DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt


Give Me a Minute or Two

Hand Over Eyes, 2010, by Fred Hatt

A typical traditional life drawing class starts with quick poses, one or two minutes each, and then proceeds to progressively longer poses.  Some people call quick poses “warm-ups”, reflecting the idea that a drawing session is like a workout.  For the artist, responding as quickly as possible limbers up the hand-eye coordination.  For the model, stretching and twisting wakes up the body and gets the energy flowing, which helps in holding the longer poses to come.  Some people call quick poses “action poses” or “gestures”, because both model and artist strive to project a feeling of movement or expression.

Crouch with Twist, 2009, by Fred Hatt

I love quick poses because they invite a sense of abandon in the models.  Active poses reveal a personal essence in how a model projects energy, and how that energy is revealed through the particular forms of the body.

Begging, 2010, by Fred Hatt

When you only have a minute or two, you have to respond directly.  There’s no time to waste dithering over corrections or using an analytical approach.  Faces, hands and feet are “detail traps” so I usually indicate them with very simplified marks.  The contours that reveal the expressiveness of a pose are all simple curves.  Each curve that I discover can be rendered with a single stroke of pencil, pen or brush.

Preparing to Rise, 2009, by Fred Hatt

These simple curves can indicate considerable detail about the model’s anatomy as well as their pose.  Drawable curves are not only the outlines of parts of the body, but may also be found in creases in the skin, the bulges of muscles or bones, or even the edges between areas of light and shadow.

Front and Back, 2009, by Fred Hatt

I try to keep one curve flowing directly into the next.  And though I usually sketch using only lines, not shading, I am always aware of the shading, and I see every curve as indicating a three dimensional form that has depth and heft.

Stepping Up and Turning Head, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Skin folds and the features of underlying anatomical structures often give a sense of the swooping or thrusting direction of movement of a pose.

Twist on Knees, 2009, by Fred Hatt

I’ll continue by interspersing some quotes from Kimon Nicolaides’ brilliant book, The Natural Way to Draw (1941, Houghton Mifflin).  This is the best approach to learning drawing that I’ve ever come across.  Though I describe myself as self-taught since I never went to art school, in a real sense Nicolaides was my teacher, through this book.  My sketches aren’t specific illustrations of the words that appear adjacent to them, they’re just interleaved to keep both eye and mind engaged.

Step and Reach, 2009, by Fred Hatt

“You should draw, not what the thing looks like, not even what it is, but what it is doing.  Feel how the figure lifts or droops – pushes forward here – pulls back there – pushes out here – drops down easily there.  Suppose that the model takes the pose of a fighter with fists clenched and jaw thrust forward angrily.  Try to draw the actual thrust of the jaw, the clenching of the hand.  A drawing of prize fighters should show the push, from foot to fist, behind their blows that makes them hurt.”

Crawling and Seeking, 2009, by Fred Hatt

“This thing we call gesture is as separate from the substance through which it acts as the wind is from the trees that it bends.  Do not study first the shape of an arm or even the direction of it.  That will come in other exercises.  Become aware of the gesture, which is a thing in itself without substance.”

Upward and Downward, 2009, by Fred Hatt

“Gesture is intangible.  It cannot be understood without feeling, and it need not be exactly the same thing for you as for someone else.  To discover it there is required only practice and awareness on your part.  You learn about it more from drawing than from anything I can say.”

Hands to Floor, 2009, by Fred Hatt

“By gesture we mean, not any one movement, but the completeness of the various movements of the whole figure.  That is why in the beginning I told you to keep the whole thing going at once.  The awareness of unity must be first and must be continuous.”

Head in Hands, 2009, by Fred Hatt

“The eye alone is not capable of seeing the whole gesture.  It can only see parts at a time.  That which puts these parts together in your consciousness is your appreciation of the impulse that created the gesture.  If you make a conscious attempt merely to see the gesture, the impulse which caused it is lost to you.  But if you use your whole consciousness to grasp the feeling – the impulse behind the immediate picture – you have a far better chance of seeing more truly the various parts.  For the truth is that by themselves the parts have no significant identity.  You should attempt to read first the meaning of the pose, and to do this properly you should constantly seek the impulse.”

Triangular Reach, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Nicolaides’ approach to learning drawing starts from two basic concepts, gesture and contour.  Initially they seem like opposite ways of approaching the figure.  Gesture drawing focuses on action and expression, while contour drawing focuses on form.  In practice, at least in my own experience, the two approaches gradually merge through practice.  Ultimately the energy of gesture imbues the tracing of contours, and the distinction between gesture and contour disappears.

Leaning Slope, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Forward, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Foot Thrust Back, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Most figurative artists have a natural inclination to prefer either quick poses or long poses.  Many artists in a self-directed practice choose to work on only one or the other.  I believe the best thing any artist can do to deepen their life drawing skills is to seriously tackle the type of pose they do not naturally relate to.  The energy and efficiency developed through quick drawing practice can significantly enliven a long pose drawing.  The sustained attention and notice of subtleties exercised in longer drawings hone the perception that is key to drawing quick poses.

Shoulder Stand, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Stepping Up, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Here are three more pages from my sketchbook, each one containing two sketches of action poses, subsequent poses by the same model from a quick pose set.  Notice what different qualities of energy and feeling are expressed in the poses that share the page.  This is the real heart of the study of life drawing:  the amazing variety of expression of the human body.

Head Turning, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Stride and Crouch, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Sad and Proud, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Most of the sketches in this post are two-minute poses.  They’re drawn with pencil or cartridge brush-pen in sketchbooks, sizes 11″ x 14″ (28 x 36 cm) or 14″ x 17″ (36 x 43 cm).

« Newer Posts

Powered by WordPress

Theme Tweaker by Unreal