Progress on large format drawing

I had a blog post prepared narrating progress on my drawing and I did not get to post it while I was working things through. Now the drawing is completed and has been in exhibition at the faculty show for a couple of weeks. It was so energizing to work at a large scale!

I would still like to share what I wrote as I worked on the piece back in August since the process was the focus of the post.

“I’ve been back in the studio working on the “Physiotherapy session” drawing. I have drawn and re-drawn the two figures several times now and love the effect that this restating has on the drawing. The first correction I made on the piece was the pose of the therapist (figure on the right). I felt that the pose was too rigid, not graceful enough. Although static, a standing pose is powerful and can have a  lot of movement. I set out to adapt the figure so that it helped my composition and counteracted with the stiffness of the figure to the left (my dad). This took working from memory and imagination because I was getting away from the reference image.

In the decision-making of how to adapt the pose I looked at some old masters’ drawings. I was particularly looking at the work of Jacopo Pontormo whose work shows powerful gestures and graceful figures. His exaggerated contrapposto and angle shifts in the joints helped me improve the pose for the therapist. I emphasized the forward tilt of the ribcage and backward tilt of the pelvis and changed the position of the legs to add more angles. These subtle shifts really helped the movement in the image.

detail progressThe next session I set out to re-draw the figure of my dad. I was happy with it originally, then I re-drew and the figure lost its original stance, so I went back and corrected. I am still indecisive as to how much I want to show the movement of the different exercises. Looking back at last week’s stages I really respond to the pose where he is holding his hands above his head and would like to show this a little more…

Working on the poses themselves has commanded my attention, but so has the over all composition of the piece. I am working on simplifying the value patterns, at times they seem patchy to me. I am looking for a nice flow and a simplicity to add solidity and power. To work through this, I printed the drawing at one stage and drew into it, exploring different value options on a small-scale. In regards to materials, I introduced some grey and white pastel to show build up some surface on the lighter values.”

Now that the drawing is finished I must say I really enjoyed working large and the constant erasures and corrections. Once I finally decided on the gestures of the figures, I spent a lot of time working the surface of the space around the figures. I loved  manipulating the values to fade and pull out different portions of the figure.   This is only the first of a series of large format drawings. The challenge will be finding storage and ways to exhibit such large pieces, but it will definitely be worth the trouble.

Thumbnail sketches

Today I share some thumbnail sketches (small compositional studies) for a couple of large format drawings I am currently working on.Thumbnails are not meant to be detailed. For two-dimensional work, it is very important to emphasize the borders of the drawing and make sure its proportions are consistent with the proportions of the final piece. It is common for beginners to focus more on the subjects of a drawing or design than the placement of the shapes as they relate to the picture plane (border). This results in thumbnails with little regard for shape, proportions and unity of the over all design.

As you can see below, the figures in the sketches are simplified. What matters here is the placement of the shapes and the values. Many artists do the line thumbnails first and then add value or color.

In these compositional studies,  I was interested in exploring the impact of considered geometry in the design. I set out to explore the golden rectangle (a classical format for many art-forms throughout history) and to play with points of emphasis within it. I haven’t done many drawings or paintings using this format and am finding this process very interesting. Below you can see how the harmonious divisions of the golden section rectangle have influenced my decisions regarding the intended points of emphasis in the composition.

The thumbnail sketch on the left shows a higher value contrast around the head and shoulders of the left figure (my dad). The placement of the head and shoulders happens to be in a pleasing area of the golden rectangle, which makes this an ideal area for a focal point. In the final drawing, my intention is to have an accent (a smaller area of emphasis) around the lower part of the therapists’ legs (the figure to the right).

On the top right thumbnail sketch, I explored a different division of the golden rectangle and tried to place key parts of the figures in various points of intersections. I placed the shapes of the figure so they loosely echoed  some of the angles that result from this particular division of the rectangle. On the bottom right, you can see a third diagram showing my intended focal points and accents on the final piece. The two heads to the left will be the main area of emphasis, the head and feet of the figure to the right will be accents. I will develop more contrast of value and denser marks in those areas. Although this is the plan upfront, more often than not a drawing evolves differently than the initial plan and it’s important to remain responsive through its development.

I am currently working on some step by step construction sequences to show how these divisions of the rectangle emerged, so look out for a post addressing that in the near future. I used the book “Geometry of Design” by Kimberly Elam as reference. This book brings many diagrams of harmonious geometric shapes and examples of how these have been used in art and design throughout history and I recommend it highly for artists, designers and art enthusiasts.

Not all artists and designers use these armatures to design their work, but many do. The concept of the Golden rectangle is introduced in many fundamental art and design classes and exploring it can be beneficial, for designing or analyzing art-work. Here is a nice link that introduces this concept Personally this is the first time I set out to create drawings designed around the golden rectangle beyond a class exercise and I am enjoying the influence the underlying grid is having on my designs.

Studies for “The encounter”

Today I am sharing a series of studies for “The Encounter” one of my recent narrative pieces.

The first is the original graphite sketchbook study done a while back. I revisited the image last summer and developed it into a small silverpoint drawing. Before deciding on silverpoint, I explored several media options including subtractive charcoal, although it translated well to charcoal, the small format is not the ideal. This summer I plan to develop a large subtractive charcoal version.

The process of working with the same image in different mediums and sizes is not unusual for me. When it comes to working with complex multiple figure narratives, my preference is to work with the same image in a series of studies before committing the large final piece. This allows me to refine the composition and its correlation to form and content better as well as the way media and scale can affect the response of the viewer.