Thursday, February 11, 2016

From Gesture to Contour and Back Again

More notes from the front lines of Roz Stendahl's "Drawing Practice: Drawing Live Subjects in Public" class...

After three days of intensive focus on fast gesture drawing, Rox had us switch to slow contour drawing.  I thought, no problem.  I've been practicing contour drawing for over two years now.

Yeah, well, not with the impact of gesture drawing behind it.

I loved the sense of volume and energy I got from my gestures!  I didn't want to give it up for contours, which suddenly feel stiff and a little cold to me.

How to think about gesture--energy, shape, volume--and still follow contour?

One of my classmates made the terrific observation that this is all a bit like learning a foreign language, and having to consciously translate into new syntax all the time.

Yeah, it is like that.

Roz encourages us to use detailed, made to scale, plastic toy animals, or taxidermied animals, to practice learning animal anatomy on something that doesn't move.  Then we should be better suited to draw live animals when the time comes.

Following her example, I "adopted" several such toys.  Below you'll see my work with Trike, my triceratops.  First, a gesture, then a blind contour, then some modified contours in different positions.  Finally, a study of negative space.  I used my Lamy fountain pen with an EF nib for these.

We are supposed to draw live subjects out in public as frequently as possible too.  And for contour drawing, which is slow and concentrated, coffee shops and waiting rooms are the best.  People are generally preoccupied and fairly stationary.

When you adopt scribbling as a habit, you never get bored in a waiting room!

Plus, when I do pages like the ones above, I find myself wondering about the people as I draw them.  Who are they?  What are they thinking about?  What passions and struggles to they carry as they sit here, waiting to see a doctor or waiting for an oil change or waiting to get their new driver's license photo taken?

I like how creating these sketches brings me more awareness of the strangers whose paths cross my own.

Also, perhaps obviously, I had pre-painted those pages, just to add a little random color for my sketching.  I don't always like practicing on just white.

As another shot at practicing contours on live subjects in public, I attended a local musical showcase.  Here a different artist or group sang every song.  So I got a relatively stationary subject for a few minutes, and then a new subject.  It was a challenge to move slowly, stick only to outlines, and capture a bit of each performer.  Just one of the pages I produced during the two-hour concert appears below.  Here I am using a .03 fineliner waterproof ink pen.

I combined contour with gesture in some places.  For instance, I used gesture to capture the choir in the middle, but contour for everything else on the above page.  I liked understanding the different qualities of each and being able to choose which to use in which situation.

The "aha" of finally getting what gesture is and why it matters finally clicked as I chose it, or chose not to use it.

I think I heard the music better because I was drawing.  I certainly felt completely lost in each performance.

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