Friday, July 24, 2009

Quick sketch and a Contest

Here is a fairly adequate figure sketch I did this week at our Tuesday night figure drawing group. I only had about 40 minutes on this one, and while it needs a lot of work, I thought it was fairly successful for the time spent.

12 x 9, graphite on paper

Now, I would like to mention a few points about sketching and drawing. In a quick sketch like this, one hopes to get a solid representation of gesture and proportion. There is a living, breathing model posing for this. She gets tired and needs breaks, and then has to try to get back into the pose. Rarely is it exactly like it was the first 20 minutes. Standing poses with both feet planted are easier to get back, but often the more lovely, graceful poses with movement are hard to hold and hard to get back. It is even harder if you haven't any important points mapped out on your paper from the first session.
The above drawing definitely has some issues- the arm is not very well represented and has weak form- but I like the pose and the movement. With more time these problems could have been fixed.

I once heard a local 'artist' proclaim that if you can't draw the figure well in the first 15 minutes, then you probably don't know what you are doing. That is of course complete nonsense.

Now, I will agree that the better the artist, the better the chance that the image put down in the first 15 minutes is going to be, but this is not what was meant. It was part of the glorification of the sketch. The acceptance that the initial ideas and marks are the best.

Nothing hides errors more than a sketch. This is true in both painting and drawing. You can get away with murder in the quick sketch. The bravura and flowing lines of a fast sketch have a life of their own. It is fresh, but it is rarely very truthful. The 'life' it has, can over-ride some hideous drawing. People today love the sketch. For one thing it is way easier to complete. Most artists working today haven't a clue what to do with a drawing after the first few hours. If you have been to college for art, you can fill a dumpster with bad sketches after you graduate.
In college we wasted a lot of time doing 20 second gesture drawings of a model. If you don't know how to draw, doing it fast is not going to help. Long, studied drawings are the only way to learn how to draw. If you have not spent 20 to 40 hours on one figure drawing or one cast drawing, chances are you really have no idea what drawing is, or really any idea of what I am even talking about.
Now, you have to know what I mean by 'drawing'. I talked about this a bit in a previous post.
I will quote from it here:
First I defined drawing as 'the interpretation of form'. We are often told that drawing is 'mark making', or something touchy feely having to do with self expression. While that can be true, it is basically about representing the 3D on a 2D surface. By that logic, if you are not interpreting form, you are not drawing.
A monkey with a crayon is not drawing. Squealing your tires at a stop sign is not drawing. It's mark making, but not drawing.
Again, teaching someone to faithfully interpret form can not be taught in 4 days. It probably takes closer to a year of full time study under someone that has already mastered this skill.

I will now add that 20 second gesture drawings are tough to put in the drawing category. It is mark making. If you have ever sat in a class with a bunch of punk art students flailing around on newsprint paper with a hunk of compressed charcoal, the image of a monkey with a crayon might be more fitting.

If you have spent any time on drawing, and spent some considerable time on single drawing, you should know that your first marks, your first attempts to learn the drawing were naive. The sketch is a start. Over time you learn the subject. You refine and give form to the flat surface. Your initial marks may have life, and be exciting, but the more you look you see that it is ill proportioned, and lacking in any breadth or feeling of form. So, your job now is to take those initial impressions of the big gesture and movement, and keep then as you refine and improve your drawing.

To quote Degas, "It is not difficult to get life into a six hour study. The Difficulty is to retain it there in sixty."

1 comment:

Patricia said...

Great post! I agree about the "quick" the models that can hold a poise for 30+ min.!