Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Working with a Skeleton

As part of my July watercolor class, I had the wonderful experience of working with a skeleton for the first time.  He or she (no one in the class knew or could tell) could be posed, so the instructor had him/her sitting in a chair up on a riser so that the ribs were about even with my head.

That led to the interesting angle of having to draw the skull from below.

Since the subject felt so complicated and strange, I added a bit of comfort to my experience by drawing contours first with a Pentel Pocket Brush pen.  The upper scribble here resulted from my first attempt.  The lower was my second.

You can see that in the first one I attempted to show some shading with the brush pen but it wasn't working for me that day.  I didn't have the patience.  So I mixed a lovely gray watercolor and went in with that.  Much better.

Also, I enjoyed seeing how much the second attempt improved!  A reminder that whenever learning a new skill, I shouldn't judge myself on a first attempt.  Or probably any single attempt, as a bad day, or a bad drawing, can happen at any time!

You would think at fifty-three years of age I'd have learned this by now.  I know that it is true.  But why do I need constant reminders?

Anyhow, I tackled it again with a dip pen and some purple ink, just to see how I could do with the shading, now that I felt a bit more comfortable with the subject.

I tried it again a few days later, with some new Daniel Smith sepia watercolor.  My goals here were to test out the new color as a monochrome paint, work with the skeleton some more, try out some new rough surface watercolor paper I had purchased, and attempt to draw shapes instead of contours.

I did three drawings on one piece of the paper.  You could probably guess that the upper left came first, then the upper right, then the lower sketch.  Each one gets better with the structure and the shadow shapes.

I really like this page, this set of sketches, because it shows the progress that can be made in just one hour (or so) of trying, then trying again, then trying again.  I think I might frame it just to use it as an example for my creative writing students.  

Next session, I decided to try the sepia paint (which I completely love for monochrome work!!) and do a "heroic" study--a painting of the skull bigger than life.  Again, I wanted to try to represent shadow shapes and volume instead of starting with contours (like I do when I sketch with pen).  This is on 18 x 24 Strathmore 400 watercolor paper.

I am super pleased with the results of this.

My last work with the skeleton is a piece that took me several days.  I took a photo of him/her sitting in the chair in the art studio.  The walls behind are gridded with artwork by former students.  I wanted to play with color and big shapes and aim for a sketchy, scribbly feel and just see what happened.   This is on 22 x 30 rough paper. 

Okay, that was a lot of fun!  And super hard.  The ribs and the grid on the wall came pretty easily, mirroring each other, I thought.  But holy cow I couldn't render the skull to my satisfaction.  Not nearly as well as I had in earlier sketches.  Like I said, no matter where you are in the process, there's always the bad day or the bad drawing.

So, while parts of this piece are overworked (because, frankly, I just wiped down and started again on that skull, knowing it would end up murky, but attempting to learn something from the practice), I like the colors and lines and general composition.  And I really like the idea.  I may try to do it again some time in the future.

I wonder if I can gain access to this or another skeleton if I'm not in a class?  I have to investigate that.  If you've never drawn from a skeleton, or even just a skull, I recommend it.  The subtleties amazed me!

And once again, scribbling has led me to a new appreciation of all the beauty that is around--and within--us!

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