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Life drawing obscurantism

Posted on June 12, 2010  2 Comments
Filed under Drawings, Portfolio

Some time ago, my friend Annes sent me a link to a different Life Drawing class that I would possibly enjoy more than the one I am currently attending and everything finally made sense.

In life drawing, there seem to be a predominant “school of thought” that believes in learning by pure academic observation. That “London Atelier of Representational Art” (LARA) in Clapham Junction, even goes to the extreme of forcing you to draw using a “Sight-size method”. As they describe it, here is how it works:

“the artist first sets a vantage point where the subject and the drawing surface appear to be the same size. Then, using a variety of measuring tools – which can include strings, sticks, mirrors, levels, and plumb-bobs – the artist draws the subject so that, when viewed from the set vantage point, the drawing and the subject have exactly the same dimensions.”

I think “academic observation” is very valuable when drawing from the model but as Glenn Villpu implies it in his theory and instructional material. This is just, one tool!

How long is it going to take you to finally be able to work as an animator, illustrator, storyboard artist and draw from imagination then? Years and years and years and years!

Why not instead, add more tools to your toolset. Why no try to understand the underlying structure of the figure? What about learning proportions and the different parts of the skeleton but also the few muscles that shape the surface of the skin? How to represent the figure in simple geometric shapes?

What about learning … the Structure!

The big problem with the “Academic observation” approach is that you only discover the elements of the structure through experiencing them, this can take a very long time. It is what I would call “brute force life drawing” teaching. But there is a smarter way!

K. Anders Ericsson, Ralf Th. Krampe, and Clemens Tesch-Romer published a great paper a while ago, about “the Role of deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance”. The paper is a bit dry so you would be forgiven to skip to something a bit more approachable and that great article from CNN called “The secret of greatness”.

What those articles try to demonstrate is the importance of having a plan when learning and focus your practice on specific areas. This is what they call “Deliberate practice“. “Brute force” learning is great but it is definitely not the deliberate practice sort of approach.

Where can we learn about structure? well Glenn Villpu is the obvious start, then all the AWESOME blogs, Dreamworks storyboard artist and life drawing teacher, Rad Sechrist, is part of!

Rad How To
Analytical figure drawing
Advance figure drawing
The Art Center

Reading those blogs and learning what is on display should help you improve tenfolds!

I would also recommend Andrew Loomis pdfs as a start actually and this great 1890 book by french Dr Paul Richer where he shows the relationship of the head height to the rest of the body.

To finish this post, here are my two last drawings from my thursday class:
Contains nudity

1h pose. 0.9 2b mechanical pencil

1h pose. HB pencil

Those are roughly 1 hour poses. I have discovered mechanical pencils thanks to Annes again and 2b leads but switched back to HB pencil for the second drawing. 2b is nice to rough things out and do concepts/storyboards but it is too smudgy for when you want sharp lines for accurate shading and details.

For the second drawing, I tried to be a bit bolder and went for something a bit more stylised but only had 1 minute to rough out the legs.

I think my drawing has improved a hell of a lot in 6 month. What will it be like in 6 more month??


2 Responses to “Life drawing obscurantism”

  1. Henk on June 19th, 2010 05:11

    Hey Olive, would`ve been great to meet you at Annecy, eversince Rare its a trend to not get to meet you… yet!

    Having spent 2 years in art school doing 4 to 8 hours a week of trying the academic way, I can safely say does not work well. I almost get it why people think its impossible to learn how to draw.

    Knowing structure feels like cheating :] It frankly it is AWESOME. “Reading those blogs and learning what is on display should help you improve tenfolds!” You have not exaggerated. you can go from, I suck to, hey thats promising just by knowing structure.

    For me drawing skill = animation skill. That is, the ability to construct poses from you mind in 3d space.

  2. Henk on June 19th, 2010 05:13

    Btw, your progress looks very good, didnt feel the need to comment on it since its so obvious. What I wanted to add is the suggestion to also draw from your mind. Thats pretty tough but it`ll make sure you see what you understand and what you dont.

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