Saturday, May 19, 2007
I didn't do any painting today; instead I spent most of the day drawing the head to toe "cartoons" I will transfer to two canvasses for the portraits of siblings, a boy of 12 and a girl of 17. "Cartoon" is the word used to indicate a line drawing, one with little or no shading to indicate form. I draw on tracing paper, where it is very easy to erase and correct, and when I feel I have the drawing the way I want it, I transfer it to the canvas by applying graphite to the back of the paper in the areas where my lines are. Then I lay the paper right side up on my canvas and redraw over the original lines, pressing fairly hard, so that the graphite on the back of the tracing paper will transfer to the canvas. This gives me a very light line drawing on my canvas. I then go over that in thinned paint, usually burnt umber. When I work from life, I eliminate this step and draw with a brush, again with thinned paint, but I lay in masses in the appropriate values, light middle and dark. Tomorrow I hope to begin painting using my "cartoon" as my guide, but I will immediately lay in my dark values with thinned paint (monochrome)just as I would if I had drawn in paint.
Last night and earlier tonight I worked on a drawing from a book of plates (lithographs)by Charles Bargue. Bargue's original drawings and their reproductions, from life and/or plaster casts, were used in academies and ateliers in Europe as a mainstay in the drawing education of thousands of art students when actual plaster casts might not have been available. (A plaster cast is merely a sculpture made of plaster, sometimes of individual body parts, sometimes of heads, busts, etc.) I was recently fortunate enough to find a book of these reproduced plates and have been using them for drawing practice for myself as well as for students.
The particular plate I am attempting to replicate is that of a man's arm, shown above, with the muscular form very much in evidence. (Note that the top image, the line drawing, is a "cartoon", as described above.) I belong to an online group of artists in which one artist challenged another to a "Bargue-off" ( a competition between the two to see who draws the best Bargue reproduction), with a third well known artist and art educator to do the judging. The plate chosen was the one of the arm I am now drawing. Though I am not in the competition, I decided to see how well I do in comparison to the contestants, as their finished drawings will be posted on the group site.
The drawings are to be done in graphite (my favorite) with no mechanical aids whatsoever, no grids, no tracing, etc. One may use a pencil or knitting needle or ruler as a plumb line or to gauge distances, but that's about it. The only other tool will be an eraser. The drawings in the competition must be completed within 10 hours.
I opted to draw my Bargue arm with a single pencil (not with a range of say H and B pencils) and an eraser, using nothing more to guide me than my eyes. I chose to do this because I always strive to see better and gauge lengths and spaces by sight as well as I can. That helps tremendously when working from life. I have worked on this drawing for approximately 4 hours thus far and should have no trouble completing it within the prescribed time frame. Tomorrow I will photograph my completed drawing for comparison to the Bargue plate! NOW I am really challenging myself!
Back to the drawing board! Good night!