musing on figure drawing and 2013 piece


I’ve done a lot of figure drawing for a really long time – over 15 years at this point. The key, in my opinion is strict observation. By this, I mean looking at the figure as you’re drawing, rather than looking back and forth too much. I almost always start with a contour, although I’d like to branch out into mass and gesture more than I currently do at some point, for the challenge and variety.

My method is to begin with contour strictly observed from the figure and often a little “off,”  but more true to what’s actually there than a meticulous start. You can easily get off proportion if you spend too much time putting details in the face or torso before getting to the legs. It’s better to get a rough idea of the shapes first, then go in and start adding basic detail like large blocks of shadow, and finally some selective smaller details. I often am working at a time limit of maximum 15 minutes, so I really have to prioritize which details I put in. I try to think of what’s most significant and most representative — what will allow me to convey what’s there in the fewest lines or shapes possible? It’s better, I think, to imply what’s there than put in every detail — leave some of it up to the viewer to infer and put together.

This is a figure drawing from a 2013 art class on watercolor and mixed media, done in ink and white gouache. The ink is obviously both pen and brush. I started first of all with a pencil, but sometimes on other drawings I do the contour in a Sharpie marker so I force myself to observe carefully from the very beginning rather than depending on being able to make corrections later. It’s both restrictive and freeing.

I also appreciated the shape of the model in this session. People who model tend to be, while usually not perfect (I did run into a guy whose email was greekgod@ before though), smaller. This model was a completely different kind of person from what I am used to working with and it was a delight.

woman figure drawing

some girl (2015/01/18 sketch)

A girl I drew with a pen that has a brush end. It’s 10×14 or so in real life, so I had to photograph it and it got all gray. I filled in the background with white and then ended up liking the effect, so I have left it this way. I drew this without a reference and was pleasantly surprised with the result.

20150118 girl sketch

tree book: stage one

I received this blank accordion book years ago, beautiful paper and a gorgeous Japanese painting on the cover, from my dad and stepmother. One day, after going on a road trip all over the South with my best friend in 2005, I decided to paint trees. Now, trees are basically my favorite thing to draw or paint anyway, but what I particularly wanted to paint were trees from Mississippi – the ones that made me feel like “I am really in the South now.” Pine trees with vines. Here’s what they look like:

mississippi trees

So I started this book years ago with an ink painting and got as far as approximately one page in. Back in 1999, I received a book from a loved one and managed to fill all 80+ pages with ink drawings, without pencil or erasing (my personal rule for that one). Then I gave it back to him as a surprise several months later. They looked something like this:

batbook sample

My goal was to do the same thing with the tree book, but clearly I didn’t get very far. However, I recently picked it back up and slowly, slowly, I’m trying to progress. The problem is that the ink I’m using now appears to be a different opacity than the ink I started with (I seriously think it’s the same ink, because I always buy the same brand, but who knows), but I’m going to stick with it despite the inconsistency. I want to bring it forward with the trees changing into different species as the book goes on, but I haven’t figured out that transition yet. Anyway, here’s where I am now:

tree book sample

Wish me luck. I guess it’s not a surprise for the people I want to give it back to anymore, but since it’s apparently my life’s work, maybe it’s best I just show it now anyway.