Magic Persists

This happens every time a course is nearing it’s end. And every single time it finds me unprepared.
Usually I focus the first half of the 8 sessions to get the basics, to allow everyone to absorb the simple concepts. This not only creates a great foundation to build upon, it also allows students to experience almost instant success.
After the 4 sessions I am infusing the decision making process with a start of creative process. This will build a bridge to cross over from copying what we see to using what we see as an expressive tool to make a visual statement. I ask the students to make adjustments to the pose if needed. By about the second last session this process takes hold and amazing things start happening. Pure creative magic. And every time it finds me unprepared.

Here are some of the students work from last night:
IMG_7015_weboptObserve in the image above the freshness of the expression. This is, I believe a 1 minute pose. Since there is no time to get lost in the details a beautiful leap forward happens in terms of massing. This drawing is not anatomically correct but the body parts in relation to each other are in perfect expressive harmony. You can feel the model’s tension in the pose where muscular strength is applied to hold it. The thrust of the upper body creating a counter weight to the legs hinging on the pelvis. The rhythmic change from the rib cage through the neck to the skull is hugely expressive. You can hear her saying: “I can hold this. you just get on with it.” Beautiful!

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This one above is a great example of a foreshortening problem correction. You see the moment you place something on the paper, regardless where on the body you start, you have set out the proportion for the drawing. Everything else that follows is ( or at least supposed to be ) in correct spatial and proportional relationship with what’s already there. If you don’t do that, and you like to look of the second part better, you have to erase the first part to make it work again. So drawing the whole body while rendering only a part of it is essential.

The student here had a foreshortening problem with the upper body. The pelvis was nice so I took that as the proportional set out. That was the given size, position, thrust and mass of the pelvis which was not to change. Now to make this body to lie down I related the rib cage, including the connection to the pelvis via the external oblique and rectus abdominis, then the shoulder girdle with the upper arm and finally the head to create a single body. Regardless of the likeness (or lack thereof) to the model, the body parts properly related to each other give back a human body in a readable position where the spatial plane and basic gravity applies and thus makes the body feel real. The only thing tricky about foreshortening is that while you do the above process, at the very same time you also have to do the proper sequence of overlapping. This is a spatial description of which body part is in the front of the others and therefore overlaps them. The rest fall in place by itself.

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The other part of the magic that happens is that the students, by now developing enough confidence to achieve what they want in the 10 minute pose, have enough space left to experiment with developing their very own style. That’s why I never ever talk or teach or suggest anything about “correct” proportions. This is one of the very pitfalls of contemporary art teaching. “The figure has to be 7 or 8 or 9 heads tall” – rubbish! The figure has to have the exact proportions YOU, the artist decide you like. Nothing else matters. You are the one holding the pencil. You are the one taking the responsibility for your creation. No misguided art critic / teacher can ever tell you what is it YOU like. Only YOU can.

You can see in the drawing above that once there was an acceptable level of massing and relational harmony, the pull towards expression was unstoppable. It had to happen. The soul needs to speak. And one way or other, it will. It’s just so much nicer when it happens through art!

Massing and the basic Structure

This comes back again and again in the class. The moment you forget about massing and the underlying structure, the drawing goes to pieces. If you follow the structure path first, a 60 seconds pose is long enough to make a drawing. If you abandon massing and focus on detail, no amount of time will be enough to make the drawing work. This is the underlying rule in figure drawing that needs to be observed and practised. Nothing happens in figure drawing without massing.

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Masterclass Continues

Here are a few more images from the classroom.
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Below are some of the short poses, one and two minutes. I bet you wouldn’t say these students are only learning to draw. Fantastic stuff.
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Masterclass is now part of a Bigger Picture

Just a quick update for those wishing to reach the masterclass.figuredrawingonline.com website and get a weird result. That’s because the address gets redirected.

Why?
The initial Masterclass in figure drawing has been extended into a full blown Sculptural Course consisting of three parts. The former Masterclass teaching realistic figure drawing is the first part, Figurative Sculpture in Clay is the second part and finally the Figurative Sculpture in Stone is the third part of this unique course offered at an incredible price.

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The figure drawing is now closely related to sculpture and so I decided to move it in. Not all the links work as yet, but at least everyone can have a look and get the information.

As you will discover browsing the site, those who wish to participate only in one or two of the parts but not all can do so. The only requirement is that they have a workable knowledge of what the course they are leaving out teaches. This is a simple precaution to avoid holding up the class. There is so much ground to cover and so much to learn. So check it out. You can still use the old address or you can go to:  www.sculptureandstone.com/education.html

Student excellence

We just had our second session of the Masterclass last night and the progress the students made was fantastic. Last week we did the Where To Start introduction to the course by practising simplifying complex forms into simple geometric shapes. That way one can actually think of them and make conscious decisions about their size, shape, position and orientation in space. That was pretty basic stuff.
So then last night, the second session, we dived into the anatomy of The Rib Cage and The Pelvis big time. If you haven’t done any purposeful learning of figure drawing, there’s a lot to process the first time you hear this stuff but everyone landed on their feet and just check out these three drawings of the same pose by three different students. Huge, huge progress. No wonder everyone is having a good time. Can’t wait for the next week’s session to witness the wonderful creative surprises everyone comes up with. Who said there are no perks in teaching?

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The power of the traditional way

I’ve done a recent workshop in soap stone carving in Broken Hill. It was a 2 day event, a Saturday and a Sunday with about 8 hours of tuition each day. I was presented with a group of 6 students who have done various workshops before. However they were all completely new to stone carving.
There is a fairly long way before one gains enough experience working with stone to be able to produce what one wants. To be able to control your chisels and blows, to understand the limitations of stone as a material. So there was quite a bit of ground to be covered in 2 days.
The big help I had was the choice of the stone on behalf of the Regional Gallery who ran the workshop. Soapstone. Great material to start with. Hard enough to still qualify as stone and soft enough to be carved with a standard kitchen knife. We had a whole stack of different rasps, sandpaper and of course wax for final polishing.

Due to the shortness of time I was in a bit of a dilemma whether to just let everyone pick up a piece of stone and start hacking at it and hoping that with a bit of guidance they will find their way. Or, I could spend some of that precious time and introduce the traditional way. That is, don’t touch the stone, till you know exactly what is it you want to carve. This approach requires one to draw / sketch the idea, then model the idea in clay so that one can see the three dimensional object from all sides and make some choices. And then, and only then start carving the stone.
Apart from the obvious benefits what this approach helps with is that you don’t have to try to realise your artistic intent while at the same time you are trying to get a grip on a chisel. Despite using some of that time for the preparation the remaining time was more that enough to create some of the following artwork. Do remember, that they had no previous experience with stone.

Starting point – pieces of soapstone
IMG_5196_web_optThe workshop. Please notice the clay models.

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After the drawing, modelling in clay the carving starts.
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IMG_5200_web_optA use of various rasps is a good help when use of the chisel might be too rough.
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And some of the final artwork.
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Advanced Course and much more for much less.

What’s Coming
I have a few announcements to make. First of all, the common mistakes series still has a few episodes in store. While finishing the series, I already started to work on the Advanced Course. Now this is going to be a high quality series of videos geared towards the ultimate goal of figure drawing: Creation.

While the beginners course concentrates on the basic principles of figure drawing as well as basic anatomy, the advanced course takes everything a notch higher. The focus is no longer on copying the model we see. The focus is on using the knowledge gained from the beginners course as a tool to create the figures that already populate your conscious and unconscious mind.
Once you have absorbed all that can be had from the beginners course and then you follow through with the advanced course, the place I would like you all to get to, is having so much knowledge stored up that you can entirely concentrate on the creative process. This doesn’t mean you get a highly polished anatomically correct drawing every time you put your pencil to paper. The place I am talking about is being able to be in the flow. Being able to rough out your composition and change things on the fly without having to worry about anatomy, massing, perspective and all the elements of drawing.
Once you have your composition, then you can worry about the details, the lighting, the correct proportions, the exact anatomy.

The tremendous power of this type of work is that it shapes and refines your own style. I repeat this because this is so important: This way, you will develop and refine your OWN STYLE. No more copying. You have to realise that in the whole wide universe there is only one copy of each of you. Nobody, NOBODY! can draw the way you draw as long as you develop your own style. That style is unique and cannot be copied. The internal energy of your stroke (developed in time) of your view and your aesthetics (arrived at through your very own life experience) can NOT be replicated. And that, is called Figure Drawing.

So, now that you know the plan, here is how I propose to do it:

For those who have already started the beginners course I want to make the rest of it more affordable. For those who are new to the course I want to make the course more affordable outright. Why? I want you to start it and finish it. I want you to progress to the Advanced Course. I want you to get to the FLOW. So, you see, I have my ulterior motives.

Everything on the Figure Drawing Online website, EVERYTHING has a 25% discount. All you have to do is to type the word: SaLE in the discount voucher space at the checkout and click Recalculate. The amount will change applying 25% discount. And that’s it. Go through the checkout as usual. If you order the DVD version or the PC/MAC version which has to arrive in the mail, the postage and handling is not discounted.

Building a knowledge exchange

Hello everyone,

Quite a few of you who bought at least one Lecture will have noticed that I finally got around to add your blog membership with a “contributor” privileges. This is good stuff. I was never meant to be the only contributor. The dream was to build a place where you guys can show your work, exchange knowledge, contribute in comments or ideas, publish what you come across daily in your artwork. Upload a scan of your drawing you are battling with so that someone who has made their own discoveries already can help to point out (in the case of my artwork often) the obvious.

I know that none of you denies the importance of art and its impact it makes every day on all of us. Well, this is the space to support those ideas, to bring up issues. It is up to us, the practicing and budding artists alike to forge ahead and stay connected. To bring forth the hidden, to explore and question.

Hope to see you around and: Happy Drawing!

Robert
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Masterclass Concluded

Term 1 of the Masterclass has concluded and we’ll have a few weeks break. Have a look on the Masterclass website at the new testimonial and images comparing how much the students progressed in just 8 three hour sessions. Quite staggering.

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Common Mistakes – 001 Massing

Hello everyone, as I said a few days ago I’m working on a new series of videos which will talk about the common mistakes we all make in figure drawing. These can be easily fixed if someone is kind enough to point them out to us. Some of these may have extra information in the form of text and photos as it is below. The video for this episode 001 Massing will follow in a couple of days. All this is free to support your efforts in drawing. Here it goes:

Common Mistakes – 001 Massing

I want to say a few things about massing. There are a few basic rules in figure drawing that will deliver results. But underlying them all is massing. If you cannot master massing, no matter how much you know of all the other elements of drawing, there will always be something missing. Somehow it just will not be quite right. So if you’re not already versed in massing, give it your best and results will follow almost immediately.

What is massing? To force images turn into words, massing is a simplified visualisation of a complex form brought about in order to be able to make educated decisions about the form’s basic properties. These properties are absolutely necessary to know if we wish to draw the form. They are the size, shape, position in space and it’s relationship to other forms.

All of us who tried to learn to draw the human figure have been repeatedly puzzled how can it be so hard to draw something we are so familiar with. We wear a body ourselves, we see the human figure from the moment we open our eyes in the morning, all day long and then we probably dream of it too. The answer  to this puzzlement is simple. The figure is so complex and constantly changing that it is not possible to observe and capture each and every detail needed to convey our relationship to it on a piece of paper. The thing to do is what we always naturally and effortlessly do when something is too complex. We simplify.

The great masters knew this and worked out a good system which works really well. They have discovered that we can fairly easily relate to simple geometric shapes. A box a ball and a cylinder have become the artist’s greatest aids in his effort to comprehend the human form. Turning the complex form into something manageable, something which low level of complexity would still allow us to make conscious decissions about the form’s size, shape, position and the relationship to other forms on the paper.

You don’t have to take my word for it. Albrecht Durer, one of the artistic giants of German Rennaisance left us his drawings capturing his process of simplifaction. Working out proportions was one of his obsessions. And proportions are nothing else than the relationship one form has with another within the sheet of paper.

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In the image below Luca Cambiaso used the same method to work out his composition. The simplified figures are fast and easy to draw. The drawing easily becomes the narrative as one doesn’t need to pause a thought till a portion of the image is drawn. Changes are possible and fast. If you look, you’ll see the same simplified geomeric solution in all the master drawings. Some of them are more hidden, some of them only make a dot where others would place a line but the principle is the same.

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To demonstrate the above in a very practical way, compare the following two drawings. They are drawings of my students. The first was made during the first session of an eight week long course, where each week has only one three hour session. The second drawing was made towards the end of the course. Both drawings were made as a part of a series of “warm up” one minute long poses.

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The immediate impression of the first drawing is that it is very flat. Despite the three quarter position of the figure. The second drawing is quite the opposite – presents clear and lively volumes despite the pose of the figure turned flat with its back to the artist. Neither drawing has any detail, shading or elaboration. The lack of time did not allow for this and so we are in luck to observe the stripped down construction or lack thereof.

Since the geometric approach was already explained when the first drawing was made you can see the attempt to apply this knowledge in the first drawing as well however the results two dimensional and lack vitality.

Applying the same approach only after a few hours of practice and guidance results in a great construction ready to be developed into a nice drawing. And of course, the smaller details within the larger mass would have been approached using the same technique. Massing is all when it comes to understanding the human form.

Update from the Masterclass

Hello everyone, I’m a bit behind in reporting on the progress of the students in the Masterclass. We had the last session last Thursday. Just wait to see the comparison images documenting what everyone learnt in just 8 three hour long sessions.

But first, I want you to see what they did with the session on the hand. As I said in the News from the Classroom update on the Masterclass website, massing is everything. It seems to be a generally accepted idea that feet, hands and faces are the hardest to draw. With feet I usually base my teaching on anatomy, we talk about the bones and muscles. However with the hands, I base the entire”know how” on massing.
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After the theory, each student draws his/hes own hand. There is a link in all this. We know (no matter how unconsciously) our own hands. We just do. And this knowledge, coupled with the freshly learnt massing produces unbelievable results.

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Would you say these are the first few dedicated drawings of hands of a student in the beginners class? Every term when this happens, I’m amazed. Good stuff.
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