The Figure and the Self Portrait
Project: Getting Started with a Model
It has been extremely difficult for me to get a model to sit for me. I have endeavoured to use my daughter in law but she works for much of the time, so I have had to grab odd moments rather than have the opportunity to sit down and paint in my own time. I do not have any neighbours, and my friends live in disparate counties.
I have however enrolled in a life class which I am enjoying very much, but it seems life drawings are not included in this assignment, which is a pity as I feel my work from the class would be more representative of figure drawing, balance and movement. I am, however, attaching a few drawings which explore the idea of drawing without looking at the finished work. I also take it a step further and expand into abstraction.
The only sketching opportunities of people standing have been at my grandson's trampleening classes and the figures I have drawn have, I think, a good sense of balance.
I related the figures to the background in a large hall which made me think about how Giacometti painted some of his figures using reference lines in the form of a grid and special depth with just a few strokes to indicate space. He draws to indicate a figure in space, but one with little personality, but his exploration of his model occupying a space within the picture is explored through lines which appear to feel their way round the subject and is augmented by use of perspective.
I read “The Artist and The Nude” by Mervyn Levy published in 1965 and it was interesting to follow his line of thinking that sculptors tend to draw volume and form whereas painters tend to draw with an “idea” in mind, i.e. a pictorial idea or exploration of personality, although he did concede that Gaudier-Brzeska was one of those remarkably rare and talented people who was able to do both. His ideas on Vorticism formed an important part of his philosophy, believing that “It is the vortex of will, of decision, that begins.” This is what he captures in his sculpture the coiled spring the potential energy in movement. I find this an interesting concept but a difficult one to conceive and develop practically.
©Bridgeman Education Library
It was also very clear from the drawings illustrated in Levy’s book, that whilst there were talented artists’ work exhibited, the shortcomings of the academic approach in the 19th Century stilted their work. Whilst they are technically brilliant, the sense of a human being had been lost or at least diminished in the atmosphere of stultifying life classes.
To me the limitations of the contour line in drawing acts as a barrier to the exploration of 3-dimensisonal space, which is the problem I guess Giacometti was exploring and indeed the cubists such as Braque and Picasso back in the early 20th Century, as well as Gaudier-Brzeska with his Vorticism. The sad thing is that he died at only 24 years of age and was unable to reach his full potential as an artist and sculptor.
Giacometti linear painting with limited palette (2 hrs). (Research)
Check and Log
- Have your figures got a convincing sense of balance?
My sketches are convincing as figures with proportion and balance. Some are pure line drawings where I have been influenced by Brzeska’s work, where with the minimum use of line one captures the balanced human form, and I don’t like superfluous detail to interfere with the expressive nature of the lines.
- Relating the figure to the background.
I did this in a minimal way as I wanted to establish the weight of the model seated, and there was very little in the background. Where things were showing in the background I have indicated them in a fairly minimal way.
- What ideas have you for a pose for a longer piece of work?
Whatever it is, I would like it to be a natural spontaneous pose, like a photo when someone is relaxed an unaware of the photographer, perhaps like the sketch I made with the subjected seated with her feet up on the soft chair, but will try out some alternative poses when I come to do that exercise. My feeling is that the figure should either be represented through pure line or incorporated within the surroundings to the point that it almost becomes absorbed. It will be interesting to see what I make of the patterned blouse picture.
- Which of the artists you have researched have influenced the work you have done in this section?
I think the main influence has been Gaudier-Brzeska, because of his ability to incorporate cubist elements in his work as well as the beautiful pen and ink also charcoal linear drawings he made with minimum outlines, with a hint of abstraction, and I am particularly interested in the idea of potential energy.