In the drawing here the image I wanted was of a man wearing a raincoat. I imagined his collar turned up against the weather and his coat fluttering in the wind. This was such a clear, simple image that I drew the coat collar and the edge of the coat first. Once I had this image down I could see that the illustration would be most effective if I left out the man's feet. In this way the fluttering movement of the coat would become the main part of the drawing. All that remained for me to do to complete the picture was to draw in the head and indicate the sleeve.
The background building was added as an afterthought -something definitely not generally recommended as a picture-composition procedure: figure and background should as a rule be created together. The drawing at bottom left shows how much more successful the result is when the whole composition is borne in mind from the beginning. This topic will be dealt with more thoroughly in Chapter 7.
The drawing opposite was made with a ball-point pen; the original is 40cm (16in) high and is the finished rough for a painting executed to decorate the cover of a book catalogue. The final painting was completed in deep oranges and browns. My brief from publishers Smith Settle was simple: The subject is books.' It is always a pleasure to have such freedom, but it doesn't happen often.
My first idea was to show a wizard sitting on a pile of books as read his spells. A bookmark lolling out from between the pages like a tongue gave me the idea that he could have a beard long enough to double as a bookmark, and that in turn gave rise to the notion of a tall stool, so that his beard wouldn't drape into the dust and get dirty. The notion of his long tailcoat was a natural development.
The composition sketches came next. The one below is reproduced about half the size of the original.
After I had sketched in the figure on the stool I drew in the background, starting with the stack of books on the floor to the right and then working my way up and across, adding ever more books as I went.
This drawing was part of a graphic-narrative page. The story involved two brothers, one of whom was the intended victim of a hit-and-run assassination attempt. The other, seeing the danger, was able to save him. As this was the climax of one part of the story, a dramatic picture was called for.
The sweeping lines of the bodies and limbs had to be established first, so that the overall impression of movement was created. I cannot repeat often enough that, if you want to draw figures in action, the lines of the action must be felt out first. If after that you still find difficulty visualizing clearly, you may find the solution by going back to the basic skeletal figure discussed on pages 54-5. A dozen or more preparatory drawings may be necessary before you can establish the action clearly in your mind.
I posed in front of a mirror in order to study the creases in the clothing. These emphasize the action.
The final result looks as if it was easy - and so of course it should. It is the first steps you take to establish a clear picture in your mind of what you're aiming for that determine the ultimate success of this kind of dynamic figure arrangement.
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