I am lucky enough to have the choice of several local life classes which offer drop-in sessions, so life drawing is something I do on a reasonably regular basis. However, these are un-tutored and it is very easy to find one’s self just repeating the same thing over and again and not necessarily progressing or being creative within the context of the class. I try to challenge myself by using different media or techniques but really welcomed this project as a way of challenging my composition. I think composition is particularly hard to manage in a life drawing class where you have no control over lighting, background, pose and often little control over your own location in the room.
The aims of this project are to create a composition of two combined body parts or limbs in a way that leads the eye around the composition and which makes a powerful statement.
At a life group this week, after the initial 1 minute and 5 minute poses, I tried to find sections of the pose which fitted the aim of the project. I also tried to think about bringing forward the parts of the pose which interested me whilst under-describing the more distant of less relevant parts of the pose, whilst still trying to be observationally rigorous.
In this 15 minute drawing, I laid down a charcoal ‘wash’, worked into it with a rubber and then added some line and tone using the side of the charcoal. I have tried to suppress the detail in the head, since we are programmed to be drawn to facial features. It is clear that I didn’t get the upper hand right and have repeatedly redrawn it; the dark lines are a dead give-away. The remit says ‘don’t leave the limbs to taper off’ which I have done with the foot and hand bottom left. This was deliberate because I don’t want the eye to be drawn too much to the corner, but want the right hand and left knee to be the centre of attention. This drawing is full of errors of proportion but I think it is successful at a compositional level.
Cropping the drawing photographically, I don’t think cropping in harder would have materially improved this composition.
The course method says ‘don’t be tentative’, ‘redraw and correct’ but I find these two actions in tension against each other. In a long pose, I correct and I find that this makes me more tentative. In a short pose, I feel able to take more risk, make assertive marks but have no time for correction and refinement, or time to give composition much consideration.
In this 5 minute pose, I feel that I have used much more assertive marks and drawn with a more instinctive feel for the muscles and joints, but the composition is not as considered.
I feel this is a much more successful, spontaneous drawing. It has not been reworked, or overworked. If a line has been redrawn, usually the original line has just been left. It is, of necessity, a very simple drawing.
Cropping this second drawing photographically, I feel that a more successful composition could have been created by concentrating on the smaller area. Here the enclosed negative space becomes important and the composition triangular.
The human body is an unfailing pleasure and challenge to draw. Usually, I concentrate on getting the whole body in the frame and getting the balance and weight of the body right. It was a delight to consider cropping in and composition instead. I only wish that I had more control over the poses and was able to change my position in the studio. I would like to continue this project indefinitely at life class.