Friday, November 07, 2014

Different Figure Drawing Styles

Since my last post, I've been to a number of life drawing sessions and, in between, have been painting the fall colors.  These are two very different subjects that can't be tackled in the same post.  So I'll talk about figure drawings today and talk about fall landscapes next time.

The Asheville area is fortunate to have a lot of life drawing sessions going on every week.  On Monday evenings, David Lawter has a two-hour session that is entirely short poses.  He starts with 1-minutes and ends with a 5-minute.  That's quick.  Because of that, it's lots of fun: you have to have to keep moving because the next pose isn't going to wait.  My drawings usually have a lot of life to them because of that.  On Wednesday evenings, Frank Lombardo runs a 3-hour, single-pose session in Marshall.  This is the polar opposite of David's session and is great for painting.  On Thursday evenings, David has a two-hour session that is mostly 20-minute poses - great for drawings that have some development to them.  Yes, that means David runs two sessions a week.  The guy is dedicated.  If you're interested in either Frank's or David's sessions, contact me and I'll put you in touch with them.

I'm constantly trying to improve my skills, so going back and forth between the different sessions is good.  It doesn't let me get into a rut.  I'm also constantly looking at other artists and seeing what I can learn from them.  One I'm looking at pretty hard now is Steve Huston.  Steve lives/works out west and is associated with the New Masters Academy in Huntington Beach, in the Los Angeles area.   I took an online workshop with him early this year (here's the post).  He's done a number of videos about his technique, some of which are on YouTube and others on the New Masters website.  I watched a video and decided to try out some of the ideas at the 3-hour life drawing session.  Here's what resulted:

This didn't come out at all like I intended and looks nothing like a Huston drawing.  However, it was an interesting exercise.  I did a rough line block-in of the figure in vine charcoal on a pale toned paper, then smudged charcoal all over the place,  Then, in addition to laying in the darks with more charcoal, I drew just as much with the kneaded eraser to pull out the lights.  The result has a lot of heft and volume.  It's more like a traditional style of drawing, I think - slow and deliberate.  Yes, it's probably overworked, and some parts need more development (which they've gotten since this photo was taken).  Still, I got to try some new ways of working, and added some new tools to my drawing tool chest.

After this, I went back to Huston's work to figure out where we were different.  I saw that Huston is very concerned with the form, and builds it up with fluid, flowing, gestural lines (like what I do with the very short poses).  He then focuses on three lines: the two outside edges of the figure, and the intermediate shadow in between.  The "intermediate shadow" is the one at the boundary between the lighted and shadowed area.  Getting this one right is really critical to getting the feel for volume in the figure.  You have to pay close attention to where it is wide and narrow, where it has soft edges and sharp, and how light or dark it is.  Huston also works with a small range of light values and a small range of darks, not a full spectrum of values like I did in the drawing above.

So I went to a session with shorter, 20-minute poses, and here's one of the results:

This one started with more gestural strokes and then was gradually developed using both the vine charcoal and kneaded eraser.  I tried to keep both tools working quickly and not get bogged down in detail.  I also tried to limit the values to a small range of lights and a small range of darks.  Most importantly, I paid close attention to the outside lines of the form as well as the intermediate shadows.  You'll see that some of the outside lines are pretty heavy.  A heavy, dark line accentuates the light volume of the form next to it.  Mostly, though, it's the intermediate shadows that define the volumes of the form.  Follow the intermediate shadows down from the shoulders, through the hips, and down the legs, and you'll see how their movement back and forth shows how she's standing and twisting.

Finally, here's a detail from a sheet of figure drawings from Monday's short-pose session.  I used the same principles here as in the drawing above.  Quick gestural lines establish the figure, while hatched areas indicate the shadowed areas and create the figure's volume.  This was done with a mechanical pencil on a Strathmore sketchbook.

This is actually a pretty similar approach to the one I talked about in a post last month, in which I used a Sharpie pen during the 20-minute poses.  As a refresher, here's one of those drawings:

This is quick and gestural, but it doesn't have the same focus on the intermediate shadow.  It's still a pretty decent drawing.  Different tools and different approaches are needed for different drawings.  I feel like I've expanded my capabilities a bit over the past month or so.  Cool stuff.

By the way (crass commercialism alert), several of these drawings are available on my Etsy gallery at ridiculously reasonable prices.  Just sayin'.

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