I didn’t paint today. Instead I hosted a small life drawing group at my house and drew all morning long. We didn’t have a model, so we took turns sitting for others to sketch.
My goal as I began this session was to think seriously about the composition as I drew. My normal approach is one of frantic activity: scratching the pencil over the paper trying to capture the pose or a likeness. I can usually do that, but not much else. Today I wanted to make pictures. This is how I approached it.
- Include other elements in the scene. Furniture helps place the figure in space, and simple vertical lines act as a framing device. Since we were doing this at my home, there was thankfully more to draw than just a body on a model stand.
- Started with a frame. After I drew a rectangle, I forced my figure into that space. I paid particular attention to the relationships between figure and frame, attempting to make pleasing shapes and still stay true to the accuracy of the figure.
- Give shapes good relations. How a shape interlocks with another shape, or how it contrasts, makes a drawing more interesting. Some shape interplay is a no-brainer: a curve next to a straight line is almost always a tasty combination.
- Think in the abstract, draw realistically. Instead of drawing “a leg”, I tried to draw the lines and curves that made a shape that telegraphed “leg.” I aimed to make drawings of pleasing/interesting shapes that just happened to look like a human figure.
One of my goals in the upcoming year is to improve my skills in composition. These are some of the books I’m plowing my way through:
I also hope to find the time to follow along with Paul Foxton’s Creative Triggers website (once I find my password!), a community based study of composition based on Dow’s book. It’s a valuable site; Paul is a fine painter, and has created lots of good exercises to hone your composition skills. I think it’s well worth the subscription price.