Saturday, December 16, 2006

Go Figure

I must admit to an almost pathological fear of figure drawing and I am quite certain this goes hand in hand with an obsessive need for perfection. I absolutely love the human form in art but while in school, I did everything I could to avoid figure drawing classes. I was successful in my quest but inevitably, the need to draw people turned up in other classes and my mortification was paralyzing. If I had to show my pathetic attempts to others, I started sweating and became more than a little sick to my stomach. Afterwards, my paintings and drawings would be quickly committed to the nearest round file, crumbled and ripped so no one else could glimpse my incompetency.

I now have deep regrets about not taking figure drawing. The human form, as rendered by my own hands, is an element I desperately wish to explore in my art. My head is filled with characters and their stories and they are demanding to be given substance. I find it an incredibly difficult task for not only am I impeded by self-confidence, figures with movement and emotion are often best executed in broad, large-scale strokes. I am a detail person. If my workspace isn't three inches square and my tools don't have precision points, I feel overwhelmed.

Things have started to slowly turn around. My recent experiments in magazine image altering and my move to a large-scale journal have awakened that long-suppressed need to draw my own characters. So in the wee hours of this morning, using a magazine image as inspiration, I leapt off the edge into the unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and unknown. I can guarantee there'll be no copyright issues with this one, folks. While my goal wasn't to create a mirror image of my reference photo, it isn't even close...can you believe this is based on a photo of the beautiful actress Charlize Theron??? I have to laugh and perhaps, that is the best indicator of my change in perspective.

I learned a great deal from this exercise...or I should say, I remembered a lot. Old lessons in line and shading resurfaced. See the paper bag in the sidebar? My scientific illustration professor taught me that when rendering objects, at least from a strictly representation viewpoint, lines and shading should typically not be combined. Lines in nature are, in fact, simply the border between light and dark values. Line drawings should only be composed of lines of varying thicknesses (without the addition of shading) and value drawings should only have lines suggested by varying values. I thought this sketch looked much better in pen and ink. I added color and random shading and the impact, whatever that may be, faded.

That said, there is a huge difference between representational art and stylized art. Representational drawing (and scientific illustration) seeks to render a photorealistic image. Stylized drawings seek to capture personality, emotion, and a story. As a stylized drawing, this works O.K. And I am really trying to move away from my illustration roots anyway as they seem to encourage that oft ill-suppressed need for pretty and perfect. So I think I need to work on rendering the individual facial components, but it is a start...a start that I haven't yet thrown up over.


Steve said...

I really enjoyed your blog...Thanks. :o)

daydreamstudios said...


I always enjoy your words as much as your art. You are an inspiration. Thanks for sharing.


Kari said...

Although not easy, it is well worth pushing yourself outside your comfort zone if you want to stretch and improve. Do you know some of the tricks for making life drawing less intimidating?

Try drawing with your non-dominant hand - that is great fun and once you get into it, you will thoroughly enjoy the results. Another similar trick is to attach a piece of charcoal to a long stick (about 4' long) with masking tape or something. Put your paper on the floor (large is recommended) and holding the stick at the opposite end to the charcoal and draw.

With either of these methods, you won't get a perfectly rendered life-drawing, but what you will get will have a certain quirkyness, charm, personality and vibrancy that will amaze you. Go on try it! Above all enjoy the process.

I love your drawing as it does have character and I think you enjoyed doing it.

kari x

artsyfran said...

As always, your blog is very introspective. I like the drawing and I'm glad you're pushing yourself. :)

Karen Campbell said...

I'm terrified of figure drawing too! That's why I wouldn't take art in high school. Glad to see you're not too intimidated to try.

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