Exercise Essential Shapes

Aim of the exercise: To arrange the model at a slight angle in a chair, noticing the angle of the central axis and any twists or bends. Block in the basic shapes. Identify a measured unit that will help with the scale and proportions of the figure. Draw the model from different angles and positions, remembering to look and measure for each new position. Identify the possibilities of foreshortening and make written notes.

What I experienced:

Completed 02/10/13. Maria kindly agreed to model for me again. For each drawing I first drew a small sketch showing the basic shapes so that I could get a clearer idea of how these went together for each pose, and also helping me to see better the angle of the central axis and any twists or bends. For the drawing itself I tried a new approach for me. I blocked in the basic shapes with the drawing media, using it on its side to do this, and after that drawing on top of the blocked in areas with the same media or a charcoal pencil. I wasn’t aiming for varied tone with the blocked in shapes, only to capture the basic shapes quickly. It was a method that I found really worked for me and I enjoyed trying it. I first used it while doing an exercise from the book Expressive Figure Drawing by Bill Buchman p.18. For this exercise I concentrated on basic shapes and line rather than tone as I will concentrate on tone in the next exercise. All the drawings below are on A3 paper.

essentialshapes1_NEWFor the first drawing Maria sat on a hard chair and her upper body was turned to the side, which meant that her torso was twisted a little to the right. Foreshortening was noticeable in her upper legs and her feet. I was sitting a little to one side of her. I used a Conté crayon on its side to block in the main shapes and then used it to draw the main shapes on top of this.

essentialshapes2_NEWFor the second drawing, with Maria in the same position and on the same chair, I moved so that I was sitting opposite her. I used a charcoal stick on its side to block in the main shapes and then a charcoal pencil to draw with. I also used this combination for the next two drawings as well. Foreshortening was noticeable in the upper legs. As in the above drawing I checked vertical, horizontal and diagonal reference points and measured with an outstretched pencil. I have not managed to show the foreshortening very well in this drawing and I think that it is quite hard to tell that she is sitting on the chair. I also seem to have drawn her legs too big for the rest of her. I measured these multiple times and each time I appeared to be drawing them the correct size, yet they looked very wrong. I will need to try and return to his pose at some point so that I can see where I have gone wrong. One reason for it, that I can think of, is that they were the closest part to me and therefore appeared larger. It could be, as well, that I looked down to look at them and therefore altered my eye level. Or it may just be that I measured wrong. It will be interesting to come back to this and see if I can work out what I have done.

essentialshapes3_NEWFor the third drawing Maria moved to the sofa as she was finding the other chair uncomfortable. She turned her upper body to the right, putting more weight on her right hip. I sat to one side of her, which with the way that her upper body was turned meant that I was facing her. Both forearms were partially foreshortened for me. Her right leg was also turned slightly out towards me.

essentialshapes4_NEWWith the final drawing Maria turned to the left a little and promptly dropped off, resulting in quite a slumped pose. I drew as quickly as I could and I think that I got quite lost with the legs, and despite measuring and checking reference points I clearly have got the length of her upper leg wrong, it looks far too long.

Having worn my model out it was definitely time to call it a day.

What I feel went well: I was able to block in the main shapes very quickly with using the drawing media on its side and it stopped me fussing with this stage and also helped me to quickly establish the main planes and angles. I think that I have captured the slight twist in Maria’s body as she has partially turned reasonably well. I also think that she looks reasonably three-dimensional.

What I do not feel went well: I did not place the figure on the paper well in the drawings. I found it quite difficult to visualise where hips and shoulders etc were under the clothes, and the angles of them. Maria’s top seemed to have dropped shoulders and in some views I found this quite muddling. I found portraying foreshortening difficult and feel at the moment that I am quite clumsy when trying to draw it. I find it worrying, that because I am not very good at figure drawing, that I may upset my model if I draw her particularly badly, and on exercises where I have to draw her multiple times, it tends to increase that worry. I am very lucky that she is extremely good natured about the whole thing, and remained so during this exercise, but it does worry me. 

What I would like to do following this exercise: Remember to consider where I am going to place my figure on the paper so that I can place it better and with intention. Continue working on gaining a better understanding of proportions, basic shapes, how to portray foreshortening, and also how to measure and reference better so that gradually I can portray a figure more accurately. To continue to work on  making the use of my line more effective. Continue to look at how other artists have approached figure drawing. Continue practicing figure drawing, while trying out different approaches as well.

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