• Drawing lessons from the great masters

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Found this book through listening to The Draftsmen Podcast.

Overview

The books is broken down into seven segments: learning to draw, line, light and planes, mass, position/thrust/direction, artistic anatomy, all of it together.

Learning to draw

“You see, your instructor in art can do little more than help you solve your technical problems; the rest is very much up to you. And even a cursory examination of the pictures in this book should expose a multitude of technical problems, and the artists’ brilliant solutions.”

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“You must realize that there is no royal road to drawing. It is practice, practice all the way. So get your pad of paper and start drawing simple lines. You will find it very hard to make a really straight line, and harder to make a vertical line than a horizontal. Try drawing a perfect circle. Draw a few thousand and they will get perceptibly better. Above all, don’t get discouraged. It is said that only the divine Raphael reached circular perfection.”

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“When you are learning to draw, it is most important to cultivate the habit of forcing everything you see into its simplest geometric form. Do this sort of thing continually. It enables you to feel a form in its entirety, disregarding details which are so loved by the beginner. Above all, it promotes the ability to think in mass, which must become an instinctive habit, the most important habit the student can acquire.”

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Line

Provides a brief overview of the several purposes and intentions line can convey:

  • line defines the object against a background ("outer edges")

  • line defines where "plane meets plane"

  • line may be used to delineate where two colours meet.

  • similarly; tone.

  • the line itself can convey changing of tones (ex: thick to thin lines)

  • "line explains shape" - consider line as a tool that defines the flow and form of a shape. Example: the stripes of drapery.

  • simiarl to above, "contour lines" help to clarify form; and are sometimes added despite not being seen in the subject matter.

Light and Plane

  • light is crucial; through it, shade and shadow enable the emergence of form.

  • learn to look for the lightest/darkest areas, then look at what these regions connect with and how (where planes meet, etc).

  • ideally, one can memorize the movement of tone on the interior and exterior of basic forms.

  • it is not always necessarily good to capture a cast shadow - just because it is there doesn't mean you have to draw it.

    • ex: the nose casts a shadow on the face; don't capture it or the face may appear to have a mustache.

  • it is a mark of an accomplished artist to create one's own light source (with it's respective position, color, size, intensity, etc) in a scene, rather than to convey the existing source.

    • important if using the sun as your source (morning, afternoon, evening)

    • Light doesn't always convey the true shape of a form.

  • "A very common fault among beginners might be called the reversal of tones. When they are shading the side plane, they properly move from dark to reflected light, as they move away from the highlight; but as they move down the plane, they reverse these tones and then move from light to dark. Sometimes they will reverse themselves two or three times, even on a small plane. As usual, the illusion of shape suffers."

  • "every form must have a highlight"

    • "the contrast of light and dark is one of the most important devices we have for creating the illusion of shape"

    • "Highlights should not be violated by darks"

  • "There are hadly any concave planes in the human body. "

    • "Beginners invariably make these two lines – the trapezius line (A) and the rib cage-external oblique line (B-C) – concave. In fact, beginners adore putting concave lines all over and all around the body. But the body is something like an inflated balloon: no matter where you poke it with a stick, the surfaces are always convex."

Mass

  • focusing too much from one detail to another causes a loss of visibility on overal mass, and thus impact and personality.

  • think of mass first of all

  • there is no "average figure"; sometimes it is taught, however, to ease and make comfortable the early student.

  • it can be useful to know that, say, the nipples are often one full head below the head, but these kinds of measurements are only really useful when the model is standing completely straight up (not common).

  • Instead, remember that proportions are about relating masses, as suitable to the artist.

  • "It is in the realm of mass and tone that students most frequently mishandle details."

  • "If you are to become an artist, the things I tell you are not half so important as the things you create for yourself or discover through your own investigations of the human form."

Thrust

  • "The student must learn to decide on the exact position of the form in relation to himself, as well as its direction, or “thrust” as the artist likes to say."

  • An example of failing to determine thrust - drawing a face facing one direction, but the nose / eyes a different direction.

    • Solving this - and thinking of thrust - can be done by halting your focus on details (eyes, nose) and thinking of the face / head as a block, of which you can put contour lines on in order to determine their thrust / direction.

  • "You should draw from the model as often as you can; but you should also draw the figure out of your head as often as you can. When you draw figures from imagination, questions continually arise; if you cannot answer these questions, you put them aside and try to find the answers when you next draw the model."

Artistic Anatomy

  • Figure drawing has fallen into decline - fewer artists study artistic anatomy.

  • The masters could draw every part of the figure, in any position - from their head. They knew every part of the anatomy.

  • Apparently the artists in this book had their own set of bones!

  • The form of hte body is dictated by bones.

  • Artistic Anatomy uses a small section of medical anatomy.

  • You should learn the "origins and insertions of the muscles".

  • Not only should you know the anatomy, but the function of each thing.

  • One of the hardest parts of the body to draw is the back, due to having to think about multiple layers of muscles.

“No one book will teach it all to you. No one book will exactly answer the manifold questions that should occur to you as you draw the figure. But every anatomy book has something of value to tell you. Actually, just a small number of books have been written on the subject. Try to beg, borrow, or buy as many as you can. What I did was to study one of them until I had practically memorized everything it said. Then I looked through the other books, which largely repeated the first, except that every one, here and there, contained fascinating turns of thought which the first book had omitted.”

“Anatomy is something you cannot hold in your mind without constant drawing practice for the rest of your life.”

“Studying the bones is most important, because bones, as usual, give the fundamental shape.”

  • Artists tend to combine muscles into groups, and in doing so, not bother with individual muscles.

“You will notice that I mention light sources and their direction a great deal. This is because beginners always think of shade as a sort of dye on the body. They think of shade as something independent of the light source. The advanced artist never observes shade on the figure without subconsciously considering the light that causes this shade.”