Last weekend I conducted a workshop on the structure of the human head. It was an intensive three-day workshop and we covered a lot of ground, starting with using rhythm lines to build the framework, to drawing with tone, to painting.
I wanted to offer as much information as I could in the short period of time we had, at the same time offering instruction on how this information is applied in practice.
In the above photo I'm explaining the planes of the head, and pointing out which plane changes correspond to which rhythm lines.
After a slide lecture showing analyses of twenty or so works by old masters, I did a demo of the rhythm lines. It's one thing to show where they are, and quite another to actually apply them to build a head drawing. I used a print out of a painting by Sargent (left) and Van Dyke (right)
I had the students practice first using a tracing paper over the print outs, then side-by-side without tracing.
In the afternoon, we applied this method to drawing from the model. With the introduction of tone, things got a little complex - but everyone did great.
The key point that I stressed was to use the rhythm lines to get to the volume quickly, so that when we are indicating light and shadow, we're not merely copying patches of value. If we can conceive the drawing as dimensional from the get-go, rendering tone is that much easier and purposeful.
On Day 2, we spent all day drawing from the model. Longer poses, with a lot more process-oriented techniques. Although I tend to teach principles more than techniques, (focusing on technique often results in superficial understanding of the concepts) I wanted to make sure the students understood how the technique is relevant to underlying principles and they're not about tricks and effects. This type of process drawing is great for teaching that, because you really have to push and pull a lot to get what you need. It's not so sequential and formulaic, you see.
Here I am doing a demo using a Frank Duveneck head painting.
On day 3, we moved on to painting. In the morning, we just used black and white. It's a good way to transition from charcoal rendering to paint. The principles don't change. Only the medium has changed.
Finally in the afternoon of the third day, we added some color. The palette is limited, which helped to keep things simpler.
It was a very successful workshop, I think. I was actually surprised at how well everyone did, considering most of the students had never had instruction in this stuff. It's not an easy thing but keeping the process logical and organized really helped everyone to visualize volume and structure.
I'll be doing this workshop again sometime in the fall or the winter. I have a few ideas as to how to make it better, one of which is to make it a 4 day workshop.
If you are interested in taking the workshop next time, stay tuned! You'll hear about it first in my e-newsletter. So if you're not getting them (I send one out every few months) but would like to, please hop onto the mailing list by clicking on the link in the sidebar.