The new term has begun for the Frobisher Life Drawers. I have really missed this over the summer. As always, I tried to think ahead about what I wanted to get out of the session (it is untutored and run as a co-operative). As I was rusty, I decided to concentrate on using large charcoal blocks and trying to get mass.
Thinks got off to a shaky start when our model didn’t turn up and couldn’t be contacted. Whenever I find myself early or without a model, I reach down a plaster cast of ‘Winged Victory’ which sits (with a load of death masks) on a shelf in the studio. I love this model and wish it was mine. This is drawn with my favourite Kuretake Fudegokachi pen which has water soluble ink, so it is possible to create tone with a water brush.
I don’t think that I have got the angle of the shoulders right nor the wing on the left. I was about to start drawing her for a second time when the group decided to give up waiting for the model and set up a still life of the basket of fruit which someone had brought along to share.
The very large charcoal block precludes detail. The most detailed marks have been achieved with an electric eraser. The pleasure of these blocks is how soft and friable they are but this is also their drawback. It is almost impossible to make small, precise marks; form has to be suggested. I like that. Here the fruit are just smudges of shadow and a suggestion of stalk. The large scale marks have also captured the twist of the handle. Capturing the texture of the basket and the shadows cast within the weaving is less successful. I also wish that I had cropped in a bit harder to loose most of the support. I jumped in too fast, without considering my framing.
An alternative model was found who promised to be there for the second half of the session. In the meantime, I experimented with picking up this water-soluble charcoal on a wet flat brush to see what effects that produced. The figure is from imagination. The brush marks add interest and I particularly like how the tone disappears to almost nothing with lots of water.
When we finally had a model, I tried continuing to use this technique.
I found myself looking for edges on which to begin a brush stroke with the 2cm flat brush. This has made for angular outlines and clumsy marks, but there is a quality worth persevering for, especially where highlights have been left undrawn. I tried again on a larger sheet using two colours of charcoal. This time a drew a pencil sketch first to help with placement of the brush. I also emphasised the darkest tones by using the edge of the block directly.
I like the quality of the tones in the washes but the addition of the block is heavy-handed. I need to have a smaller, pointed brush for fine shadows such as under the heel or under a buttock. The proportions are all wrong; I was really struggling with the proportions after a summer away from life drawing. I decided that I need to focus just on getting the shapes and proportions right and forget about mark making. Here, I have used just a broad stick of charcoal and worked, and worked again until I have got the shapes I want.
The next pose offered me little apart from a back (there isn’t enough room to move to a better angle) but I accepted the challenge of trying to get the subtle shapes. I really am not sure how you draw a back without drawing the outline, unless you invent a dark background. This is always a difficultly for me in life class. The real background is messy and confusing with easels, people and cupboards. Creating a background usually feels contrived, though. Maybe I’ll work it out one day…
For the last couple of minutes, I returned to pen sketches.
This was a very disappointing session because we all found it unsettling to only get a model half way through the session and because the start of a new term is always challenging. It’s like going to the gym when you haven’t worked out for ages.