Friday, May 28, 2010

Making progress

The following sketches are all from the same drawing book, probably from my second year at art school, 1976. I can notice a definite improvement in my technique, although I have not included some real horrors, riddled with cross-hatching. This normally occurred once Jack Lugg had set us a long pose - say half an hour - after having got us "warmed up" with shorter poses. It is among these quicker sketches that I think I may have started to make some progress, as you'll see.

She may seem a trifle off balance. Her feet aren't properly defined either. The shading is still nowhere, just a series of lines in a hit-or-miss attempt at modelling form. But I do think the character of the pose is almost achieved, and I like the lines of the upper torso, which seem to be searching for the shape.

One of Jack Lugg's key lessons had still not registered. Always, he said, draw the surfaces on which the weight is applied - be it the floor, a chair, whatever. Nonetheless, while this model's foot seems to be suspended in space, I do think there is some progress here, too. While foreshortening fails - the elbow of the right arm does not seem nearer the eye than say, the head - I do think the pose has been quite well captured, and some of the shading, especially on the right leg, almost works.

Foreshortening, or the lack of it, is a major drawback of this study, in which I seem to be attempting to use construction lines. It is a common sight in drawing studios to see people with plumb lines, trying to ascertain exactly where the right foot is in relation to the thigh, head, chest, and so on. In the end, as we'll see, I don't think these lines are all that helpful.

There is something about this sketch I quite like. Jack Lugg took great pains in posing his models, always using some or other "prop". Here it was all about the distribution of weight and energy as he sits on the edge of the stool, the weight on that right buttock and arm. I think the chest, arms and shoulders are quite well seen. In this drawing, too, I seem to be understanding that the only reason you put down lines is to model form. Less is definitely more in drawing. The more you are able to say with as few lines as possible, the better.

This is a case in point. Probably the best life drawing I had done thus far, most people would say, but it doesn't even have anatomical accuracy. And, horrors, there is no shading at all. One of Jack Lugg's best ever lessons entailed the super-quick pose in which you literally don't look down at your paper. You simply let your pencil flow in accordance with what you see as you try to follow the lines "given off" by the figure. The wonderful exaggerations and distortions seen here, not to mention the superb line quality, are the end result. I was to discover, gradually, over many years, that a combination of this effect, and meaningful shading lines, was my objective.

There was some cause for satisfaction here, though at the time I wouldn't have known it. What I like about this drawing is that there is a groping for the right line; a constant redrawing, as I grappled to get the figure balanced, or possibly even followed it as she moved, ever so slightly, with her head maybe starting to droop. It is this that brings a drawing to life. Of course the shading remains dodgy, but those flowing lines - a product of the "don't look down" lessons - are a big leap forward.

The shading is again pretty much nowhere - look at that foot, a meaningless array of cross-hatches - but there are nonetheless some fairly successful areas here. The weight does seem to bear down on that poor right arm, and the hand even looks a bit like a hand. Aluta continua!

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