Here’s an update on two classes, Drawing in Museums and Figure Drawing, that I wrote about last week.
While both are drawing courses, they vary in subject, location, and teaching structure. Drawing in Museums meets every Tuesday afternoon in the American Art Museum. We sketch human subjects from paintings and sculptures. For Figure Drawing, we meet in a studio at the S. Dillon Ripley Center every Wednesday evening to draw from live models. Both classes develop fundamental observational skills but in different ways. Read on to find out what I learned in each class this week.
Drawing in Museums
This week we sketched in the National Portrait Gallery. Our teacher, Paul, instructed us to choose sculptures of human figures and faces based on their lights and darks rather than the expression on their faces. I drew Benjamin Butler’s bust because of the dramatic shadows on his neck, and because his mustache is funny.
Here’s my first attempt:
As Paul says about some of his own sketches, I think my sketch “died on the paper.” Paul gave me a helpful demonstration to get me re-started. He told me to draw the entire bust instead. He drew a quick and loose sketch to get the overall shape of the bust (pictured below). This initial sketch is necessary to figure out the sculpture’s general proportions and composition on the paper.
After this first sketch, Paul instructed me to keep developing the general shape of the sculpture with sketches of the whole thing. With time, I specified the contours and shapes of the shadows.
Paul also taught me the phrase, “convexity makes the figure,” which means that the human figure consists of a bunch of convex lines. He explained this concept visually:
If you look at the drawing of a box with the bent line, which half do you think is the figure? If you’re not sure, take a look at the sketch of the arm. All lines are convex. Hence the phrase, “convexity makes the figure.” This was a helpful note because I drew a concave line to render a slight dent in Benjamin’s forehead, and it looked wrong. Paul adjusted the concave line to be made of a couple convex lines instead, and it automatically looked more realistic (see forehead just above Benjamin’s left eye in the photo below).
To better understand the “convexity makes the figure” concept, check out Michelangelo’s, Rafael’s, and Leonardo’s drawings.
At the end of class, we reconvened and shared what we drew.
A happy bunch!
As always, I’m looking forward to next week.
Figure Drawing and Independent Projects
Last night, we learned more about proportion as we drew from a live model. First, Jamie taught us to draw the figure by dividing it into circles, squares, rectangles, etc., to get the correct proportions. Here she is demonstrating for the class and smiling because feet are difficult to draw!
Then it was our turn to try! Here’s my drawing pad:
Next, we used sighting sticks to draw “construction lines” inside and around the figure. These lines help us determine if we drew each segment of the body in the right direction in relation to the rest of the body.
These initial steps are necessary to understand what you’re actually looking at. As Jamie said last night, “seeing is a complex process.” It’s true! Once you try to realistically draw what you’re looking at, you realize that truly seeing and understanding what’s in front of you is not an automatic process. It takes time, concentration, and patience.
Each session, we’ve built on past lessons to develop our skills. I can’t wait for next week! Here are a couple pictures of the class working and taking a break.
Photos by Haley Moen
-Haley Moen, Summer 2016 Studio Arts Intern