Why is figure work so exciting for some and so daunting for others? No question-throughout art history working from the model has been an essential part of learning. Artists would pay for a model before buying dinner. But it is HARD. And one feels silly and rude for potentially making someone look like a troll. It can be very intimidating.
However, there is no better way to learn to draw than practicing with the figure. Drawing skill is one of the most gratifying aspects of knowing a visual language. It isn’t essential to visual expression, but it is satisfying to be able to translate what you see on to the paper or canvas. (Although the lack of drawing skills should never prevent you from painting. That’s like not visiting a foreign country because you didn’t speak the language.)
In addition to the challenge of seeing and understanding form, shadow, contour—like how an arm tapers at the wrist and what makes it look round or how to foreshorten a leg, the model offers so much more. There is a new energy in the room. An exchange. Think the difference between listening at a concert and listening to recorded music. Live listening requires more. And it gives back.
“The living model, the naked body of a woman, is the privileged seat of feeling, but also of questioning… The model must mark you, awaken in you an emotion which you seek in turn to express.” (Henri Matisse)
A good model, and we are lucky to have a couple on which we rely, will feed your connection to an emotional state. Feeling and communicating that emotion is the goal. Getting there is an interplay of seeing and connecting and marking—it takes practice.
So this week you can go crazy and design your own creative “problems” to explore the model. (After we start with the gesture warm-ups, of course.)
Here are some ideas:
BLIND CONTOUR DRAWING—WITHOUT LIFTING THE PENCIL, CHARCOAL, ETC., OFF THE PAGE.
DRAW, THEN PAINT WITH YOUR NON-DOMINANT HAND.
EXPLORE THE NEGATIVE SPACE AROUND THE MODEL.
WORK ON A DARK SUBSTRATE OR AN INTERESTING GROUND. A GROUND CAN START WITH A COMPOSED COLLAGE OR ANY RANDOM TEXTURE. USE TISSUE PAPER, DRESS PATTERNS, ETC.
WORKING ONLY IN LIGHT AND DARK—NO MID-TONE. NO LINES (YOU CAN SOFTEN EDGES LATER.)
DRAW BODY PARTS SEPARATELY—THEY CAN ALL BE ON ONE PAGE, OR NOT.
USE A VERY LONG STICK TO LESSEN YOUR CONTROL.
GIVE YOURSELF A SHORTENED TIME PERIOD TO MAKE QUICK SKETCHES (90 SECONDS, OR?) DO THEM ALL ON ONE PAGE. COMPOSE. EDIT. PAINT.
CUT UP A DRAWING OF THE FIGURE AND COLLAGE IT, THEN DRAW ANOTHER POSE OVER.
DRAW TWO POSES ON ONE PAGE, THINK ABOUT CROPPING HEAVILY, OR NOT.
WE HAVE DRAWING BOOKS IN THE STUDIO, THEY WILL BE AVAILABLE FOR GUIDANCE. (Me too.)