For this exercise, you’ll use your imagination and the skills you’ve learned to draw someone you’ve seen momentarily – or not at all. Perhaps someone you’ve seen on the bus or in a shop? Or you might create a portrait of a fictional character based on a description in a book.
This exercise should prompt the question, ‘What is a portrait?’ Should it show something more about the person than mere physical characteristics and, if so, what? How difficult is it to create a portrait of someone from a chance meeting or completely from the imagination? Make notes in your learning log.
Meet my version of Harry Hole the Norwegian detective who is the main character in the Jo Nesbo series of books.
Harry is a bit on the edge, sometime alcoholic, sometimes brutal, but (usually) always super effective and with a predilection for Doc Martin boots.
One thing not accurate in my image is that the Boiler Room is actually in the basement of Oslo police HQ, not, as I have it, on an upper floor looking out over, well Oslo police HQ.
Drawn on 40x50cm 250gsm oil painting paper in oil pastel.
I have been re-reading the Jo Nesbo books again and this may, or may not, be what Harry looks like, but in the books he likes to dress casual and loud and has a particular taste in footwear. I imagine him with a full, though slightly receding, head of spiky blond hair as it fits his image in my mind. The link with the Boiler Room is that this is where his cramped office is located – divorced from the upper echelons on the floors above, tolerated, ignored if possible, but usually called upon when things go pear-shape. The Boiler Room is also where some who have worked there with Harry end up being killed on the job. That’s the back-story of Harry Hole in a nutshell. Have I captured the essence of it in this drawing? Only he knows!
The portrait is much more than the figure and features, it’s also about the attitude, the story, the psychology, the mood of the sitter, amongst other things. The same can be said for the drawer or painter – what are they bringing to the dance?
Create two interesting images of your own face. You’ll need to think about the pose, measuring, tonal variation and lines and marks. Don’t worry about producing an attractive or accurate likeness; the aim is to create a believable face with the features in more or less the right place.
Look at yourself in a mirror and quickly draw several five-minute studies of your face, neck and shoulders. Slightly adjust the angle of your head to avoid a disconcerting straight-ahead stare.
Keep moving your pencil around the drawing and don’t be tempted to concentrate on just one area at a time; this will inevitably cause an unnatural and tight image. Study the whole of the face and keep working in shadows and lines until the features begin to emerge within the three-dimensional form of the face and head. Remember that there are bones and muscles beneath the skin and that you’re positioned within a spatial and physical environment – a room or some other place. Add a few marks and lines to suggest this, but don’t go into too much detail. The focus should be on the face.
As already mentioned, avoid drawing a closed outline of the head. This often serves to trap the features inside its oval form and any mistakes in measuring will be hard to rectify. Instead keep your marks and lines loose and fragmented; this will allow you to make changes as you work. Try to create several small studies that improve your ability to capture realistic features. Remember the earlier mention of ‘waves’ and think how repeated lines can add vitality and movement to a still image. The face may be still but there is always a hint of movement beneath the surface.
Before you start, consider the angles or movement of your head. Think about whether to look straight ahead, down, up or slightly to one side. The imaginary vertical line that travels through your nose will indicate movement if it appears to be off centre.
Start to build in the loose shape of the features. Keep it simple – don’t get caught up in small details. Don’t worry about a likeness at this stage. If you get the shapes and angles more or less right the personality will evolve.
Consider the hair as it surrounds and drops into the facial plane. Work in the positive and negative shapes and don’t get involved with drawing individual hairs.
The face is made up of basic shapes and angles influenced by the bone and muscle structures beneath the skin. Try to think about these as you draw but don’t be too obvious in sketching basic forms.
Use tonal gradation to indicate three-dimensionality. Describing the shadows on the facial plane will give the head a sense of solidity.
The darkest shadow on the facial plane is within the eye sockets at either side of the nose. The shadow under the nose is lighter. Again, avoid rigid outlining unless you want a cartoon effect.
Once you’ve completed a full self-portrait, take a break before revisiting the image and consider how it might have been better. Do the proportions, angles, tones, etc., work? Note down your thoughts to help you when you begin work on your second self-portrait. Look at it in the mirror and see if there are measuring issues. Look at it upside down and from a distance. This helps you see with different eyes.
For the second image position yourself differently, and try using a different medium and approach. If the previous version was in pen and ink, try charcoal or conté.
The following page gives an indication of the basic proportions of the features in relation to the head, bearing in mind that all our faces are different and rarely symmetrical. If you weren’t happy with your first image, follow these guidelines for your second attempt. Compare the two self-portraits you’ve produced and make some notes in your learning log about what you did differently and how this affected the final outcome.
• Which drawing materials produced the best results? Why? • Does your self-portrait look like you? Trying showing it to some friends or family members. • How difficult was it to move on from sketches of individual features to a full portrait?
2B pencil sketches of myself in a mirror. Everything is kind of in the right place I think, but doesn’t really feel like my face – more focus needed.
For the first self-portrait I wanted to go larger so chose an A2 sheet of 200gsm fine grain/heavy weight paper. Drawing my self portrait, from my image in the mirror, while standing using a Pitt graphite block stick I began by lightly shading in the features of the nose first, working up to the eyes and then down to the mouth while all the time working on the other facial features around the central focal points. Once the nose, eyes and mouth were set, I placed the ear and then added darker shading where required. The smock top I was wearing was sketched in last. Finally, I added some very light conté dust brush marks to the deeper shadows of the face and also the right-hand background panel to give some contrast.
This was a much better rendering than the preparatory quick sketches. It took just over an hour to complete and overall I am fairly happy with it.
Drawn on an A2 280gsm canvas block sheet, my second self-portrait took an angle from the other side. I used POSCA marker pens to block in the background and the smock top and coloured ink and waterbrush for the facial features. I drew a rough outline of the head shape and once the background was completed I then proceeded as in my first drawing – starting with the nose, eyes and mouth while at the same time marking in features around (ear, neck, hair). It took some time and several runs of layering the ink, both wet-on-wet, and wet-on-dry, to try and get the colouring and shading about right for a sixty-two year old male with diabetes and high blood pressure – a bit chubby and the eyes don’t half seem intense, hey … that’s me – and my wife agrees, which is a wee bit worrying, joking!
This self-portrait took a couple of hours (waiting for stuff to dry and some reworking). All in all, I’m fairly satisfied with this effort as well, and together the two self-portraits are the best I have managed to produce, so far.
I am reasonably happy with both drawings. Using graphite block stick for the first self-portrait allowed me to get my mark making down on paper relatively quickly, and I enjoyed working to the larger scale that I did with the three preparatory sketches – they seem small, mis-shaped and not very satisfactory in comparison.
I enjoyed using the graphite stick and finger for rubbing.
The second self-portrait obviously took longer to complete, but again I enjoyed using the marker pens and ink. As to ‘best results’ in terms of drawing materials used, I feel that I am fairly comfortable with both sets of medium.
Rather than select a preference, my main observation is that capturing the essence the eye and what lies behind it remains a troublesome aspect – I think in both self-portraits the eyes are kind of scary, staring, fixed, almost lifeless and not actually a natural part of the facial features of this person – me?
Look at people (including yourself ) in the flesh, in magazines, TV and other places and study the individual features. Practise drawing these in your sketchbook, a couple of pages per feature – different kinds of nose, eyes, ears, lips, chin, hair, eyebrows, etc. If it helps, use an enlarging grid to scale up a found image. Bear in mind that tonal variation, hatching and curved lines help model the form of facial features in the same way as they do in a still life or landscape.
When you feel fairly confident, draw an entire face. Don’t worry if your lines and marks overlap and become untidy, and don’t erase your mistakes. These workings and re-workings are part of the thinking process and show your tutor that you understand where you went wrong and worked to put it right.
I again made use of 360⸋ DVD life models from Virtual Pose 3: the ultimate visual reference series for drawing the human figure (Chakkour, 2004), as well as various images from the web. Apart from one or two wobblies, I think that overall I have captured the facial forms and expressions fairly well.
The full face sketch was a challenge, but I am pleased with the way it has turned out – rugged, well lived face. 2B pencil in a variety of mark makings – lines, shadings and finger rubs.
‘People watching’ is a good way to understand human movement and interaction. This might be at the supermarket, on a bus or train, in a pub or café, cinema queue or takeaway. Night or day, observe different kinds of people – how they stand, how they interact, what they carry, what they’re doing with their hands, and how they dress. If you can do a few small and quick sketches on the spot, that’s great. If not, take a few discreet photos and try to keep the atmosphere of the scene in your memory until you return home, then try to recapture the colour, movement, drama, noise, etc., in your sketches.
How successful were your attempts to retain an image of a scene to draw later? How might you tackle this in future? Make some notes in your learning log.
My pocket drawing kit – an old Staedtler propelling pencil, refills and rubber.
This is a made-up grouping taken from different individual sketches of figures from street life observation and the illustrated book Glasgow: 24 hours in the life of a City (1990) London: Chapmans Publishers Ltd. to celebrate European City of Culture status.
An Inverness street scene.
Top – an Inverness street scene; and bottom – from Glasgow: 24 hours in the life of a City.
Top – from Glasgow: 24 hours in the life of a City; and below – an Inverness street scene.
Both sketches drawn from Glasgow: 24 hours in the life of a City.
Sketches 9 and 10 drawn from dance company images http://www.planbcreative.org; and sketch 11 drawn from Glasgow: 24 hours in the life of a City.
I think the sketches of images taken from the book and website are my take on what I saw in them that attracted me about their simple story-telling impact. The Inverness street scenes are much rougher in execution, having very quickly sketched down the basics and completed the sketches later on back at home – a tricky exercise and one that will need much more practice to begin to feel comfortable with.
Drawing a moving figure is different from drawing a posed figure – the person won’t slow down or wait patiently for you to finish. You’ve already had some practice in producing quick figure drawings but this project may be more of a challenge because you’ll need to draw quickly to record your subject in motion. This will probably mean looking up and out, concentrating on the subject in front of you while drawing ‘blind’, rather than looking down and concentrating on the sheet of paper.
As well as working outdoors and indoors you can draw people from a window, car, etc. Wherever you are, draw quickly and keep your eyes on the figure in action. Try to capture the vitality of the movement through fast and confident marks and lines, and don’t be tempted to repair or overwork the final image. Keep looking at the figure rather than the paper.
Use quick exploratory lines to express the overall flow and movement rather than seeking a perfect reproduction. Think about the speed and purpose of the figure in movement and how to capture the energy through stance, mark-making, etc. For example, someone running for a bus may have their coat flying and head thrust forward; the figure will have momentum and intention. Try to express this.
While working, make notes about your observation of moving figures and why they’ve caught your attention. Think about:
• Narrative – the story that reveals the reason for the activity, such as running for a bus or dancing. • Interaction – merging the moving figure with its surroundings, considering its relation to the environment and other figures, buildings, etc.
Look at the energy in this fast brush drawing by Richard Hambleton; his brush strokes echo the speed of the figure. Now go to David Haines’ website (http://www.davidhaines.org/work02.html) and find the drawing New Balance Sneakers vs KFC Bucket. Note the more restrained movement of the figures and the artist’s detailed rendition of the scene in pencil; here the act of drawing is slower and more careful.
Bizarrely energetic mark making – the joy of movement is ‘jumping’
off the paper.
Hyper-real drawing – action frozen in time, suspended in its every detail as seen by the viewer.
“Drawing can be seen as an act of theatre” – an interactive dialogue… a performance.”
“A photograph is static because it has stopped time. A drawing or painting is static because it encompasses time.” Berger, J. (first published in New Society, 1976) Drawn to that moment. [Essay] [pdf] [Online] Available at: http://www.spokesmanbooks.com/Spokesman/PDF/90Berger.pdf
[Accessed: 31 December 2015]
Brief for Exercise 1 – Single moving figure
Keep drawing moving figures in your sketchbooks. Try to fill a page a day; this will be a rich resource for future work as well as improving your figure drawing through regular practice.
How well have you managed to create the sense of a moving figure rather than a static pose?
I was intrigued by the ‘two pencil’ section in The drawing projects: An exploration of the language of drawing, pp73-75 (Maslen and Southern, 2011) and gave it go in sketches 1 to 5. I think the effect achieved does add a sense of energy to the figures, suggesting movement. The figures do feel more than mere static poses.
I used 360⸋ DVD life models from Virtual Pose 3: the ultimate visual reference series for drawing the human figure (Chakkour, 2004) for sketches 1 to 10 in this series.
In this sketch I added colour by taping 1 2B pencil with a blue and orange coloured pencils. Again, I think that movement is proposed in the stretching figure, both with the trailing leg and also the head reaching forward.
Dropping the black pencil, these blue and orange coloured pencil sketches hint at movement, especially with the crawling figure.
Change of colour to red and green pencils taped together and then the colour spread out slightly with a blender pen to try and capture a sense of movement.
For sketches 11 to 13, I used three dancers as my models, this sketch quickly laid down with InkTense block ink and brush pen – a fairly speedy method of capturing a moving figure.
The sketchbook page was rubbed with graphite powder, aiming for an atmospheric effect, and I used Artbar wax colour and blender pen to again try and keep up with the movement of the figure.
Continuing to try out different media I chose DJECO gel pens to aim for the flow of the dancer’s dress and arm and leg movements.
Overall, I think a sense of movement has been achieved in the figures drawn. I particularly enjoyed using the ‘two/three’ taped pencil method to quickly give the effect of energy and movement in the figure. It was a bit weird at first, but once becoming familiar with the ‘double vision’ appearance of the lines, it now seems like quite a natural method of sketching moving figures.
I also found that working with each of the coloured medium – InkTense block ink, Artbar wax block, and gel pens – offered different opportunities to try and capture that sense of movement – drawing lines quickly and overdrawing with different colours to gradually build not just layers of colour but also lines adding to the impression of movement.
Using different tools, materials and supports, work on three drawings of your model:
1. Standing 2. Seated 3. Lounging
The aim is to practise making interesting studies of the figure to show you’ve understood the basic structural principles, and are able to incorporate these using whichever style or approach fits your subject.
Ensure you have a good light source to help you observe the tones and shadows that fall across and underneath the body, emphasising its structure, form, weight and position within the overall scene.
Before you start on the larger sheets, spend some time looking at the stance, posture, movement or stillness of the figure. Move around the model assessing interesting viewpoints. Look for positions that may cause a challenge through foreshortening, for example lounging. Position yourself at a slight angle, so that you’re looking down, along and across the body in different ways. Observe the difference in the scale of the head and feet depending on your own viewpoint. Remember that there are often hidden parts that may be difficult to suggest, for example the shoulder furthest away when viewing from the side.
While you’re drawing, think about the skeleton that supports the body and the muscles and skin that soften the shape into something living. Also look closely at the shapes between and around the parts of the body and the room.
When you’re ready to start, make several two-minute studies in your sketchbook before moving on to the larger sheets. Spend between half and one hour on each of the three drawings (A2 or A1 size).
Review your completed drawings and make an honest assessment. How accurately did you depict the overall proportions of the figure? Did imagining the sitter’s skeleton and muscles help you to convey the figure’s structure and form?
Using a pre-prepared 40x55cm canvas board which had been given a greenish acrylic wash, I marked out the background walls and room forms with ink wash. Once dry, the figure and radiator were drawn in oil pastel. The head and upper body may be a touch on the large side, but not by much.
This time the pre-prepared canvas board had been given a reddish acrylic wash (as seen in the top right block of colour). The background and foreground room forms were marked in using soft pastel. The board was then given a spray of fixative and left to dry. The seated figure was drawn in marker pen and given a further coat of fixative. The proportions of the seated figure are about right and the skeletal structure of the legs in particular can almost be seen through the fabric of the light trousers.
This was drawn on a 200gsm A2 sheet of fine grain/heavy weight paper. I sketched the lounging figure lightly in 9H pencil and masked off the image with tape, using black gesso to create the dark surround – almost like a letter-box cinematic effect – a hint of mystery and an unusual viewpoint.
The light pencil outline of the figure was over-drawn using the tip of a size10 round brush and black ink. Further washes of coloured ink were applied, both wet-on-wet and wet-on-dry to try and build ‘body’ to the lounging figure sinking into the duvet, Certainly not as accomplished or elegant (or naked) as a reclining Titian or Manet.
I think overall that I managed to capture the essence of the original sketched figures, although I did make minor adjustments in the completed drawings. Also, in these completed pieces I found I couldn’t hold back from using colour, both in the basic background shapes and in the depiction of the figures themselves, experimenting with different media – ink, soft pastel, oil pastel – and degrees of layering colour.
My depictions of faces, hands and feet still require more practice – the facial expressions here in particular all seem a bit eery. However, I feel that the overall body shapes and proportions are about right. I also think that I am beginning to get a better feel for (if not understanding of) skeletal and muscular form of the human figure.
Loosely sketch some of the structures that make up the human body. Look for images online and in the library and use your own body as reference. Work in your sketchbooks to help you understand the body’s measurements and mechanics – for example the length of each part of a finger in relation to the other fingers, thumb and hand, the shape of the knee when the leg is bent or straight, the shape of the toes when the foot is relaxed or stretched, etc…
Looking closely, work upwards; start with your toes, sketching them in several positions, then do the same for the feet, ankles, calves, knees, thighs, hips, torso, shoulders, arms, elbows, hands, neck, and skull, until you have pages of small studies of the individual parts that make up your own body.
I used my own body for these sketches, drawing with and without mirrors.
Feet and toes, using a HB pencil.
Ankle, knee, leg and calf, using a joiner’s pencil.
Thigh and midriff (I really need to lose some weight!), torso, arm and hand, using a joiner’s pencil.
Neck and head, facials, elbow and wrist, using a joiner’s pencil.
Shoulder, thumb & forefinger, hand, thumb and curled finger, using a graphite stick block.
Hand and head, showing proportions, using a 2H pencil.
I still have a tendency to overwork lines, to the extent that some are no more than black blurs – a lighter touch is required.
Ask your model to adopt a ‘dynamic’ position – lifting an arm, twisting the hips, turning the head, stretching the arms or walking. They’ll need to be able to hold the pose for about five minutes.
Work on sheets of A3 paper and, using charcoal, brush pens or other tools that allow for broad and sweeping marks, quickly sketch the figure. Try to convey the sense of energy in each pose. Don’t worry about details – concentrate on the sense of movement in the figure.
The drawing above is all about movement. You can see how some rapidly drawn, flowing, undulating lines can create the effect of the dance. Lines repeated and close give the impression of movement. (Think of waves – tidal waves, heat waves, sound waves – all different kinds of repeated small or large movements.) Experiment with creating abstract marks that depict movement in your sketchbook.
I used charcoal pencil for all of these idea sketches and the models were once again taken from Krieger, B. (2015) Figure drawing studio: drawing and painting the nude figure from pose photos. New York: Sterling Publishing.
I initially selected 4 idea sketches for my A3 drawings – 1, 4, 7 and 10 and I drew these on 250gsm A3 Bristol Board using black ink and a size 10 Round brush.
I then selected idea sketches 5 and 8 and drew these on the same paper, but this time using a black marker pen.
I found that using my sketchbook to draft out some of the ideas about the figures I had selected helped a lot, both by practice with the charcoal pencil and also to allow my eye to get in the way of seeing flowing lines to hint at the sense of movement. One thing that also struck me was recognising evident areas of negative space – both small and large. These can perhaps be more clearly seen in the larger A3 drawings. For example:
Having practiced in the sketchbook I think my A3 drawings have captured what I was trying to do – draw quickly to put down the gestural marks of the model poses. I made the drawings standing with brush and marker pen held at arms length and allowed my arm make the movements as best as I could without
bending my wrist or fingers – mostly with successful results I think.
Look for the line of balance or the centre of gravity in a standing figure: it begins at the top of the skull and passes through the middle of the nose, straight down the middle of the chest cavity. With a back view, the line starts from the back of the neck on the spinal column. From a side view this line of balance starts at the back of the ear and travels down to the weight-bearing foot.
The line indicating the central axis also helps indicate where the body mass or majority of the body weight is placed. If the figure moves or if the model sits down, the weight or mass changes to a different area of the body.
Move around the model before you begin to draw to get a sense of where the figure is in its allotted space and to identify its centre of gravity and gesture. Mark the central axis in your initial sketches of the standing figure. Ask the model to change poses every two to five minutes. Draw as many quick poses as you can.
These will be useful as reference material for future work.
For sketches 1 – 7 I used a 360⸋ DVD life model from Krieger, B. (2015) Figure drawing studio: drawing and painting the nude figure from pose photos. New York: Sterling Publishing.
All sketches drawn with 8B pencil, marked with weight balance and steadying balance.
Full front view marked with 7 heads stance.
For sketches 8 and 9 I used a 360⸋ DVD life model from Chakkour, M.H. (2004) Virtual Pose 3: the ultimate visual reference series for drawing the human figure. Glouster, Mass: Hand Books Press.
For sketches 10 – 12 I used a DVD life model from Krieger, B. (2015) Figure drawing studio: drawing and painting the nude figure from pose photos. New York: Sterling Publishing.
Overall, I think I managed to capture the stances, forms,
proportions and balances of the various figures. However, there is no doubt that there are some saggy bottoms, over-large shoulders (particularly in the male figures) and mis-shaped facial expressions. Hands and feet are still a challenge – trying merely to suggest rather than detail. More practice needed.