It’s been an interesting week.
After deciding to draw only with line, I’ve been doing some more of the features series andself portraits.They’ve been takingsome time to do and are mostly slightly strange in one way or another. The official version is thatthe drawingshave to get worse before they can get better. The unnofficial version is that I’m a bit bemusedby them.
A welcome and much needed release has come from a copy of a Sargent portrait drawing and myfirst trip to the cafe for two weeks.
Regardless, one very good thing is coming out of this line only idea, I’m seeing shapes andjudging the relationships between thembetter, which means better laid out drawings. I think it’s because drawing only with line is afurther abstraction thandrawing already is, giving me less to deal with and helping me to break down the shapes. I’mtrying to draw only the lines I can see, so if a contour goes into a shadow and disappears, Idon’t draw it.I’ve come accross the saying many times that drawing is about what you take out. By taking outtone I’ll hopefully find it easier to decide which lines to take out. It’s still about seeing,but what goes down on the paper is more of a process of selection.
Although the drawings I’ve done this week are odd, Ican feel somethinggoing on under the surface, some progress which isn’t really showing yet. I hope. Today’s cafesketches came out alright. I’d say today it was noticably easier to see shapesand get the drawings somewhere right. I think that might be because of my crazy line drawings.
First line drawing of an eye. I remember this feeling very alien to draw. It’s odd, becauseI always useline in drawings, doesn’t everybody, but when I could use only line I seemed togo a bit haywire.As a drawing, this bears little resemblance to my left eye. I think I was finding my feet withthis line business. I was conscious of looking more closely though. As badly drawn as they are,it’s interesting that I’ve put my eyelashes in.
The second eye came out better. I calmed down a bit on this one and drew more carefuly. Itlooks almost like the Bargueeyes, there’s not much mistaking his influence now. What struck me about this when I’d doneit is that this eye hadmore three dimensional form than any other eye I’ve drawn. I had what I thought was a minorepiphany. It’s allabout the line. If I canget my line drawing strong, showing form, then everything else will naturally follow.
Since drawing just with line I’ve started to see details I hadn’t seen before. Whilstdrawng this eye I noticed abit of skin like atiny sideways eyelidjust in the corner of my eye. It seems very odd to me thatI’ve never seen that before.
I was starting tothink about doing a self portrait like this. If it worked nice for eyes, maybe thesame thing would happen if I drew my whole head like this. I decided it wouldbe best to do some noses or something first.
Noses. Surprisingly difficult to draw convincingly I find. Only drawing the lines I couldsee here meant nocontinuous line down the nose. Usually I think my brain would have insisted that there was oneand made me draw it.Interesting though. There’s only a few lines here, but this is as good as any of my other noses,looks as physical. This was one of four done the same way, my nose in line only.
Ok, time for the self portrait. What an odd drawing. I must admit I was tempted to put fangson this and make it intoa Nosferatu the next day. Still, despite the lumpen and distorted nature of the drawing,some of the details are observed a bit better, they just don’t fit together very well. I’mstarting to think that this line thing is definitely a good idea. I’m not sure why I did itwith this heavy, consistent line. All these drawings have this line, which is not what Iintended at all. I think it may be because I was concentrating on where the line so much Iforgot to draw naturally as I usually would.
Even more strange. I did this one a bit bigger because it struck me that in the last one the linewas too thick and heavy for the size of the drawing, but that doesn’t explain why it cameout like this. At least I don’t look likeI’m struggling in this drawing, I look fairly relaxed which I think is a first for one ofmy self portraits.
After a couple more abortive attempts I did this one. I took my time with this one, concentratingon trying to place things right. I think my slightly strained expression and rigid stance is dueto the fact thatthis drawing took eight hours, standing at the easel. I had a pretty bad backby the timeI’d finished it. I probably would have gone on longer, but I got to a point where I wascorrecting lines,then correcting them back again to where they were before. Not a nice drawing, but a very goodexercise.
Although these drawings do seem to have gone a bit haywire, I have a feeling I’m learningsomething from them. I guess this heavy line has come from the Bargue plates, but it seems tobe abating.
To balance these drawings I did a copy of a Sargent portrait drawing of his friend GabrielFaure. I chose this drawing because it has nice quality of line. It was interesting alsoto copy a drawing so different from the Bargue plates, a lot of this drawing is comparatively loose,without the obsessive neatness of the classical cast drawings. But the main thing that struckme as I drew it is how light a lot of it is.
Sargent has reserved his darkest line for accents, the eye, the ear and the bottom of thenose. The rest of the line is very light and simple, mostly done in one go and left fromwhat I can see. The exception is the back of the head where he’s moved it out a couple ofcentimetres.
This drawing is a good example of taking out. Sargent has only really drawn the profile andthe main features, everything else is just roughed in. He’s only worked in any real detail aroundthe eye, where he’s used tiny, fine lines to show the corner of the eye. But the drawing lives,and the smallamount of loose tone he’s added is enough to create a feeling of light on Faure’s face. Muchto learn from this drawing. A benefit of copying it is that I now have it in my head, I knowevery detail of it. I can think about how it was drawn without needing to look at it.
This week’s cafe sketching trip was a good one, I enjoyed myself and some of the drawings cameout ok. This one of the old guy I especially like. It was a welcome release from my recent long-winded,rigorous eye training drawings and provided a much needed breath of fresh air.
It was also the first trip for two weeks, so I was itching to get out and draw. There’s beena slightly heated discussion recently on a painter’s forum I visit about working from photos, and howworking from life, though preferable, can be difficult due to time constraints, money for modelsetc. I was thinkingabout that as I was sitting drawing my unruly but free models, making small connections from meto the life of the people I drew by catching a moment from it in my sketchpad, and from them to methrough the drawing. I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to do this, it’s fun and it’s lifeaffirming at the same time, never mind how the drawings come out.
I’ve finally got the first four drawings from plate three of theBargue drawings done. It’staken a long time to get to this point and there’s still six to go on this plate. It’s hardwork, with all the correcting, you have to be strict with yourself, but its almostmeditative at the same time. And if you ask me, the value for eye training is second to none.
Taking this further step back, dropping tone and working only in line, has helped I think.I seem to be seeing a bit better.These drawings are taking me quite a long time, but that’s a good thing, I’m slowing downto my own seeing pace, finding my level. I can’t say that concentrating on line has producedany nice drawings yet,apart from maybe a couple of yesterday’s cafe sketches, but I think it will before too long.
23rd April 2006
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