I like the way foreshortening turns the body into a series of shapes.
Fig. 1. Self portrait. Ballpoint pen. The head is a bit big.
The artist Jenny Saville takes foreshortening to grotesque extremes in some of her paintings. In Prop. 1993 The model’s knee, thigh and stomach loom towards you. You know what you’re looking at – but are the proportions really true? Or are they exaggerated? And what effect does this have?
So, why does foreshortening often make images cartoonish or grotesque and why does an artist do this?
There is an element of “in your face” to extreme foreshortening. You have to be very close to someone to get the effect that part of their body is massive. If you move even a short distance away there is still foreshortening but it isn’t so extreme and unsettling. In all my drawings (Fig. 1; 2 and 3) the distance from the model makes the foreshortening much less extreme.
You can see the redrawing on this picture. The pose was slightly away from me so there were some quite tricky angles to get right. I used my pencil to measure proportions carefully and to check out the angle of the planes of the body from vertical and horizontal. I smudged the pencil and used putty rubber to lift out highlights. I think the picture is generally successful, the proportions are good and the shading and highlights give the body some weight. There could be more tonal contrast. I like the hand in the hair which is quite tricky to do! The life-drawing class I go to has the disadvantage of not great lighting.
Click on the image to see the caption. These drawings were made over a number of life drawing sessions. The life model would usually start with some short standing poses then some short not standing poses.
Fig. 5. 5 minutes. drawing pen
Fig. 6. 5 minutes. pencil
I find sometimes the drawing works and sometimes it doesn’t. I think it is a matter of practice. I like Fig. 5. which seems to have caught a tension and balance in the pose and Fig. 4. which has good proportions. I have cropped the drawings at the edges of the paper as I find positioning a figure and working to the size of the paper quite hard. For some reason this gets worse with the longer poses!
Fig. 7 10 minutes. drawing pen
Fig. 8. 10 minutes. drawing pen
Fig. 9. 10 minutes. charcoal
Figures. 7, 8 & 9 are 10 minute poses in which I tried to create more of a feeling of form with tone and shading. I found Fig. 8. a more complicated pose so it took me longer to get the proportions as right as I could which left me less time to look at tone.
I actually prefer some of the shorter poses. When they go right, they have a fluidity that the longer poses lack. How can I keep this fluidity when I am drawing for longer?