Studying Sargent's Sketches

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  1. #1
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    Studying Sargent's Sketches

    So I'm devouring Sargent at the moment, particularly his studies and sketches. I don't yet have enough knowledge or experience to unlock all that I can learn from these drawings, so I want to post a couple, try to stir up some discussion and see if that discussion will unlock a little more for me.



    This is a sketch for one of the Boston Public Library murals. Devil and victim in judgement I think. Some of the questions I'm asking myself about this sketch..

    Was this from life or from imagination? How long did he spend on this? If I had drawn this pose, in what ways would mine be different? He used so few lines, each one must relate to a muscle or bone or other landmark that he felt was important; I don't recognize many of them, what do they refer to? I instinctively feel that being capable of making such minimal, essence only sketches is important, but I don't know why I think it's important.

    Please pitch in with any thoughts you have. You never know when the right perspective will provide an epiphany for someone.

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  3. #2
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    That's just gestural, mass block-in layout...could be from life, could be from a sculpture, could be from imagination. My advice is don't over-analyze too much, especially on one drawing.

    What would Caravaggio do?
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  5. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by mizunodave View Post
    Was this from life or from imagination? How long did he spend on this? If I had drawn this pose, in what ways would mine be different? He used so few lines, each one must relate to a muscle or bone or other landmark that he felt was important; I don't recognize many of them, what do they refer to? I instinctively feel that being capable of making such minimal, essence only sketches is important, but I don't know why I think it's important.
    Could be either from life or imagination. My guess is that it was one of the quick idea doodles.

    How long did he spend on this? Probably ten minutes.

    Going over the lines and spotting what each refers to would take up too much time. I think it's safe to say that he was thinking in terms of landmarks that were important for conveying the message, or recording the pose, or marking the points he considered worth extra attention later on when doing life studies for the same pose. Some of them may also be simply the result of habit - the way he built his "mannikin". Such quick studies are usually in a kind of "shorthand" - easy to read for the artist himself, but an outsider would probably miss a lot of the artist's points of interest because of lack of common context.

    Can you track the marks, identify the structures and guess what specific stuff the artist was jotting down? Yes. You just need to know anatomy really well.

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    Why are you asking us to analyze this sketch for you? If you want to learn from this sketch, that's your job. You analyze it, compare it to some anatomy diagrams, and come back if you still have questions about it.

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    I don't get the impression that mizuno wants us to do his homework for him- and I see this topic as a starting point for an interesting discussion (if we let it happen).

    It really is fascinating and quite helpful to analyze these kinds of drawings and attempt to pinpoint what apparently meaningless marks mean- if anything, they give us an insight into the mind of the artist who did them.

    So why limit this to Sargent? Maybe in a bit we can expand this. If nothing else pans out, we can just post cool sketches we like that are relevant.

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  10. #6
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    Maybe...I just got that impression from the list of questions and lack of "I did x, y, and z to figure this out but..."

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    Quote Originally Posted by drd View Post
    It really is fascinating and quite helpful to analyze these kinds of drawings and attempt to pinpoint what apparently meaningless marks mean- if anything, they give us an insight into the mind of the artist who did them.
    It may be "meaningless" to another person but as a sketch is general note taking, or prep means something to the artist drawing it

    I enjoy seeing sketches and seeing how they may relate to practice, observation and well how one took notes for overall prep and the process of creating a piece, but like Jeff, it's not something to over-analyze.

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  13. #8
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    If you're interested in careful analysis of drawings, check Robert Beverly Hale's books (or rather, the ones attributed to him):

    Drawing Lessons from the Great Masters (the best, and from what I understand the only one actually by him)
    Anatomy Lessons from the Great Masters
    Master Class in Figure Drawing

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  15. #9
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    Thanks for the comments so far. One of my main objectives here is to generate discussion on a topic I find fascinating. Arshes and drd's comments gave me an idea on another way to try to do that.

    How about every couple of days someone posts a sketch for discussion? Doesn't have to be Sargent, can be anyone but would be nice to keep them to true sketches, not finished drawings. That way everyone gets a couple days to comment or ask questions and maybe we can learn together. A group examination but very much in the spirit of the excellent Robert Beverly Hale book that dose mentioned. Plus the thread would be come a nice collection of sketches.

    This is another sketch by Sargent for the Boston Public Library Murals. This one I'm sure was done from life. Very difficult foreshortening of the torso and right leg which is where he focused his attention. I'm assuming he left the hands unfinished because he knew he'd have to go back and give them individual study anyway. The placement of the ear gives the key information about the angle of the head. Pronounced right shoulder blade. I'm a little confused about what is going on with the left shoulder/shoulder blade.

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  16. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by mizunodave View Post
    This is another sketch by Sargent for the Boston Public Library Murals. This one I'm sure was done from life. Very difficult foreshortening of the torso and right leg which is where he focused his attention. I'm assuming he left the hands unfinished because he knew he'd have to go back and give them individual study anyway. The placement of the ear gives the key information about the angle of the head. Pronounced right shoulder blade. I'm a little confused about what is going on with the left shoulder/shoulder blade.
    Yes, this one is more likely to have been done from life. There are little incidental things that are less likely for someone to consciously construct... though who knows, maybe Sargent did.

    The left shoulder blade is foreshortened behind the deltoid and mostly covered by the latissimus.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mizunodave View Post
    I'm a little confused about what is going on with the left shoulder/shoulder blade.
    Look at this guy's left shoulder, it's the forshortening of that you see in the drawing. The trapezius tensing in between the shoulder blade and the spine because of the movement of the arm.

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