I've been thinking a lot about my grandfather over the last few weeks. Once, when I was at school, he sent me a detail of a marrow plant that he drew when he was 14.
On the back of the photograph he had written the following advice, along with some somewhat tongue-in-cheek thoughts on modern art education:
"If you have a standard to work to it's quite easy. Get a similar object, don't speak and give it 100% of your concentration. Measure and examine its cross-section, structure, pattern etc. Start from the inside, for example, plot the veins of the leaves, flowers etc. including those you cannot see, ending up with its outside or visual appearance. I looked at Durer's drawing of a columbine."
He went on: "To do modern art you must never stop talking. This helps to stifle any logical thought on criticism. Also you need not look at your work while you are doing it, which would impede the flow of conversation or verbal diarrhoea. If you do this you should become popular with other people because they will feel comfortable in your presence and able to discuss your work with as much authority as you who have done it - as they do with other modern artists and musicians. I believe this is much easier to do. It is certainly quicker and more profitable."
Well, it isn't exactly a marrow, but taking the spirit of the advice I have just finished a 50-or-so hour stretch on drawing a cast taken from Michelangelo's David. Depressingly, I'm not quite sure my skills as a draftsman are much of a match yet for my prodigious grandfather at 14, but the exercise of producing this has certainly taught me a lot. The next cast I am tackling is an ear taken from the same series of features - this time in charcoal.
Incidentally, if anyone visited the exhibition in Stroud it would be great to hear what you thought, so do drop me a comment here if you have time.
In addition to our usual studio practice, students at LARA have the opportunity to take a weekly anatomy class. It's been a really enjoyable and informative programme so far so I thought I'd share a few resources that I've found useful in getting to grips with basic human anatomy and the major landmarks of the body.
In terms of online resources (not just for anatomy but for all kinds of drawing related topics) I would highly recommend the online videos of Stan Prokopenko (www.proko.com). He's a very skilled artist and educator and his videos are concise, well produced and enjoyable to watch. Some of the content is 'paid for' but a fair bit, including the "landmarks of the human body" video, are free.
The classic text on artistic anatomy is by Dr Paul Richer. It is probably the best reference book of its kind. It's very detailed, with excellent diagrams. I believe a pdf version is available too.
For a much shorter reference book (say, to keep by your easel during figure drawing) - it's worth having a look at James Dunlop's Anatomical Diagrams for Art Students.
A recent acquisition is the Complete Guide to Life Drawing by Gottfried Bammes, which has some slightly strange illustrations from exercises set by Bammes to his students. In amongst these, though, are some really excellent schematised diagrams of major features of the body. These diagrams are especially helpful in breaking down the more complicated areas of the body in order to better understand their structure. The one on the structure of the pelvis, for example, is useful - and I've copied it a number of times.
Also worth a look is the L'Ecorche app which I highlighted in my last post.
Ben Laughton Smith
Contemporary works of art in the classical tradition.