and he appears a little hunched. The shaping of the shoulders is probably causing this.
  • The whole drawing is very formal and a little dull. There are several reasons for this I think. Firstly working from photographs is just not as good as working from life. I have noticed that my best work is not from photographs. Secondly I have a tiny area to work in at home, and working at this size, whilst I love doing it, is problematic as I can not step back from my easel. This is far from ideal and I realise it sounds a little like a bad workman blaming her tools, but I can’t move so i don’t get an overall perspective of my drawing until it is finished. I fear this is a real problem. Thirdly, and this links very much into the oversize of the eventual drawing, I didn’t have a clear idea of what I was trying to achieve when going into this drawing. Hence I have let it get bigger and more controlled without meaning to. Whilst I set out to achieve a layered look, this controlled drawing wasn’t conducive to this (hence I stopped before the layering).

In order to rectify some of these issues, I moved a chest of drawers across the door so whilst I couldn’t get out of the room, I could step back a bit and get a better overview of what I was doing. I chose an old piece of coloured paper (old packaging paper) which is greater than A1 size. I darkened the background a little with some liquid graphite I had come across. When dry I stuck it to my A1 sized drawing board (it was flapping over the edges) and just drew fluidly from memory the same pose a previously. This time however I stopped worrying about making a drawing from the photo. I used willow charcoal, yellow ochre soft pastel and white soft pastel to build up different layers of my image in a way that I perceive Baselitz to have done. In this case the model is nude so my layers are that of the skeleton, the muscles and the overlying skin. The bony skeleton is mostly represented in white pastel with the muscles in black charcoal, with yellow ochre skin over the top, however I didn’t keep exactly to these distinctions This was a very quick drawing, the whole thing taking about 20 minutes. I shaded in the skull and tried to represent eyes of a living model shining through them.

Exploring structure. Mixed media
Exploring structure. Mixed media

It’s no master piece but it did the trick of getting me out of this tightness that I can lapse into. I am pleased with the upper arms, I feel a real sense of the skeleton, under the muscles and skin. Anatomically it’s not perfect but I am also quite pleased with it as it was from memory. I feel this drawing has potential and would like to work on this some more.

Sitting

For this pose, I drew my neighbour whilst sitting in a chair drinking tea. I started with drawing a few view points, although I was limited by the position of the chair against the wall.

Studies for seated model
Studies for seated model

I liked the third of these poses. It reminded me very much of a Frank Auerbach drawing ‘Ruth’ I saw on a OCA study day recently at the British museum (see image below). On that day, I had viewed this drawing behind a perspex screen which reflected my face. By positioning myself I managed to take a photo of myself superimposed on this drawing!

Frank Auerbach drawing and Self portrait photograph after Frank Auerbach
Frank Auerbach drawing and Self portrait photograph after Frank Auerbach

With Frank Auerbach in mind I tried a quick sketch of Wendy in charcoal pencil on A4 tracing paper. In Auerbach’s drawing, he had covered the back of his slightly transparent paper with graphite scribble, in order, apparently, to transfer the image at some point. As a drawing this has the effect of adding texture into areas of the drawing through the paper. I used graphite to scribble on the back of the tracing paper of my quick sketch.

Wendy Charcoal
Wendy Charcoal

I was particularly good at adding texture to what would have been a boring chair side. I haven’t quite got Wendy’s head right here, it’s a little too big. I am pleased with my mark making on the chair front, but on the whole the study is a little too staid and lacks energy.

I took some photos of Wendy from my three view points to work on from home. I tried the same technique a second time,  but his time drawing in graphite (as Auerbach had done). I also wanted to draw a larger picture so I stuck two pieces of tracing paper together to make an A3 sheet. I tried to keep my marks more fluid this time. Once I had finished I turned the paper over to add the texture scribble to the back – BIG MISTAKE! Because I had used graphite on the front and the same graphite on the back, when i turned the image back again I couldn’t discern the image of Wendy (which I had been quite pleased about) from the scribble of the back. My plan had backfired. It had worked with the smaller version above because i used a darker charcoal pencil for the front drawing. As far as I am aware Auerbach had used the same graphite on front and back, but his paper wasn’t so transparent so maybe that was why you could still see his original image. In order to try to rectify my drawing I went over the main parts of my drawing with a black drawing pen. It has brought the image out a bit, but lesson learnt!!

Wendy 2. Graphite and drawing pen
Wendy 2. Graphite and drawing pen

So back to my drawing board literally. For my final attempt, using my reference photographs and my preliminary studies, I decided to draw a different pose in graphite.  In a vain hope of removing this stiff mechanical drawings that I tend to do from photographs I did this A3 drawing with my left hand (non-dominant). I really like it

Wendy 3. Graphite with left hand
Wendy 3. Graphite with left hand

I think it works. It’s not the greatest of portraits, but i don’t mind the slightly distorted features. There was a strong light coming from the left hand side and I have drawn the shadow line on the face creating this quite thin looking person. The only thing I would want to change is how the drawing sits on the paper itself. Because the body is leaning towards the left It would be more balanced if the greater ‘blank’ space was on that side rather than the body being a bit squashed against the left hand side of the paper.

Lounging

Am opportunity presented itself to me rather unexpectedly for this part of the exercise. I came across my eldest son lounging on the landing doing his homework on the floor at the top of the stairs. I grabbed some A3 cartridge paper and my lovely lump of Rudstone and sat of the floor to draw him.I like drawing with it as it’s a round stone so the point of contact is rather un-precise. This keeps me from worrying about precision too much – and I have noticed my drawings looser as a result.

My first pose was not so successful, I messed up the proportions of his raised leg – it’s too long, the foot too big and it’s too heavy compared to the rest of the pose. Rudstone doesn’t rub out so I went over the lines to try to correct myself but it just made a mess. I ended up having to just leave it.

Tom lounging 1. Rudstone
Tom lounging 1. Rudstone
Tom lounging 2. Rudstone
Tom lounging 2. Rudstone

My second pose was much better and I am very pleased with it. I think it has poise and energy. Tom’s features are in proportion – although I find the ubiquitous hoodie hard to draw as it hides the lines of the neck and the shoulders! It is an interesting view-point as I am down on the floor at the same level.

Each of these drawings took about 10 mins to complete. After this Tom got up, so I ended my session on what I felt was a positive note.

I had also completed a 15 minute pencil sketch of my husband lying of the floor in my sketchbook earlier in this part of the course, and this seems to be a good place to post it. I was sitting on a chair so was looking down. The light was not very strong and there were no really strong shadows. It was, however, coming from the direction of the feet. In hindsight I should have emphasised what shadow there was at the head end to anchor the picture slightly. I put in the line of the skirting board too, but more space to include a corner line would place the person on the floor in a more solid manner.

Lying on the floor. Graphite
Lying on the floor. Graphite
Project 4 Exercise 2 Three Figure Drawings

2 thoughts on “Project 4 Exercise 2 Three Figure Drawings

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