On The Imagination

When you have had some experience in drawing the human figure from life and have assimilated the basic information about the body's structure and operation, the prospect of creating imaginative figure drawings without a model becomes far less daunting. A great amount of information about human anatomy and movement is learned in the process of drawing the posed studio model and from sketching people as they go about their daily lives, but this is not the sole purpose of such exercises. Knowledge gained in this way is absorbed at an intuitive level, and as such contributes to the stock of experience available to feed your imagination and give scope to the expressive possibilities of your work. The human form is so subtle, its range of movement so wide and its expressiveness so profound that no artist can claim to have explored all its vast potential. Drawing from life keeps your mind open and liberates your imagination. If your work is to remain honest and alive and free from slick clichés, you must return constantly to observed studies and sketches.

That having been said, it is now time to look at approaches to drawing from memory and imagination.

Above: It's difficult to believe that this crass nonsense was ever seriously put fonward as a drawing method, but put forward it was! Reproduced from A. A. Braun's The Hieroglypic Method of Life Drawing (1916). Below: Arthur Zaidenberg' s method of figure drawing involved flat geometric shapes for the torso, with no conception of the figure as a solid, three-dimensional form in space.

Above: It's difficult to believe that this crass nonsense was ever seriously put fonward as a drawing method, but put forward it was! Reproduced from A. A. Braun's The Hieroglypic Method of Life Drawing (1916). Below: Arthur Zaidenberg' s method of figure drawing involved flat geometric shapes for the torso, with no conception of the figure as a solid, three-dimensional form in space.

Experienced artists are not generally conscious of working in stages from first concept to finished picture. It is only when faced with the problem of teaching their craft that the question of procedure comes up. You have an image in mind, and a number of variations on the basic theme may be jotted down in embryo form before one is selected; thereafter, resolution and refinement of the drawn image form a continuous process. Alternatively, the germ of an idea may be put down in graphic terms and then embellished or added to, so that the drawing 'grows' on the page. Experienced artists naturally evolve a personal procedure, but even this probably varies according to the requirements of the finished artwork or the original motivations for it. Certainly, if you create an unvarying routine, in which each new drawing is always tackled according to exactly the same procedure, you place unnecessary constraints upon what you can achieve.

There is no step-by-step method which can be imparted to beginners that will enable them immediately to start producing good imaginative drawings. The quality of your work will be governed by your experience and by the extent to which you involve your imagination and creativity in the process.

Studying the working methods of other artists can of course enrich your work very considerably. Sadly, though, very few of the thousands of creative artists and illustrators who have lived and worked during this century have ever written down anything about the nuts and bolts of their practical procedure. All that vast output, and yet hardly a published word about how it was done!

Before I started writing this chapter I searched through all the sketchbooks and working drawings of artists and illustrators I could find, as well as talking to many working artists, in order to study their approaches to the task of drawing from memory.

Sketchbooks and informal studies by famous artists are often obtainable in the print-rooms of museums and municipal art galleries. Remarkable among them is the work of the artist-

reporters of the 19th century, who travelled on campaigns with the British Army and sent back drawings of manoeuvres, battles and military parades for publication in newspapers and magazines at home. Many of these on-the-spot drawings, along with complete sketchbooks used by the artists, are held in the National Army Museum in Chelsea, London. They provide a fascinating insight into the working methods of these remarkable people and the hazardous lives they led; similar examples are available in Washington DC at the Library of Congress (for the Civil War) and the National Archives (where the files of the War and Navy departments are kept). The scenes the war artists drew were reconstructed from the sketches and brief notes they had made, often at great personal risk in the heat of battle; these were subsequently used as authentic reference material by home-based engravers and painters, who could thereby produce huge panoramic views of the campaigns abroad.

At that time no distinction was drawn between illustration and fine art, and memory drawing was a part of every artist's training. Exercises to develop the visual memory were devised in the life class, such as giving the student a few minutes to study a pose and then dismissing the model before drawing was allowed to start. The pose could be readopted later, once the drawing had been finished, to check accuracy.

This could be taken to extremes. The Victorian artist Joseph Crawhall (1861 -1913) is said never to have completed any of his work from observation, but always to have relied on his visual memory. Trained in precise observation by a stern father, he would - it is said - destroy and redraw any work he felt to be inadequate. (I do not suggest you use his practice as a paradigm - far from it! To my mind, such unnecessary reliance upon retention and recall of the visual world has great disadvantages, as it must inevitably lead to rather stereotyped images.)

Creative teachers generated systems of figure construction to aid the process of drawing without a model, and many books were published offering figure drawing 'made easy'. While some of these were based on sound principles, others 'simplified' the figure into circles and hieroglyphs which were so odd and devious that they look as if they were calculated to give their readers a weird and erroneous notion of what human bodies are really like; they offer nothing of practical use to the development of drawing skills.

Any method of drawing which does not have as its basis observation and investigation of the real world is more likely to be a stumbling-block than an aid to success. Always remember that drawing from memory is an adjunct to your other work, giving you wider scope for expressiveness and creativity in your overall figure drawing. Through it you can more freely exploit your imagination in the drawing process to create images that transcend those you can conveniently set up as poses in the studio.

The fccond i» 3 quarter faced, at our Flanders and ordnurie pictures arc, that ii when one panoftbe i¡u lace is bid by a quart« as thus: infra.

The fccond i» 3 quarter faced, at our Flanders and ordnurie pictures arc, that ii when one panoftbe i¡u lace is bid by a quart« as thus: infra.

Thethird is cnlie halle faced, as you fee the pictures of Hul,p and Hitj vpon a twcluc pence. H'Iftfter.

For drai-ght of a lull face you mull beare in memory and nanowlic obfeme the breadth of the fore head, and the compafie of both the cheekes, all which are compofed of two lines as thus:

And be carefull togiueas oreeifean euenelTe to one fide as to the other,caufing both your lines ro mccte at the tip of the chitvyour diameter guideth you (or Di

And be carefull togiueas oreeifean euenelTe to one fide as to the other,caufing both your lines ro mccte at the tip of the chitvyour diameter guideth you (or Di

To ra ake an angry or fterne countenance let vour brow bend lo,that it mayalrooft feeme to touch the ball of the eir, at what time you mult alio giue d forehead a fine wrinck or two^nd withill the »pper pan of the nofe betwecne the e»es. m*ifi Agreatconceipt is required in making the cie which either by the dulnei or liuclv quicknes there-«#. of giueth a great ufte of the fpirit 81 difpofttion of the mind,(which manie times 1 will not denie may be afwell perceiued by the mouth fii motion of the body J as m drawing a ftwle or ideot Jsy making hi» eies narrow ^nd his t£ple» wrinkled with laughter, wide inouthd,or fhewing his teeth 8ic. Agraueor reuerend father by giuing him a denude and lowlv countenauce^ii« ae beholding you with a fober call which u caufed by the vppet eielidvcouering a great pan of the ball.and is an efpecial marke of afober it M braine within. when hee beheld

, o,7. /«V« (longtime before bee was Empcrour ofA-

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