Realism vs construction(a guide to choosing the right art education) - Page 15
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  1. #421
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    chrisreyes2787 - Are you a commercial? Lol, I think you are...

    Wow that Picasso drawing is just insane! Yeah he definitely must have learned fast!
    But could he draw like Raphael, I wouldn't say so. Only Raphael could draw like Raphael. And the age of the renaissance was different, less realism, more neo-platonism/idealism, that's a whole different thing than being able to capture what you see.
    I don't think Picasso was very good from imagination, not like Raphael or any of the other renaissance artists anyway, but as so few of his academical drawings are available it's hard to tell.

    "Their whole problem with me is that so many of my ideas, have already been thought of... "

    Yeah, but we have to start somewhere. They have the idea of newness being the point of art, I would suggest you just give up on them, they are probably too old and too stubborn anyway.
    OR you could just point to the possibilites of a career as a conceptartist or teacher of drawing/painting, if they can find any arguments against making money that would be something.
    Then simply don't refer to what you want to do as "art" but call it business instead, or illustration.

    Mydrako - I can't tell you much, they have a 4th year composition program. I don't think there's nearly enough composition in general - only the 2nd still life requires a super composition, that would be 3rd year.

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  3. #422
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    Quote Originally Posted by SweetPea View Post
    thanks hummeldane. I would try to convince them of that.. but it would be too much of a lie and they wouldn't believe me anyhow. I can't stand 'modern art' i dont even think much if any of it is actually art.. and they know this. Their whole problem with me is that so many of my ideas, have already been thought of... so i usually come to some realization or have a thought then find out 2 days later in art history class that someone in the 15th century had the same idea... so i can't do anything with it. Im going to start trying now to communicate my contempt for the education system and how terrible i think it is. This, however has pushed some buttons and offended some of the teachers....who will most likely say that i cant do it, even though its my idea and i dont know of anyone who has had it before.... but w/e thats just me ranting

    Yes i read where leonardo said that we should learn it first. This is actually why im trying to learn it =) Alberti was indeed many things. Supposedly painter architect sculptor theorist etc. But im not sure ive ever seen any paintings... hmmmm ill look into it.

    Also one of my teachers said that Picasso had all the technical proficiency of Raphael. Now, while picasso was said to have been great technically, i seriously doubt this without any evidence, which ive not been able to find. Do any of you know of any technical Picasso drawings?

    Thanks guys
    Who are you communicating to? The teachers themselves?

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  5. #423
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    composition

    Composition is probably the most important subject at the Repin Academy. I will try to post a few things I did there, very primitive though, but you can see how they go about it.

    Like someone said before, the goal is to avoid sameness. If one tree goes this way, the other goes the other way and etc. Also leading the eye around. They start from small abstract shaped black and white sketches, 2d, I'd say, then they introduce light, mid-town and dark, as simple as that. Within the black and white sketch you need to trace the movement pattern of the lights, midtowns and darks.

    The four courners of the painting should all be different, and so on and so forth.

    The progress is from black and white tiny sketches to bigger ones, to color sketches and then to what is called the "cartoon", which is a colored compositional larger size sketch.

    We've just gotten through a major snowstorm in Washington DC area, had no heat or electricity for 24 hours, it's back now, so I am glad to be online. Another storm is coming tomorrow, so can't promise those photos right away yet.

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  7. #424
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    painting demonstration

    I apologize for self-promotion, but I thought this might be of interest to you guys. A week ago, myself, two other former Bridgeview students (one of them is Ilya Mirochnik who is now studying at the Repin Academy), my husband John Murray and our teacher Samuel Kudish painted from the nude model with the goal of making a promotional video for the school, so take a look and tell me what you all think.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMNQp...layer_embedded

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  9. #425
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    Nice video Lena. Those paintings are very well done and its interesting to see how different each one is.

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  11. #426
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    Composition is probably the most important subject at the Repin Academy. I will try to post a few things I did there, very primitive though, but you can see how they go about it.
    Love to see them. How do they teach composition in repin? Since the model, i am assuming, is set up by the teacher, you basically dont have much control of the background. So how do people make the composition work for them. Do they modify what they see in front of them to fit the design?

    Saw the video. Totally lovely... Really invigorating to see so many good artist paint at the same time and see how the individual personality and style produces different finish, all great in their own right. Went on to see the video on your youth program. So cool to see you guys imparting your skill and knowledge to the next generation of artists at such a young age so that this great heritage can continue on.

    -JS Neo

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  13. #427
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonas Heirwegh View Post
    I think you couldnt be further from the truth. There is simply zero evidence that they taught similar analytical methods like Vilppu, Mentler, hale, or any other.
    Obviously they didnt had such analytical methods back then like we have now, you can see they drew very directly without underlying analytical drawings to help them.
    Like someone said before, the drawings by Durer or Leonardo are not done as a way to draw the human form. Consider it more as sientific drawings.
    FWIW, I figured I'd post these drawings by Rubens, from his notebooks, as further evidence that master artists of the past did in fact use a constructivist approach. I realize I'm coming to the discussion late, but I figured I'd post it anyway. So, sorry for interrupting. Anyway, I believe their simplification of the major masses into geometric forms was not only done in order to create figures from imagination but to have something solid and controllable which could be exaggerated and distorted, which thus gives the static images a greater degree of animation. If you look closely at the Hercules head on the second page, I believe Rubens gives away a secret for doing just this. Compare the Hercules heads on the second page to some of the distortions by Josef Albers or Victor Vasarely.

    Also, if anyone has the ability to translate the second page that would be great! I've always been curious as to what it says...

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    "Contrary to the belief of the layman, the essential of art is not to imitate nature, but under the guise of imitation to stir up excitement with pure plastic elements: measurements, directions, ornaments, lights, values, colors, substances, divided and organized according to the injunctions of natural laws. While so occupied, the artist never ceases to be subservient to nature, but instead of imitating the incidents in a paltry way, he imitates the laws."-Andre Lhote

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    Jpacer -
    Thanks man, if you got more please post
    So far i haven't found any notebooks by Rubens, is it in print?

    As far as I can deduct it's a description of the form of Hercules, talking about his muscles and face. The word perfect repeated a couple of times hehe.
    I don't think it should be so hard to translate though, mostly just anatomical names, just need a latin dictionary for the rest.

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  17. #429
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    hummel1dane: No, there are no "Notebooks of Rubens" as most of his working and teaching notes were lost in a studio fire, I believe. This is one of the few remaining fragments. This particular page is reproduced in a couple of books I've seen. The book I have is "Rubens: A Master in the Making."
    I think the closest thing there is to his notebooks are the Rubens Cantoor drawings, which are mostly student copies of his drawings, the originals of which are now lost to us.

    "Contrary to the belief of the layman, the essential of art is not to imitate nature, but under the guise of imitation to stir up excitement with pure plastic elements: measurements, directions, ornaments, lights, values, colors, substances, divided and organized according to the injunctions of natural laws. While so occupied, the artist never ceases to be subservient to nature, but instead of imitating the incidents in a paltry way, he imitates the laws."-Andre Lhote

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    Living with the teachers is unfortunately a necessary evil at my school... if they dont approve you dont graduate from the department, just with a high school diploma, not an art one... but ive tried haha. Yes im communicating with the teachers and sometimes it gets places but sometimes not, things go back and forth.... its very frustrating.

    Thanks Lena and jpacer for the posts, i look forward to seeing the works lena!

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    Quote Originally Posted by jpacer View Post
    FWIW, I figured I'd post these drawings by Rubens, from his notebooks, as further evidence that master artists of the past did in fact use a constructivist approach. I realize I'm coming to the discussion late, but I figured I'd post it anyway. So, sorry for interrupting. Anyway, I believe their simplification of the major masses into geometric forms was not only done in order to create figures from imagination but to have something solid and controllable which could be exaggerated and distorted, which thus gives the static images a greater degree of animation. If you look closely at the Hercules head on the second page, I believe Rubens gives away a secret for doing just this. Compare the Hercules heads on the second page to some of the distortions by Josef Albers or Victor Vasarely.

    Also, if anyone has the ability to translate the second page that would be great! I've always been curious as to what it says...

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    As a big Rubens fan I knew these drawings but there is a vast difference between the use of these drawings back then.
    Rubens never used construction to start a drawing and also never used any abstract guidelines like you see today with vilppu, etc...

    You could call those drawings analytical studies but thats not the same as analytical methods to draw the human figure. You cant say they used this constructive approach for a drawing, they are merely analytical thoughts about shapes occuring in the human figure.

    Here are a couple more engravings supposedly done from Rubens drawings for a book called Theorie De La Figure Humain from the 18th century.

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    Rubens never relied on drawing basic forms first in order to put an arm in correct perspective or any of that. He worked or thinked very much two dimensional in the beginning stages of a drawing. I think thats very obvious when you look at his lines.

    Look at the lines of the arms, they are loosly drawn, accurate and most important its drawn very directly. Also notice how the whole body is treated as a whole because of this. He didnt think in seperate parts, wich is something you cant say of most of todays teachers and/or artists.

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    Last edited by Jonas Heirwegh; February 10th, 2010 at 02:34 PM.
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  23. #432
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    The figure of Heracles

    I want to express my thanks fot this thread. It told me something I was searching for long hours over Renaissance drawings. I was always wondering about this strange unfamiliar style, though I was not able to find anything in particular that could define the difference. I was even thinking it had something to do with the shade or backreflex.

    @jpacer



    I am not able to translate the Heracles Page. There are too many unknown or unreadable words. But I will try to translate parts and explain the subject.
    It is an explanation to the basic form of this heracles figure. The basic forms, cubi and circles, and the masurement (supra modum). The Chest and the back are described and certainly some other body parts, which I cannot read.
    The head very masculine with smallest (?) eyes and flesh (supra Modum) according to the masurment to the squared front ...
    the angel beard to maximum heap (caterva? he said catera) At the same time the connection of the given cubus from Hercules farnesis? face (sem= semper everytime?) (six = what is that supposed to mean here?)old.

    I hope that gives you an impression of this notes to Heracles.

    ps.: there is a delta instead of a lamda in the HERAKLES Headline. The letters look very similar Δ and Λ

    Last edited by Ebenenläufer; February 10th, 2010 at 03:49 PM. Reason: mistakes
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  25. #433
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    Jonas - the important question is how to reach that level of Rubens or whoever.
    Personally I prefer to rely on Vilppu and the russians for now, and hopefully with time be able to become even better. Lot's of hard work!
    My only concern would be to not rely on a system of construction = never improving. That's my own experience.
    Whatever Rubens did does it really matter that much? Isn't it more important to figure out where to get skill, any skill.
    Studying with Vilppu doesn't destroy the ability to one day draw differently.
    There are many great teachers alive today with a lot to offer, I would suggest just study with as many as possible and work all the time.
    Even if Vilppu can't draw as well as Rubens why should we disregard his teachings?

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  27. #434
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    Quote Originally Posted by hummel1dane View Post
    Jonas - the important question is how to reach that level of Rubens or whoever.
    Personally I prefer to rely on Vilppu and the russians for now, and hopefully with time be able to become even better. Lot's of hard work!
    My only concern would be to not rely on a system of construction = never improving. That's my own experience.
    Whatever Rubens did does it really matter that much? Isn't it more important to figure out where to get skill, any skill.
    Studying with Vilppu doesn't destroy the ability to one day draw differently.
    There are many great teachers alive today with a lot to offer, I would suggest just study with as many as possible and work all the time.
    Even if Vilppu can't draw as well as Rubens why should we disregard his teachings?

    As Art_Addict mentioned a few pages back, you have the tendency to misinterpret.
    I believe I never said to disregard Vilppu...?

    You said that Vilppu worked in the same way as the old masters when I try to explain why that isnt the case. Thats more or less the point I'm trying to make.
    I also believe the Russians are the closest to the old masters today, especially in the way they approach a drawing.

    My experience is if you rely on construction to much to build up a drawing you will never be able to draw as freely as any master mentioned in this thread. And none of them did rely on it so why would you? The learning curve is harder and longer yes but there is much more freedom, feeling and sensitivity going on.
    I used to have the same concern as you untill I started noticing how none of my favorite artists from the past used any analytical construction to build op a drawing. In fact it didnt exist back then. So I started thinking why I was relying on this so much, maybe it wasnt necessary... And I really believe it isnt even when you want to draw from imagination. I actually did start with Vilppu when I learned about figure drawing so I do like him and some of his thoughts about drawing.

    Its a good thing to trying to figure out how the masters worked or thinked, you could learn so much from them. This could be part of figuring out where or how to get skill. I mean whats better then to learn from the old masters right?

    Btw Vilppu has an old instruction dvd called "direct drawing", he infact touches upon this subject. According to him there are two ways, direct drawing and a procedural drawing where you work in different stages.
    I believe this direct drawing was the first stage of what the old masters did and then they build on it.

    Can anybody share views on how the old masters would start a drawing, I would like to see what other people think.

    Last edited by Jonas Heirwegh; February 10th, 2010 at 05:57 PM.
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  29. #435
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    Jonas, IMO, I wouldn't be surprised if most old masters drew pretty much directly. But, I truly believe, as the drawings of Rubens, Leonardo, Durer, etc. show, that they were taught to construct a drawing using geometric solids, plumb lines, constructive measurement, straight lines, etc. and all that good stuff.

    In my experience, there comes a time when you can do all of that in your head and take a lot of shortcuts. But, that consummate mastery of how simple, solid forms move in space still informs their drawing. You can tell, IMO, when looking at a drawing by Michelangelo or Rubens that even if they didn't literally draw a series of boxes for the arms they were certainly thinking about it. The box is the "bone" that makes the arm read as three dimensional form on a two dimensional surface.

    As a side note, I don't think it's good enough to determine whether or not they used construction from looking at reproductions. I've seen drawings in real life where I could see what could be construction marks but were drawn so lightly they didn't show up in mechanical reproduction. Also, depending of the medium used (especially vine charcoal), construction marks are pretty easy to erase and/or cover up...

    "Contrary to the belief of the layman, the essential of art is not to imitate nature, but under the guise of imitation to stir up excitement with pure plastic elements: measurements, directions, ornaments, lights, values, colors, substances, divided and organized according to the injunctions of natural laws. While so occupied, the artist never ceases to be subservient to nature, but instead of imitating the incidents in a paltry way, he imitates the laws."-Andre Lhote

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  31. #436
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ebenenläufer View Post
    I am not able to translate the Heracles Page. There are too many unknown or unreadable words. But I will try to translate parts and explain the subject.
    It is an explanation to the basic form of this heracles figure. The basic forms, cubi and circles, and the masurement (supra modum). The Chest and the back are described and certainly some other body parts, which I cannot read.
    The head very masculine with smallest (?) eyes and flesh (supra Modum) according to the masurment to the squared front ...
    the angel beard to maximum heap (caterva? he said catera) At the same time the connection of the given cubus from Hercules farnesis? face (sem= semper everytime?) (six = what is that supposed to mean here?)old.

    I hope that gives you an impression of this notes to Heracles.

    ps.: there is a delta instead of a lamda in the HERAKLES Headline. The letters look very similar Δ and Λ

    Thanks so much, Ebenenläufer! That's great!

    I presume Hercules farnesis refers to the Farnese Hercules, which this is most likely drawn from, right?

    What do you suppose maximum heap means?

    When you say cubi and cubus does that mean cubes? Is his reference to cubes and circles talking about constructing the figures from abstract shapes? Is there anything about incorporating multiple views of a subject?

    Do you think it would be clearer if I gave you a higher res image?

    Sorry. I'm all questions!

    Thanks again!

    "Contrary to the belief of the layman, the essential of art is not to imitate nature, but under the guise of imitation to stir up excitement with pure plastic elements: measurements, directions, ornaments, lights, values, colors, substances, divided and organized according to the injunctions of natural laws. While so occupied, the artist never ceases to be subservient to nature, but instead of imitating the incidents in a paltry way, he imitates the laws."-Andre Lhote

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    Talking

    Quote Originally Posted by SweetPea View Post
    Living with the teachers is unfortunately a necessary evil at my school... if they dont approve you dont graduate from the department, just with a high school diploma, not an art one... but ive tried haha. Yes im communicating with the teachers and sometimes it gets places but sometimes not, things go back and forth.... its very frustrating.

    Thanks Lena and jpacer for the posts, i look forward to seeing the works lena!
    You may have to do what they say to get by, but communicating to the teachers that they aren't teaching you how to draw isn't going to make them teach you what you want to know, especially if they don't know how to draw in the first place. If you have anonymous teacher evaluations towards the end of the semester, you might want to consider in advance exactly what you feel is lacking in particular.

    It will, of course, take more than just you to make a change in the system of who gets hired and teaches what, but if you don't communicate your dissatisfaction in a manner that will reach the decision makers then you effectively contribute to the problem (you can't expect the teachers to let their bosses know what their students grievances are if said grievances are aimed at their own mode of instruction).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonas Heirwegh View Post
    My experience is if you rely on construction to much to build up a drawing you will never be able to draw as freely as any master mentioned in this thread. And none of them did rely on it so why would you?
    This depends on how fast you want to draw free.
    Thinking about Lena's old teacher who spent his childhood in a special school learning all about the structure of the human body.
    Plenty of time to get free later on, if he had started in the school at the age of 6 or 8 he could even have started to draw free in puperty.
    But I definitely understand you concern considering how late people start to study drawing today. Yes if freedom is the prime concern then I wouldn't suggest a single class of classical drawing.

    The reason I want to rely on it is that I believe 100% that all masters of the past did in fact rely on it in their student years, as a part of their education. Even later on in life if they did face a problem with the figure they could always go back to the construct and try to solve the problem of bone and muscle twists, difficult foreshortenings etc.
    Another thing is the placement of the light/shade that pretty much demands what I would call an underlying construction(drawn or in mind) - that is the awareness of where the planes are placed. Light/shade follows form.

    As for never being able to draw free? I think you are too afraight for some reason.
    Construction is just a clever way of learning the structure of the body - you can rely on it untill you don't need it anymore. Then when you don't need it, you are free
    But not studying the structure of the body analytically? I can't see where that would leed us.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jonas Heirwegh View Post
    Its a good thing to trying to figure out how the masters worked or thinked, you could learn so much from them. This could be part of figuring out where or how to get skill. I mean whats better then to learn from the old masters right?
    Yes, read their notes, copy their drawings.

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    Leonard Da Vinci


    "He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."

    "Wisdom is the daughter of experience."

    "I have discovered that it is of some use that when you lie in bed at night, and gaze into the darkness, to repeat in your mind the things you have been studying. Not only does it help the understanding, but also the memory."

    "The part always has a tendency to reunite with its
    whole in order to escape from its imperfection."

    "Art is never finished, only abandoned."

    "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."

    "All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions."

    "Experience does not err. Only your judgments err by expecting from her what is not in her power."

    "I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do."

    "Learning never exhausts the mind."

    "The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions."

    "The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art."

    "The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding."

    "Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art. "

    -----

    Michelangelo


    "A man paints with his brains and not with his hands. "

    "Genius is eternal patience."

    "I already have a wife who is too much for me; she is my art, and my works are my children."

    "I am still learning."

    "Faith in oneself is the best and safest course. "

    "Good painting is the kind that looks like sculpture. "

    "If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful at all. "

    "The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark. "

    "The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection."

    "There is no greater harm than that of time wasted. "

    "What Raphael knew of art he learned from me."

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    I really dont have enough knowledge of the renaissance to guess how they exactly do their drawing. However, I would agree with jpacer and hummeldane that maybe they dont seems to use any constructional lines or procedural method is that they have already internalize them during that long time of education. One must understand that during the renaissance times, the artists start their education really young. (maybe with the exception of Michaelangelo who started in around 14 -16 yours old? But hey, he sure catch up fast...)

    I feel we should not be afraid the constructional method will stifle our freedom. It should not even be considered a method of drawing. It should be considered a method of learning. Learn it, digest it. Maybe for a few years you will draw in that method but after a while, i am sure you will not long need those construction lines because they will be in ur mind's eye. In a same way, alot of people dislike sight-size drawing because they feel it is too mechanical and lack of freedom. However I feel sight-size drawing is way of learning and training your eye to judge distance. In short, dont be afraid to try any method of drawing as long u dont rely on it as a crutch.

    hummel1dane Nice quotes !.. I like the last quote by michaelangelo. I knew he is arrogant but thats really pushing his luck

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    I am still hoping we can discuss more on composition since it is in my opinion the foundation of any painting. I hope Lena can post some of her painting soon

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    to Mydrako

    I promise as soon as I can dig a trench through the snow into my studio I will post some pictures on composition. You guys probably heard of our Snowmargeddon on the East Coas of the U.S. It's something.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hummel1dane View Post
    As for never being able to draw free? I think you are too afraight for some reason.
    Construction is just a clever way of learning the structure of the body - you can rely on it untill you don't need it anymore. Then when you don't need it, you are free
    But not studying the structure of the body analytically? I can't see where that would leed us.

    I think you dont quite get my point. Or I must explain myself really badly, could also be
    I could post tons of examples and comparisons to illustrate my point but that wouldnt fit in this thread or on the forums anyway.

    I will copy a blogspot post from an artist at dreamworks wich I think fits this discussion very well. He hits on a point I tried to explain but wasnt very succesfull at :p

    He does compare artists, I hope you dont mind.

    http://buttermilkskies.blogspot.com/...spiration.html

    As a side note, sargent never used any guidelines he always drew very freely but very accurate( look up his drawings when he was a young boy ). Its just keen observation, seeing in shape first rather then in form, form comes later on. The old masters did the same thing.


    Quote Originally Posted by Justin Hunt


    Life Drawing: Reaching for Inspiration Outside of the Classroom


    I'd first like to preface this whole post by pointing out that I do not consider myself to be a master of Life Drawing by any means. I think that the Life Drawing I've posted on my personal art blog illustrates that I still have a lot to learn about it, as well as practice. I also have no problem admitting that I have some confused and conflicting opinions on the subject too.

    I've taken quite a few Life Drawing classes from many and various professional instructors throughout my life, and I consider most of it to be time well spent and a great series of learning experiences. I would not be where I am today without them. I think it can actually be a very valuable thing to take an experienced Life Drawing instructor, especially as a beginner, because they can offer you an approach/method to solving the problem of drawing from the live model, which can be extremely difficult when you are first starting out. So I hope that I have made my feelings on all this very clear before I continue, as I will be critiquing some of what I consider to be the more problematic aspects of Life Drawing Instruction and the environnment that can develop in the classroom.

    The main problem I've often found with many Life Drawing Instructors is that most of them consider their own personal style of Life Drawing to be the only way to do it. Alot of these teachers will only be happy with their students if they end up drawing exactly like themselves. So thus begins the quest of the young student to practice earnestly in order to draw exactly like their teacher. At least this is the experience that I've often had and witnessed, maybe it hasn't happened to other people, but it got to the point for me where I actually got derailed from why I was doing Life Drawing in the first place, which was to study how to draw the figure better so that I could tell stories visually and animate characters, not to copy someone's figure drawing style. This is why I found the passage that Chuck Jones wrote about his Life Drawing instructor, Donald Graham, so interesting. He said that Graham did not impose a personal style of drawing on his students, and as Jones says that's a very rare thing.

    Many Life Drawing instructors seem to see Life Drawing as a means unto itself, rather than a means to an end. In other words, the pure act of simply achieving a "good" figure drawing is the entire goal. The Instructors will often get the students hooked on solely trying to get a "good" figure drawing, according to the parameters of the style that they are teaching, and convince them that once they accomplish getting that "good" figure drawing, that the students will then be able to animate, storyboard, design characters, or illustrate a scene with ease. But in my opinion, it takes a lot more than just studying a style of Life Drawing to be able to do any of these things really well. Some people who haven't even studied Life Drawing all that much, sometimes actually do these things better than some people that have mastered it. Now, I don't mean to imply that studying Life Drawing isn't important or beneficial, but there's a lot more to do than just drawing the 1-30 minute poses of the model in the classroom.

    Another interesting thing that can often happen within the Life Drawing class is that a stock style pervades and is sometimes encouraged, where many students begin to draw in a similar way to each other, imitating themselves as well as the instructor. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, and oftentimes it is actually a great/natural way to learn as well as to produce some beautiful results. The problem, however, becomes that the students and the instructors are now only looking at themselves in the classroom as a place for inspiration when there is an entire world of art created during the span of human history to become interested in and learn from. I've also noticed that this narrowed perspective on figure drawing, which tends to develop in the classroom, seems to neglect other important aspects of picture making and the basic design principles of art. Things like directing the viewer's eye on where to look in an image or clearly presenting a narrative idea with a specific character in an emotional state.

    I realize this is getting to be very long, but please bear with me.

    I put the following drawings together of some professional Life Drawing instructors, labeled with numbers, to discuss some of these concepts here:

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    I don't think many people can deny the high quality of draftsmanship in these drawings that comes from the hundreds of thousands of hours of experience in drawing from the live model. That's not the issue here, but since I've been in more than my fair share of Life Drawing classes where the teacher has vigorously critiqued some artist, artwork, or art school (and that's putting it mildly), I figure that it's okay, for the sake of discussion, to share some thoughts and maybe even some respectful critiques on these drawings as well.

    I'll start with drawing number 6.

    Here we see a drawing of a female figure, I'm assuming because of the body type with the larger hips, from a back view, seated on a pillow which is probably on a stool. Now where does your eye go to in this drawing? Mine tends to go towards her bottom pressed against the pillow and to her upper leg/thigh. I think that's mostly because that area is where the most interest, definition, and contrast is in the drawing. The teacher's concern and effort seems to be mostly centered on the forms and flesh of her bottom and the anatomy of her upper leg, even though there is a pretty nice overall flow to the sketch. Maybe that form is what the teacher was lecturing on at the time it was drawn, and even if it's not, it's still a fine approach and a deftly executed drawing. The teacher is obviously illustrating what they are good at teaching, which is anatomy and form. There was probably not enough time to finish off the other parts of the figure either, but this is a drawing that the teacher chose as an example to represent their artwork and instruction, so I think it's fair to offer some thoughts on it.

    I think one problem with this drawing, even though it's very well done, is that the overall design is not completely clear, and the heightened concern for anatomy has overtaken the idea of the figure's pose. This a problem I often see in Life Drawing classes. Design principles are not emphasized as much as anatomy is. Drawing number 4 has somewhat of the same problem for me. Even though the overall pose of the figure is a clearer statement, the anatomical rendering is calling more attention to itself than the idea of the overall pose. My eye seems to get hung up in all the anatomical details of the figure, rather than seeing the whole pose. Drawing number 7, while amazing in it's delineation of anatomy, has this issue as well. Especially if you squint your eyes at it, which is sometimes a good way to tell if a drawing is "reading" clearly or not.

    Drawings 8 and 9 are obviously showing a method of constructing the figure with simple forms which is great, but I'm also wondering--shouldn't we be able to tell the pose and attitude of the figure clearly from these? I think they both show it to a degree, but number 8 feels a bit strange to me. It's hard to tell what's happening with the feet and what the arm on the left is doing. The absence of the indication of the neck is also confusing the clarity of the drawing a bit too. Number 9, although very solid in the construction of forms--the overall pose is a bit stiff and feels somewhat forced.

    Oftentimes Life Drawing Instructors will be looked upon as the ultimate authority on the subject, especially within the microcosm of the classroom. We should definitely learn what we can from them and appreciate that they've taken the time to teach students, but on the other hand we also shouldn't forget the world of art that has come before both us and them. For example I chose a few Life Drawings from John Singer Sargent here:


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    These are all possibilities of what Life Drawing can be beyond the classroom, and a bar that has been set to reach and hopefully surpass. Maybe you'd like to ignore them completely and do something different, that's fine too. I personally think these are amazing drawings. I also think they show an overall concern and knowledge of good design, storytelling, and character that is lacking in some of the more anatomy based Life Drawing in the modern era.

    Maybe it's an unfair comparison, but look at drawings 14, 15, 17, and 18 by Sargent compared to drawings 4, 7, 10, and 11 by the instructors. In Sargent's work there is a definite knowledge of anatomy, but it's subdued to the overall form of the figure and the big impact of the picture. Even in Sargent's quicker and looser sketches, like numbers 12 and 13, you really get a sense of the person and that he's drawing. In 19 the man feels like a living breathing character with an attitude. It's almost as if Sargent is studying the man as a person rather than as a nude figure. In 18 you can feel the power and the weight of the two figures locked together, as well as the emotional statement of it, without a great amount of rendering. The anatomy does not distract the viewer from the idea of the image, and it's arguably more appealing to abstain from drawing every little bump and anatomical detail. I think Sargent is also just as a concerned with the overall design of these drawings as he is with the figures, if you notice how he organizes his values and shapes of light and dark. Also take a moment to compare Sargent's studies of anatomy in drawing 16 compared with the teacher's studies in drawing 5.

    I once took an instructor who said, "Sargent can't draw, but he can paint." I couldn't disagree more. Sargent's drawings are the foundation of his painting. Just because Sargent didn't approach his Life Drawing in the same way that teacher did, even he was considered "the wrong approach" in the narrow focus of the Life Drawing classroom. The student can just as easily spend their time studying and emulating Sargent as they can emulating their teacher, if they choose to do so.

    A couple more examples of what Life Drawing can be, by one of my favorite artists, Gustav Klimt:


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    Once again, I think these drawings are amazing, and even though they are a bit unresolved, my eye is still lead to look exactly where it's supposed to be. The patterns of light and dark, as well as the degree of finish on certain parts of the drawing become accents that draw attention to the important areas and strengthen the image's idea. Many of these drawings by both Sargent and Klimt are most likely studies done for larger paintings. They are studies to figure something out or to solve a problem for a bigger concept. In other words, they are a means to end, not a means unto themselves. Even though many of them do stand alone as great pieces of work. Again, there is a quality and knowledge of the fundamentals of design here that you really don't see that much of anymore. Klimt knows what's important, where to spend his time, what to emphasize, and what to leave out. He also has great shapes.

    Here's a couple more artists, Ben Shahn and Valentin Serov:



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    I put these two artists together to show the range that is possible in drawing. I don't know if these Ben Shahn drawings are necessarily Life Drawings, but I felt that they had a great sense of character to them, and they are obviously based on specific people or a situation. They are definitely observed in some sense. It's good to exaggerate/caricature, and the kind of drawing that Shahn does isn't easy to do, try it sometime. Shahn's approach is just as legitimate and awesome as any other great drawing in my opinion.

    Serov, on the other hand, has a Sargent kind of quality to his work, but it's more delicate. Again, I think the overall design here is fantastic. Especially in drawing 27 where all the contrast and texture in her hair leads your eye right to her face. Then there's just enough going on with her back and arm to keep it interesting and clear. The use of line quality to indicate the clothing versus her flesh is also amazingly done. There are definitely areas in the drawing that are emphasized and subdued according to the principles of good design. I'd recommend reading "The Practice and Science of Drawing" by Harold Speed, if you'd like to know about how much artists really thought about design and picture making in the past.






    I apologize for the length of this. I hope it all makes some kind of sense. My point is that we should never stop thinking for ourselves. There is no single "right way" to do Life Drawing, and there's a lot more to learn than just anatomy. I hope that I've kind of illustrated that a bit here.

    Why not set our sights to the highest levels of art instead of keeping them locked down in the modern day Life Drawing classroom?


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    I don't really like the comparison - Sargent is from a different world than Vilppu, would make more sense to compare Vilppu to the renaissance masters and the following few centuries.
    But anyway sure I can agree with some of it.

    The way I see it, Vilppu's system is especially designed to be able to draw from imagination. This is very demanding, as I'm sure all those who have tried would know.
    Therefore nobody can convince me that it's possible to get that ability without relying heavily on construction. I just can't understand how it should be possible.
    In my experience, drawing from imagination without construction is simply just repeating the same errors, rather than learning how to design gesture, different proportions, the working of the muscles, good perspective etc.

    Sure if you draw from observation you wouldn't need to know so much to still make a believable figure.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hummel1dane View Post
    I don't really like the comparison - Sargent is from a different world than Vilppu, would make more sense to compare Vilppu to the renaissance masters and the following few centuries.
    But anyway sure I can agree with some of it.

    The way I see it, Vilppu's system is especially designed to be able to draw from imagination. This is very demanding, as I'm sure all those who have tried would know.
    Therefore nobody can convince me that it's possible to get that ability without relying heavily on construction. I just can't understand how it should be possible.
    In my experience, drawing from imagination without construction is simply just repeating the same errors, rather than learning how to design gesture, different proportions, the working of the muscles, good perspective etc.

    Sure if you draw from observation you wouldn't need to know so much to still make a believable figure.
    I know exactly what you mean but that isnt necessarly the case. I thought very much like you and I couldnt understand how they did such complex drawings from memory but I had to admit it was more through observation and understanding then anything else. They didnt need to construct a foot in order to draw it from memory, they already drew it a thousand times from sculptures and models. It isnt so hard to imagine that after a while they could draw it pretty convicing from memory.

    If you would compare Vilppu to the masters you would end up with the same comparisons. Sargent may not have a focus on drawing from imagination but he could easily draw the human body from memory. Try look up more of his drawings. It's not because you dont understand, that it cant be so Its widely known that if you draw from nature long enough with understanding you can mimic life from memory. Rubens did it, all the masters did it. They had years and years of drawing from the model, casts, etc under their belt when they were young. They really didnt need that much more to draw from memory. They certainly didnt need a vilppu, reilly or similar like system.

    Also if you have the book by Harold Speed. Read chapter 6, THE ACADEMIC AND CONVENTIONAL. It talks about mechanical processes, the lack of life and the imperfectly perfect drawings.

    Last edited by Jonas Heirwegh; February 11th, 2010 at 03:22 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonas Heirwegh View Post
    I know exactly what you mean but that isnt necessarly the case. I thought very much like you and I couldnt understand how they did such complex drawings from memory but I had to admit it was more through observation and understanding then anything else. They didnt need to construct a foot in order to draw it from memory, they already drew it a thousand times from sculptures and models. It isnt so hard to imagine that after a while they could draw it pretty convicing from memory.
    The problem would still be the proportions as well as the general idealization of form and tone.
    Even when doing a drawing from life there is a huge difference in working with the concept of form or simply copy the light. If only copying the light, then the form isn't learned or even shown well.
    The idea of proportion is especially something on the minds of all renaissance artists, they were most of them humanists, rediscovering plato and the greeks. They weren't realists like some 19th century artists.

    If you want a certain set of proportions in your figures you would have to first work out the schematics of these figures in simple gestures, like we see in the notebook of Durer, as well as some drawings from Leonardo. This is to study the extremes without dealing with the problem of perspective.
    Even this I would call construction, as it comes from a conceptual understanding of form, and not from observation.(meaning the idea of a set of proportions of each individual limb)
    Then drawing the same figures in difficult gestures becomes a question of understanding perspective, figuring out the same proportions(bone to bone) now in perspective space.
    Of course it would make sense to also think in terms of symmetrical twin points, the ribcage is symmetrical, the neck, the head, and the hip. Without thinking about the twin points I couldn't imagine anybody being able to align them in perspective.

    The problem of tone requires an idea of the underlying form - what is the form, is it round or square, and how round or how square. Where should the light/shade be placed for the form to be apparent.
    This idea of the underlying form I would also call construction.(or call it the sculptural truth)

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    about jonas's post

    Quote Originally Posted by Jonas Heirwegh View Post
    . They didnt need to construct a foot in order to draw it from memory, they already drew it a thousand times from sculptures and models. It isnt so hard to imagine that after a while they could draw it pretty convicing from memory.

    Its widely known that if you draw from nature long enough with understanding you can mimic life from memory. Rubens did it, all the masters did it. They had years and years of drawing from the model, casts, etc under their belt when they were young. They really didnt need that much more to draw from memory. They certainly didnt need a vilppu, reilly or similar like system.
    I feel totally the same. Basically, what happens when you draw a lot and in a thoughtful way, you create a vocabulary of images. You notice the characteristics of things.

    Also, you know this excercise. Work on a cast or figure for a long long time, and then paint and draw it from memory. It's really easy. Basically you remember your own drawing or painting of it. I was told that Rubens lived with a pencil. Of course, there are a lot of people who mindlessly go to these live drawing classes for 20 years, and never improve. And that's probably because they don't think when they work, just copy the nature.

    Constructional diagrams (anatomy drawings) help a great deal when you are learning. And it's a good idea to consult them when you encounter something similar in your model, but I agree that drawing a lot of this made-up stuff ends up as a piece very far from nature or what this particular figure is really doing. Every individual figure is different from another, and sometimes you observe things you can hardly belive in a human body.

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    I think a big part of what happens may be a combination of memory and visualizing the guides so that the old masters really in effect skipped alot of the steps that we need to take. For instance, they would all have been very well versed in perspective, so while we may need to draw in a center line for our figures who are not in frontal squared off positions, they would be able to imagine where the sternum would lie on said figure and could simply draw the pectoral muscles from that point.

    so i think that in order to become like that we must move, as robert beverly hale says, a lot of these things from our conscious mind to our subconscious, but not stop consciously practicing them if that makes sense. To do this i think it requires repetition and paying attention to your work, not mindless copy. You must also master things such as perspective in order for this to work, as all things are in perspective.

    This is just my take of course =)

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    Quote Originally Posted by lena murray View Post
    Constructional diagrams (anatomy drawings) help a great deal when you are learning. And it's a good idea to consult them when you encounter something similar in your model, but I agree that drawing a lot of this made-up stuff ends up as a piece very far from nature or what this particular figure is really doing. Every individual figure is different from another, and sometimes you observe things you can hardly belive in a human body.
    Lena, I hope you realize that that would be an endless debate more about the philosophy of art than anything else.
    Some like to draw from nature a lot while others are more designers. I prefer the design for the reason that I think it's more fun
    As for the high renaissance artists, Leonardo seems to have been the one respecting nature the most, although he did work out a sort of idealized set of proportions. He also did stylize some of his angel and madonna faces.

    As for Raphael and Michelangelo I don't think one can even compare them to Sargent or Repin, it's just two different worlds of thought.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hummel1dane View Post
    Lena, I hope you realize that that would be an endless debate more about the philosophy of art than anything else.
    Some like to draw from nature a lot while others are more designers. I prefer the design for the reason that I think it's more fun
    As for the high renaissance artists, Leonardo seems to have been the one respecting nature the most, although he did work out a sort of idealized set of proportions. He also did stylize some of his angel and madonna faces.

    As for Raphael and Michelangelo I don't think one can even compare them to Sargent or Repin, it's just two different worlds of thought.

    Nature has the best design and the best designers are the ones who studied nature very thoroughly. They all respected nature most, from Raphael to Repin no question.

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