Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Figure Drawing Intensive Workshop
This past weekend, I conducted a figure drawing intensive workshop at the School of Light and Color in Fair Oaks, Ca. When I agreed to do the workshop, I wasn't sure how I'd approach condensing a whole lot of information into just two days. "It would be pretty intense", I thought. And so I threw in the term "intensive" in the title of the workshop. And it was pretty intense.
At my old studio, I taught a weekly drawing class but this was the first time I'd done a drawing "workshop". I'm glad I did. It forced me to think more clearly the process of seeing, analyzing, and interpreting the figure, and try to break it down into digestible bits of information.
We don't have to worry about color when drawing, so one can say that drawing is easier than painting. On the other hand, it's also true that you don't have color and gooey paint to hide your weaknesses. You can't fake it, in other words. It is frustratingly difficult to pack a whole lot of information and expression in a single line, but when done well there's nothing like it. Da Vinci said simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. He knew what he was talking about, didn't he.
What I teach in my drawing workshop is not the exacting rendering of the Academic tradition. You know where the model sits for hours, sometimes days on end in the same pose and the students painstakingly copy what's in front of them as precisely as humanly possible. No, I never liked doing that in school, and I still don't like it.
My own opinion is that the gesture is the most important element of figure drawing, followed by depiction of form.
I stress in my class, that our job is to communicate what the model is doing, not what she looks like. I think it's important to define the purpose of our endeavor, else we're lost in the sea of conflicting methods and philosophies.
I have my students do 15 second drawings of what looks like stick figures. I'm sure some students thought "I'm paying money to draw stick figures!?" But we quickly progress to longer poses, each time I add one or two new elements to consider. Like the addition of cross contours, form overlap, and foreshortening.
You can't learn to draw in just a weekend, but given enough information and tips on how to see, and analyze the figure, you can at least know what to look for. Indeed, everyone - and I mean every single student in my workshop - made great progress. I can see light bulbs going off as they drew their cross contours and that's very exciting and rewarding to me.
The first day was spent entirely on line work. No "shading", because I wanted everyone to be able to depict form without using shading to suggest volume. Nothing wrong with using tones to show volume, but I didn't want it to be a crutch. Too many people rely on tone and fail to understand the full potential of the line. If you can draw the form with just line, then you have so much more freedom of expression with the tone, because the volume is already there before you even indicate any shadows.
Anyway, I learned a lot by teaching this workshop, and I believe I will be doing this again in mid July. If you're interested, please make sure you're on my mailing list so that you don't miss it.
Posted by Terry at 9:56 PM