Charcoal on newsprint
I went to this class with the aim of avoiding my usual heavy outlines. Of course the minute I got going I forgot…and was left trying to pull it back in the last couple of minutes. The entire front body was in shadow but I ran out of time to complete. Foot should probably be bigger. Areas where body and background are almost the same tone – like bottom thigh – are tricky, but even here my line is probably too much.
When I start to look at areas of shadow it seems to throw up mistakes so next time I will try (again) to work in areas of tone alongside line. If that’s at all possible?
Different model. 2 minute sketch, barely looking at my paper. More lively than previous sketches.
Another 2 minute sketch, again, looking at paper as little as possible.
Switching to biro and keeping pen on paper more, several sketches of the same pose, trying to find connections, a 3-dimensional aspect. I do feel that by the fourth I was drawing more intuitively, I felt more engaged with the body. The model’s posture was also changing which I’m happy to have captured – a kind of shrinking into herself by sketch 4.
Looking a little as if she’s hovering, this is probably a pose that would benefit from some shadowing underneath, some sort of hint that she is lying on the ground rather than suspended above it. Foot should probably be bigger.
Hands in isolation so much easier than hands attached. I’ve spent a lot of time drawing my own hands and I’m beginning to understand that fingers are actually as high as they are wide and this solidity needs to be clearly shown. Despite the practice I haven’t really investigated the attachment of hands to wrist and how to get across the bend when looking front on. To be worked on!
Thinking about what my tutor has said about outlines. I do tend to go in too heavy. Really trying to think about how outlines are outlines because of the shadow behind them, and sometimes the tone is so similar there is almost no outline to speak of.
The problem came up lately in relation to my figure drawings though I know I’m susceptible to an outline. So I’m practising on pears – just a step away from the human body! Life class tomorrow, hoping to be able to apply the same approach.
Most drawings in my sketchbooks relate to coursework. In this section are unrelated sketches alongside the results of a local art class and those sketches from a drop-in life drawing group that weren’t completed in Part Four. Also two short workshops taken just before the start of Drawing One.
Gulls across the rooftops in Cornwall. Fascinated by the geometry of the rooftops punctuated by these extraordinary birds – all heavy white muscular chest giving way to dark grey and black wing tips. Tips which look insignificant when they are perched on a rooftop but then you see the entire wing unfold and take to the skies!
Interesting the way the white crayon works with the charcoal of the wing tips – the charcoal can’t sit well on it but this creates not a blur but almost the feeling of a flash – against light or in movement. Thinking about possible crops.
Bill Brandt, ‘Early Morning on the River, London Bridge’, about 1935, 2. © Bill Brandt Archive Ltd via V&A vam.ac.uk
Thinking about gulls reminds me of a favourite photograph by Bill Brandt – the result of two negatives in one print and the addition of the sunrise later. There’s a real sense of the muscular force of the gull, its effortless glide against the blur of industry.
A2, white conte crayon on black paper
My last monochrome exercise in my weekly art class. Next week I get to use colour!
This done from a photograph with the added challenge of adjusting the light values of the original photo – rather like with the previous cow exercise – I’m learning to add something, to make the subject my own.
I’ve learnt a great deal in these strict art classes and if I look back at my first exercises eight months ago I can see how much confidence I’ve gained. Initially my marks were tentative, regular, they weren’t saying much. I’m more free now (though still have some way to go!) and able to put more emotion in to those marks. Even within this one drawing I can see the difference between the tentative first marks and the ones made in the past 30 minutes of drawing.
Specifically I learnt:
- don’t be tempted to assume that leaving areas black will give more atmosphere – when I added the gentlest of marks in to the black it created more interest – there IS something going on in that dense shadow.
- don’t be tempted to do a perfect drawing before getting going with the tonal work – this is more about ‘sculpting’ an image out of the black – and that’s where the joy comes too. I was surprised at how much easier this was that I was expecting – and how little I used a rubber – I think just once to get rid of an early line of placement.
Yay! I get to use a third colour at my very strict art class – sanguine (a dark and a light) – used above alongside white conte, white chalk and charcoal on A2 peachy coloured paper.
I never get excited by working from photographs – it seems to be missing the point of drawing somehow – but I learnt a lot from this in terms of the media but perhaps more importantly that it’s possible to add to what the photograph is already saying.
This feels like quite an old-fashioned subject handled in an old-fashioned way, but nevertheless I like my cow – just hope he’s saying ‘moo’ and not ‘meh’.
What I learned:
- As with the grey paper in the last exercise, I have to remind myself to leave the coloured paper as the mid-tone – and resist temptation to cover it up all the time.
- Working from a black and white photograph it seemed impossible to invent colour, but once I realised I was drawing my cow, and not the one in the photograph, it became far easier.
- Likewise with the texture and shadows, I had to forget trying to understand what was going on in the photograph and think about being up close to the real thing, where the coat would be tufty, where it would be smooth, the bulge of the eye socket, the cup of the ears.
- To get the shadow on the white – a very light layer of white followed by a light touch with the charcoal. To get the smooth areas around nostrils – white down first, then sanguine and a little smudging.
I started these very classic art classes in November, moving gradually from HB pencil to charcoal and finally to charcoal AND white conté crayon. Hurrah!
What I learned:
- the grey paper is the mid-tone – it’s quite hard to use it as mid-tone – to just let it be
- work with charcoal and grey paper first. Add white last.
- blending the charcoal and white makes a flat grey – avoid!
- however it is possible to go over the charcoal with the crayon to some extent (with a sharp tip)
- don’t be frightened to go in quite bold – laying down a lot of charcoal – it can always be taken away
- don’t bother with a very detailed drawing – you are sculpting the drawing from the charcoal
I’ve got in to this over-subscribed life class more times than I’ve been turned away now, beginning to feel more adopted and less gate-crasher.
Two more sketches of the same pose as last week, from different angles.
I spent almost the entire time trying to get the slight twist and sag in the torso. The model’s weight was on her left hand and it was a struggle for her, she was moving about quite a bit. I’m still not convinced. I gave the leg and foot much less attention – not sure they are big enough – same old story – I did measure up but considering the leg is coming this way, it does look small.
Similar struggle here – the arm with weight on it. I hate to blame a fidgety model but it was really hard to get the position of arm against torso right. She was holding the pose for long periods on account of the oil painters in the room and it was clearly tough.
In hindsight I probably should have kept all my lines in place – from the different positions she took – it may have made for a more satisfying sketch than this with its tentative sausage of an arm.