Friday, 31 May 2013

Foreshortening Forms

Michael Whynot. Study in Foreshortening, 2013. Red chalk.

Foreshortening is a powerful tool for the draftsman to add dimensionality to their drawings. When forms recede from our view in space they become smaller. We are so accustomed to seeing this optical trick in nature that our minds take it for granted and immediately notice, in a drawing, when this isn't done.

When handled properly, by using overlapping forms, the drawing gains dimensionality, with the nearer forms appearing to be in front of the more distant forms. And the form will appear shorter than we know it to be, instead of simply looking out of proportion.

The above study was a five minute study from life.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

The Poetry of Movement.

Michael Whynot. Figure Study, 2013. Red chalk.

Michael Whynot. Torso Studies, 2013. Red chalk.

I'm posting two studies taken from my sketchbook from yesterday. There is such beauty in the movement of the human form, rhythm serpentining through the figure, uniting the parts; reminiscent of poetry or music, yet perceived by the eye, instead of the ear. I suspect that some rhythms may be uplifting, while others appear depressing, joyous or sad.

Just as music or poetry can touch us in spiritual ways - which we have all felt, yet, ultimately, been unable to explain - so too, movement of form has the same power to inspire. Such is the mystery of great art, in all its forms.

The figure is capable of conveying a multitude of emotion through its movements. I continue to explore its limits with constant wonder and awe.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Robert Liberace

Robert Liberace

Robert Liberace

Robert Liberace

Robert Liberace

Robert Liberace

Since I began this blog, last year, I have been documenting my journey as a figurative artist by posting my own work and thoughts on figurative drawing, sculpture and painting, as well as some of my influences from the classical tradition: Michelanglo, Da Vinci and Raphael.

I have shied away from pointing to many living influences, because, often times, such lists can end up looking like a sort of popularity contest. That being said, I would like to suggest that we, as draftsmen, should take a serious look at the work of Robert Liberace, whose work compares very favourably to the classical influences I mentioned, above.

Mr. Liberace's figures capture the elusive aspect of movement, furia, which (along with grace, grazia, and variety, varieta) was one of the cornerstones of renaissance art. During that period, great importance was placed upon the appearance of physical movement as an expression of the movements of the soul. We are now rediscovering these aesthetic values in figurative art, five centuries later.

I have been following Mr. Liberace's work for several years and he and his wife, Lina, have kindly posted a link to this blog on their web site. And, if you are serious about figurative art, you owe it to yourself to view his web site and closely study this master's work.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Multi-figure Study.

Michael Whynot. Multi-figure Study, 2013. Red chalk.

I'm posting this multi-figure study done this morning from reference. The figures are clothed this time, as requested by one of the readers of this blog. As explained in my last post, drawing the nude figure has always been the draftsman's greatest challenge. The use of clothing actually makes the figures easier to draw, in many respects. The folds and edges of the clothing as it wraps around the figure can help explain the orientation of the forms in space.

This, being a multi-figure composition, however, compounded the usual difficulties in judging proportion and perspective. I spent several hours on it and I'm still not, totally, satisfied with it.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Deliberate Practice and Figure Drawing, Part 2.

Raphael Santi. Study for Massacre of the Innocents, c. 1510. Red chalk.

Raphael Santi. Study for Massacre of the Innocents.

Raphael Santi. Study for Massacre of the Innocents.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

                                               (Robert Frost.)

In my last post, I touched on the subject of deliberate practice, and since that time I have been asked why my drawings are confined to nudes; no clothed figures.

The answer is that I always draw with a purpose, I never doodle; my practice is deliberate. I struggle with the question of whether greatness requires talent or hard work or both. And here is the problem: no one really knows. So my tactic has been to make a commitment, work hard, and see where it leads me.

Drawing the human form has long been considered the ultimate challenge for a draftsman. The human body's complexity of interconnected forms - which change their appearance immensely with changes in point of view, lighting, exertion, gravity, and numerous other factors - offer a mind-numbing amount of information.

Artists have risen to this challenge for thousands of years. The Greeks elevated the nude form to incredible heights in the 2nd century BC and artists, ever since, have considered mastery of the nude form as a rite of passage. And, once the nude has been mastered, any other drawing challenge will pale in comparison.

I believe that all clothed figures should begin with an understanding of the nude, just as all nudes should begin with an understanding of gesture; as the body is revealed through the surface of drapery, so is the body the veil through whose surface is revealed the soul.

To draw the figure convincingly, the artist must understand the form (see my previous post on drawing well). Then the figure may be draped in clothing and still retain believable volume and dimensionality. Note in the above studies, by Raphael, that he has begun his figures as nudes before adding the drapery.

I believe that deliberate practice - and, by this, I mean focused, persistent attention to the subject under study to the exclusion of all else - is the only way to achieve mastery of a subject, even when the concept of talent is considered. So, in respect to drawing the human form, it means drawing the nude figure obsessively, for years, until every aspect of the form is internalized and the figure can be drawn from any point of view, in every aspect in three dimensional space, from imagination.

So, be mindful of how you practice, as well as how often you practice: practicing a skill ten thousand time incorrectly will never lead to improvement and will actually be detrimental to improvement. This is  where a frequent, honest assessment of your progress is critical. This can be done by yourself, if you are honest with yourself, or, better still, by a competent teacher or master draftsman.

I have been drawing the nude figure, seriously, for over two years now. I believe that I have made progress along the path upon which I set out, but, like Frost's traveler in his poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, I, too, have miles to go before I sleep.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Never A Day Without A Line: Deliberate Practice and Figure drawing, Part 1.

Michael Whynot. Figure Study, 2013. Graphite.

Michael Whynot. Figure Study, 2012. Ink.

Michael Whynot. Figure Study, 2013. Ink.

Michael Whynot. Figure Study, 2012. Ink.

Michael Whynot. Portrait Study, 2013. Ink.

Just posting a few figure studies done, in spare moments, from imagination and a quick portrait study done from life. All these drawings are quick and small (1 to 3 inches). I do try to draw something every day, without exception.

I believe that the ability to draw well hinges on the ability to see form in a certain way. Seeing form in this way is neither intuitive nor particularly common, but it is a learnable skill and once you do see in this manner, it is difficult to see in any other way. Drawing becomes an exploration of form in space and not merely random doodling. So, practicing every day is the means through which we improve our drawing ability only when we practice deliberately, with purpose. Drawing must never be done absently if we are to improve. Good drawing demands that the artist be present.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Life Drawing Figure Study

Michael Whynot. Figure Study, 2013. Red chalk.

This is a figure study, from life (5 minutes), done earlier in the spring in red chalk. Not much more than a gesture originally, and I went back over it this morning and added a light source and some modelling, maybe twenty minutes in all.

I normally use a cream coloured paper and this drawing is on bright, white paper. Looking at the photo, now that I've uploaded it, the colour looks very cold and blue compared to my regular paper. The warm, red chalk really calls out for a warmer paper to achieve a nice, warm middle tone. It also allows you to use white chalk to accent the highlights. Oh, well.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Emotion of the Drawing

Michael Whynot. Study for A Lingering Doubt, 2013. Red chalk.

A face is not well done, unless it shows a state of mind. (Leonardo da Vinci)

Emotion is a mercurial concept in drawing, but the greatest drawings have it, while mediocre drawings do not. Emotion is an aspect of living, breathing creatures and, if we want our drawings to convey the essence of living things, then we must delve into it.

What is it that draws us(no pun intended) to great art, be it drawing, painting, sculpture, music, literature or poetry? It is the story. We humans love a good story. And what is it that makes a good story? It is, first and foremost, an emotional attachment to the characters. We want to care about the characters; we need to care about them. It is the essence of our true nature.

Emotion brings art to life, so whether it be with a facial expression, a tilt of the head, a subtle gesture of a hand, or the telling curve of the back, endeavour to find the emotional bond to your subject. Emotion, a state of mind, is the mechanism through which we glimpse the inner significance living things; nothing, more or less, than the manifestation of the human soul.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Study After Michelangelo.

Michael Whynot. Torso Study, 2013 (after Michelangelo). Red chalk.

Michelangelo. Studies of a male torso and left leg. Black chalk.

Michael Whynot. Foot Study, 2013. Red chalk.

Michael Whynot. Study of hand and forearm, 2013. Red chalk.

Nearly four and a half centuries after his death, Michelangelo continues to mystify us. His drawings are, arguably, the greatest ever created, and draftsmen revere his genius with the rendering of the human form. Attempts to copy one of his drawings (see my previous post on Michelangelo) are inspiring, educational and humbling, all at once.

The torso study above was done in about forty minutes and, in it, I attempt a depiction of the gesture Michelangelo drew and not a faithful rendition of the modelling of the forms, which would have taken much longer. Michelangelo's modelling was intricate and beautiful in its hatching, and gave his forms a tangible sense of volume and dimensionality.

I have also posted two studies of feet and hands from this morning's life drawing session. In conversations I had earlier this week, I understand that feet and hands continue to be a problem area for many draftsmen (see my previous post on hands and feet). So force yourself to draw them from life constantly; use a mirror to draw your own hands and feet if you cannot find someone to model for you. Study the structure of the forms; understand what you are seeing; visualize the forms and then draw them (see my previous post on drawing well).