During this first art unit, we explored figure drawing. We started off by simply learning and practicing measurement and proportion techniques and then started experimenting with various mediums. We began with simple poses and angles and gradually increased the difficulty and added foreshortened elements. At the same time as practicing figure drawing and trying out techniques, we also effectuated research on two artists who figure draw. We had to research about each artists’ styles techniques and movements as well as try out a few drawings mimicking their style. Finally, we compared and contrasted a piece from each artist.
At the very beginning of the unit, we tried an observational figure drawing using markers, just to assess where we were.
I didn’t know how to measure figures and was just trying to draw what I saw the best I could. As you can tell in the drawing, my proportions were off. In this particular example, the legs are too short and the torso is too large for the legs. Also, the head is too large for the rest of the body proportions. Another weakness in my initial drawings were line work. I kept using hair-like strokes and it made my lines very messy and the shape wasn’t clear. Next, I was very slow, and it took me a very long time. I think my poor time management skills were due to the fact that I was hesitant when drawing and was unsure how to go about it.
After evaluating our initial drawings, we learnt basic measurement techniques for figure drawing. We learnt how to use a vertical line on the page that divides the subject in half at the eyes, then we learnt how to use a pencil/marker/drawing tool to measure the proportions of the model. We learnt: by extending your arm and locking your shoulder, you have to measure the size of the head using your pencil as a ruler. Then, you count the number of heads that the model is (height). You can then use these measurements as a reference for the figure’s proportions on your paper. To make it easier, I drew circles and ovals for each part and joint of the body so I could visualize and draw the form better. Compared to my first drawing, the proportions in my second attempt were much better. However, the arms are still a bit too short for the body. Also, I was still very slow paced and my lines were still hair-like.
As we continued to progress through the unit, we continued practicing figure drawing, alternating models, viewpoint angles and poses. For several weeks, we focused primarily on proportions and measurements, so we stuck to markers for quite some time…
My main weakness when drawing with markers was my proportions. I often got the form correct, however my arms were often too long and thin (example in the first 3 drawings ), or too short (drawing on left bottom), my legs were too long (left and center drawing on top ) or my head was too small (center drawing on bottom) compared to the rest of the body. I also struggled with shoulder angles and width (demonstrated in left and right drawing on top). However, By looking at this series of drawings you can see that my measurements are becoming more and more accurate and my form is becoming more precise and realistic. What helped me for the form of the bodies was really drawing circles and ovals for each joint and each part of the body (neck, shoulders,head,elbows,upper arms, forearms,hands,ankles, knees, thighs,calves, feet, etc.).
I also struggled with patience, as I started off my drawing by measuring very precisely, however as time passed I got a bit bored of measuring, so I jumped straight into adding form/detail, which might not have always been a good idea, considering my proportions weren’t accurate. Once I had started outlining the figure and adding details with a darker marker, it was often too late or too difficult to go back and fix my proportion mistakes. After a few weeks drawing simple poses, we introduced the concept of foreshortening; when limbs or body parts look smaller or bigger than they should do to the viewpoint angle. We tried to draw foreshortened figures by using the crate method, to outline on our paper lines and “crates” that marked the angles at which the limbs or body parts were placed. We then went on to practice a whole lot more figure drawing with marker, to solidify our skills in measurements and proportion when figure drawing. As shown in the drawing below, you can see that I still struggled with the proportions of the head vs the rest of the body as well as shoulder foreshortening. In the drawing on the left on the second photo, you can also see that I had trouble with arm and leg proportion. However, my form and shape of the bodies were alright. The coloured pencil drawing below shows once again how I struggled with proportions due to my laziness (not taking time to measure perfectly because Iwas eager to add details/different colors), with the legs being too thin and short and the arms being too short.
At this point we started researching our two artists of choice. I chose Egon Schiele and Edgar Degas, two artists with extremely different styles. In my sketchbook, I started experimenting with figure drawing mimicking the style of the artists I researched about. Here is a photo of one my experimentations with Degas’ style.
I was inspired by his depictions of dancers using pastels and bright color palettes. While effectuating this drawing, I based the pose on a photograph I found on the internet and then tweaked it a bit. For my proportions, I used the techniques we used in class to outline my figure accurately and with the realistic proportions. the experimentation in my sketchbook really helped me and I think I improved alot by practicing my skills and techniques in the sketchbook.
In class, we tried drawing with pastels and charcoal, experimenting with various poses and angles. I found the most successful of my drawings in these mediums were the ones whee I used my habit of very lightly and loosely outlining the figure form using circles and ovals. I also found the most successful drawings were those where I did not try to color EVERY bit in, but also considered leaving parts blank and considering a bit the negative vs. positive spaces. As we moved along and progressed, I started to find it much easier to measure proportions and started to be able to eyeball the form and angles. I really enjoyed experimenting with the different mediums and using colors or shadows and highlights to bring out my forms. I also found I really liked loosely sketching the figure using lots of sketchy strokes and circles and ovals, much like this. I think at this point, I had reached my peak in development and I really started to draw with better proportion, form, scale, speed and accuracy as well as more complex shading and color use. I found I was beginning to be able to eyeball measurements a lot more easily now and din’t need to use the crate method to determine angles of limbs.
After several weeks of experimentation,we finally started working on some final work. I decided to experiment with chalk on a black paper, as I enjoyed working with contrasts. I found my measurements had really improved and that finally my figure was accurate. However, I found it very challenging to work with chalk, as I always wanted to press really hard and move my drawing along quickly… Also, chalk was a new medium for me so it was a challenge to work with.
I also effectuated a pencil drawing in my sketchbook using a foreshortened pose, similar to Monet”s “La promenade”. What I found really challenging with the fact that we were left with freedom of experimentation was that I had too many ideas I wanted to try, and too many mediums I wanted to experiment with so I was very slow at deciding which pose to draw, composition, medium, and constantly thought about switching.
In conclusion, this unit has been very challenging but has also allowed me to grow technically as an artist and develop many skills. I am also a lot more comfortable and confident in my figure drawing skills, which I think will make me confident in other art areas as well. To improve even more, I have to keep being patient while measuring and making initial sketches and keep trying new things and be more decisive when planning any final compositions. I also think it’s important for me to start trying to consider negative spaces as well as positive spaces, which I tend to focus on more. If I focus on negative space as well, my drawings might become more accurate and visually appealing.
In the weeks to come, I would like to continue practicing measuring and accurately drawing proportions, to achieve more drawings with accurate measurements like my chalk one. I would also like to try out a few different medias such as watercolor, pencil/charcoal and mixed media. With watercolour, I want to experiment with color and see how it can help with depiction of form. With charcoal/pencil, I want to try out some more expressive figure drawing, allowing myself to be more sketchy and maybe incorporate some elements from my process of drawing sketchy and loose circles and ovals (example or example2). With mixed media, I want to try and use material and fabrics to bring out certain parts of my compositions as well as pair colored backgrounds with black and white figures to achieve an effect similar to this one (UK artist cliff warner- has lots of interesting figurative figure depictions) . I would also like to try using my newly acquired skills in measurement for still life drawings and see if my stil life drawings have been improved thanks to this unit.