Part 5 Jump – preparatory stage

the anatomy of movement

Reviewing my research and sketchbook / study exercises I have come to the following conclusions regarding depiction of movement in drawing:

Fast movements by definition are:

  • explosive
  • energetic
  • display muscle power
  • directional

These four characteristics need to come across in a drawing for the movement to be believable. . There are five (interlinked) areas of a drawing in which these characteristics can be displayed:

  1. The pose: the arrangement of limbs and torso display the movement. A viewer will most likely be able to empathise with the position of the figure and thus understand the image in terms of movement. Removing the figure from the floor also allows the viewer to understand movement even if it is just the potential act of gravity. Correct muscle anatomy should allow the power of the movement to come through although clothing may not allow this to be immediately obvious.
  2. Mark making: quick lines suggest energy. Gestural lines have an immediacy about them that invite the viewer to understand that movement is being depicted. Explosive marks may also radiate energy of the movement. the muscle force used to make an explosive movement will drive the body in a certain direction (F = ma). Mark making can show that direction. The marks may make up a figure, but they may also be abstract and not attached to the form. In this case act as visual aids leading the eye in a direction of the movement.
  3. Background: dynamic background marks put a figure into the context of a movement. When viewing an explosive movement a viewer can do one of two things. They can either focus on and follow the figure in which the background appears to moves or vice versa.
  4. Composition: a sequential series of drawings presents the viewer with a time-lapse effect of the movement. It will show directional propulsion of figure(s) but will also show directional rotation of limb segments. This contrasts with the idea of capturing a single fleeting movement as the viewer will now see a series of movements that can be imagined as a fluid movement.
  5. The act of locomotion: the drawing comprises movements made by the artist, so-called kinetic drawing. The image is the resulting mark making. Perhaps this is in fact installation art as can the drawing be complete without the artist making the art?


The process

Based on the above points and my research into different artists work I decided I wanted to show a jump (explosive, energetic and directional movement) in a sequence of images similar to those old photograph sequences of Muybridge. Having committed myself to this idea I had to choose my reference photos. The ones I chose (in order of jump sequence) were as follows (they have been renumbered to reflect the sequence of the pose in the jump):

Problems that I had to overcome:

  1. My sequence comprises 2 different models so I would have to adapt my drawing so that it all looked to be the same person. I chose to centre my drawing on my son as my daughter’s hair and glasses complicated the image. 
  2. My camera had overexposed the models in the photographs as I was shooting upwards to a bright sky. This means there was little in the way of contrast of tones within each pose. I would have to come up with a believable lighting plan for my drawing
  3. My view-point was a little different for each of these poses so I would have to make sure this was accounted for when drawing the images to make a believable sequence.

I did a quick sketch of the 4 poses together on A4 graph paper to get a sense of how they would fit together….

Study of all 4 poses together in sequence
Study of all 4 poses together in sequence

and having messed up the axis of the body of pose 1 I did a separate sketch of this pose.

Pencil study of pose 1
Pencil study of pose 1

As my figures were fully clothed the muscle power was not going to be evident from bulging muscle groups. Rather correct limb proportions and believable torso axis were going to have to convey the power needed to lift the body up into the air. The medium I chose was going to be very important for the mark making to portray the body and its directional movements. From my studies I could see that hard pen or ink lines were not going to work. A softer medium which could be blended would allow areas to be softened if necessary to provide contrast and atmosphere. An erasable medium would also allow gestural abstract marks to be added through a removal process which could add dynamism to the drawing. having done my ballet dancer series in pastel I was keen to use something else. Charcoal seemed the obvious choice but sometimes charcoal can be too soft. I decided that I could add background texture by painting streaks of clear gesso onto the paper surface before adding charcoal marks. not only do the brush strokes provide directional lines but the charcoal can cling to splodgy areas of gesso in a greater density than on plain paper allowing  areas to be blocked in much darker than they would otherwise. the downside of this technique is that you can’t actually see the gesso when you apply it so the process has a certain unpredictability to it. If you can get past the fact that the areas of blackness and the directional lines may not work to your liking this unpredictability can be a bonus: you have to work with what you end up with!

I was also keen that the face of the final figure was not bogged down in detail and not necessarily a likeness to my son. I needed to produce a recognisable face but include very little detail. I had a look at faces in drawings by Gary Hume, Colin Crotty and Mark Hurst (all in my research book) to see how faces can be put together indistinctly. I came up with the following as being important:

Finding a face
Finding a face
  1. Light reflected off areas of head, forehead, eyelids, ridge of nose, cheekbones and point of chin
  2. Dark shadows in rest orbit, nostrils, under the nose and around mouth region

Armed with this preparatory work, I set about creating my final jump drawing, presented in my next blog post.

Part 5 Jump – preparatory stage

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