Thursday, October 31, 2013

Drawing the Active Body: "Force"

There are a lot of ways you can draw the human body. One way is to take your time and carefully observe, measure, study and draw each beautiful form and aspect, preferably over several days or weeks. Another way is to draw a body in a more dynamic pose, one which is (usually) difficult or impossible to hold for a long time. This second type of drawing, usually termed "gesture drawing", is approached a little differently, and illustrators and cartoonists often train to draw the figure this way. Sam Prokopenko (see link on the right side of page) has been posting videos recently about gesture drawing.

A good book about capturing the energy around this type of dynamic drawing is Force: Dynamic Life Drawing for Animators by Michael D. Mattesi.

Cover of the book, Force (my scan of the book cover; see link above for the Amazon link.)

One of the things I like about this book is the author's emphasis on remaining open to the richness and intensity of the human experience. It's important to remember that it's not all about anatomical accuracy when you draw, there is something else that's important taking place - your drawing is an expression of yours and the model's humanity:

"When drawing the model, stay present and in utter awe! When he or she takes the stand, it is as if they are a god or godess presented to us. They represent you and the rest of humanity. Become amazed and stay open to this fantastic occurrence. Your experience with the model is your drawing. Therefore, the more rich, incredible, and dramatic your experience, the more rich, incredible, and dramatic your drawing. You are the vehicle to this journey so if you are closed and fearful, so is your work. Use the idea of having the richest and most stimulationg experience drawing the model's humanity while using your very own as the purpose to drawing. All of the technique throught the rest of this book is to serve that higher purpose." Mattesi, Ibid, p ix

In addition to discussions about forceful lines, rhythms, forms and shapes, the discussions about perspective are very useful. One of the objectives of expressive drawing is to slightly exaggerate perspective to make the drawn forms seem more alive. One way to exaggerate perspective is to be clear as to what recedes in space and what comes forward. Establishing which forms are in front of others is what's known as "overlap." What you don't want to do is create tangents, where forms seem to be touching one another:

My scan. Mattesi, Ibid., p.82

Another way to establish the spatial relationship of forms is through varying the thickness of lines. In the example below, the artist has thickened the lines which are closest to the viewer:

My scan. Mattesi, Ibid., p.85

Mattesi also talks about drawing animals and people in public as they go about their business, paying attention to mood, character and interaction. His chapters on these topics are excellent.

All of this is making me want to post some of my own sketches here. I'm rarely without a sketchbook when I travel and I usually indulge in this covert activity in airports; I think I'll do a separate blog post about this later on. 

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