Assignment 4 Part 2. Figure study using tone (A1)

reclining Model

Revision of tones

This assignment required work that would be situated at the very top of my tone axis in my line-tone cartesian space.

My drawing line - tone continuum
My drawing line – tone continuum

Unfortunately the timing of this assignment was such that I did not have access to a model clothed or otherwise, so I had to rely on photographs for this work. I chose a set of poses out of Cody, J. (2002). Atlas of Foreshortening: Human figure in deep perspective. John Wiley and Sons, Inc. New York. This book has various photographs from different angles of the same pose so I was able to explore different viewpoints.

Having chosen my reclining pose I did a quick conte crayon sketch in my sketchbook, using the broadside of the crayon to make quick sweeping marks. This really was to get my eye into the pose. The problem with using these reference photos is that the models are not in any setting. For me this isn’t a problem as I happen to like drawings of figures with no particular background. As long as you can ‘ground’ the figure, I don’t see this as an issue.

Reclining figure study. Conte crayon
Reclining figure study. Conte crayon

The problem with this study though is that I haven;t managed to do this. The top half of the model appears on a slightly different plane to the bottom half. This high view-point makes the pose quite impersonal too. Not my favourite!

Having got a feeling of the space occupied by the model on paper I looked at how pastels (or charcoal) could be used to create tones. For this I chose a side view of the pose and after some preliminary thoughts and sketches in my sketchbook made a quick study using 3 pastels on sandpaper. I chose a highlight, mid-tone and dark-tone colour (the sand paper in my view wasn’t dark enough to use as a mid tone).

I decided that with pastels of different colours, you can either chose to block the tones in with each pastel or you can blend the tones. The study below was blocked in. It gives a more stylistic look to the drawing, blending the pastels so that you have quarter-tones (and more) would provide a more realistic style of drawing.


Exploring tones with pastel
Exploring tones with pastel

Again I wasn’t too enamoured with this viewpoint, too horizontal. Some foreshortening as in the first view would be good, but from lower down to make the pose more intimate.

I next explored the idea of using ink for tones. To create tones with ink you need to apply different dilutions of ink washes in layers. My initial sketches were not too bad.

Exploring tones with ink
Exploring tones with ink

My first ink sketch was of just the models legs and doesn’t really fit into a tone only theme. i took a white oil pastel and drew on white paper (so not quite blind, but hard to see what you are doing). I then covered the area with an indigo wash to reveal the drawing the second attempt was a applying layers of Bistre Ink to create different tones. It proved quite hard, however, to create dark areas with this naturally made ink.

I liked the pose much more. It is from a much lower viewpoint, so there is massive foreshortening of the legs. This provided quite a challenge (especially the model’s right leg which has quite a lot of mass associated with it)! There was also a lovely negative space above the raised leg and the raised elbow that I hoped would be inspiring to draw.

Some Longer Studies

Enthused by this pose, I continued with a few larger ink studies, drawing with a mop brush dipped in ink directly onto A2 heavyweight cartridge paper.

As you can see my initial attempts were not that successful. It was hard to map out the areas without some guiding lines. However, I do think study 2 is starting to show some weight through the pose. I have managed in both cases to preserve the white of the paper for some of the highlights too. I noticed that when I tried to manipulate ink with a wet brush it tended to lift the ink out which gave me the idea for the next study. Here I have washed a layer of ink over the paper, then used a wet mop brush to remove various areas.

Reclining model. Ink wash lifted out with water
Reclining Ink Study 3. Ink wash lifted out with water

This drawing is not automatically recognisable but once you know you are looking at a reclining person, you can see the form. I quite like the abstractness of it. The highlights were a lot lighter but as the paper dried ink seeped back in along the wettest areas and the highlights became a little lost again. An interesting exercise never the less.

I decided to switch to A1 paper but before doing a longer study, I did another white oil pastel drawing with indigo wash over it. I enjoy doing these types of drawings. To say you are drawing totally blind would be wrong, you can see the oil pastel against the paper, but only just. Your eyes never get an overview of where you have been so it is still a bit of a surprise when you brush the ink over to reveal the ‘hidden’ drawing.

Reclining. Ink Study 4
Reclining Ink Study 4. Oil pastel and indigo ink wash

I am quite pleased with the result, it is recognisable and has a certain amount of weight to the pose. The foreshortening of the legs comes across. The problem was the size. My oil pastel was just too small to cover the large areas effectively as you can’t really see how well you are covering an area. I tried to create a mid tone by spacing my marks with the oil pastel out which has worked in some areas, but not in others. For instance, I think the mass of the visible thigh comes across well, but the lower leg is less believable. I also haven’t got the angle of the torso quite right.

This drawing technically isn’t of the right category for this section as it isn’t a tonal drawing rather a line drawing. I started to play around with the effects of ink when dropped into water. i chose a completely different pose for the next study in order to try to simplify some of the shapes. I chose a reclining back view.

This was rather an experiment. Again using A1 cartridge paper I covered it with water then dropped a dark acrylic ink onto it and let it run. I then tried to manipulate the ink with a brush, in an attempt to lift our selected highlights. the result was a bit of a mess and what ended up was the ink being too dark in several places. I should have stopped at this point as at least the pose was recognisable, but I didn’t. I decided to add highlights back in by dropping on white acrylic ink on top! This was fine until i needed to manipulate the areas again, when the inevitable happened and the inks mixed to a murky tan colour. Here is the resulting image. It is vaguely recognisable!!

Reclining Ink study 3
Reclining Ink study 3

The image is useful to consider two points. Firstly, what is the definition of a line?. i was definitely drawing lines with my brush here, albeit thick ones. I was trying to get the edges to remain diffuse so the effect was tonal (with varying success)  but I was making sweeping movements with my arm in the same what I would if I was drawing a line on a large piece of paper with charcoal for instance. Secondly, I felt that I was venturing in to the realms of painting with this drawing, the only reference to ‘traditional’ drawing really was the use of paper. I suspect every drawing student needs to consider the problem of when drawing becomes painting. Is it defined by the medium you are using, the mark you are making, the medium you are ‘drawing’ on or the fact that you can have part of that medium showing through? You could argue any of those factors in favour of either drawing or painting! To me however, this drawing ‘felt’ like painting! As such I decided to end my studies of ink and return to a more structured drawing using coloured charcoal.

I also returned to my original chosen pose. Using pigmented charcoal on A1 cartridge paper I produced the following tonal drawing.

Reclining figure. Coloured charcoal
Reclining figure. Coloured charcoal

On the screen this looks like it is done in normal charcoal, it isn’t. I have used pigmented charcoal (a reddish colour has been added that hasn’t reproduced very well). This means that the charcoal has much more staining power compared to normal willow, making erasing highlights more difficult. Overall I am quite pleased. The body is grounded and there is distinctive foreshortening of the legs. The models left arm doesn’t quite sit on the ground as it should and the position of the right knee is making the right leg sit at an odd angle (along with the lower part of the same leg not quite having enough mass to it, and not having quite the right light along the line of the tibia). It was a hard pose to draw and I spent a long time getting that right leg to the state that it is in now. it is frustrating not to have got it right but the paper was so stained in the end it that redrawing again was counter productive. I know I would have been more successful if I had used willow charcoal and that I would have been able to produce more tones, but that does tend to be my default material so it is good to have deviated away from it (although not by much I know!!) As ever if I had more time I would do it all again. Perhaps when I get to the end of the course I should just start at the beginning again.

Assignment 4 Part 2. Figure study using tone (A1)

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