So Many Challenges to Choose From
I love working from the human figure. It became my comfort zone years ago when I first got back into drawing. I have two kids and if you’re a parent, you know that most anything you want to do for yourself needs to be done in a kid-free zone.
For me, that was a Sunday morning figure drawing group in my city. At the time, I hadn’t drawn from the model since college so once I could be sure the kids were not going to burn the house down if I wasn’t there, I started attending the drawing group. That was over 12 years ago. I started painting from my own drawings again, for the first time since college--about 6 years ago.
Now I work from a combination of drawings and photos. This particular piece had been something I’d been working towards for a while. It took quite a long time for my nagging, begging, cajoling and convincing to talk the model into posing but he finally caved and we got to work.
What I noticed right away was that I’d set up a sticky foreshortening challenge by selecting this pose. I struggled with the drawing for a couple of hours and just couldn’t manage to get everything intersecting at the right angles and in the right places. I tried turning it upside down, taking a break, quitting art…the usual options.
I finally, in desperation, tried drawing with my left (non-dominant) hand and unbelievably, that worked. The line quality was wobbly but had a sort of charm and most importantly, stuff started to fall into place. There are a couple of errors but they don’t stand out so I called it good and transferred the drawing to the canvas via tracing paper.
To do this, I traced my drawing onto thin tracing paper, then applied vine charcoal to the back of the tracing paper and finally, re-traced the drawing with the vine charcoal on the canvas to transfer the charcoal. I then filled out the drawing using compressed charcoal, indicating darks/lights.
I’ve since learned to use fixative to fix the charcoal so it doesn’t loosen but at the time I did this, a few months ago, I didn’t know how to do that. I used raw umber and water to do an underpainting and that mixed with the charcoal.
I almost felt like just leaving it at the underpainting but there’s no work I am somewhat happy with that can’t be messed up by continuing to hack away at it, so I went to subdued color. I’ve since learned that it’s helpful to set a darkest dark and a lightest light and stay between them but again, at the time (only 5 months ago) I didn’t know that so one of my ongoing challenges was keeping the values in the correct relationships. I don’t know if this effort was entirely successful.
My other challenge, and one I continue to work on, is keeping the paint application loose. The application of paint here is inconsistent and it’s apparent where I struggled with values in comparison to where it came more easily. For example, I like the application of paint on the hands and lower arms and not so much in the shoulder area where I fought to get the values where I wanted them.
I used Golden Open Acrylics and keep them very workable with an Open Gel medium. I have an erratic painting schedule because of a day job so when I have the time, I like to be able paint as long as possible. The Opens do sometimes get to a point where they’re wet but they’re also starting to lift the not-dry layers beneath so I’ve learned to keep two pieces going so I can maximize my time.