Using different tools, materials and supports, work on three drawings of your model: 1. Standing, 2. Seated and 3. Lounging
The aim is to practise making interesting studies of the figure to show you’ve understood the basic structural principles, and are able to incorporate these using whichever style or approach fits your subject. Ensure you have a good light source to help you observe the tones and shadows that fall across and underneath the body, emphasising its structure, form, weight and position within the overall scene.
Before you start on the larger sheets, spend some time looking at the stance, posture, movement or stillness of the figure. Move around the model assessing interesting viewpoints. Look for positions that may cause a challenge through foreshortening, for example lounging. Position yourself at a slight angle, so that you’re looking down, along and across the body in different ways. Observe the difference in the scale of the head and feet depending on your own viewpoint. Remember that there are often hidden parts that may be difficult to suggest, for example the shoulder furthest away when viewing from the side.
While you’re drawing, think about the skeleton that supports the body and the muscles and skin that soften the shape into something living. Also look closely at the shapes between and around the parts of the body and the room. When you’re ready to start, make several two-minute studies in your sketchbook before moving on to the larger sheets. Spend between half and one hour on each of the three drawings (A2 or A1 size).
The problem I faced doing this exercise was access to models. My family were useless and wouldn’t stay still for 2 seconds(!) so I had to rely on my life drawing class which is a bit more formal and structured so I didn’t have a lot of opportunity to walk around/ consider different positions or to change the light!! However, I pressed on regardless…..
- Standing pose
Graphite on A2 paper
The small image above shows a few quick studies I did before starting on the larger A2 drawing. The quick sketches use different media (charcoal) and are quick observations of shape, proportion, tonal quality etc. I used graphite pencil for the larger drawing. Initially I planned to use water to create a wash (the pencils were water soluble), but as I progressed I decided I liked the scribbled effect and decided a wash was not necessary. I think the scribbled shaded areas look loose. However, the outlining is too dark (as usual) and this contrasts the loose shading making the overall picture look constrained and rather tentative.
In general the proportions look about right, apart from the hands, which are too small? There is definitely a sense of the skeleton under the skin, especially across the back, spine and hips. The weight/mass of the body travels down his left leg. The shading creates a sense of 3D form. I tried to hint at a background to position the figure within the scene but for this to really work I really need to develop the background more.
Graphite on A2 paper: During another class I had the opportunity to repeat this exercise- I didn’t consciously realise I was repeating almost the same pose- coincidence. This time, however, I felt I was more fluid. I have been practicing more gestural styles and trying very hard to see form and shape in what is in front of me- not just outlines!!I was pleased with this outcome- and like the way the light/dark is emphasised. I feel it gives a greater hint of the underlying body structure than my first attempt above.
Graphite on A2 paper– this was a challenging pose. I tried very hard to fill the paper with this drawing as my tendency is to draw small even on large sheets. As a result I really struggled with proportions because I had to magnify up any measurements I made. I had to redo a couple of sections, which was frustrating. I think in the end the final drawing is fairly accurate. (Not the hand though- even having practiced drawing hands this is woeful!! Also the facial features are a little “petite”.) The main limbs/torso however look about right. His right leg is a little foreshortened as it faced more towards me than his other leg which was at more of a right angle across the stool. The model was seated with his back against a mirror so I sketched in some of the reflections too. I think the picture definitely gives a sense of the weight of the figure and its context in the scene.
Quick sketch of the above pose.
Charcoal on A3 paper: I wanted to try a different medium but only had access to A3 paper at the time. However, I was pleased with the sense of 3D form and light/shade in this sketch. However, the flattened face is completely wrong! I find with charcoal that I give myself less pressure to deal with detail and enjoy the effects where parts have been hinted at rather than laboriously drawn in (e.g. lower leg/ arm/ hands etc.) There is a sense of the underlying structure of the body- the hips are obviously at a slight slant in this position rather than stacked vertically and there is a twist in the torso along the line of the spine to where the shoulders are almost horizontal.
Graphite on A2 paper: This was the one time I got my daughter to sit still for me and backed up the pose with a photo for when she got fed up. I had the same problem as for the seated pose in magnifying the image I saw onto an A2 page. In the end I think I got the proportions about right. I found it a different challenge to the life drawing pictures as I had to deal with clothing. The blouse balloons out at the front so it is not possible to hint at the physical form underneath. As she is sat at 90 degrees to me there is foreshortening across her shoulders- and also along the length of the dog who has his bottom facing me and his head retreating into the background on her lap! Having grappled with the proportions of both the girl’s and the dog’s bodies I still managed to make her legs far too long. I included a cropped picture below where the legs are cut off, which is less dissonant on the eye. This picture definitely gives a sense of the weight and mass of the sitters body and it’s position sunk within the cushions of the sofa.