Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cheap Paper sketching

With all the paper I have in my studios you would think I would pick a sheet of good stuff, but instead I find myself drawing on envelopes and cheap copy paper. I think it goes way back to when I was young and really couldn't afford good art supplies. Good paper was special and not for just any sketch or doodle. So I still find myself grabbing anything near, the cheaper the better, and happily sketching on it. It's not that I don't love great papers, but a roll of kraft wrapping paper is oh so wonderful to draw on. 'Just not permanent.

My other failing is buying sketchbooks and never really filling them before I buy another. I guess all that matters is just drawing, and not worrying on what, unless of course it belongs to someone else. Never a good idea.

Meanwhile I end up struggling with lots of sheets of cheap paper, rolls of kraft, boxes of envelopes, and shelves of great papers just waiting to be used. Ah, will I ever get it right?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Studies of Arms

I was just looking at some old journals and found my scrawled notes from when I was taking human anatomy at the University of Guelph. I was desperately trying to make sense of the shoulder and all the muscles that overlap, go around, go under, go anywhere except where I could understand them. Top that off with all the plumbing: arteries, veins, nerves and lymphatic system and you may as well have tossed me into one of those manholes with cables cut and wires all over....I was just as lost.

Years later, all those extras aside (and a healthy respect for any MD) it makes sense and I find myself trying to bring some sort of simplicity of understanding to my students at Seneca. I can tell by their blank looks that much of it zooms by and disappears into the ether. But they also seem to come back and show a level of understanding that I wish I had had at their age.

All that anatomy is more than bone and muscle inventory and so important in my eyes to an understanding that can be visually conveyed in drawings of the figure. So if you are interested in drawing the figure, don't give up. Every time you take another stab at it, you'll understand a bit more, and just like the drop of water that can crack rock, you'll break through. I did, even if it took a bit of time. I'm sure you'll do it faster.

The studies above are some drawings for understanding the movement of the shoulders and the changes in form as they do. My suggestion: learn the skeleton first. Try to study from a real one and not copy from a book or a cheap model. Both will screw you up. You have to visit the real thing first and then books are good. My suggestion (and not because I can read German but because it probably is the best for the diagrams) is Gottfried Bammes' Die Gestalt des Menschen. It's not cheap but worth every penny. (I'll do a list of the best books I've found later). Don't worry about reading....the diagrams tell it all.

After you've studied the skeleton (without one we would be an amoeba) treat the muscles as cables. Leonardo did. Or at least he seemed to prefer the thinner cadaver. When I took human anatomy my cadaver was an old lady (I thank her soul for her contribution) who's muscles were cable. The other cadavers were huge and the muscles slabs. I didn't find much understanding in looking at them. Just looking at her muscles implied their use and movement.

Something I found useful with my students both at school and privately is laying on the muscles as plasticine cables. Our fingers seem to have a level of understanding and memory and doing this way has always been effective.