Rudiments Of Drawingthe Human Figure

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Human Figure Drawing

" Practice, tbcugh essential to perfection, can never attain that to which it aims, unless it. works under the direction of principle."—Sir Joshua Reynolds

ITH some the method of learning to draw, thus far developed, may have proved long and even tedious 5 while to others it may have been too rapid, and their advancement, in its practical application, may not have equalled their expectations or wishes. The former should not be disheartened because their hand and conception have not kept pace with their teaching, nor the latter deceive themselves by hurrying forward too rapidly,—or fail to understand, thoroughly, and to apply practically, every principle laid down. The purpose of the American Drawing-Book is not to teach the methods of drawing trees, houses, faces, figures, or flowers, by separate recipe, nor to direct the learner by short-cuts to the attainment of proficiency in any one branch singly; but, to place before him the broad principles of Design, a knowledge of which, with the power of its practical application, will qualify for the exercise of all, or any one branch, that the taste or inclination of the possessor may lead him to pursue; and the course of study

" Practice, tbcugh essential to perfection, can never attain that to which it aims, unless it. works under the direction of principle."—Sir Joshua Reynolds advised is sincerely believed to be the surest and most direct to the attainment of that object It is no experiment, but one that has been well tested and proved, claiming no novelty, beyond its adaptation to the wants and purposes of our time and country, divesting the art of all mystery, and placing it within the reach and comprehension of every one.

72. Some who have, perhaps, filled their minds with high aspirations, may look with disdain upon the simple beginning placed before them, " as matters for children," and turn over leaf by leaf in search of something to strike their fancy, and yet, they may not be able to draw two straight lines, nor two crooked ones either, to a given purpose, with the accuracy of many an urchin on the school-bench, who has only started when they considered themselves already far on the way. Let such reflect seriously upon this self-deception, and let them be assured, that the higher their aspirations, the more they will require the aid of such elementary knowledge to realize them. It is a short task, that will well repay the labor bestowed, even to those most richly endowed with the gift of genius; for by such aid will they most surely develop that genius, and reach the goal of their highest ambition.

73. Before entering upon the study of the whole figure, some degree of attention should be bestowed upon the delineation of the hand and foot; both of which present difficulties to the beginner, and from these very difficulties,are well calculated to strengthen that general capacity which should be his aim, and which is an essential qualification in a draughtsman ; more irregular and less balanced in their parts and proportions than the head, the pupil is compelled to rely more upon his eye and judgment in ascertaining the modulations of their form and outline, the proportions of the parts, and their relation to one another. But, if he has carefully studied and practised one of the first and most simple examples placed before him (32), he possesses the understanding of a principle from which he will derive much assistance. If he has not hurried forward too rapidly, and has bestowed proper attention upon what has been already urgedy in reference to the delineation of the individual features of the head, he will soon find the difficulties encountered, in his first attempts in drawing the hand or foot, gradually lessened, as he becomes familiar with the application to them, as to every other object, of one of the first and leading principles of design (21). If he is not already, he will soon be convinced that the time and study this knowledge has cost him have been well bestowed, and that he has done better, and advanced more surely, than if he had filled his port-folio with what might seem higher attempts; but, from which he would have derived but little permanent advantage.

74. The ambition to have " something to show" is apt to mislead from a proper and systematic course. Much of this evil may be attributed to the misguided anxiety of parents and friends, as well as teachers, who often allow their judgment to be overcome, either to indulge the whim of a parent or pupil, or to gain a reputation as rapid instructors. They even here deceive themselves by taking the very longest course they could adopt. Such teachers do far more to impede than forward the cause of education in design. Even if rapid advancement be the object, a few hours devoted to the elucidation, to the understanding of the pupil, of the first principles of drawing, will advance him more certainly, and rapidly, than weeks and months wasted in groping a devious way through ill-drawn fancy castles, distorted heads and figures, trees and bridges, and the endless variety of " easy lessons" which are too often placed before him — the great secret of their being " easy to do" often consisting in their being so decidedly bad that he can hardly make anything worse.

75. It should not be understood that the pupil, during the prosecution of the study of Drawing, should be excluded from the privilege of attempting to draw anything that strikes his fancy or excites his admiration, more than we would deny the privilege of speech to a child while he is learning his grammar. Let him try the road-side cottage, the rustic bridge, the house-dog, or any other object with which he is familiar, either in nature, drawings, or prints, and always let him do the best he can. The very difficulties he will encounter, the wants he will be made to feel, will have a strong and happy tendency to give additional impulse to his studies, besides the cultivation and development of that love for art which might otherwise be blighted by too rigid application to its study. It is in this study that his efforts should be prescribed to a systematic course of education, that will ultimately lead to the possession of that happy faculty which will overcome all difficulties, and enable him to draw, with equal ease and facility, any object in nature, or of the mind's creation.

76. The Foot is by no means so facile in its movements as the hand, nor capable of such great variety of attitude and action ; hence it is easier to draw, and, therefore, more properly, should be placed first before the pupil. He will now have occasion for the exercise and practical application of the principles laid down in the primary instructions he has received 5 and should he find the difficulties he encounters try him beyond his strength, he can not do better, before he proceeds farther, than to make a careful revision of the ground he may have passed over too hurriedly, or without bestowing sufficient study and practice upon these primary exercises.

Human Figure Drawing Proportions

77. However admirable and perfect may be the antique statues in their proportions and details, and however desirable it may. be to place before the pupil the choicest models for the exercise of his skill, it is enough for his present purposes to look to the familiar objects which are within his reach. A boy's foot can be found without seeking it in an academy ; and, if it has not been already distorted by the shoemaker, affords a model well worth his study and best effort. First, let him try the example here placed before him, and then, doubtless, he may find a young friend not unwilling to submit to serve as his model ; and, if he has done all that has been required of him, and carefully exercises himself in these few examples, he will possess the capacity of drawing a foot, and presently a hand, from nature, with ease and accuracy;—and more * if he can draw a Head, a Hand, and a Foot, he can draw the Figure, or any other

Fashion Designing Basic Feet Drawing

familiar object 5 not, perhaps, with the precision and touch of a master, but he can achieve enough to insure the possession of a safe and certain groundwork of useful practical knowledge and facility of Design.

78. The first thing to be done, in drawing the above example, is carefully to examine and study the original, and to ascertain its proportions, as nearly as you can, without measuring. Then cautiously set about its outline, which should be accurately, but delicately defined, before any attempt is made to express the shadows or tints, which are in comparison with it of secondary importance, especially at this stage of your progress. Be not in a hurry to make pictures; learn to draw correctly, and the pictures you make, by-and-by, will be all the better for it.

Outline Human Figure

79. (r) Lest the principles, upon which the outline on the last page is produced, should not be sufficiently understood by the pupil, let us enter into a more concise explanation $ and, for the sake of economizing space, by a reduction of it, which will answer all purposes. As he reads, he can refer to the larger outline. It should be borne in mind, that all the examples, and, indeed, everything else the learner attempts to draw, should be, as nearly as possible, the size of the original 5 thereby avoiding that confusion of lines, and indecision, almost inseparable from diminished drawings, and which, in spite of every precaution, are more or less characteristic of the efforts of all beginners. Self-deception, which is apt to result from the practice of drawing in small, should be carefully guarded against. The quality of prettiness, which, often, is no more than littleness in art, may disguise errors, which drawing in large develops 5 but it performs a faithless service — one highly prejudicial to the advancement of the student, and calculated to mislead: for the evidence of his errors is the safest guard against their recurrence.

(11) The first requisite is to secure well-defined starting-points, and also a scale of proportions for the parts. Having decided on the length, from the heel to the end of the great toe, next ascertain the direction of the outline defining the sole of the foot. Remark (or mark, in your first trials) the points of the principal indentations, or features; and, surely, if you can draw the profile of a face with any degree of accuracy, but little difficulty will be encountered in drawing the simple curved line before you. But simple and easy as it may be, it must be done with precision. Observe that the outline above the heel disappears at a point immediately perpendicular to the extremity of the heel — remark the peculiarity of the curve of that portion of the outline — connect it with that, of the sole of the foot—do it cautiously and carefully, and, if correctly, you have not only certain starting points, but one half of your outline already done. Do not suffer yourself to be deceived, when you have only produced an outline to look something like the original 5 that is not enough: it should correspond to it exactly.

(^m ) You will observe that the point where the instep unites with the leg is directly perpendicular to the termination of the outline of the heel, where it unites with that of the hollow of the foot. The direction of the outward line of the leg would, if continued, strike a point about the middle of that of the hollow of the foot. The intersection of these imaginary lines gives you this important point, which you can further verify, by extending the curve of the heel, upward, to their intersection. Assure «

yourself, by close observation, how far the lines in the original correspond with those before you 5 and then proceed with the completion of your outline, observing, throughout, the utmost caution, and endeavor to obviate the necessity of correction, by avoiding the occurrence of error.

(iv.) Ascertain the direction of the line of the instep by a straight line, as indicated, and then verify its sweep by a continuation of it at one or both extremities. This method of the imaginary extension of lines, when once made familiar, will be found of great assistance to the draughtsman ; and it is more readily acquired than may be at first imagined. It serves not only the attainment of accuracy, and lessens his labor, but insures harmony of the parts and details with one another. It also tends to habituate the eye to the observation of the true character and forms of objects, divesting them, as it were, of those minor details, which often obtrude themselves, and lead the eye and hand astray from the first broad and general impression or conception — which is of primary importance, and should be carefully secured at once, and never lost sight of. Herein lies one of the great secrets of the ease and freedom in the expression of an idea, that give such a charm to the sketches of the experienced artist—by which he conveys his impressions in a few lines, apparently dashed off at random, but often far more to the purpose, and more expressive, than the more labored effort of the less gifted or less educated in art.

Outline Human Head

(v) Having thus far progressed with your outline, but little more remains to be done, than to ascertain the direction of the lines by which you are to express the toes, and to complete the whole, in like manner, and upon the same principles, that have thus far guided you. Carefully examine it throughout, before you proceed to indicate the tints or shadows, which should be deferred until the utmost accuracy of outline is first attained ; for, you may rest assured, that, by such a course, you will secure to yourself the capacity of expressing them with ease and freedom, by the surest means, (vi) Compare the parts and proportions of the original with your copy. Observe that the width or thickness across the ankle is about equal to that of the instep, and length of the heel, etc. Test the judgment of your eye first, and measure only to satisfy yourself of its accuracy. By such a course, you will soon have little requirement for rule or compass (23). By an imaginary continuation of the curvatures of your outline, study their movement, relation, and bearing, on each other. One single outline, thus studied and executed, will advance the pupil many a certain step, and render easy the few remaining examples that will be presented to him in the course of these elementary instructions.

80. Presuming that the learner has not slighted what has been urged upon his attention, but that he has bestowed all the care, study, and practice, upon this example, that may be requisite 5 that he has, therefore, succeeded in producing, if not by one, by repeated efforts, a correct outline, he is fully prepared to encounter those that follow, with little other aid than his own strength and intelligence. If he has failed, let him be again reminded to retrace his steps. Let him depend upon it, he has lost or overlooked something, 01* perhaps many things, on the way, that he will need, even more hereafter than now, and without which, he will never become an accomplished draughtsman. Let him now, in good time, look to his deficiences, and seek their correction. It is a mistake to suppose that, to acquire a

Human Figure

knowledge and facility of drawing, quires must be consumed, a multiplicity of examples labored through, and portfolios filled. Although few examples may suffice for the elucidation of the first general principles of drawing, they should be dwelt upon and studied, until well and thoroughly understood; and the capacity of hand should be made, by practice, to keep pace with the understanding.

81. To know how a thing should be done, is not enough in art: we should know how to do it. One can no more learn to swim, without going into the water, than learn to draw without practicej while blind practice, unsupported by a degree of theoretical knowledge, is liable to mislead, almost as directly, from the right way. The knowledge of how a thing should be done, and the capacity to do it, will, if kept, as far as possible, in equal balance, secure certain results. They should keep pace together, mutually supporting and assisting in the attainment of the one great purpose. If one should gain advantage, either by reason of its own acquired strength, or weakness of the other, the weaker capacity should have time to regain its lost ground, which, in its turn, by that very effort, may get the start 5 but let them never lose sight of one another. Books and treatises 011 art, therefore, which are not based upon practical knowledge of its ways and means, have often a most mischievous tendency, and go far to the dissemination of false ideas, which should be cautiously received, especially by the student. It may be well enough for a writer, vvho possesses not the power of expressing one line of art, to indulge the exuberance of his fancy or caprice, by dashing forth his transcendent ideas with regard to it 5 but, they should only be received for what they are worth — and precious little will their worth be found, in most cases, to those whose business is production — the attainment of practical results. Not but that everything that can be said, in reference to art, is deserving the attention of its followers, yet the judgment should be prepared, in some degree, at least, before it can arrive at just conclusions, or be capable of exercising proper discrimination, in separating vague and impracticable theories from those that are well digested and useful. It is easy for the learned geographer to trace the route, to distant lands, over tempestuous seas; but he can no more navigate the bark to them, than the merchant who sends her forth. It is easy to say, and even feel, that a picture, a statue, or any other work of art, should be thus, or thus—should be perfection, that remote idea of perfection in itself imperfect, and founded, too often, on false or capricious notions; but, he who has 110 experience of the way to reach it, can never make it plain enough to others, to substitute his dreamy fancy of its direction, for long-established and well-tried landmarks, whose value to the student has been proved by the faithful guidance they have afforded to the great masters of art, who have reached its highest perfection, yet attained. Let us, therefore, judge of the mode of

Rapid Sketches Humans

culture by its fruit, nor discard the old, beaten, well-known path, until we can find a better — one, at least, that some traveller has pursued with success.

82. After what has been said, in relation to the method of drawing the outline of the previous example, it would be paying but a poor compliment to the intelligence of the pupil, to enter into a repetition of it, in reference to the above. It may be proper to remark, however, that the general principle, rather than any arbitrary process, of forming comparisons in relation to the parts, or of ascertaining and expressing the true direction of the lines, their movement, form, and connexion, most particularly require his attention, and should be the main object of his study and practice. The outline of the sole of the foot has been taken as a basis, or starting point, because

How Draw Human Foot

its direction and quantities were more easily defined; but it does not follow, that it should be taken thus in all instances, as there are many positions of the foot, in which it may be secondar), and more dependent on other leading points and lines. Proper judgment, therefore, should be exercised, in the selection of the line, or lines, most expressive of the general action and character of the object to be represented. This important beginning once made, farther details must naturally assume their just positions and connexion to the whole, as well as to one another— besides, serving in the process as correctives. If, for instance, the length of the foot should be too long, or too short, the moment the points indicating the true length of the heel and toes are decided upon, the length of the hollow of the foot, between the two, will be evidently too long or too short. A primary error is thus detected, by comparison with the other parts, in time for correction 5 and so on — the draughtsman is enabled, by balancing all the parts and proportions with one another, and studying their relations to the whole, to adjust and express his outline with an accuracy and certainty, that can never be acquired without some such systematic method of execution, which, if cultivated in time, will soon become a habit. This method presents, among many other advantages, one that will be found highly important, in reducing or enlarging an object 5 for, having once generalized the whole, according to the scale of reduction or enlargement desired, the just proportions of the parts, and minor details, are readily attained, and made to harmonize with the whole, in accordance with such scale of reduction or enlargement. By thus progressing, in the drawing of an outline, from generals to particulars, much greater ease, as well as certainty of accuracy,' is the result, than by an opposite course 5 for, by beginning with details, and the lesser parts, we are apt to be led astray from the general and characteristic lines and quantities of the object of imitation.

83. Lest what has been previously said on this subject (61) should not be sufficiently understood, and appear contradictory to that which is now urged, it may be well to remark, that, while it is recommended to the pupil to make himself proficient, first, in the drawing of minor objects, it is not meant, thereby, that he should begin the drawing of a head, by drawing the features singly, before he generalizes the whole, and ascertains their true positions. In drawing the most simple object, there is a general character to be preserved, and particular component parts, or details, making up that whole: and all must perfectly harmonize together. The same principle applies to the delineation of a single mouth, an eye, a nose, a face, a head, a foot, a hand, a limb, a figure, a group, and a picture. Each should be considered in itself a whole, made up of subordinate parts, from the most simple detail, and line by which it is expressed, to the most elaborate work of art. Thus will the eye and hand become strengthened, by progressive study and practice, and the capacity advanced by degrees, almost imperceptibly, under the safe guidance of the one, like, universal principle.

84. The first conception, and consequently the first impression, to the mind of the artist, of his picture, is of its general character 5 and it is produced by gradually descending, in its execution, to the parts and details — each in their turn of subordinate and relative importance. This must also be its first impression on the mind of the beholder: he, too, is led to descend, in its contemplation, from generals to particulars. The rules of production and just appreciation, naturally assimilating to one another, no elaboration of details can compensate for an unfavorable first and general impression, nor the toil and labor, bestowed upon them, meet their reward, unless kept in proper relation, harmony, and subordinate service, to the whole. The principle is the same, whether the drawing, or picture, be the representation of the most simple object, drawn by a tyro in art, or the most elaborate composition, by the most accomplished artist. Let it be clearly and expressly understood, therefore, by the pupil. He should first learn to draw simple and single parts $ then objects and figures; then pictures 5 and consider each a whole with its parts—that whole assuming the relation of a component part to a greater whole — and thus progressively advance his capacity of observation and execution: never losing sight of the broad principles, upon which he has started, and upon which he must still rely, in the highest efforts to which he may be tempted hereafter. The proper understanding and appreciation of these principles, will direct the judgment aright in estimating the value of detail in particulars, in the expression of a general idea, and conveying its desired impression. For, although, a drawing of an oak-leaf, if the mere representation of an oak leaf be the object, should be exact and true, in all its markings and peculiarities, it does not follow, that, in drawing the tree, we should draw every leaf of it 5 the importance of minor details being, to a certain degree, lost in the general effect of the whole. And yet, he who can not draw the one, will never succeed in producing a correct resemblance of the other. The leaf is the easiest, and, if properly studied, develops as clearly the principles of design, by which the tree may be expressed; and, therefore, should be placed first before the pupil. In its application to the higher departments of art, this leading principle is still more impressive ; but, at this period of the student's advancement, it would be out of place, to enter as' minutely into the subject as may be done hereafter, when his discrimination and capacity may be more matured, and his mind better prepared for its comprehension.

85. A well-formed foot is rarely met with, in our day, from the lamentable distortion it is doomed to endure, by the fashion of our shoes and boots. Instead of being allowed the same freedom as the fingers, to exercise the purposes for which nature intended them, the toes are cramped together, and of little more value, than if they were all in one—their joints enlarged, stiffened, and distorted, — forced and packed together 5 often overlapping one another in sad confusion, and wantonly placed beyond the power of service. As for the little toe, and its neighbor, in a shoe-deformed foot, they are usually thrust out of the way altogether, as if considered supernumerary and useless, while all the work is thrown upon the great toe, although th&t, too, is scarcely allowed working-room, in its prison-house of leather. It is therefore hopeless to look to a foot, that has grown under the restraint of leather, for perfection of form; and hence, the feet of children, although less marked, in their external anatomical

Gesture Drawing Hand

development, present the best models for the study and exercise of the pupil in drawing. It is unfortunate, that so few fine specimens of the hand and foot have remained to us, from the antique, from the fact, that these extremities have been more liable to injury and loss, from the casualties and neglect to which they have been subject, during the long night of ages of ruin and desolation through which they have passed; but we have enough to show how well the ancient artists understood and appreciated the beauty and perfection of these members. If possible, the pupil should always have by him one or two good specimens from the antique — and they can be readily procured in plaster — to correct his judgment, and impress upon him the true and perfect form of the foot 5 for he will rarely meet with it, in nature, and yet these very standards of perfection are derived from nature.

86. An example on the next page, drawn from the antique, shows how rarely, if ever, is found in one living model, whose feet have endured the restraint of shoes, the combination there seen, of beautiful form and proportion, case and elasticity of motion, as well as admirable expression of adaptation, and power for use and purpose throughout. And how have they been produced ? By no magical touch. Although the work of genius, genius could have done nothing, unless aided by knowledge, observation, and practical experience: and this is the business of the student, and must form his constant pursuit—for there is no end to the pursuit of excellence in art. The spirit and capacity for investigation are gradually advanced, as the perception and taste become quickened and purified. An unsatisfied thirst for knowledge for ever leads to the great fountain-head of all art—the study of nature; and no sure system of education in art can be devised, diverging from this well-tried course. To possess this capacity for just selection and combination, we must become familiar with nature as she is. By study and comparison, the eye must be made sensitive, and, by practice, the hand must be made obedient. We must become practically familiar with the power of art, in the imitation of nature, before we can select with proper judgment, and combine with knowledge, her diffused beauties. It is this high attainment that marks the best works of the ancient masters; and, while they enchant all with their marvellous beauty, the most learned pronounce them faultless—true to nature: and yet, in nature, we look in vain to find similar happy combinations. But to pursue this subject farther, at this time, would be to lose sight of the purposes of these elementary instructions, which are intended to lay a secure foundation 5 glancing, occasionally, at the more finished structure, by way of encouragement and incentive, to those who may not be sufficiently impressed with the importance of so broad a basis, and who might otherwise weary in the good work.

87. Without entering into farther detail, with regard to the following examples, they are placed before the student, with the hope that enough has been said already, to render the principles of drawing easy of comprehension and practical application. One thing can not be too often repeated, or too urgently impressed upon him — the importance of a correct outline. An early-acquired and premature facility, in expressing tints, "in working up a drawing," as it is termed, has led many astray from the first purpose of art—truth and accuracy — which a piece of chalk or charcoal, in a skilful hand, will express more certainly, on a rough wall or board, than the most delicate touch, or the most exquisite materials, can ever accomplish, unless guided by sound elementary knowledge of the great first principles of art. It should be remembered, too, that shadows and tints have an outline to be preserved, and accurately expressed, in accordance with the effect produced on the object of imitation; less strongly marked, in most

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