The Process for the second drawing: Tone
As with the first drawing, I began with gesture and thumbnail sketches using a black fineliner. These were purely to get a sense of composition. I could not decide between two of the poses and so drew larger (A4) sketches of each in which I developed rough areas of tone (scroll down).
I realised that one aim of this drawing was to demonstrate mastery of foreshortening. However, the obvious pose (option 3 in the sketches, right) seemed rather boring – few diagonals. I decided against including a sketchbook as a prop again and opted for a simple folded hands position that could be easily memorised, sketched for reference and revised if necessary. I added a large off-white cushion as a backdrop, which would introduce further diagonals and opportunity for tonal contrasts.
The two developed A4 sketches:
I opted for the second pose because it offered more opportunity for foreshortening and there was more energy in the overall line of the pose. It was situated rather high on the page in the sketch and needed to be brought lower. The first one has too much empty foreground, and is essentially a square composition, as it stands.
We were advised to try different media. However, I had already tried a number of different media during life drawing classes themselves, and I also had come across something that I wanted to try out. The idea came from a book by Mick Maslen and Jack Southern Drawing Projects: an explanation of the language of drawing (Project 4, Energising Tone, pp172-4). In the book, the authors suggest using a range of pencils from B to 4B. As I developed the sketches, it occurred to me that pastels would also work, and might be easier to use on an A2 sheet in a 2-3 hour time period. I had some Derwent hard pastels in a range of greys with white and black and so used these.
I began on A2 cartridge paper with a light pencil outline in order to place the figure on the paper and in my mind, and then switched to the pastels to develop the image. The intention was to build up tone loosely, avoiding a hard outline, using a variety of short, expressive marks.
I worked with white pastel on the basic background shape of the cushion, and then turned to the figure using and the palest of the greys, gradually building up the tone using progressively darker greys which lay mainly on the left hand side of the figure. I tried to be sparing with the black, which seemed more like charcoal than black pastel and smudged easily.
I tried to focus on mark-making and avoid smudging but this became difficult with successive layers and occasional erasing. In the end, I decided to actively smudge one or two sections in order to reduce their impact and combined this with erasing. I had hoped to be able to cover these with new marks but this was only partially successful and signs of smudging remain.
It was difficult to resist adding further marks. I put the drawing to one side and returned to it the next morning, whereupon the feet appeared too small in relation to the head (which is much further from the viewer and also slightly tilted away from them). One leg also appears longer than the other (the foot of the bent leg should lie slightly further back from the viewer). The hands are also unclear.
I added a little more tone to shadow areas and attempted to further define the hands (although the point of this technique is to suggest outlines rather than define them clearly). then decided that I could do no more to it without making things worse (or redrawing, which was not an option given that it had to go in the post in a couple of hours).
Here is the second drawing:
Reflection on the Process for the second drawing using tone.
This drawing showed me the importance of not trying out something new for an assignment! An analogy might be trying out a new recipe for a dinner party. That said, I do like the sense of light and the overall impression of the figure.
I made the mistake of not trusting my judgment of the relative sizes of feet and head. The head is approximately correct, I think, because it is further away and leaning back very slightly. The length of someone’s foot is roughly the length of their head; therefore, the feet should appear larger in this drawing. (They appear larger in the sketch relative to the head before I adjusted the head size – the original head size may be seen as an oval – I’m not sure why I didn’t notice this while drawing – I did use the sketch as a reference). I had difficulty in deciding on the dimensions of the neck, which should be very slightly foreshortened in this perspective, and possibly, therefore, a bit wider. I have overdone the density of marks, particularly in areas of low value.
I have paid attention to reflected light, which helps to distinguish areas of dark tone, such as where the edge of the skirt meets the shadow on the wall behind, on the left but I did not plan this properly; the reflected light should emerge from the white paper, not from white pastel.
There was some frustration with the pastels towards the end of the drawing; the lighter ones, in particular, developed a shiny surface and tended to skid over paper and existing marks, leaving slightly scratchy or minimal marks. One way to deal with this in future would be to keep a knife nearby and sharpen them at intervals. A more textured paper might also help.
I will use this technique again and will consider using a coloured background, to explore the introduction of underlying colour to a monochrome drawing, as well as to emphasise the lighter tints (the cushion is white on white, although this does create texture in the original because the pastel reflects light differently from the paper). Using colour for the technique itself, perhaps with Derwent’s Art Bars, will also be explored.
I will also build up the image more slowly and try to leave it at stages in order to get more distance from the image as it develops. The artist in the book that inspired the idea achieved his drawing using a much looser framework of marks, and brought reflected light using the untouched paper into clothing folds, for example, in the body of the image, not just at edges, and I should aim for this, too.