Friday, July 24, 2015

Demsteader Follow-Up

In my last post, I wrote about Mark Demsteader and his approach to drawing and painting the figure.  I thought I'd try it out.  So I picked out a drawing from an old session with a model to copy and compare, and gave it a go.  Here's the result:

Both drawings are on the same paper (a light cream Mi-Teintes) and are done with vine charcoal.  The one on the left is descriptive and tentative.  The one on the right is bold and expressive.  I'm not Demsteader, so my drawings are clearly not his.

Oddly enough, I don't know that I could do something like the one on the right in one of our normal life drawing sessions.  When I'm working from the model, it's an exploratory session, a "get to know you" time.  I'm trying to get the model's physical appearance as well as personality captured on paper.  It is, by definition, tentative.  How is her head shaped?  Where do the shadows fall?  Is she strong-willed, bubbly, bored?  How does that show in her face and posture?  This particular model is a confident young woman and I think it comes through in the drawing.

There's nothing tentative about the approach on the right.  The marks are slammed in with confidence.  It's more of an expressive, "I know what I'm doing" approach.  It says more about the artist than the model.  I might be able to do something like this from life if I know the model well and have done enough drawings to know what I want to put the focus on.

Demsteader doesn't do most of his drawings from life.  He works from photos.  I noted that in the articles about him and now I understand it.  When working from photos, there's a greater distance between artist and model.  Rather than working with a living, breathing human being, you're working with an image.  It's easier to be expressive with an image when you're not thinking about the impression that the human presence has.

I noticed that my original drawing, as tentative as it is, has a lot of Kelly's personality.  The new drawing does not.  I can look at it and see that it was not drawn from life.  This figure is a more generic "young woman" and not "Kelly".  For some artists, that's the way they work.  The figures they draw and paint are actors to be manipulated to express whatever the artist wants to express.  For me, it's important that the figures that I draw and paint are specific individuals.  It's more about what I see in them than it is about how I'm using them to express something else.

So what's the bottom line?  I think I have a new tool in my artist toolbox: a different, more bold and dynamic way to draw the figure.  But I need to learn more about how to use it from life and to say something about the individual I'm working with.  It's a challenge.  Sounds like fun!

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