Last night I went to a life drawing session after half a day of heavy yard work and then a couple of hours in the studio. I was debating whether to go or not but I hadn't made the last couple of sessions so I toughed it out and went. It's three hours on one pose so it's a pretty good chance to practice some of the fundamentals like the block- in, shadow shapes etc;
It's a great bunch of people that I draw with there and you can't beat the price, ten dollars. Theres plenty of room, usually theres only half a dozen artists. The only problem is with the lighting. The room is covered with flourescent bulbs and spotlights because it functions as a gallery space as well. Usually one weak spotlight is placed on the model which adds to the problem rather than helping. The overall effect is of washed out values and shadows filled with halftones. Noone seems to mind because they're into working in a linear fashion and using modeling as more of a textural idea rather than revealing form. I finally got them to try turning off the flourescent lights and letting the ceiling spots shine on the model. Everyone complained they coudn't see their drawing so I set the spotlamp behind them, shining it towards the back wall. What a difference. I don't think people realize how important a single light source is to figure drawing. Even if you're not doing much shading it still helps to get the proportions and gesture right. Without shadow shapes it's too easy to get caught up in what it is you're drawing rather than what it looks like. ex; this is a head so I guess it goes here and looks like this rather than this is a light plane bisected by a dark triangular plane. There was a marked improvement in everyones drawings, including my own. But I guess they just didn't see it because last night they were back to using the same old washed out light. Sigh!
I decided to try out some of the things that I had learned in the Jon DeMartin workshop, so I drew using nitrate vine charcoal on toned paper. I began with an envelope because the model took a compressed pose, kind of hugging his knees. Then I looked for and drew the inner gestural curve. Things seemed to be going as planned so i switched over to charcoal pencil. Bad idea! Like a greased pig the drawing got away from me. Most likely because I started to detail the face rather than developing the overall block-in from larger to smaller shapes. I think i was in a rush to draw the portrait because I recognized the model. I've seen him painted and drawn by quite a few artists and I guess I wanted to compare myself. See all of the crap that can enter into your head when poor lighting doesn't allow you to concentrate on the abstract nature of what you're drawing. Oh well, I'll get him next time.