For the figure drawing session today I was ready and had a plan. What I wasn’t ready for was some great feedback from another artist that sent me down a completely different, and much better path. A path that wouldn’t be chasing the figure.
My original idea was to focus on accuracy at todays beginning life drawing class and I was referencing this wonderful post from the London Atelier of Representational Art. In the post Luca Indraccolo gives a wonderfully concise demonstration of using the site size method to draw the figure. I thought this would be perfect to help other artists on improving their accuracy when determining proportion. I also decided to do the exercise myself.
It wasn’t long before a fellow artist expressed his frustration with the method. Not only was the model in a very stable pose this session but he was very capable of keeping a very similar pose throughout. But, even though the model was very good, the slightest change in the pose would throw all of our careful measurements off.
Now, I will say that we adjusted the actual site size method with our drawing boards in front of us rather than vertically positioned to the side of the figure. So we relied heavily on measurement rather than on a visual comparison and this may have been a big factor in our issues. Regardless of this method being exactly the same as site size we did determine that excessive measurement is extremely limiting and frustrating.
Once we switched to the more fluid comparative measurement approach both of our drawings progressed much faster and our frustration subsided. This led me to realize that I had already been down this path before. I remember measuring excessively and feeling that I was never getting anywhere while drawing the figure, I would always have to redraw a bunch of lines that would become incorrect as the pose progressed. Eventually I began to rely more on my own intuition and gain confidence in my accurate drawing with only minimal measurement to check the harder proportions. This method is better in keeping the original gesture and life of the figure as a lot of that will get lost with excessive measuring.
The only downside to the comparative measurement method is that it’s very prone to incorrect proportions so it’s best to use it when it’s going to be more successful. It’s never good to rely strictly on one method for drawing. Instead have an arsenal of methods and choose depending on your situation. If the figure I was drawing was from a photograph I’m sure all of the issues we we’re experiencing would be moot.
In the end I was reminded to listen, not only to other artists but my own emotional responses. But don’t run from a challenge, sometimes it’s just hard and no method will help the only cure for this is repetition. Draw every day, do it over and over again till you get it right.