THIS is not a problem you should worry about too much, the most difficult problem is how to draw ; not what to draw with. Here to help you, however, should you be in doubt, are some of the methods you can use. I do stress that you should not worry too much, especially in the beginning, about your technique. Choose something simple and stick to it. If you are having trouble, it is probably because it's very difficult to draw the figure anyway and not the fault of your instruments if things go wrong !
Let us begin with paper. There are many kinds of cartridge papers, from smooth to fairly rough. A medium surface white paper bought in sheets or in a sketch book is the most often used for pencil drawings. You can also use Ingres or Michelet paper which has a rougher surface and is similar to the paper used by 18th Century draughtsmen. It is very suitable for charcoal or chalk drawings of all kinds and is the type I have used for many of the drawings in this book. Augustus John often draws on Whatman " Not " paper, using a pencil. Many artists work on blocks of detail paper, a semi-transparent paper with a rather smooth surface, very useful if you are making a great number of quick studies. If you are going to use a sketch book then don't get too small a size — about 14" X 10" is the smallest you should use.
What to draw with is the burning question and, as I have said already, one is always apt to blame the chosen instrument for one's faults in drawing and is always searching for that medium which will give all the help and sympathy one's drawing longs for. Alas, the perfect tool has probably not been invented yet (unless perhaps the camera is it !). Meanwhile, here are some that artists have been struggling with and cursing at for a long time.
First, there is the lead pencil. In old books on art you can sometimes be misled, for a brush is referred to as a pencil. Sir Joshua Reynolds says : " Take up your pencil " when he means- your brush. So the correct term for this ubiquitous instrument is a lead pencil. Grade 2B or 3B will probably be the most useful to start with. You can try a softer or harder grade after a time if you wish. Some of the greatest masters of this tool have been Ingres and Augustus John.
Charcoal is very popular because you can get the softness of shadows so well with it and, at the same time, it gives a very sympathetic line. You should work to a larger size when using charcoal than you would in a pencil drawing.
Chalks of all kinds are very popular. Sanguine, a brick red chalk made up in sticks or mounted in wood like a lead pencil, is probably the most used of any. The drawings of Watteau and most of the French 18th century artists are usually iil this medium. Conté chalks are about the best and are readily obtainable in both sanguine and black, although in fact there are at least a dozen varieties to choose from. They go particularly well with Ingres paper and are my own favourites for figure drawing and, indeed, for any studies I make from models clothed or unclothed.
Carbon pencils, which give a blacker, richer line than a lead pencil (though not so deep as a black Conté pencil) are also very useful for our purpose. They are not lead pencils but contain compressed carbon black. An advantage is that they don't smudge so readily as Conté.
Pens of all kinds from Quill pens, beloved by Rembrandt, to thin steel crow-quills, beloved of the late Victorian artists, are available to you. In modern times fountain pens have been added to the repertoire.
When drawing with a pen you must keep your drawing-board flatter than you would with pencil or chalk to enable the ink to flow freely down the nib. It is better to use a fairly smooth paper with a pen, though not absolutely essential, as you may have noticed in the case of an artist like Tiepolo.
Brushes have also been used, by Rembrandt again and many others, but these are not so good if you want much detail. Some of the diagrams I have made in later chapters to indicate perspective, etc., were drawn with a brush.
If you have a sketch book with a cardboard back you won't require a drawing-board, but otherwise you will. Pin a few sheets on at a time so that the hardness of the board is cushioned by the paper, and your pencil or chalk will move over the paper more easily. A half imperial size drawing-board will be the most useful shape and won't be too heavy. Large drawing pins or clips will keep the paper flat. If you don't want to use a drawing-board, the portfolio you keep your pieces of paper in will also serve to draw on. Attach your paper to it with clips.
India rubber shouldn't really be necessary. If you've made a mistake it's best to draw boldly over it. If, however, this worries you and you want to erase the horrible sight, then by all means bring a soft india rubber with you.
I also suggest you bring along a good supply of ready prepared tools, whether they are sharpened pencils, chalks, charcoal, spare pens with nibs, or properly filled fountain pens. It is terribly aggravating suddenly to have to break off and start sharpening pencils, etc., in the middle of a session and, if you are drawing in company, very distracting to your neighbours. So ; be prepared, like the Boy Scouts !
There are various types of furniture to prop up the artist and his drawing-board. The simplest is the ordinary chair and your own knee, you can add the edge of a table or the back of another chair instead of the knee if you like. The main thing is to hold the drawing sufficiently far away from your eye, so that you can take in the whole of it at one glance. The line of sight of your eye should be at right angles to the line of the paper. Many artists use a donkey ; a kind of stool on which you sit astride ; with a rest for your drawing-board on the front.
Easels can be used, either seated or standing, especially if you are doing larger drawings, from which you want to be able to stand away.
Provided the foregoing principles are adhered to it doesn't matter very much what you use.
AFTER you have gathered your materials together the next step is to decide on how you will use them. At a Sketch Club or Art School the model is usually posed on a model throne in order that everybody can see her. In this case don't get too close to the model throne because the perspective will be very distorted. The best position in which to sit (or stand) is one in which you can comfortably take in the whole pose with one glance, that is, your eye takes in the model's head and her feet in the same look.
If you are arranging the pose and background yourself, you should avoid any overelaborate background that will distract the eye. Preferably a bare wall or a cloth hung up behind the model is best. You can then study the shapes, the length and shade and silhouette without trying to find out where some shadow is merged into background — that kind of sublety can come much later if you like. You should also try and get a very simple effect of light and shade without too many dark shadows on the figure, you only need just enough to throw up the shapes clearly. Everything that distracts you and increases your difficulty should be avoided, so make simplicity your aim. Avoid any confused lighting, that is to say, light which comes from two or more sources and consequently throws cross shadows, liable to cause complications in your search for accuracy. When you become more experienced this more complicated lighting can be very interesting and gives entirely different, but intricate, effects.
Arrangement of light and shade is very important and you should not be in too much of a hurry to start drawing until you have made sure that this is to your satisfaction. If you are working by artificial light, where the light can be moved about the room, you may find that the best method is to have a strong spotlight on the model with a weak top-light, to give general illumination which prevents the shadows from being too dark, without, however, throwing any appreciable shadows itself.
Now we come to posing the model. Unless you have very definite ideas about this yourself it is best to let the model give you various poses, or to move about until you get something that pleases you. A pose with a slight twist to it gives more sense of movement than one in which the model is looking the same way as the body is facing. Too much fore-shortening should be avoided in the beginning. Try also to avoid poses in which the model gets entangled with chairs or other props, this again you can leave until a little later in your career. Poses should be as natural as possible. Some models have a repertoire of all kinds of weird poses, which have no known origin that I can think of, and these should be carefully but tactfully avoided.
To sum up this stage — you pose the model in straightforward poses, against a plain background with simple lighting. You draw at a sufficient distance to include the whole of the model in your eye's focus at one glance.
Drawing the Model
Draw what you see arid, if you draw it correctly, your drawing will be all right.
WHEN all the necessary tools, light and shade, background and, finally, the model have been assembled, the most important problem of all has to be attacked. Attack is the word because it's no job to be attempted in a half-hearted way, but it is not a problem to be despaired of. You find you learn even from your worst mistakes — indeed, you often learn more from your failures than the successes.
First of all there are certain bogies and misunderstandings to be rid of. For instance, there is Anatomy. Many people say you can't draw the figure properly unless you understand Anatomy. One might, in reply, point to Greek sculpture, which includes such masterpieces as the Venus de Milo, the Laocoon group, etc. : all created by artists without a great deal of anatomical knowledge. If you have to know the inside workings of everything an artist draws you would spend your life learning how to make aeroplanes, chairs, trains, ships, not to mention the anatomy of horses, cats, seagulls, and also a working knowledge of bridge-building and architecture.
What is required is keen and intelligent observation. A great deal of technical knowledge can sometimes be more of a handicap than a help. I remember one student who knew so much about anatomy that his drawings showed up every muscle, whether he could really see them or not. I sometimes think that some of Michelangelo's drawings show too great an interest in the play of muscles (I know this sounds sheer blasphemy !), so much so that it is difficult to distinguish between his men and women.
Rely, therefore, on your eyes and on what you can see. It's quite difficult enough in the beginning without trying to remember all kinds of muscles and tendons, and worrying about the latisimus dorsae and the exact position of the radius and the ulna. Draw what you can see and if you draw it correctly your drawing will be all right. When you have made a beginning, then study anatomy by all means and find out what all those bumps and lumps you've been drawing are called and what they do to cause you so much trouble. There's plenty to study and if you can eventually see the whole working of the intricate human machinery, so much the better. But start by using your eyes.
The way the weight oj the body is supported is one oj the most jascinating things about Jig drawing.
Now what does your eye see when you look at the model ? For one thing you think you see all kinds of things that you don't really see. Two conflicting trends are at work. One is your true and trusty eye, the second is your mind, which keeps butting in and telling your eye all kinds of facts it doesn't need to know. An instance of this is fore-shortening. Look at these drawings of bent legs. Your eye sees the leg as a certain shape but your brain knows what the shape is like when the leg is straight and it insists you try and show all this in your drawing. Now this isn't necessary because all you are concerned with is the drawing you are doing at present — of the bent leg. If you could just draw this in much the same way as you would a piece of rock and draw what you see, not concerning yourself with what you don't see, then your problems would be much easier
So, when you look at the model, that first time, clear your mind of all preconceived ideas and just draw what you really see. This needn't, of course, mean that you don't use your brain at all ! Your eye is an organ which transmits messages to your brain, which in turn transmits them to your hand. In the process your brain can help by organising the process along practical lines. For instance, this model or shape that is posing before you has weight. If the model is standing then the weight of the body is balanced precariously on its two legs and your drawing should show you realize this, and so help to give a feeling of solidity to your work. If the model is sitting or lying there is also a distribution of weight, not supported by the legs this time, but by the elbows, back or thighs, as the case may be.
The way the weight of the body is supported is one of the most fascinating things about figure drawing. It will help you when you are taking your first look at the model to study carefully how the weight is distributed in the pose you are going to draw. In the drawings on these two pages I have indicated this in difficult poses. If you think for a moment of a sack of flour (forgive me !) and imagine it propped on two sticks — this is a figure standing. Imagine sacks of flour on the ground — these are reclining figures. By such simple examples get into your mind the feeling of drawing something solid, something heavy, balanced or resting on solid ground. This elementary method will give reality to your work.
The body is not, of course, one single shape like a sack of flour. It is composed of a great many shapes linked together like a necklace, but at all kinds of angles to one another. As the movements differ so these shapes vary their angles. Set your trusty eye to work to see how these shapes are set and then get your hand to work to record them, at first restricting yourself to very simple notes such as I have shown here.
Ignore details in the beginning. Let the head be an egg and the body a larger egg, with long sausages for arms and longer ones for legs. Don't go on doing this too long, however, unless you want to become an avant garde sculptor ; it's simply a method of making you realize what it is you are going to draw when you really start.
It is extremely easy to get lost in a maze of details and very difficult to draw them while still keeping the main movement of the figure. Look at the drawing by Degas, on page 26, of a woman taking a bath. Here the broad mass of the figure is shown most
Edgar Degas contributed something new to figure drawing in his quest for the unexpected movements of everyday life. This one is in the Fogg Museum oj Art at Harvard University.
Think of potatoes, lumps of coal, sacks of flour, supported on sticks.
clearly, details are largely ignored in order to keep to the main movement, yet one doesn't feel the lack of detail. Degas contributed something new to figure drawing in his quest for the unexpected movements of everyday life as opposed to the stereotyped studio poses. In doing so all the emphasis of his drawing was on movement and weight. Nobody else renders so well the solidity of the figure. In this drawing you can almost hear the soaping and the sound of water.
Let us now make a drawing from the model and delay no more.
We will ask her to take a standing pose, a back view to start with as being more simple to draw. You will find her on the next page drawn with a jB pencil on Whatman " Not " paper. The first thing to notice, as you run your eye over the pose to see how the weight is placed, is that the torso has got to balance on the legs and that to do so the feet must be directly underneath the head. The next points to look at are the angles at which the different shapes are set to one another. For instance, notice the angle the head is inclined — the line AA shows this — then the angle of the shoulders. Compare this with the hips and, again, compare the angles at which the different parts of the legs are inclined to one another. If you like, you can make a little diagram of the pose at the top of your drawing to get this clear in your mind, it won't take a minute — better still if you just do it mentally. When you've done this you will understand the pose you are drawing and that's a great help. Many people start desperately drawing an eye, without
the faintest idea of what's coming next, and by linking an eye with another eye and then with a nose and ear, etc., etc., they eventually hope to arrive breathless, but triumphant, at the feet. The trouble with that method is, somewhere along the road you'll find you've lost the pose and you'll wonder why !
However, if you've taken the trouble to understand what you're drawing it will be possible to keep the details in their proper place, because you know what's coming next — like knowing your way about a maze of little streets in a city.
To get back to our model, standing there so patiently looking at the wall. I drew her lightly in pencil so that I could make diagrams on her, but usually I prefer to use a soft Conté pencil as I have in other examples shown about this book. We've already discussed the technical side of the problem and you will find out yourself which medium you prefer to work in. The model was arranged so that the light was a fairly simple one which threw up the shapes without casting too much shadow and this has made our problem as simple as possible, though, alas, no figure drawing is ever simple !
How are you getting on with jour drawing? In spite of all the advice I've been
Drawings by the author and by a beginner (the author's wije) respectively, at the same time and from the same model, but from inevitably slightly different viewpoints. Mrs. Marshall has gone for the main movement and balance oj the pose and has captured it extraordinarily well.
giving you, have you found it doesn't come right ? Well, if you did get it right first time you would be a genius. Don't expect too much at first. Draw very simply to begin with, don't for instance try and make a portrait of the model as well as getting the pose. Be happy to have caught the main essentials — in fact, rejoice extremely if you've done that correctly at first.
Shall we let the model rest for a while — she's posed for half an hour very patiently ? Now, while she is resting, let me show you some drawings by a beginner, who happens to be my wife. She is not an artist and had only the usual school training in drawing (which didn't include life drawing). After seeing me draw from life she became interested and decided to try (opposite). As you can see, she has gone for the main movement of the pose and captured it extraordinarily well — the whole movement is there, unessentials are ignored and will be dealt with when greater experience has been gained. The pose illustrated was drawn at the same time that I drew the study which accompanies it, so you can study this pose from two different angles.
Notice how the tensions and compressions of support in various poses affect the shape and poise oj the hody when it adapts itself naturally to them.
Notice how the tensions and compressions of support in various poses affect the shape and poise oj the hody when it adapts itself naturally to them.
Now let's ask the model to pose again and try out our theories on another one (opposite). This pose isn't easy for her to keep because the raised hands are difficult to hold up long without moving, so we mustn't take longer than fifteen minutes.
In this pose I've numbered the principal forms shown by dotted lines. No. i is the big mass of the thorax, note the angle it makes with No. 2, the pelvis, and observe how the thighs (3 and 4) are set in relation to it. Notice also the way the feet are sturdily placed to support the whole weight of the figure. It is these main shapes that you must watch continually and then your details will fall into place correctly. Our fifteen minutes are up so now let's have a new pose. In the drawing next to it I've again indicated the angle and the perspective of the main points of the figure — AA across the eyes, and you will see the contrast with BB, the line across the shoulders. Compare this with the angle of the hips CC and the angle of the knees. Perspective plays more part in the latter as they were below my eye level and therefore I'm beginning to look down on them, just as at AA I'm looking at the eyes and head from underneath.
Now, as we've still some time in this session left we can do some quick poses, aiming at getting the main shapes and movements. Page 33 shows the model kneeling and below her a rather grotesque analysis of the pose — a potato-like object supported on bent matchsticks ! The other small sketch shows the main shape broken up a little further, and contour lines to indicate shape. If you make little diagrams like this from time to time you will learn a lot. Below ; a silly pose (there's rather too much shadow in this one) and again I've made a diagram to show the big shapes.
Now, a quick standing pose (opposite). Make sure you get the feet underneath the head (AA) so that the weight of the body is supported. You will also find a lying down pose on page 39, broken down to its simplest parts in diagrams. Look how the weight of the head is supported on a kind of scaffolding made by the arms, and how the hips are held up by the thighs and legs.
Finally, to end this session, here are some hints which may be of use to you.
The plumb line. This simple affair can be a useful guide in checking the pose if
This fine drawing from the hogg Museum of Art, Harvard, bv Agnolp Bronzino, is a figure study after Bandinelli's "Cleopatra." You can apply the same sort of analysis as on page 32,
An imaginary vertical line passing through the head of this standing figure should divide the feet, or, to be more precise, the sum of the areas on one side of it should equal the sum of those on the other.
there is doubt in your mind about the accuracy of your drawing. Any weight suspended on a piece of string will do — a bunch of keys, a pencil sharpener, anything heavy that you have in your pocket. Hold up the weighted string between your eye and the model, so that the top of the line bisects the head. You can then check the points of the figure that the line cuts and mark them on your drawing. Alternatively, you can do the same before you start drawing and mark the points lightly on your paper, making check points as you go along.
Closing one eye. One of the disadvantages of using two eyes to draw with is that you get a stereoscopic effect which causes considerable anguish when confronted by problems of fore-shortening like the pose on page 43. Now, baffled by the pose, if you close one eye the effect of depth disappears, the object is flattened out and your one eye
can take in the shape you are trying to draw. Don't, however, draw continually with one eye closed, it isn't necessary all the time. One difficulty you will find when you do is that,as your sense of depth disappears,you'll find it isn't easy to make your pencil touch the paper with the ease to which you're accustomed. Sometimes you hit the paper with a bang and at other times you grope for it helplessly.
The silhouette. When you find yourself stumped regarding the general proportions of a pose, go for the silhouette. Look at the pose almost as if it is one of those black silhouette portraits. Ignore, for the moment, everything we've discussed about big shapes, perspective, everything inside the silhouette. Concentrate simply on this broad silhouette, closing one eye as you do it. If the model is posing against a light background think of her as a dark shape. If the reverse is the case, then make a small postage stamp size drawing and black in the background, leaving the figure white. These are, of course, only diagrams on the side of your paper to help you understand the pose. Having done this, go on as we've discussed before.
The drawing opposite by Jean-Baptiste Greuze, the l8th Century French artist, is an excellent example of bow the problems of fore-shortening can be handled. (From the collection at the Fogg Museum, Harvard Unirersity.)
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