July 30th, 2010

From a lunchtime drawing session last week. I just wrote those words. Lunchtime drawing session. Awesome.

Not quite sure how to approach this kind of gesture sketch. I see some people translating the model into fantastic cartoon drawings. I barely have enough time to scratch out the structure of the pose. By then end of the class I’d settled on a method of working in a light color, and then, once I’d taken in the whole pose with my eyes and pencil, going back with a black Prismacolor and trying to place a series of quick, definite marks.

Short poses focus the mind. When drawing this fast, all one’s attention must be brought to the task. I’m still working on that, but the practice is always good.

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December 5th, 2009

In going through drawings from the last few classes, I’m struck by how diminished they seem after some time away from them. In the process of seeing the model and putting something down on paper, my mind convinces itself that what comes out is a reasonable approximation, but in the absence of the source impression, these versions are drained of some life.

Of course, these are not meant to be fine drawings. Rather, they are samples from a continuous process of learning, and it’s encouraging when I can look at the drawings and confirm that I’m making some progress.

On this particular night, I felt that I gained some clarity regarding the instructor’s emphasis on drawing with the side of the pencil. Holding the pencil lightly, almost parallel to the paper’s surface, with four fingers on top and a thumb underneath, allows one rotate the wrist and arm to make a mark in almost any direction. Given this freedom of movement, strokes can be oriented to the surface being rendered as as if one is feeling the hand move over the three dimensional surfaces of the body.

Additionally, using this grip to produce a broad stroke from the flat side of the pencil while bearing down on the tip slightly gives strokes a hard edge on one side and a soft edge on the other — replicating the way light and shadow reveal a curved surface in a single stroke.

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December 5th, 2009

A few weeks ago in figure drawing class the model failed to show up, but rather than waste the class and send everyone home, the instructor arrived with an unexpected solution: he had the students model. Thankfully, everyone remained clothed, and a brief lesson on wrinkles and folds turned the night into an unexpected and useful session.

The instructor divided the world of surface deformations into a handful of general categories and emphasized their ability to clarify what the body is doing and contribute to the overall design. The concept here (as I’m beginning to learn is usually the case) is not to take down a perfect representation of what appears before one’s eyes, but to select what is useful in telling the story of the pose.

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November 1st, 2009

It takes a lot of time. A lot of seeing and a lot of drawing. But I do feel like I’m making some progress in my awareness of the human form. Though it can be frustrating to be pushed and pulled by advice from different teachers, it’s ultimately helpful to hear them describe their mental processes in drawing the figure. Each has their own way of articulating the thoughts and observations that must be made to produce such drawings, and in the overlap between their voices, actual understanding begins to emerge.

I ran across a line that sums this up in Film Directing Shot by Shot by Steven Katz , a book recommended for learning about storyboarding:

“In the arts, technique is largely a matter of improved perception.”

Improved perception comes from direct experience, and while there’s no theory or formula that one can learn as a substitute for that, good teaching helps direct attention to useful things while amassing that experience.

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September 30th, 2009

Started my second pass at the Karl Gnass figure drawing class at The American Animation Institute recently. Some evenings I feel like I’m making progress and sometimes I feel like I’m standing as still as the figure everyone’s looking at. Regardless, it’s satisfying to go and spend three hours focused on trying to understand how to manipulate these marks on paper to bring out something that looks like a person.

This is a collage of three and five minute poses from last week’s session, and I do know that brief span of time feels longer than it did when I started this summer. I am able to notice a greater number of details during a pose — anatomical landmarks and parts of the form brought out by the lighting — but there are still many things I see that I don’t understand or have a quick way to represent. And I’m thinking awareness of those things will continue to develop with observation and time.

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August 5th, 2009

From the pile of newsprint I’ve amassed in figure drawing class, this loose sketch stands as my favorite. During a break while the instructor was lecturing, the model draped a cloth around her torso and sat on the platform checking her voicemail.

Sometimes we talk about understanding the story behind the pose to bring life to our drawings, but the realness in this semi-private moment made that easier than the usual twists and bends without object.

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August 1st, 2009

I’ve been taking a figure drawing class taught by Karl Gnass at the American Animation Institute, with the aim of developing a familiarity with the human form that will help me draw better lunging avocados. These are some samples from the last few months, and compared to the results from a brief encounter with figure drawing some years ago, I can see improvement. It is a slow process, but it is encouraging to see some movement.

Most of the poses in the three hour sessions are less than five minutes. There have been a couple nights where Karl talks about rendering with tone and poses stretch upwards of 20 minutes, but for where I’m at, I prefer the shorter poses. I’m not there to make pretty life drawings. I’m trying to develop familiarity through repetition. Each short pose is a chance to take a new visual impression and strengthen my mind’s recognition of its distinctive aspects. As I do this over and over, I find there are times when I notice some detail I had previously overlooked and in that way my awareness of what I am seeing grows. Three minutes definitely feels longer now than it did when I started the class.

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