Rob Adams a Painter's Blog

November 19, 2011

Life Drawing and London in Autumn

Filed under: Drawing,Life Drawing,London,Painting — Rob Adams @ 5:47 pm

Mostly drawings this post. I have been doing a stint of commercial work so not too many chances to get out and paint. This has been a bit of a bind really as the days have been beautiful and very paintable, what with the autumn colours and the low light. Still one evening a week I get to go and to some life drawing which is always a challenge and a pleasure. I get the distinct feeling that accuracy is not a fashionable thing in life drawing. My fellow drawers are very quick to say that it doesn’t matter and is unimportant. I would however respectfully disagree. It is important to learn to draw relatively accurately, not because you will always wish make drawings that are rigorously accurate, but because without learning how to get a mark in the right place you won’t stand much chance of getting it in a decided and more telling alternative position. So I would feel you need to learn the discipline, even though you may not always use it directly. The feeling that accuracy isn’t important is linked to the same old thing that “feeling” , “emotion” and intuition are all that is needed to make telling statements about the subject. It isn’t that they aren’t important aspects, but it is the learnt disciplines that allow you to express those very sentiments more effectively.

I should perhaps explain what I mean by accuracy. I don’t mean every point has a single correct position. We have two eyes, wobbly heads and swivelling eyes. The model is in a constant state of subtle movement. No model is really still and one that was would be useless, better to draw from a statue. So what we have for each mark is a locus of possibility in which a point could happily exist. In some ways this is bounded by what the eye will accept before it rebells and perceives the body as deformed. This is also why drawings with early attempts at positioning lines or points visible are perfectly acceptable, hence there is no real need for an eraser other than as a drawing tool. You can choose what aspect to be accurate in, you could leave the line loose and indefinite then be rigorous with the tonal values. You can be careful in plotting the sinuous turns of the boundaries and lay in loose tones over the top. All these and many other approaches can be rewarding… they do however all require some degree of accuracy to be effective.

So however wild and expressive your mark making, it will always be wilder and still more expressive if that creative impulse is backed up by real acquired skill. Learning accuracy allows more freedom not less. It can happen of course that accuracy becomes a prop that you can’t put down. The results of this are academic style overworked drawings or Slade school type graphings of the human form. I would still think that the rewards of gaining the technical adeptness far outweigh any risks.

Anatomy is another subject that arises as soon as we draw our fellow beings. I think you can become a perfectly good draughts person without opening an anatomy book, but for myself a working knowledge of what lies beneath the skin is often useful. I have never managed to learn all those names, or all the various insertions of the muscles, but I know to a fair degree where everything attaches and what it operates. One thing it will help you with is general proportions. Many otherwise fine drawings are ruined by the relative lengths of arms and legs or sizes of heads or hands. Once again there are no fixed and “correct” relationships, just boundaries which if you over shoot will undermine believability.

One of the simplest aids to learning accuracy is a plumb bob, just a weight that will hang vertically from a bit of cord. If you want the luxury version you can mark inches down the string. This is used to determine how the landmarks on the body align vertically. The other aid is your pencil or any straight edge to estimate angle and horizontal alignment. Generally only the larger really key relationships need to be worked out in this way. The smaller divisions within the larger shapes are progressively easier to determine by eye alone. Every now and again I find my drawing has become a little sloppy and I have to revisit these basic techniques to stop the rot!

 

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Life drawing, figure nude

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Life drawing, figure, nude

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Life drawing, nude, figure

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Life drawing, figure, nude

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Life drawing, nude, figure

These first ones are all 5min to 7min, what are sometimes called “gestures” a term I dislike. These obviously suffer form an accuracy viewpoint but teach

how to grasp the essence of a pose. Your short poses will also improve hugely once you have learnt how to be accurate on the longer poses

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Life Drawing, figure, nude, pastel

A longer pose, rather overworked I would have been better to do a couple of 15min drawings.  A hard thing to learn is that if a drawing looks done then

stop! Often I do twenty minutes on a pose, then do a better one in the last ten minutes, because I have learnt from the first attempt.

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Life drawing, nude, figure, pastel

The outrageous curve of her leg made this interesting. It was the other leg that was hard to draw though. Note how on the foot I indicate the volume

but don’t get side tracked into all those toes.

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Life drawing, nude, figure, pastel

It is often fun to relate the figure to the surroundings more literally, as an exercise you can just draw everything that is “not” body the result is that you

infer the figure, this is called using counter shapes.

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Life drawing, nude, figure, pastel

A very difficult pose. There were such subtle variations across her back with nothing really definitive to hold it all together. It doesn’t really work as

a drawing but it was instructional to do and I wish I had had the time to do another.

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Life drawing. nude, figure

I am attempting to make the lines of the hatching work a little harder by spacing them. Despite messing up the head

I am quite pleased with how the marks describe the body.

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Life drawing, nude, pastel

Another attempt to describe without too many boundary lines, just using the interchange of tone. I intend to reintroduce more linear work after I have

got this approach working better.

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Life drawing, nude, figure, pastel

I enjoyed the flow of light in this one. I have decided recently to stop worrying about getting the whole figure in.

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Life drawing, nude, figure, pastel

I have added a white soft pastel to my armoury of pastel pencils… not sure about it yet.

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Life drawing, figure, girl, pose, pastel

For a change we recreated a Monroe pose… it gave me deja vu, took me back to my magazine illustration days!

That’s it for drawings a few plein airs to finish up.

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Green Park, London, oils, plein air, Rob Adams

The new “Brass Monkey” season has started. An off shoot of the Wapping Group that paints in cold miserable conditions! I was glad to catch the last

of the Autumn colour. This is Green Park London 14in by 12in Oil.

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Buckingham Palace, evening, London, Victoria, plein air, oil, Rob Adams

Before this I did one of Apsley House which went awry and got wiped, so this was very quick at about half an hour, but the light was super.

14in by 10in

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Fortnum and Mason, Green Park, London, plein air, Oil, Rob Adams

I blocked this in on the way to the pub then tried to finish it off from a photo which just didn’t work so I had to go back next day! Slightly over detailed

the building but I will knock that back with a glaze once it has dried.

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