DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt

2011/08/02

Try, Try Again

Filed under: Figure Drawing: Practice — Tags: , , , , , , — fred @ 23:28

Marilyn 1, June, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Last week I posted about the master of the “naked portrait”, Lucian Freud, who often spent hundreds of hours over a period of many months on a single painting.  Naked portraits are also among my practices, but I lack the patience to spend so much time laboring over a single image.  I feel my best work arises more from spontaneity than from perseverance, and so I just churn ’em out and hope a few are worth saving.

I run a weekly session at New York’s Spring Studio featuring a nude “long pose” – long by sketch standards, not by oil painting standards.  My class lasts three hours and starts with a set of two-minute warm-up poses; subtracting that set and breaks, the amount of time allotted for drawing the pose amounts to two hours.

Most artists work on a single drawing or painting during the session.  So do I, sometimes, but I also frequently decide to start over again one or more times.  In this post I’ll share recent examples of multiple tries at the same pose from the same viewing angle.  I’m sharing some of my failures, work I wouldn’t normally exhibit, because of what they reveal about my process.

The sketch that opens this post shows how I begin analyzing the angles of a pose.  You can see how I use a combination of triangulation and rhythmic curves to find the tension and structural energy of the pose.  In my second attempt, below, I’m building on that analysis, but drawing closer.  I often use lines to indicate the contours between shadows and highlights.

Marilyn 2, June, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Finally, I decide that all the magnificent arches and cantilevers of this pose are distilled in Marilyn’s face, with its pointed eyebrows and lips, and the lovely taut bow of the collarbone.

Marilyn 3, June, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Christophe is a model with an acting background, and his specialty is facial expressions.  Here he gave us anguish, leaning to one side.

Christophe 1, June, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Here I spent most of the session developing the drawing above.  At some point near the end of the session I decided I’d best stop working on it. lest I overwork it and destroy its power, a mistake I still sometimes make.  So I spent the last half hour or so simplifying what  I’d learned from the previous hours of study of Christophe’s expression into a linear abstraction of emotion, below.  Even though this drawing is an afterthought, I think it’s stronger than the one I spent more time on.  I wouldn’t have been able to do something like this from the start – its simplicity only arises from the experience of prolonged looking.

Christophe 2, June, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Here’s one of my favorite models, Betty.  I think I began drawing using the yellow crayon sideways to indicate the highlights of the body, then used white and black lines to delineate details and the contours between highlight and shadow areas.  Proportions are wildly off here, with the head half the size of the torso.

Betty 1, July, 2011, by Fred Hatt

So I started again and developed this figure in relation to the elements around it.  The head may still be a little too big, but that’s my strongest distortive tendency.  The face has so much structural complexity and carries so much expressive power, it needs as much space in the drawing as it needs!

Betty 2, July, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Below is another example where I managed to come up with a representation of the model’s face, body and expression that was pretty satisfactory, overall, but a bit dull, perhaps.

Mitchell 1, July, 2011, by Fred Hatt

So I moved in on the face and tried to summarize its specificity in line.

Mitchell 2, July, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Here’s stage one of a look at Luke’s seated pose.  All the drawings in this post were made during the summer.  In the hot months, the aquarelle crayons I use are softer and lay down a thicker layer of wax than they do in the cooler months.  Once there’s a certain density of wax on the paper, revision is hopeless.

Luke 1, July, 2011, by Fred Hatt

A second attempt shows my understanding of the figure sharpening.  Here I’m using a lot of cross-contours.

Luke 2, July, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Finally, again, I move in closer.  Here the style I”m using is like carving with a chisel.  I’m trying to approximate colors by the method of optical mixing.

Luke 3, July, 2011, by Fred Hatt

The final series of drawings in this post is from this past Monday.  This was my first shot at drawing Leah, a model that has inspired several lovely paintings by Daniel Maidman.  I started out measuring the pose by head-lengths.

Leah 1, August, 2011, by Fred Hatt

In the second attempt, the head was oversized – my usual tendency.  The pose has subtly changed since the first set, with the left knee and arm covering less of the torso.  Most of the artists were clustered to the model’s right side during this pose, and probably didn’t even notice the change in the pose.  I took advantage of it to study the structure of the chest and abdomen.

Leah 2, August, 2011, by Fred Hatt

My third try at this pose finds me moving closer, to allow a more detailed treatment of the face.  Still not quite right, though.

Leah 3, August, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Here’s the final try, developed during the last third of the session.  I still haven’t really captured Leah’s face, but I’m happy with the color and the challenging dangling hand in front of the thigh.  It can be hard to really get the essence of a model in the first session of studying her or him – you get what you can, and then time’s up!

Leah 4, August, 2011, by Fred Hatt

All the drawings in this post are aquarelle crayon on paper, 19 1/2″ x 25 1/2″ (50 cm x 65 cm).  Similar previous posts showing multiple attempts at the same pose include Variations and Redrawing.

2011/07/19

Dramatis Personæ

Bow, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Actor and writer Susan Merson invited me to make sketches at some of the sessions of New York Theatre Intensives, a six-week play development workshop and training program associated with New York’s Ensemble Studio Theatre.  Susan likes to get visual artists to respond in their own medium to the creative process of the actors, directors and writers.  The work is shared with the participants and may be used on the organization’s website and/or public presentations.

I attended two sessions there.  The first one was an acting workshop led by Janet Zarish.  I sat at the side of the room and sketched in white crayon on a 9″ x 12″ black pad.  The class began with warm-up exercises, including spine rolls, the game of tag, and slow-motion tag.  Since I’ve done a lot of movement drawing, this part of the class was a natural for me.

Tag, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Following the movement exercises, the acting students stood listening to the instructor.  Their postures show their energetic engagement.

Listen, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Next, various pairs of acting students performed their versions of little playlets.  The acting duos had been given a page or two of bare dialog, and they had to invent a context and back story and work it up into a scene.  They’d play the scene two or three times, with coaching and notes from the acting instructor.  I tried to make simplified personality sketches, essentially caricatures, of the actors playing their parts.  Fleeting expressions and attitudes are hard to catch in a drawing from life!

Copier, 2011, by Fred Hatt

In most of these, I tried to get more than one expression or position for at least one of the characters.  Without knowing the content of the scenes, you can see these as multiple-figure compositions.  Some kind of narrative content is implied in the drawings, but they’re highly ambiguous.  I don’t think anyone could guess much about the actors’ scenes from these sketches, but maybe the sketches could be imagination stimuli.  For instance, I could see the central figures in the one below as a couple’s public composure, while the faces on the edges represent hidden attitudes.

AA Meeting, 2011, by Fred Hatt

This exercise only increased my admiration for the great theatrical illustrator Al Hirschfeld, who spent eight decades at Broadway openings, sketching in a theater seat, and stylizing his impressions of the actors as elegant ink drawings that appeared alongside reviews in the New York Times.  Drawing actors in action is not easy, and I feel my attempts were pretty rough.

Afterlife, 2011, by Fred Hatt

The three sketches above are based on three acting duos’ interpretations of the same playlet, an encounter between two characters with diverging views of their relationship.  I’ve titled the sketches after context choices made by the actors.

The next three sketches are three different interpretations of a second playlet.  This one centers around one character trying to collect a long-overdue debt from the other character.  It was fascinating to observe how different choices and different actors’ personæ completely changed the feeling of the scene.

Hot Dog Park, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Naked Under Hoodie, 2011, by Fred Hatt

The actress below conveyed a particularly vivid sense of awkward nervousness toward her impassive debtor.

Wordvomit, 2011, by Fred Hatt

The acting class instructor, Janet Zarish, threw a lot of ideas at the actors, offering suggestions and modifications aimed at sharpening the characters and punching up the drama.  I was struck by her many crisp, incisive gestures.  I think they reflect her focus on performative clarity.

Instructor, 2011, by Fred Hatt

I sat in on another New York Theatre Intensives session, and will get to those sketches later in this post, but first, a sketch theater entr’acte.  American Independence Day, the fourth of July, fell between the two NYTI classes I attended.  Spring Studio, where I supervise one of the regular figure drawing sessions, hosted a July 4 special with models costumed as historical American characters, including a Revolutionary War era soldier, Buffalo Bill, Harriet Tubman, Pocahontas and Betsy Ross.  These sketches are in marker or pencil on white paper, 18″ x 24″, and all are based on poses held between two minutes and ten minutes.

American History Figures, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Noble Faces, 2011, by Fred Hatt

The models for this session were all what I would describe as character models.  Like character actors, they have distinctive faces, body types and ways of moving and looking that would stimulate the narrative imagination even without the costumes and props.  It’s impossible to draw these models in a generic way, because all of them are so distinctive.

Caretaker, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Small and Tall, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Barricade, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Later that week I went to a “rep class” session, led by Rod Menzies, at New York Theatre Intensives.  The actors did readings of new scenes by playwrights Crystal Skillman and Jason Holtham, with the playwrights present.  I believe part of the function of the session was for the writers to see how their work in progress was understood by the actors, and how it worked in front of an audience.  These drawings are 18″ x 24″ on white paper, in crayon and/or ink and brush.  Here’s the scene in the studio, with the instructor and playwright sitting at the left.

Studio Reading, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Crystal Skillman’s scene was for two actors, and a little longer than the playlets from the acting class, which gave me a better opportunity to study the actors.  The experience was a bit like what I imagine a courtroom artist does.

A Look, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Here’s my impression of the discussion, with the class instructor and the playwright at the left, and some of the students in discussion at the right.  They really did overlap like that, from my viewing position.  I chose to make them transparent.

Watching and Discussing, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Although the actors sitting to read stayed more still than they did in the acting class, where they had memorized their lines, it’s still hard to draw a reading, because the actors have their heads and eyes down at their scripts much of the time, and their facial expressions and energetic engagements with one another tend to be fleeting.  This remained so even after instructor Rod Menzies urged the actors to engage with each other even at the cost of missing lines in the scripts.

Cold Reading, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Model U. N., 2011, by Fred Hatt

Jason Holtham’s scene was about high school students at a Model United Nations simulation conference.  All the characters were named after the nations they were representing in the conference, which allowed the scene to be read on two levels.

Playwright, 2011, by Fred Hatt

I switched to ink and brush for a few sketches.  The brushed ink line is more expressive than the crayon line, but also much more difficult to control.

Characters, 2011, by Fred Hatt

The directions of eyes and eyebrows, and the set of the mouth, are the most immediately readable indicators of emotion and relational role, at least among those that can be captured in a quick sketch that lacks the sound of the voice, the movement of the body, and the narrative developments of the script.

Reactions, 2011, by Fred Hatt

For me, the experience of sketching at these theater classes drew on my long-term practice of drawing from movement.  I’m used to sketching from dance, with the attention given to large physical movement.  The actors didn’t move so much – most of the interesting changes going on were subtle facial cues.  In drawing faces, I’m accustomed to doing portraits, where I can take my time to study the structure and character of a face.  Trying to apply the quick-response, gestural interpretation of movement to facial expressions was a challenge I definitely haven’t yet mastered, but I love to keep finding fresh challenges!

I’d be interested to hear from actors or other participants in the classes about what you see in my sketches, and whether they reveal anything to you that you might not get by looking at a still photo or video of the classes.  Please feel free to comment here, and I’ll respond.  (Comments from first-time commenters are held for moderation, so may take a day or so to appear on the blog.)

 

2011/06/03

Choices

Filed under: Figure Drawing: Practice — Tags: , , , , , — fred @ 11:08

Opposite Sides, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Life drawing as a practice involves a tension between habit and novelty.  Everyone I know who attends open figure drawing sessions has their favorite places to set up, their usual distance and scale, their familiar materials and techniques.  Anything unfamiliar, even a model you aren’t used to, is likely to make the quality of your work suffer.  Naturally, most artists are happy when they’re drawing or painting fluently, and unhappy when they’re struggling and stumbling, and they find that cleaving to habitual ways helps a lot.  This is as true for me as it is for any artist.

On the other hand, constantly working a well-worn rut will never get you anywhere new.  It’s exercise, but not the kind of exercise that builds strength or expands capacity.  It’s boring, and often the artwork that comes out of it is well-controlled but boring.  I believe most artists are far too sensitive to doing bad or awkward work, and far too insensitive to the hazards of the rut.

Boredom is a regular aspect of life drawing sessions.  Even when you love drawing and love looking at naked bodies, and often feel excitement and flow in your work, there are times when you’re looking at the same model in the same pose you’ve seen a hundred times, when your angle of view obscures the most dynamic part of the pose, or when your energy level flags.

My strategy is to introduce controlled variations, to break one part of the set of habits at a time.  I might try changing my scale of drawing, moving away from my habitual spot, or focusing on a particular aspect of the pose or scene that’s different from my usual approach.  When the model takes the pose, I’ll often make a choice at that moment:  Which element of my work should depart from the norm?

The drawing at the top of the post is from the Monday morning long pose class I supervise at Spring Studio.  After a set of quick poses for warm-up, the model takes a single pose for the rest of the session.  Subtracting the breaks, we have about two hours of drawing time for the long pose.  I’m quick, so my greatest hazard is to overwork drawings, a mistake I still find myself making sometimes.

Kuan, the model for the above drawing, has a beautifully toned and well-defined body.  She took a sideways seated pose, looking towards the center of the room.  I took the opportunity to go to the left side of the room and study her back.  But I thought I’d be likely to overwork just the back, so I used half the sheet of paper, saving the other half for a study of the same pose from the opposite side of the room.  Besides going beyond the one-sided view to which two-dimensional artists usually confine themselves, this turned out to be a fascinating study in proportional and structural relationships.

Absence, 2011, by Fred Hatt

The 20-minute drawing above was done at Figureworks, where the models pose in an archway between two rooms.  I was at an angle where this reclining pose was highly foreshortened and partially blocked by the edge of the arch on the left.  I could have moved to a different spot, to see an unobstructed view, or a more straight-on angle.  Instead, I chose to let the left edge of the paper be the edge of the arch, centering the composition on the empty part of the blanket on which the model was lying.

Floor Cloth, 2010, by Fred Hatt

In this reclining pose, I also focused on the floor and the blanket, leaving the body as a silhouette with some cross-contour shading.  Here the shape formed by the body is defined by its negative space.  The folds of the fabric even help give a sense of the weight and solidity of the body.

Framing, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Here’s another pose defined largely by coloring in the negative spaces.  The colors used for walls, floor and fabric have nothing to do with the actual hues of the scene.  They’re chosen to enhance the form of the pose.  I particularly like the diamond-shaped space between the arms, chest and thigh, that takes on the appearance of a tetrahedron with yellow and green faces.

Contour, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Here’s another archway pose, with the model turned away from me and the edge on the right blocked.  I started drawing in red, just the front contour of the body from shoulder to knee, but then I decided I wanted to include the foot and the hair, so I flipped the paper upside down and drew again, at a smaller scale, on the opposite side of the page.  I left the upside-down red contour, making an interesting river of negative space between the two views of the pose.

Right Triangles, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Side views of the body are particularly challenging, especially when none of the landmark features are visible.  Here my attention was captured by the squareness of the seated pose and the angularity of the model’s face.  The colored areas in the background are pure invention, to emphasize this contrast between right angles and diagonals.

Cluster of Fingers, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Here is yet another seated pose, viewed from the side.  I could find no dynamism in the pose or composition, and couldn’t see the model’s face, but the hands were clasped together in a way that was highly complex, and I was close enough to see them pretty well, so I took the opportunity to practice hands, widely considered the most difficult part of the body to capture in drawing.

Nazarene, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Like complicated hand positions, the face at an unusual angle is very challenging to draw, so I try to practice it when the opportunity arises.  These attempts often turn out with distortions, and this drawing does have certain distortions, but I think it succeeds in capturing a sense of aliveness, not only through the facial expression, but also through the angles and composition.

Sketcher and Poser, 2011, by Fred Hatt

This portrait from a Figureworks life drawing session needed one more element, so I included a sketch of Randall, Firgureworks’ proprietor, with his sketchbook on the other side of the room.  I made him much smaller in relation to the main figure than he actually appeared from my angle of view, which makes the main figure appear to be seen from very close.  This is the same effect you get with a photo taken from close to the subject with a wide-angle lens, with the perspective differences between foreground and background exaggerated.

Facing Light, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Here’s a back view with the shape of the figure highlighted by the window she’s facing and the light from the window reflecting off the polished hardwood floor.  Sometimes a very simple treatment of the background greatly enhances the sense of real presence of a figure by creating a space for it to occupy.

In a Room, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Here’s a more complex variation on the same idea.  The space is simplified into areas of differing value and color, just enough to make the figure a solid reality in a world of air and light.

Many of these poses could have been boring drawings had I not made choices to do something different from my habitual approach.  These experiments aren’t always successful – in fact they increase my chances of making terrible, embarrassing drawings.  But without the unusual choices, the results might have been competent but rather dull.

All the drawings in this post are aquarelle crayon on paper, approximately 18″ x 24″.

2011/02/11

Rough Likeness

Chuck, 2009, by Fred Hatt

There’s an old saying that all artists paint themselves.  Take a look at these examples compiled by art historian Simon Abrahams, different artists’ portraits of Napoleon, paired with the same artists’ self-portraits, to get a sense of how literally this statement may be taken.  In a broader sense, of course, the artist depicts her or his own perception, energy, and way of relating to the world and other people.  The portrait is perhaps the most relational, the most other-directed of all the traditional forms of pictorial art.  The most wonderful portraitists, from Diego Velasquez to Alice Neel, seem to feel their sitters so deeply that the subject’s personality shines through the work even despite the artist’s very distinctive style.

The whole point of the portrait, after all, is to capture a likeness.  Of course, a snapshot can get a pretty good likeness.  The interesting thing about a portrait drawn or painted by hand, directly from life, is in how it records the way an artist looks at another person, the interplay between how the sitter presents himself or herself, and how the artist experiences that through the focus of artistic representation.

In this post I share some of my portrait drawings for what they reveal about how I see and draw.  Here I have selected only relatively rough sketches, mostly 20-minute pieces.  The rough sketch shows the feeling out of the form, the attempt to understand the distinctive features that will give the drawing a likeness to the subject.  In a more finished work the initial analysis is obscured under layers of refining, so here we’ll look only at quick sketches for what they show best.  All of these are drawn directly from life, with no photographs, preliminary sketches, or optical aids.  All of these are from open life drawing sessions, not from commissioned sittings.  I find I draw more freely in these sessions, where there is no requirement to succeed.

Here’s a famous illustration from Alfred L. Yarbus’ study, Eye Movements and Vision:

Saccadic eye movements looking at a face, from Yarbus, "Eye Movements and Vision" (1967)

Human visual perception is quite different from photography.  A camera records a whole field of light levels simultaneously.  The human eye has only a very indistinct perception of the wide field.  We see by constantly scanning the scene, and the full picture is assembled in the brain, not in the eye.  A fuller explanation can be found in this post.

Yarbus used eye-tracking equipment to analyze how people scanned objects, their perception dancing from one salient detail to another.  The tracing of the eye movements in the above illustration is, in itself, a very rough portrait.  This is essentially what the process of observational drawing is:  every glance of the eyes is a moment of perception, recorded by the artist’s hand rather than Yarbus’ eye-tracking system.  Most artists combine this direct perceptual recording with various analytical techniques.

Michael R, 2010, by Fred Hatt

The fundamental particles of perception in drawing are contours and light/dark variation.  For me, the trick of faithfully converting visual perceptions to marks on the paper is to experience the sensations of the eye as tactile sensations.  All the human senses are extensions of the sense of touch, complex organs evolved to focus particular aspects of the environment to be felt by specialized nerves and interpreted by specialized areas of the brain.  I think my extensive experience in body painting helped me to train my brain to this task.  I am used to feeling the body through the soft touch of a brush stroking over its surface.  When I look at the light falling upon the body or face, I imagine that the light is stroking the skin, being gently applied by an invisible brush.  My hands are familiar with the feeling of this brush, and naturally reproduce the movements of this imaginary brush of light.

Alexa, 2010, by Fred Hatt

I usually prefer to draw on a gray or mid-toned paper.  I use a light crayon, white or any color lighter than the ground, as I follow the undulations of light over the three-dimensional surface of the face.  In the same way that I think of the light crayon as a brush, I sometimes imagine the black or dark crayon (or pencil, or marker) as a chisel working on a sculpture, carving the deeper shadows, the hard edges and crisp contours.  On gray paper, I focus alternately on the highlights and the dark places, and let the paper provide the more passive in-between values.

Michael H, 2011, by Fred Hatt

I try to stay always engaged in a tactile way, moving with force and feeling as though I am engaged in massage or sculpture.  I almost never allow myself to lapse into imagining the drawing as a flat surface.

Bob, 2007, by Fred Hatt

The particular contours of an individual’s features convey the singular essence that the viewer experiences as likeness to the person.  In the sketch above, note the free-flowing quality of the light lines, and the very different quality of the dark lines as they clearly delineate the shapes of such salient features as eyebrows, lips and jawline.

Adam, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Adam, the face above, is utterly different from Bob, the previous one. Adam had a wiry intensity, and that energy affected the quality of all my lines.  If the light lines in the Bob drawing meandered like a delta stream, those in this Adam drawing are quick and jagged, like strokes of lightning.  The eyes are surely larger than proper proportionality would dictate, but it works with the energy and does not destroy the likeness.

Robyn, 2010, by Fred Hatt

On this one, Robyn, the mouth is too big.  Caricaturists have long understood that if you get the shapes of the features right, proportions can be way off and the likeness still holds.  [Check out the fantastic celebrity caricatures of my friend, Dan Springer, to see this principle masterfully applied.]  If I’m doing a longer portrait, I’ll try to correct the proportions as I go along, but I don’t worry about it at first.  The likeness will be better if the drawing captures the sitter’s energy, and for that, the drawing must be spontaneous.

Shizu, 2010, by Fred Hatt

After I’ve brushed in the lights and chiseled in the darks, sometimes I use mid-value colors to analyze the structure, to figure out angular relationships or to unify forms that remain vague even after the light and dark have been separated.

Izaskun, 2009, by Fred Hatt

When the drawing conveys both the quality of energy that the sitter expresses, and the particular shapes of individual features, it will seem to have likeness to its subject.

Taylor, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Each of these drawings was done in approximately twenty minutes.  All of them are drawn with aquarelle crayons on paper.  All are 18″ x 24″ (45.7 x 61 cm) or a little bigger.

2011/01/24

Quick Pose as Dance

Chuck 20101018a (crayon), by Fred Hatt

 

I fill up a sketchbook every couple of months with the quick (one minute to five minute) poses from the life drawing sessions I attend regularly.  I almost never exhibit or sell these pieces.  The sketchbook is a practice space.  I try different media, experiment with things like varying the scale or drawing shadows as contours, and I really don’t worry that some of the drawings fall flat or even crash and burn.  Sometimes I use a big sketchbook and sometimes a smaller one.  In the fall of 2010, I filled up two 18″ x 24″ (45.7 x 61 cm) spiral-bound sketch pads.  More recently, I’ve been using a smaller sketchbook, but when I looked back at the bigger ones I felt the fact that I could get multiple figures on a single page conveyed a sense of movement, of one pose flowing into the next, much more effectively than the smaller sketchbooks, where most of the poses are isolated one to a page.

In this post I’ll share some of those fall 2010 sketchbook pages.  Rather than discussing them individually, I’ll give the images in random order, with my thoughts interspersed.  Most of the words relate to the whole set of sketches, not just those directly above or below.

Adam 20101106c, by Fred Hatt

 

For me, a drawing can reproduce the form and structure of the body, the light and shadow, space and weight, with precision, and that can be beautiful.  But if a drawing captures the feeling of living energy or movement, now that’s exciting.  So I like to view a series of quick poses as a kind of dance performance.

Kuan 20100906q, by Fred Hatt

 

Most, maybe all, of the sketches in this post are from two-minute poses.  In a typical quick pose set, a model will perform ten two-minute poses of their own choosing.  Usually the monitor or supervisor of the session will call “Change,” at two minute intervals.  It’s like a dance, but instead of being performed in flowing movement, it’s composed of a series of held positions.

MichaelR 20101002b, by Fred Hatt

 

Many of the models are dancers or actors.  Others are visual artists themselves, or writers, musicians, athletes, bodyworkers, yogis.  Some of them have a deeper working knowledge of anatomy than do most of the figurative artists drawing them.

Betty 20100927c, by Fred Hatt

 

Some models want to express emotion, others want to show energy, to reveal structure, or to explore grounding and focus.

MichaelH 20100911b, by Fred Hatt

 

I don’t just look at the pose.  I watch the transitions even more intently.  In the way the model moves from one pose to the next you can see where in the body the energy is concentrated, where there is a push or a pull into the next pose.  The contours that express that impulse or that tension are the lines that make the drawing dynamic.

Maho 20100122b, by Fred Hatt

 

At the two drawing venues I attend regularly, Spring Studio and Figureworks Gallery, we’re fortunate to have a great variety of models, ranging in age from 18 to 90 or so, and in body type from emaciated to corpulent.  Our models also vary greatly in their personality and their approach to the job of modeling.

Kyle 20101115d, by Fred Hatt

 

I look for the characteristics that make each model unique.  This means focusing on specific curves and angles.  Some teachers of drawing urge an approach that simplifies and abstracts the body structures, but too much abstraction makes all the figures generic.  It’s much more interesting to be as specific as possible.

Jiri 20101122c, by Fred Hatt

 

Each model has particular qualities.  The model above has long, angular limbs and a face that reaches forward with intensity.  The one below has an elegant torso that is all parabolic curves, with a beautiful bowlike collarbone.

Vassilea 20101206b, by Fred Hatt

 

In The Natural Way to Draw, Kimon Nicolaides teaches a method of learning figure drawing that starts from two seemingly opposite exercises – scribbly, spontaneous “gesture” drawing, and slow, painstaking “contour” drawing.  When you get more practiced, you begin to understand that every contour has a gestural expressive aspect, and every gestural marking has its own contour, so these extremes meet and merge.

Shizu 20100918b, by Fred Hatt

 

I often let the figures spill off the edges of the page.  The sketches can look more dynamic that way, and it is often more interesting to capture more detail in the most dynamic part of the pose than to spend that time dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, so to speak.  But the direction of the head, and of the hands and feet, can be an important part of what makes the pose expressive.

Chuck 20101018c (crayon), by Fred Hatt

 

Some models like to act out scenes or perform actions, either everyday ones or dramatic ones.

Adam 20101106d, by Fred Hatt

 

Some models come out of one pose completely and then go into a completely different next pose, while others treat the transition from one pose to the next as a flow, perhaps keeping part of the body anchored while another part changes direction.

Ellen 20101129b (pen), by Fred Hatt

 

Some models are students of the history of figurative art, and derive their poses from what they’ve seen in the work of Caravaggio, Rubens, or Rodin.

Yisroel 20101011b, by Fred Hatt

 

Some models take casual poses, varying attitudes or presentations of the balanced body.

Carmen 20101030d (ink brush), by Fred Hatt

 

Other models like to use quick poses to explore their limits of stretching or balancing, taking poses that are highly challenging to hold even for one or two minutes.

Elizabeth 20100920a, by Fred Hatt

 

Poses that twist or reach into open space tend to untwist or droop a bit, even in just a minute or two.  Many of the classic poses involve bracing one part of the body against another or against a wall or support, to ensure stability.

Shizu 20101113a, by Fred Hatt

 

Most models have a repertory of poses that they use frequently.  Most have a consistent style or feeling that is maintained through a whole set of long poses.  When the feeling or type of pose changes radically from one to the next, a multi-pose page looks less like a record of the flow of movement, and more like a scene with more than one character.

Sue 20101025c, by Fred Hatt

 

A set of quick poses usually reveals more of the particular character of a model than a long pose does.  It’s not possible for a model to really push limits or put intense energy into a long pose.  Quick poses are a performance, a gift of energy to the artist.  I always feel that I must give total focus and intensity to this exercise.  Like most of the good things in life, a quick pose must be savored in the moment, because it can’t last long!

Ellen 20101129c (pen), by Fred Hatt

 

All of these sketchbook pages are 18″ x 24″, and all were made between September and December of 2010.  All are done in pencil unless otherwise noted.

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