Last night I went back to the Arlington ArtLounge to attend my first "live model open sketch" session. The cost was so low that I assumed there would be no instruction, just the model, and I was right. I am really glad I went, but it was hard work!
Here is some of what I learned:
1. Drawing the human body is entirely different from drawing a face. And yet, I think the general principles are exactly the same: Don't let "Monkey Mind" take over. Take your time and draw what you see, not what you "think" it should look like.
2. Practice, practice, practice. My mantra for this year.
We had a male model who was obviously used to modeling for figure drawing; we started with 3 minute poses, then 5 minute poses, then 20 minute poses, and a final 40 minutes.
Here was one of the 3 minute gesture drawings I did:
So, not horrific but not great. I say this not to denigrate myself but just to notice what I can learn. I think this may be the first time, as an adult, that I tried to draw a human body with any serious intent.
What I notice about this 3 minute sketch are the places where--in such a short time--I apparently did pretty well at actually looking and seeing, and I also notice all the places where Monkey Mind told me: "Draw it this way; hurry up!"--like the left side of the photo.
I remember having a mild sense of panic as I started. In 3 minutes, what was I supposed to do exactly? Block something out? Huge, free-handed swings? What was the best way to tackle this?
Lack of any instruction (for which I'm not blaming them--we got exactly what was advertised, and it was wonderful) hampered me, but I did my best. I didn't bother to photograph the other 3 minute poses; I think there were about four of them. This was probably my most successful attempt in the 3-minute time frame.
Note to self: label the sketches better next time. I have this one labeled as a "5-minute pose," but I can't swear that it was 5 minutes. I'm thinking it may have been 20 minutes. ---->
It's probably the best thing I did all night, in terms of success. I was really trying to LOOK and actually SEE with this one, and not trying to get the entire figure in. Did not completely succeed, but I like quite a bit about it.
I like the way his right shoulder looks as it really did in his pose. (I feel quite good about that, because when I was working on it he kept moving, so I had to work fast but I really got it.) I like the general torso; sure, I could improve here but it's not horrible for a first night's try. I like the head.
One thing I noticed, unquestionably, was how my lack of regular drawing practice was making it harder for me to slow down and truly see. Plus, knowing we were working on a timed pose made me want to move fast. Not good! I need to remember it's not a race and it's more about seeing what is there rather than moving my hands quickly.
Art happens in the head first, and then the hands just follow.
Then I got over-ambitious and the real trouble started:
This was a 20-minute pose. Top half: not bad for a very first try. The good news is that I hear they are going to be offering anatomical drawing lessons in February, and if I can, I plan to take some. Again, there are a few things I like about this, and many things that make me realize I could use some good instruction because although I'm "seeing" partially correctly, I am not seeing enough.
Bottom half...oh my, I slapped on the legs because I knew the 20 minutes was going to be up soon, and look at the result! He looks like a slightly deformed 90 pound weakling. Not at all what I was seeing.
I remember feeling like I just wanted to bag it at this point, because I was starting to realize just how hard figure drawing is and how it is easy to slip right over the line into symbolic (non-seeing) caricature, as I did here.
But I also was determined to stay for the entire class, and I tried to pat myself on the back for going to the class in the first place. This was risky for me--I have no experience with this type of drawing.
Below is what I did with the last pose of the night...oh my. Not good, not good at all, but hilarious.
For some reason I started at the bottom, with his feet, and spent a goodly time there on the feet and legs. I wish I had left it there. Because after doing a half-decent job on the feet and legs, I tossed in the trunk and arms and then slapped on the head. No, no! He looks like a horribly deformed being, whereas in real life he looked just fine. What a disservice. I should have just spent all the time on the feet/legs and not felt obliged to get the entire body done.
Here it is, in all its deformity. Whoa! <g>
My only comfort is that I remember seeing exactly this type of deformity and lack of proportion in some of Van Gogh's early drawings, as he was teaching himself to draw.
Oh hey, am I comparing myself to Van Gogh? I don't think so!!!!
I'm simply saying that from what I've seen, not just with myself but also with others who are in the early stages of learning to draw, this looks very familiar and is, I think, an indication of a certain learning stage.
What I appreciate about this:
1) It kind of looks like him (face).
2) I got the tattoo!
3) if you cover the top half, and look at the picture from mid-thigh down--where I spent most of the time during the long drawing session--the bottom half isn't bad!
It's when I tried quickly (there's that word again) added the top half that I lost perspective and stopped really looking-and-seeing, and that's why he looks so incredibly top-heavy and weird.
<--- This is what I mean--here is the Van Gogh drawing where he was clearly struggling with proportions in his early days. Jeez, if Van Gogh can produce this, and then teach himself to be the master of drawing that he became, I figure I can get better with practice.
Will I be a Van Gogh? Never.
But maybe I'll be myself: someone who keeps trying, someone who puts in the work, someone who improves with and learns from each drawing, and who really does love the process.
I did learn a immense amount from going last night, despite the extreme cold (OMG, it is so cold out this week). The workshop was well-attended, the room was set up beautifully, the model was terrific, and someone brought chocolate peppermint bark for everyone to eat (what could be more perfect?). I am happy that I went, and so happy that I stayed when I really wanted to throw my charcoal across the room and stalk out more than once.
As with anything, I have to be willing to put the time in, to be patient, and to have beginner's mind. And of course, to be Present.
I'm a textile artist (traditional rug hooking, punch needle rug hooking, and other textile arts), a long-time meditator, a certified meditation teacher and coach, and focused on learning about the interplay of art, creativity, and mindfulness every day.
SITES TO WATCH:
Insight Meditation Society
Oxford Rug Hooking School
Zentangle: The Official Site
Green Mountain Rug Hooking
Massachusetts Tarot Society