Drawing Figures From Life
Think about this; you are drawing on a flat surface. It is impossible to draw into the paper or canvas. You are trying to capture the illusion of three dimensions on a two dimensional surface. The easy way to do this is to approach your subject in a two dimensional way. Convince yourself that everything is flat when you are trying to draw it.
Your brain will probably find this a terribly difficult concept at first. It will give you symbols and shortcuts to make drawing faster, at the expense of accuracy. It is trained to help you to achieve tasks as quickly and effortlessly as possible, using past experiences and learnt responses.
This doesn’t work with drawing. We know that every face in the world is different. So is every single body. There are certain guidelines that all faces and bodies fit into, but it is the differences that make everyone unique. Guidelines don’t help at all when it comes to foreshortening, or drawing figures that are in any kind of odd position.
Pretending that you are looking through a screen, or a window, can make translating three dimensions into two much easier. Doing this literally is a good way to start, and will help you to understand the concept.
To make a ‘the world is flat’ viewfinder, draw a grid onto a sheet of cellophane with a marker pen. The boxes can be any size, as long as they are regular. Attach the cellophane to a card window. An old picture mount is ideal. Look at your subject through the screen with one eye closed and you will see that, say, the point of the elbow is directly in line with the model’s eye in a horizontal sense. Or the outside of her knee is on a perpendicular line with the inside bone of her ankle. Distance doesn’t matter with this approach. The body will form angles and curves inside the boxes. Nature has no straight lines!
I think that the logical part of your brain is overridden and it stops trying to tell you how things ‘should’ look. Instead you can see, and are able to draw, what’s really there in front of you.
I hope that this has been helpful - enjoy practicing!!
Besides Tuesdays at Le Meridien and Fridays at Villa Bologna, both mornings, I am very happy to announce that I will be starting both outdoor and studio classes at Ta' Mena in Gozo from the end of September. At the moment I am planning to run a Wednesday afternoon class in the lovely grounds, and a Thursday morning class which will be more structured and studio based.
If you are interested please ask for more details!
Am I Finished?
If you’re still not sure whether your picture is finished or not, take it away from wherever you have been working on it. Put it somewhere that you will see it while you’re distracted by other things. Talking on the phone is great – it occupies your logical, linear, language brain and leaves your creative brain free to evaluate your work in a really helpful way.
Watercolour in particular loses its vibrancy and flow if it is overworked and controlled too tightly, so it’s better to stop earlier rather than later. It’s always possible to go back and add a little more here and there, but not so easy to take things out. Too many washes just turn to mud. Even ‘cheating’ (which is always a good solution) with white paint, gouache or pastels, must be handled with care.
I love to paint - and draw - and help others to discover their creative side too.....
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