Sunday, December 29, 2013

Drawing the Clothed Figure

As promised, I’d like to share some highlights of what I learned in this class.  As the title says, the class focused on the clothed figure, in line only (Direct Drawing) instead of focusing on dramatic light and shadow (Chiaroscuro), something I’m much more comfortable with doing.  In art school, you don’t typically find classes that do this.  


What is Direct Drawing? 

There are many ways to draw; however, this class focuses on the Direct Drawing method in line only.  Every line you put down is a searching line and is part of the finished drawing.  This method uses line only (with some flat toning when appropriate) which requires a more precise rendering than if using halftone rendering or shading.  It also enables you to draw out a figure quickly, easily and believably in order to communicate an idea.  This means that you must train the eye to see the exact shape and draw it with all its subtleties.  And a thorough understanding of the structures that are being drawn, how they exist in perspective and connect to other structures of the body are of vital importance.  It’s a bit overwhelming at first, but once it all falls into place, it begins to happen naturally. 

In Direct Drawing, there’s no under drawing or ghosting in; therefore, the Drawing Aids, including line quality are of vital importance. 

What are the Drawing Aids involved in Direct Drawing?  They are:

  • Opinion—that thing the artist wants to communicate through the drawing (or painting)
  • Line Quality—the expressiveness of line
  • Proportion
  • Gesture
  • Anatomical shapes
  • Relationships
  • Stretch and Compression
  • Wraparounds (a.k.a. ellipses)
  • Overlapping forms (a.k.a. form over form)
  • Rhythm
  • Continuity

In addition to the Drawing Aids, the artist must:

  • Learn to edit out (more on this in a future post) unnecessary information and leave in, accentuate those areas that best communicate his/her opinion 
  • Understand the seven types of folds (discussed in a future post) and use them while communicating his opinion

As I talk about drawings throughout my blogging experience, I will refer to the above terms quite often, especially those terms that are still weak for me. 

Needless to say, I’m extremely excited about what I’ve learned and have vowed to do four to seven drawings per week as I review the entire 15-week course.  I want to go back and work on those weak areas so that by the time the next semester begins, I will be even closer to rendering a nearly perfect figure, nude and/or clothed!

The basic idea is to train the eye to “see” like an artist.  That takes patience and stick-to-itiveness.   We used many of the principles outlined in Barbara Bradley’s book, Drawing People: How to Portray the Clothed Figure!  It’s a great book for an artist to have in his/her library especially if rendering the figure well is something desired.

After three weeks of quick reviews, we began photographing our own models so that we could learn to control that part of being an illustrator.  All shots had to be what’s referred to as “dynamic” meaning they had to show some kind of movement in the gesture.  For the fourth week, I photographed my husband in various golf swings!  The photo shoot was a lot of fun, and he enjoyed himself because playing golf (or pretending to play, posing for photos) is in his element!  We had to choose two pictures to draw.  Here are the two images that I choose along with the drawings I submitted during the fourth week of the semester:

I got a decent grade for a decent attempt, but I wasn’t satisfied!  It took the entire week to finish these two drawings!  I wasn’t happy about that because that brought on too much stress.   

Around the seventh week, we had to submit a midway portfolio of our best work to that point.  The second drawing above is one of the images that I posted.  Here are a few more…

I struggled with myself for the next six weeks trying to improve on all the drawing aids, especially my line quality.  It wasn’t until about week 10 ½ that I began to feel like I was finally getting it.  Good thing…because the next week we would be studying extreme perspective!  Once I started catching on, I began to relax, and things began to be fun again!  I finally felt like I was getting a handle on things.  But this was only the beginning of getting a handle.

I still felt that my line quality was lacking…until I reviewed my old critiques and realized that what I was searching for in line quality was there all along!  The line quality that I was trying to attain was actually what I already had!  I despised my “searching” lines, dismissing them as messy and dirty while everyone, including the instructor, kept trying to saying otherwise!  I am now trying to develop those searching lines to a point where I control them better! 

Our final assignment was to put together a portfolio including 12 to 20 of our best drawings, including sketchbook drawings, if we desired, beginning with week nine along with a written statement.  We were free to include drawings from weeks one through seven, if they showed mastery of the Drawing Aids.  I included two from the first half of the semester and the remaining ones from the second half.  

With the exception of one image that's been replaced and three sketchbook drawings, here is my end-of-semester portfolio…

In the next several weeks, I will go back through all the lessons and drawings, doing a minimum of four drawings per week, until I’ve completed each concept in an attempt to overcome my lingering weaknesses which are folds, anatomical shapes and continuity.  I will post my progress, including my new drawings as well as my sketches. 

Goal:  January, 2014

  1. To complete and post a minimum of four figure studies each week.
  2. To continue drawing from life in sketchbook, practicing quick sketches focusing on continuity, anatomical shapes and folds. 
  3. To post minimum of seven sketchbook drawings from life and/or practice works each week.
Now that I’ve verbalized it, I will have to stick with it.  Knowing that you guys know my plan is going to keep me going! 

(Idea!  Maybe I should start a blog for my weight loss efforts!  LOL!  Just a thought…)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Concept, Technique & Illustration

We are now concluding my fifth semester at AAU…my first semester as an illustration major, and I must say that I have learned so much!  I won’t say that it hasn’t been a frustratingly painful journey because it has been. 
In my Clothed Figure Drawing class (ILL610), I’ve been learning to draw figures, expressively, in line (bold, soft, thick, thin) only.  It has been a journey, one that I will continue beyond the semester.    
More on that class later.  Today, I want to share what we are doing in my other class!

In this class, we are learning the process of creating an illustration, from concept to completed artwork.  We are still on the first two projects because each project takes weeks to complete.  The great thing about this class is that we ARE learning the process!

Project #1—Inside Book Illustration

In the first week of classes, we were giving about 10 different story scenarios and were asked to choose one to create an illustration.  We learned that there are two kinds of illustrations:  symbolic and literal.  Literal illustrations are those that come with very specific instructions, including what is to be included in the illustration.  Symbolic is more like an idea wherein the artist comes up with the best way to communicate that idea.  This first assignment is literal.  We were given scenarios in different genres. Since we are studying “literal” instructions on these first two assignments, the description gave all the components of the illustration.  It is our job to compose it.

For my inside book illustration, I chose to illustrate a scene in a circus!  Scenario:  a clown applies his makeup in front of a small mirror in his tent and draws a small crowd which included a couple of “little people,” a bearded lady, and a strong man. 

The first stage of the illustration process is to generate some layout ideas.  The “characters” of the scene were given to us (literal), so we move on to the first stage of the illustration process:  the thumbnail (preliminary) sketches.  This is the stage where the artist generates ideas without being partial to any single idea.  One thing I learned here is that these thumbnails are for me and my benefit…and no one else.  There’s no need to be self-conscious of them!  The key is to generate as many compositions as possible.  This is not the stage to be “judgmental” of any composition idea.  It’s like a brainstorming session (during the creative stage) wherein ALL ideas are great ideas!  I generated several.  Here are two of the preliminary sketches that I submitted for approval:

Another rule is don’t get attached to any one composition idea because that could hinder future ideas.  I got attached to the reflections in the mirror idea…and it actually did hinder future ideas.  When I got my feedback, he chipped away at the idea, although he liked it in general.  But we had to make it work, so my original composition wasn’t doing it, although it was a great idea.  I had to let it go so I could generate a better composition based solely on that idea. 

Here’s a revised sketch of the scene.  I came up with after looking at some pictures that I had already taken and heeding the professor’s advice.  He liked this one much better…and I still get a bit of my reflection idea in the mirror.

The next week, we were to submit a more refined drawing of the “approved” sketch.  Here is mine:

From this point, the instructor and other class members gave critiques with many pointers that would help strengthen the message.  The objective is to be sure that there can be no mistaking what is happening in the scene, so all changes help to clarify the message to the viewer.  Also, at this point, my value pattern isn’t nailed.  So, I worked on developing that better so that every character is separate and distinct.
Here’s the result of that work along with a copy of the final revision submitted today:

Finally, this is the version that was submitted today! 

I'm so proud of my very first illustrated image!  But secretly, I'm still not entirely satisfied with the outfit of the short person on the left. If I change it I will post the new image. 

In all, we completed four projects.  I'm sharing three, including the one above which shows the long process involved in creating the image.  I will post the other three projects, original submission plus final submission, but I won't show all the steps list above.  Just know that each project went through the same process.

Paperback Novel Cover


Magazine for Lysol Kitchen Cleaner
Tagline "they had made breakfast for their mother."
Type of artwork: Photo manipulation 

To be continued…

On a side note…working on this project has given me an idea for a project idea that has been in my mind for 11 years!  Yes!  I said 11 years!!  I will work that project into my schedule beginning this weekend… more on that later, also!