It was interesting to focus on individual features.
It was interesting to focus on individual features.
In these exercises I sat in the window of a local coffee shop and drew people walking along the pavement outside. Sometimes there were single figures and sometimes groups so I have put these exercises together.
I started using a drawing pen but then found a pencil seemed to create a quicker, more lively drawing. On this page I also drew the figures smaller which meant I could get the whole figure down in the short time I had to do the drawing.
These two pictures show two very different approaches to depicting movement. In Fig. 1. Osaka, Richard Hambleton shows movement through loose, blurry brush strokes and spattered paint while in Fig 2. David Haines uses the positioning of the figures and objects in space to show that things are moving. David Haines work is much more photographic depicting a frozen moment in time while Hambleton is attempting to show movement by the energy of his brush strokes as well as the shape of the running figure.
For this exercise I did some preliminary drawings. I was interested in how the reflection is framed by the mirror.
Fig. 3. I like this drawing. The different textures of the skin, hair and the shirt work well and I like how the frame of the mirror works within the frame of the page.
Fig. 4. I’m not keen on this picture because I look at bit like a crazy drunk. I wanted to push my face close to the mirror but this distorted how I could see and measure my face. Cropping the picture actually makes it more effective (Fig. 5).
I find charcoal useful for getting dark tones and very forgiving as it can be smudged and rubbed out easily.
Fig. 2. For this drawing I tried to do something a bit different. I wanted to use the yellow of the paper as a mid tone but the blue I chose as a light tone was actually tonally darker than the paper so I then used some yellow pastel as a highlighter. I like the loose drawing style and the foreshortening and proportions are fairly accurate – I did a lot of measuring.
Fig. 3. took a remarkably long time to draw mainly because I couldn’t get the proportions of the head and arms right. I did a lot of underdrawing in pencil then overdrew quite quickly in oiled charcoal. I was trying to keep the immediacy of a quick sketch while working to a larger scale (A1) than I am used to. I also wanted to work in line. Generally, I am pleased with the result. Maybe it looks too sketchy though?
Leonardo da Vinci was a scientist as well as an artist. He was fascinated by how things worked, whether it was a machine or a human, and spent a lot of time dissecting corpses and drawing the structures of the human body, making copious notes. Did this work influence how he painted?
This beautiful portrait of Cecilia Gallerani shows signs of Leonardo’s observations on the human body, especially in Cecilia’s hand which is observed in detail. The form of the ermine is also very well observed. Having recently looked at foreshortening, I can see Cecilia’s hand comes towards the viewer looking proportionally large compared to her face. Cecilia’s neck and face are incredibly smooth and unlined. Her face, neck and shoulders show no real sign of the muscles and tendons observed by da Vinci in his anatomical studies.
Modern British artist Euan Uglow painted nudes which he measured in painstaking detail. He worked from life and left the remains of his measuring marks on the canvas. His clinical approach creates a strange otherness. A minutely observed human who is somehow other than human.
Interestingly, like da Vinci, Uglow’s models are smooth and unblemished.
American artist Alice Neel painted the people who lived around her in poor neighbourhoods in New York. She also painted female nudes. Her portraits focused less on anatomical accuracy and more on the personalities of the people she was painting through capturing their expressions, gaze and in the non-nudes, their clothes.
It is interesting that a painting which is less anatomically accurate can be a more accurate portrait of a human being. Neel was especially keen on the unsymmetrical eye. In her portraits, one eye almost always looks higher than the other, and she revels in the unsymmetrical nature of a human face and body.
I like the way foreshortening turns the body into a series of shapes.
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?
Artist Lorraine Shemesh painted a series of pictures of swimmers which featured foreshortening and refraction. http://www.lorraineshemesh.com/art/pools/CD1_09.html. Again, some of these pictures have elements of the grotesque such as the hands of the woman at the back in this picture: http://www.lorraineshemesh.com/art/pools/CD1_50.html
She also makes beautiful drawings: http://www.lorraineshemesh.com/art/drawings/pools04.html
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.