We've reached half-term at LARA and also the end of the first four-week pose of the school year. I'm fairly pleased with the result, which has a good finish and a better sense of gesture than my previous two-week drawing.
I've been reflecting on what I've learnt from the drawing in order to decide what to focus on in the next one. There are several aspects I'd like to improve.
Beginning at the beginning, I committed to the block-in rather too soon, moving on to the more advanced stages without spending enough time chasing the shapes. It's good to keep the lines of the block-in straight, light and sketchy, since the outline and shadow line will inevitably need many revisions as the drawing progresses. It's a question of balance really. The idea is to be as accurate as possible but not allow the lines to get too nailed down too early.
In my case, after devoting a long time to a rather too refined outline, I found inaccuracies later on that I was reluctant to acknowledge and grapple with. In particular, I found the shape of the skull was badly observed and the length of the arm and abdomen were out of proportion. Separately, the entire pelvic region and length of the legs needed several revisions.
The portrait was my biggest problem. After a promising start, I eventually recognised that the location of the eyes was wrong. I initially nudged the eyes around, shaving off a bit here and adding a bit there, but this wasn't working. Before I really knew what was happening I'd entirely erased the eyes. The nose was the next victim and then the mouth and suddenly I had nothing left to work with.
By this stage the paper was becoming marred and scruffy and the only thing I could think to do was grab a separate piece of paper, attach it beside my drawing and do a fresh portrait study. That really helped and eventually I managed to get the head back, with an approximate likeness.
The later stages of the drawing were much more enjoyable. I experimented with lots of techniques to capture the correct shapes and values: liberal use of the black mirror, flicking the eyes back and forth to identify drawing errors (which appear to the eye by a sort of ''jump" in the form), squinting down to find value families and transitions. Though it may sound a bit mad, it is particularly helpful (and fun) to find and name abstract shapes in the figure, either looking directly at the model or through the mirror. After a while I was seeing shapes everywhere: a bird shape in the scapular, a dinosaur head in the ankle, an elephant head in the pelvis and so on. For some reason, giving a name to the shape makes it so much easier to be specific in describing that shape in line and value.
The last couple of days were spent working on the rendering. The result is a highly polished drawing with a pleasing sense of luminosity and texture, but one which does not have the breadth that I really want to aim for. To me, the most pleasing art has an economy of expression - revealing the maximum amount of information with the minimum of visual detail. That, above all, is what I'd like to work towards in the next and subsequent figure drawings.
Ben Laughton Smith
Contemporary works of art in the classical tradition.