Tag Archives: pencil

More figure drawing

12 Jun

Here is a figure sketch based on a fashion photo, in which I tried to draw in two steps, a design phase for the overall structure of the figure and a refinement phase, in which I concentrate more on the details.

Clothed figure sketch 15 2011/06/12

It’s still a rough sketch, made in 20 minutes, but I think you can see I’ve done a few dozen sketches (short, 7 minutes long each). The drawing looks more considered, more thought-through. There’s still room for improvement, quite a bit, actually, as there always is. Still, I think I captured the idea of the pose.

I will be doing more of these brief sketches, to develop a feel for proportions. Of course, the drawing above isn’t very well suited for that, because the figure isn’t standing upright, so it’s harder to check the proportions.

One could argue why not do unclothed figure sketches? I’m surely want to do those too, but good (non-pornographic) images are less frequent than good fashion photos on the Internet. Also, it’s much easier to ask someone to pose for me with her or his clothed on than without, in real life I mean. Typical clothed figure rates are 10 euros per hour (if I go by the rates my local community college uses). My guess is that nude models are much more expensive, but I could be wrong.

I’m still not confident enough to hire models, though, so for now I’m trying to improve my skills by using photos and short candid pose sketches (people in public spaces). Alas, the rates for the figure sketching course at my local community college has gone up this year (now 16 euros per 2 hour lesson, excluding modeling costs), so I’m unable to attend those, as I had planned.

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Portrait Course, lesson # 30

23 May

Portrait Course 20110523 # 1

This was the last drawing of the portrait drawing course at my local community college and everyone agreed it was my best drawing until now. I spent two lessons on it and needed only minimal help from my instructor. The model was very patient, even while some of us students were a bit rowdy because it was the last day in “school.” Marie, thank you!

I used 2H, H and HB leads to make the drawing, plus some smudging with my fingers.

Portrait Course, lesson # 29

16 May

Portrait Course 20110516 # 1

This was the last but one drawing session of this season of model drawing course. Apart from the nose, the instructor was quite happy with my setup. I will continue next time.

Warmup sketch, likeness and failing art

16 Apr

I’m exploring the point of failure in drawing. At what point am I giving up and why? Why in blazes do I want to bother about failing? Isn’t success much more important? Simply put, I want to improve my process. The best way to do that is to fail often and fail early and then revise where you want wrong.

Warmup sketch, likeness and failing art

Since the above drawing is my warmup sketch, I didn’t give a dang about structure. I took a random ad from my TV guide and started drawing top to bottom. There was some structure, but not much. Warmup is all about getting the bad drawing out of your system, so what follows is pure gold (one hopes).

And then it happened. The magic was lost. I saw so many mistakes on top of each other, so many entangled knots that I simply gave up. Of course, I knew this was going to happen, because I didn’t work systematically, being a warmup sketch and such.

And to be honest, a year ago, I would have been very proud at a result like this. I wouldn’t even have known that I made any mistakes, let alone how to avoid them. At most, I would have noticed that the result looked “odd”.

Also a year ago, I would have needed a 2B or even 4B lead, or I wouldn’t have known what I was looking at on the page. I enhanced the contrast of the scan considerably, so it reproduces better on a computer screen (and still it’s rather faint).

What has changed is that I’ve started to use a 4H-lead. The marks left behind by such a pencil are so faint, that you must be very aware what you are drawing in order to recognize the image on the paper. With that I mean that by using a faint pencil sketch, I force myself to internalize the original. I can then use that internalized image as my guide, instead of what is on a sheet of paper.

Yes, you read that correctly, if you want to draw from life, most of the drawing happens in your mind, not on paper. On paper are just the slight notations and some landmarks. The real story is inside your head. If you want anyone else to understand that story, you need to make it as clear as possible.

With “story” I mean “visual impression”. It is hard to explain to non-artists, but I will try to do so anyway.

How do you recognize a face? Well, I suppose you don’t really know. You just do. However, take a photo of someone you know and cover the top half. Do you still recognize him or her? You probably do. How is this possible? Aren’t the eyes what makes you recognize someone?

You have internalized the missing part. You already know the photo, even if you only got a glance at it before covering the top part. In your mind’s eye you can see those eye, even if your eyes can’t see it, because the top half of the photo is covered.

The same goes for drawing. You have drawn so many faces, that you’ve internalized a “standard face”, which you can draw with your eyes closed, so to speak. If you draw someone, you only have to notice in which ways that person deviates from the “standard face”. It’s this deviation you put on paper as an artist in the initial sketch. After all, you want to capture the particularities of a face, what makes it different from other faces. Then you fill in the rest with your knowledge of the “standard face” (what you’ve internalized by drawing so many different faces).

A typical beginner’s mistake is to start with the standard face, by using a schematic face they have adopted from a book about drawing faces. While such books are helpful to point the beginner what to look at, it’s no replacement for drawing experience. You need to have drawn a few hundred faces with some effort of trying to make it look like the original. At that point you have some conception of what a face looks like, beyond the point of recognition.

Again a stunning revelation for some, I guess. If it looks like the original, if I can recognize who it is, isn’t that enough? Well, it can be. For a mug shot, a composited portrait of a crime suspect, recognition is the only quality that is important. Rendering is kept to a minimum, so people don’t have to interpret the drawing too much. Even so, people are not as good in recognizing strangers, because they try to avoid eye contact. So these composite drawings seem to work best if the suspect is someone you know, someone whose face you have internalized.

Having a bad memory for faces myself, I don’t care as much about likeness as some do. It’s the structure of a face and the rendering of the features I’m concerned with as an artist. That this happens to coincide with a likeness is a happy accident, if you’d ask me in honesty.

So it’s the combination of likeness, structure and rendering that forms the “story” I want to tell with my sketches and drawings of faces. Because I publish my art and know that others care about it, I still need to concern myself with likeness. For most a portrait that doesn’t look like the original is a failed portrait, however “artsy” the drawing might be.

My take on it is that putting likeness at the top of the list of things to do in a portrait drawing or painting will lead to stiff art, like the person is consciously posing. If you put it lower on the list and start playing with structure and rendering first, the result will be much looser and satisfying.

I guess time will tell if I’m right. Many of my fellow students at my local community college I see measuring with a pencil first and mechanically reproducing a face with some kind of formula. The few who don’t have much looser art, but needed many years (ten or more) to arrive at that point. I have only been drawing seriously since 2009. The only difference is that I don’t put as much value on convention as some seem to do. Some may say that’s a weakness and if that’s true, I’m using that weakness to my advantage.

Portrait Course, lesson # 25

28 Mar

Today I decided to use my Pentel color brush pen to do a portrait of the same model we had last week. However, I wanted to use airbrush ink instead of the original Pentel brush ink, which comes in cartridges (as part of the pen).

Portrait Course 2011-03-28 # 1

⇧ Undersketch of the model in 2H lead. The instructor gave me a few hints, because ink knows no mercy.

Portrait Course 2011-03-28 # 2

⇧ Inking, if you’re not used to it, is like swimming while you’re drowning. There’s no undo button, few opportunities to hide or repair mistakes. It’s now or never, no regrets.

I couldn’t load enough ink on it for the large size of paper I was using. Next time I should use a regular brush and India ink. It’s a pain to clean a regular brush, but the result can be so much more satisfying.

The A B C’s of animal structure

19 Mar

A B C's of animal structure

Currently, I’m stuck at page 5 of How To Drawing Animals by Jack Hamm.

I’m experiencing what Jack Hamm is hinting at, namely that you need to have a solid experience with the animal in question if you want to draw it believably. You need to know what impression its presence gave to you, not in words, but in images, as a mental picture of the animal.

There are strong similarities in the body plans of all four-legged animals, but there are also stark differences. You need to have intimate knowledge of the masses of each animal and how those mases move while the animal moves.

The method mentioned in this book is not a replacement for many hours of drawing the actual animal, by which I mean, having the animal in front of you, so you can experience its being. You can’t fake your way out of this one.

Even so, I’m trying to understand how to interpret photos, because I’m not able to visit zoos, farms, etc. at a regular basis. Most of this would be observing, not drawing, because you learn a lot by just looking, absorbing the look and feel of the animal, so you can reproduce that in your initial sketch. After this sketch, you can look at your reference for adjustments, but the basis for you drawing should be hours upon hours of observation.

Even so, I like the bear, although it’s totally based on (non-informed) imagination. I guess something stuck in this brain after more than 50 years of looking.

Portrait Course, lesson # 23

14 Mar

Portrait Course 2011-03-14 # 1
⇧ After a two-week break we had a new model. Instead of immediately putting a face on the paper, as my fellow artists did, I decided to play a little with the face, so it became less threatening to me. It also gave me an opportunity to get familiar with the face in a playful manner.

Portrait Course 2011-03-14 # 2
⇧ Each session consists of two hours, with a half hour coffee break in between. However, the model had another engagement (work), so we only had 30 minutes after the coffee break. Time to get more serious and put as much of her on paper as I could.