The Assignment 4 task in outline: two drawings, the focus of the first was a figure seated in an upright chair drawn using line and shape. The focus of the second was a reclining figure drawn in tone while also paying some attention to pictorial composition. The model is to wear reasonably fitted clothing.
The Subject: I drew myself for both drawings, in a floor-length bedroom mirror. I relied on natural light for the first drawing (line) but made the second one (tone) after dark using a directed spotlight to create shadow.
Using a mirror created certain constraints: I worked in the bedroom for reasons of light and space and a safe place to stand the mirror, this meant that the background was virtually pre-determined. Although the mirror was not attached to the wall, it requires a wall to be propped against for safety. I made it as upright as possible but it stood at a slight angle. As a result, this will have introduced a level of distortion into my drawings, which I hope that I have minimized. The alternative was to use photographs but I wanted to avoid this in order to get a more accurate idea of the state of my figure-drawing skills.
The Process for the first drawing: Line and Shape
I began with thumbnails and gesture drawings of three poses using a fineliner. Given that I was drawing myself, I decided it would be easier to include the sketchbook as a prop. One difficulty with this was that I began with an A4 sketchbook for planning, moved onto A3 and then made the final drawing on A2. I decided that an A3 sketchbook would be best in the drawing and drew this into the final A2 drawing relying on an earlier sketch for dimensions.
In the background of these sketches were two chests of drawers and a pile of books. I quite liked the second pose, facing the mirror but realised that the second drawing would require me to face the mirror, too, and so opted for a profile pose. I chose the third possibility also because it was more comfortable and I would need to hold the pose for a couple of hours.
However, the pile of books behind me competed with the sketchbook and I decided to omit them.
I then developed the chosen pose in an A4 sketch to get a sense of correct proportions while also focusing on the main shapes of clothes and body, as well as negative spaces within and between figure and chair. In this first sketch, the chair was not high enough in relation to the seated figure and, the thighs were far too long in relation to overall height of the figure.
I addressed all of the above in an A3 sketch (below). I toyed with the idea of a pile of books on the floor beside the chair but this would have required more space in the foreground, pushing the figure further back and so the idea was abandoned. I added a diagonal floor line in place of the chests of drawers, for simplicity and to focus attention on the figure. An HB pencil was used to develop the sketches and, because the focus was to be on line, I decided to use it for the final drawing, with the possibility of combining different pencils as the drawing developed (a loose idea at this stage).
Satisfied with the overall proportions and composition, I began the A2 drawing. It was a relatively straightforward process by now to situate the figure on the page but I could not position the facial features, nor the hand on the face, correctly, both in terms of proportions and angles of the head, fingers / knuckles, wrist and arm in relation to the upper body and each other. I tried to resolve this with another A4 sketch (below).
I tried to resolve the placing of the fingers by focusing on the negative shapes that they made with the face and neck. This was not easy to do with the distance from the mirror. Being your own model does not give you the option of getting up and more closely examining the subject of your drawing! I improved things but the fingers are still not right – in particular, the middle finger seems too long and the angle isn’t right. I erased and redrew several times before continuing with the A2 drawing. The sketch above shows a likeness.
Once the main drawing was made in HB pencil, I was fairly satisfied with it but it was lacking something. I introduced lines to represent folds in the clothing but it was an uninteresting, atonal line drawing. After a short break, I tried outlining parts of the figure facing away from the light source using a 3B pencil. I quite liked this effect as it lifted the drawing from the page by emphasising shapes and the drawing no longer appeared so one-dimensional. Finally, I used an 8B carbon pencil to add a few darker lines on closer edges and those in shadow.
Here is the final drawing. I tried to eliminate shadows during photography by using spotlights from different angles simultaneously. However, I couldn’t manage it this time:
Reflection on the Process for the first drawing using line and shape:
After reaching a point where I felt that I had begun to fiddle with details, I put the drawing to one side. The following day, when I came to review it, I realised that the perspective of the chair looked odd: the chair was below my eye-line and, therefore, the lines should move up towards the eye-line as they recede from the viewer. The chair was at an angle to the mirror, which was itself at a very slight angle to the wall. I checked angles very carefully so am not sure whether this was an artefact of the set-up or just bad drawing. I made a few final adjustments to the “horizontal” lines of the chair according to expected perception but am still uncertain whether these are what I actually saw.
I like the overall image, which is very different from what I had in my head when I began. I know that it is a technically flawed drawing but the overall proportions, with the exception of the feet, are not bad. The feet appear too small for the legs and the calves are a bit too wide. In my first drawings in this unit, I tended to draw heads too small. The head in this drawing is quite well-proportioned (and I do have a small head!). I have managed to focus on line and avoid fussiness. There is a sense of movement and fluidity in the fabric folds. Although it was not part of the task as such, there is also a sense of narrative. The idea of altering the line width or intensity came from an exercise that we did earlier in the course and I referred to a still life drawing that I drew in ink some months ago to see how I had tackled this.