For this assignment, you should complete two large figure studies (A1 size) and a portrait or self-portrait (any size) – three drawings in total, together with supporting studies, experiments, etc.
For each drawing, consult your preliminary studies and make notes on what you plan to do. Think about composition, medium and approach. Write a few notes on the artist(s) that have inspired you to work in a particular way. Be inventive in your approach and in the materials you use. You’re not restricted to working with black on white. Try reversing this to white on black, or consider monochrome, perhaps dark blue on pale blue paper, or ink and charcoal on newspaper – the list is endless, so be inventive. Allow around two hours for each drawing.
1 Figure study using line (A1) – Seated model in an upright chair
I started this assignment by trying to do a line drawing of myself but failed comically badly. My top half is much too bulky compared with the rest of me and there is a lack of reality about the finished drawing. Surprisingly I rather liked the face as time went by and the result was definitely better than the rest of the body. I found it difficult to drawer myself and to sit at the same time. I don’t think my eye was particularly objective either!
So I attended a life drawing class and decided to develop the model’s seated pose. She was wearing fairy wings and holding flowers but I decided to drop these props from my pictures after a few sketches as they were distracting and not adding anything to the finished pictures. I found it really hard to keep the proportions accurate because of the slightly awkward position the model was sitting in. As a result I repeatedly ended up with shoulders that were too wide and the foreshortening in the other leg was not always convincing. In some of the preparatory sketches the hands and face were quite nicely depicted but by the time I got to the final pictures the details seemed to be naturally reduced.
I tried very hard to be as expressive and experimental with the large drawing as I was with the preparatory studies, trying not to tighten up or lose fluidity. This was hard, and possibly not achieved, as I was constantly grappling with the challenge of transferring the images onto the larger scale paper. I found this really difficult.
There is an artist called Fred Hatt that I frequently go back to as I am fascinated by his approach to figure drawing:
I wish I could reproduce the effect he creates. His influence informed my attempt using aquarelle crayons. Fred is very sensitive in his use of line- many of which define contours at the same time as light and shade. I would need a LOT more practice to achieve this fantasyic effect.
2 Figure study using tone (A1) – Reclining model
Pastels on A1 cartridge paper: For this part of the assignment I had to default to life drawing models posing on-line because there were no willing models available at home! Firstly, after a few loosening up sketches, I tried using pastels. However, in my mind this would have ideally been on a mid-tone paper, and as the only A1 paper I have is white, I did not feel the finish was very effective. I also made my usual error of making the head too small- either that or the legs and body are too big!! I struggled with the head and overworked it making the effect heavy and lumberous! In places the picture is loose and in others it looks like I tried just a bit too hard!
Charcoal on A1 cartridge paper. I had another go at the assignment using charcoal. I always enjoy charcoals; I like the fact that they stop me being too finicky about detail! They also encourage me to focus on tone rather than line. I was really pleased with this charcoal drawing. I found it easier to do on the A1 format paper, which encouraged a more gestural approach. This drawing mainly used tone, rather than line, to create a sense of form and atmosphere. I found I naturally looked at shapes. I realise that I have unwittingly used a model who is not showing her hands. Also, by not over-working the hair, it’s lightness brings the head forward in the picture. The light areas against strong shadows gives 3D form to the figure.
I have really struggled doing these drawings in a large format as they have often required scaling up from what I can see by eye so numerous errors tend to get introduced.
In all of these attempts my models are unclothed -I hope this still falls within the objectives of the assignment?
3 A portrait or self-portrait combining line and tone (any size)
Create a portrait a self-portrait where the features are believable and in proportion to the rest of the face, head, shoulders and chest. Try to find an interesting position rather than looking straight ahead. Use mirrors to view from different angles. In your sketchbook, experiment with some of the ideas you’ve uncovered during your research into other contemporary artists’ work.
Work with variations of tone and expressive line to create an interesting and atmospheric image. For your main light source, you might try using a candle, small lamp or torch in a semi-darkened room to exaggerate the contrasting lights and darks, for example. You might also work very close up with the features filling the sheet. Be experimental and ambitious in this drawing.
Self portrait- Pastel on A3 pastel paper. For this part of the assignment I did a drawing of myself in front of my dressing table mirror. There’s something symbolic about that location since it is somewhere I often study myself. I found this so interesting- the end result definitely has my features but I can’t decide if it has a likeness? How much of that is due to the disconnect between what I think I look like and how others see me?
I struggled to get the light right- mainly because, looking at my reflection, the light and shadow was subtle because I could not work out how to create strong contrasts. However, the resulting picture definitely has a sense of light coming from one side with deeper shadow on the opposite side. I was surprised by how the image seemed to emerge by its own accord, as the layers of pastel were applied. The hair is a bit fluffy and should probably hang straighter down the sides of the face. Another place I struggled was to get the profile around my face correct- in the picture my cheek bones are a bit more rounded than in reality.
However, overall I definitely think this is a believable face in which the features are in proportion to the rest of the face, head, shoulders. I ended up with a straight on pose by default- even though that was not my initial intention, but I rather like its intensity!
I did not do a lot of preparatory sketching before doing this picture. I started it with the intention that it should be a sketch, but it took on a life of its own and emerged as a full complete drawing of its own volition!
Create two interesting images of your own face. You’ll need to think about the pose, measuring, tonal variation and lines and marks. Don’t worry about producing an attractive or accurate likeness; the aim is to create a believable face with the features in more or less the right place.
Look at yourself in a mirror and quickly draw several five-minute studies of your face, neck and shoulders. Slightly adjust the angle of your head to avoid a disconcerting straight-ahead stare. Keep moving your pencil around the drawing and don’t be tempted to concentrate on just one area at a time; this will inevitably cause an unnatural and tight image. Study the whole of the face and keep working in shadows and lines until the features begin to emerge within the three-dimensional form of the face and head. Remember that there are bones and muscles beneath the skin and that you’re positioned within a spatial and physical environment – a room or some other place. Add a few marks and lines to suggest this, but don’t go into too much detail. The focus should be on the face.
As already mentioned, avoid drawing a closed outline of the head. This often serves to trap the features inside its oval form and any mistakes in measuring will be hard to rectify. Instead keep your marks and lines loose and fragmented; this will allow you to make changes as you work. Try to create several small studies that improve your ability to capture realistic features. Remember the earlier mention of ‘waves’ and think how repeated lines can add vitality and movement to a still image. The face may be still but there is always a hint of movement beneath the surface.
Before you start, consider the angles or movement of your head. Think about whether to look straight ahead, down, up or slightly to one side. The imaginary vertical line that travels through your nose will indicate movement if it appears to be off centre. Start to build in the loose shape of the features. Keep it simple – don’t get caught up in small details. Don’t worry about a likeness at this stage. If you get the shapes and angles more or less right the personality will evolve. Consider the hair as it surrounds and drops into the facial plane. Work in the positive and negative shapes and don’t get involved with drawing individual hairs.
Once you’ve completed a full self-portrait, take a break before revisiting the image and consider how it might have been better. Do the proportions, angles, tones, etc., work? Note down your thoughts to help you when you begin work on your second self-portrait. Look at it in the mirror and see if there are measuring issues. Look at it upside down and from a distance. This helps you see with different eyes.
For the second image position yourself differently, and try using a different medium and approach. If the previous version was in pen and ink, try charcoal or conté.
I did this exercise at the hairdressers- a great use of a couple of hours stranded in front of a mirror!
Graphite on A3 cartridge paper I used graphite pencil for the first portrait. Starting with a very rough light outline for the eyes- getting proportions right, -it was then fairly logical to progress around the face marking in the main points. I found I naturally progressed across the page, without getting too caught up in detail. As the areas of shadow were added, the features emerged naturally and a sense of 3D form was created. Looking back at the instructions for this task after it was completed: “Describing the shadows on the facial plane do give the head a sense of solidity and the darkest shadow is in the eye sockets either side of the nose. The shadow under the nose is lighter. I avoided rigid outlining to avoid a cartoon effect.”
This picture does look like me (not in the most flattering light) and I was surprised how easily the likeness emerged as I worked. I tried not to overwork it- instead to focus on the main facial features to draw the viewers eye into the face rather than surrounding details. The position does have a rather disconcerting straight-on stare- but it was appropriate to the venue!!
Water soluble ink and fountain pen. For this portrait I tried to move my head slightly so that I was not quite so straight-on to the mirror. It is hard not to actually look into the mirror though as I had to look at my reflection to draw myself! So my eyes are still looking out of the page! In contrast to the graphite portrait above, this time I used pen and ink. This led to a completely different finish, especially as I was using water soluble ink, so I used a water pen to produce a wash to hint at shadow and create more of a sense of form. It seemed logical to focus mainly on the face and to only hint at the background and hair framing it. Not least since I was in foils by this stage so my hair wasn’t falling very naturally! I think the effect is rather medieval- it looks like I am wearing a wimple/headdress!
I don’t think this portrait looks at all like me (see the picture below), but it is a believable face! My daughter says the eyes have a likeness but there is no likeness in the nose or the pinched mouth! I found it very hard to control the intensity of the wash so there are bits where the shadow is darker than I intended; however, the unpredictable nature of the medium made it quite exciting to use.
The graphite picture is the most successful in this exercise as the shading was more subtle, creating a more realistic and more subtly shaded finish.
I did not struggle to move on from sketches of individual features to a full portrait. In fact I found this interesting as I have never attempted a portrait before and was sure that I would not achieve a good finished picture. But I surprised myself- finding the likeness emerged completely naturally as I worked, without having to force it. Even the pen and ink picture is completely believable as a representation of a face, despite not achieving a likeness or having the realism of the more refined pencil drawing.
For some reason I missed out drawing the quick 5 minute sketches before I did this task. I set out to do a quick sketch on both occasions, but each time the pictures took on a life of their own and ended up as finished pictures! I will try to do this at a later date.
Look at people (including yourself) in the flesh, in magazines, TV and other places and study the individual features. Practise drawing these in your sketchbook, a couple of pages per feature – different kinds of nose, eyes, ears, lips, chin, hair, eyebrows, etc. If it helps, use an enlarging grid to scale up a found image. Bear in mind that tonal variation, hatching and curved lines help model the form of facial features in the same way as they do in a still life or landscape.
When you feel fairly confident, draw an entire face. Don’t worry if your lines and marks overlap and become untidy, and don’t erase your mistakes. These workings and re-workings are part of the thinking process and show your tutor that you understand where you went wrong and worked to put it right.
I tried using various techniques, media and methods (observation from photos/ life) to draw different facial features. I was particularly interested in creating a sense of form through shading.
I went on to draw a face.
A3 Graphite Sketch
This was an interesting exercise based on the previous studies as I found this portrait emerged naturally. Whereas previously I might have started with either the outline or a single feature, I built this up instinctively using increasing tones and shading. I started with a very rough faint outline of the features from the centre of the face and worked outwards. I was really pleased with the outcome. It was interesting how the form emerged as I worked and I did not need to overwork it or attempt to create a likeness. I think the photo I was working from was fairly straightforward however, as the shadow was very defined, but I was interested to use a full frontal pose so I could measure the relative proportions of eyes/nose/mouth etc.
Can you see who it is? The likeness isn’t complete- but his essence is!
‘People watching’ is a good way to understand human movement and interaction. This might be at the supermarket, on a bus or train, in a pub or café, cinema queue or takeaway. Night or day, observe different kinds of people – how they stand, how they interact, what they carry, what they’re doing with their hands, and how they dress. If you can do a few small and quick sketches on the spot, that’s great. If not, take a few discreet photos and try to keep the atmosphere of the scene in your memory until you return home, then try to recapture the colour, movement, drama, noise, etc., in your sketches.
How successful were your attempts to retain an image of a scene to draw later? How might you tackle this in future? Make some notes in your learning log.
This is a sketch done from the car at an athletics training meeting. In essence I think it captures the moment and I had time to observe different people coming and going. I spoilt the picture by trying to use a brush pen to enhance it- I wish I had taken a photo before I added that.
In this sketch I was experimenting- trying to capture the feel of a crowd/ milling group of people without getting bogged down in detail (a bad habit I would love to break!!) I think it is much more effective than the sketch above as it leaves the viewers imagination to fill in the blanks, whilst still being very clear about what it is meant to be! It has a sense of movement- people are entering and leaving the space!
I tried doing some drawing in a cafe- this is a composite picture- again people arrived and left during the time I was drawing. They did at least sit relatively still! I have not had time to develop this into a final picture.
Again- I tried drawing a group of people sat around tables in the sun outside the window from where I was sitting. This was a greater challenge as they were all quite dynamic and kept moving/ and going in and out of the cafe! I would have loved more time to really work on this- but in the time I had the dimensions/ perspective and general drawing was all wrong!!
These are both sketches that might be used to lead onto a more finished picture. I have a feeling they are neither one thing nor the other. As reference material to be used later in a final drawing they are a little staid- I got bogged down in detail again rather than thinking about the sense of place and atmosphere. I didn’t have time for detail really as people moved about far more than I would have liked!! I took some photos and will try to work on them later.
recapture the colour, movement, drama, noise, etc., in your sketches.
I am really pleased with this drawing. It is only on a piece of A4 black paper but I really like the effect and the atmosphere the style captures. I was influenced to try using aquarelle crayons on black card after looking at the work of Fred Hatt– which I really like. The lines in this are in a completely different style to his work, but I liked the way the people were lovely built up in layers starting from mid tones and slowly overlaying light and darker tones to encourage the forms to emerge.
Drawing a moving figure is different from drawing a posed figure – the person won’t slow down or wait patiently for you to finish. You’ve already had some practice in producing quick figure drawings but this project may be more of a challenge because you’ll need to draw quickly to record your subject in motion. This will probably mean looking up and out, concentrating on the subject in front of you while drawing ‘blind’, rather than looking down and concentrating on the sheet of paper. As well as working outdoors and indoors you can draw people from a window, car, etc. Wherever you are, draw quickly and keep your eyes on the figure in action. Try to capture the vitality of the movement through fast and confident marks and lines, and don’t be tempted to repair or overwork the final image.
Use quick exploratory lines to express the overall flow and movement rather than seeking a perfect reproduction. Think about the speed and purpose of the figure in movement and how to capture the energy through stance, mark-making, etc. For example, someone running for a bus may have their coat flying and head thrust forward; the figure will have momentum and intention. Try to express this. While working, make notes about your observation of moving figures and why they’ve caught your attention. Think about:
Narrative – the story that reveals the reason for the activity, such as running for a bus or dancing.
Interaction – merging the moving figure with its surroundings, considering its relation to the environment and other figures, buildings, etc.
Keep drawing moving figures in your sketchbooks. Try to fill a page a day; this will be a rich resource for future work as well as improving your figure drawing through regular practice.
This exercise is HARD!! It’s driven me mad trying to capture what I can see in my mind as the perfect representation of a moving figure but which appears on the page as rather an awkward, disproportioned attempt!! However, I think in places I have definitely captured a sense of movement- a moment mid-action- although most of these images are not really looking like “People”!! On the whole my pictures are of just an individual, without a sense of narrative or context. I was so taken up with observing the individual at that moment that this seemed to get lost. I will continue to dry to do this exercise as I completely understand the need to practice this skill and would LOVE to be good at capturing people in drawings.
I did try to draw a scene on the playing field with various children playing to try to capture the narrative and interaction of the moment. This is more effective- even though the figures are still not great, putting them into a scene gave them extra “life” because there was more of a story and a sense of time and place depicted.
As well as working from real life I also drew a few pictures from photos, just because I wanted to practice the form taken by the human body during motion. These are (obviously) more realistic in their finish, but the objective was to practice looking rather than to cheat and produce the perfect drawing.
I also watched videos of moving figures (because I didn’t really have the opportunity to draw people from life doing anything more than running, walking, or playing football. I felt that people walking on the street was fairly a boring, repetitive exercise, so i looked for videos of more interesting movements like dancing! (I wish I was allowed in my daughter’s dancing classes). This was useful because the movements I was looking for were repetitive in nature (pirouettes etc) and I was able to capture the receptive shape in my mind- I tried to do a lot of these sketches “blind”.
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…..
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.
Loosely sketch some of the structures that make up the human body. Look for images online and in the library and use your own body as reference. Work in your sketchbooks to help you understand the body’s measurements and mechanics – for example the length of each part of a finger in relation to the other fingers, thumb and hand, the shape of the knee when the leg is bent or straight, the shape of the toes when the foot is relaxed or stretched, etc…
Looking closely, work upwards; start with your toes, sketching them in several positions, then do the same for the feet, ankles, calves, knees, thighs, hips, torso, shoulders, arms, elbows, hands, neck, and skull, until you have pages of small studies of the individual parts that make up your own body.
I used a combination of pictures in books and magazines and also studied parts of my own body to sketch a number of different physical elements on the human form. I was interested to note how much more aware I became as the exercise progressed of the underlying structures (muscle/skeleton etc) that informed some of the mark making. It is also interesting that when I draw the whole figure the parts I struggle most with (apart from the head) are feet and hands, and yet when drawn on their own with close observation I felt the sketches came out very well; showing the correct proportions and believable form. Not every part of the body looks obvious when in different positions due to foreshortening or altered physical nature. For example, a fist and an open palm are two completely different things in terms of shape proportion, energy, tautness of skin, prominence of skeleton etc.
"Drawing is putting a line round an idea." Henri Matisse (1869-1954)