In my opinion fabric is another thing that if drawn incorrectly, looks like a glaring mistake. I think it has a lot to do with physics and the rules that all things ordinarily obey. I tried to suggest deeper folds with, heavier, darker marks. This proved to be quite effective. Observing the shape of the cloth was also important, a fold or crease appears very different to the tube like shapes that material can make. Using line weight was the only way I could think of creating depth without starting to build up areas of hatched lines, I was tempted to do this but restrained and stuck to a purely linear approach.
Creating. a tonal study had its own challenges, mainly resisting using line to map out the labyrinth of creases folds and recesses in the folded cloth before me. The depth was a lot easier to describe with a range of tones and gradual variants. I can see how a combination of both would sometimes be necessary to best demonstrate all the possible combinations of creases and folds.
I carried on drawing in detail, I really wanted to try to describe the way the cloth was creased where it had been folded, the material takes on a veiny look, my study below was getting close, all in all I was happy with the study. I felt that the key to this was to study the type of form I was describing as individual components before making a mark, as the cloth is unpredictable and hard to read. A little like map reading in a way, you will often look at the starting point and the destination before setting off, getting an idea of where you will pass through and any noticeable landmarks that may create a detour or change in route.
This exercise called for less detail and more of a gestural approach, describing the way the cloth defines the form underneath. I worked on a sheet of paper roughly a2 size, I wanted to work on a large scale, drawing more from the elbow and throwing my line across the surface in a way that would mimic the clothes characteristics, such as the way it hangs, folds and suspends from the underlying shapes.
As detail wasn’t the priority I decided to use my 5.6mm mechanical pencil, its a lovely, heavy hunk of graphite with a comfortable feel, it can be sharpened to a point with a suitable sharpener, in this case (and most cases) I used it quite dull, I feel it promotes rapid strokes and is good for capturing fluid gestures etc.
I chose a fairly straight on pose, I made the subject (my partner Kathleen) as comfortable as possible then adjusted some of the folds and hanging material of the dressing gown over her legs and off the chair, I was hoping that the curve of the fabric would better describe the form beneath. With speed and great energy I worked over the entire drawing, planning and marking key points in my composition, and once everything was in place, happy with my proportions and arrangement, I started to work over the drawing with more intensity, following the folds
of the dressing gown. Trying to repeat the actions of the previous exercise, I found myself using harder, darker and thicker marks to describe the creases origin until it fades off or diverged into a new fold. Using tone as well as line weight to suggest depth was quite effective. Drawing the figure underneath the cloth also introduced some other types of creases in fabric, most notably where cloth was under stress, such as around the pocket area, the fabric pulling upwards or towards a point of contortion, had a very different appearance to a crease that was suspended. I was happy with the outcome, I haven’t really drawn many figures from life since college, there I was studied the male and female nude and it really was quite evocative. When the world returns back to a state of normality and time permitting I would like to find some life drawings courses in my local area.
I started watching the video series “Ways of seeing” the information in this documentary series was excellent and the passion with which it is conveyed is admirable, I then went on to research across the internet.
I wanted to look into several of the key factors that I would suspect would be potential catalysts and possible reasons as to why the nude figures portrayal in art had changed over time, the main factors that spring to mind would be;
censorship of art considered to be indecorous
trends and style, starting anew and also keeping consistent with the artists contemporaries
Individual beliefs and values, theologically, morally and sexual
Censorship The section about context in the “ways of seeing” was very enlightening, isolating sections of an artwork can easily lead to a complete change of narrative or intention, in the case of the nude this kind of distortion of the artists intent could change the entire emphasis and meaning, below is Danäe by Gustav Klimt, the original image depicts a character from greek mythology, the narrative is that the father of Danäe imprisoned her in a tower to keep her safe from the attention of men, Zeus is actually impregnating her with a shower of golden coins. When we crop the image and emphasise our attention on the breast, the facial expression and the gesturing hand it takes on more of an erotic tone. It removes the narrative entirely, the only thing connecting the story to the art being the title of the piece. Could a misunderstood message or a misplaced focus be responsible for historical censorship of the nude, this seems quite possible.
Another reason a painting could be censored is interpreting the narrative based on the censors beliefs. After all for some cultures, nudity isn’t lewd or inappropriate, for example the unclothed figure has been used as a sign of fertility in ancient artworks, the Mayans and Egyptians civilisation centered around the power of fertility and the nude was featured heavily across art disciplines.
One censors misperception or indeed a manipulation of a perception is all it takes to make a big change, this isn’t reserved for antiquated beliefs or mentalities, while a slight divergence from nudes depicted in art, there is a relevant story about nudes in comic books that proves that one mans opinion can bring on direct change. In 1954 a psychiatrist named Frederick Wertham wrote a book called the Seduction of the Innocent, this book was a warning to the parents of children. According to his research, comics were a bad influence on children, and would lead to delinquency, one of his key pieces of “evidence” was an indecent image, he alleged a partial nude had been placed subliminally and with intent to corrupt young minds. The image depicted a male shoulder, the darkened area of shadow in the deltoid muscle he felt displayed the pubic area of a woman and was intended to be obscene. His campaign against comics brought on the comic book code and in 2010 he was found to have falsified his findings and data to prove his own speculation, in 2011 the comics code had been abandoned. Frederick Wertham was able to manipulate an audience into thinking the American comic book was a damaging influence on the young reader, and that was only 67 years ago. I imagine it being a lot easier historically for this kind of censorship to be introduced, religion alone having a stronger presence and influence, stating that showing nudity is sinful or inappropriate.
The most well known form of religious censorship in art is the “fig leaf” campaign. The fig leaf campaign is most commonly thought to start with Michelangelo’s David (although some of the research suggested this is just the most well known example of the fig leaf censorship), the 17 foot tall statue depicting the biblical character just before or maybe after defeating the giant Goliath, is nude. The bible offers explanation to why David is nude, he was dressed in armour before battle and decides that he doesn’t want the armour as he is not used to them. The catholic church decided that “figures shall not be painted or adorned with a beauty exciting…lust.” this resulted in works of art that featured nudity being covered and censored by draped cloth and fig leaves. David was adorned with a garland of bronzed leaves, this was contrary to the description in the bible and didn’t really fit the beauty exciting…lust criteria, in this instance it was the censors own subjective understanding that brought on the change to the previously accepted nude. The leaves remained for half a century until opinions changed.
Trends and style
The many periods of art all depict the nude in different ways, for example, the female nude in medieval art is often portrayed as having a rounded stomach, sometimes an almost pregnant looking appearance, or the abstraction of the figure as seen in cubism, the still and static female nude during the renaissance period is wholly different to the the sensual and dramatic portrayal of the baroque period. Its easy to imagine that, other artists would be influenced and study the works of art by their influencers, Picasso and Mattise were both inspired by the works of Cezanne, and were known for their sense of rivalry, eventually their work would start to be very different but their earlier works had a similar approach, below is a comparison of a Painting (left) by Cezzane painted in 1898-99, a Matisse painted in 1920 (center) and a Picasso also from 1920 (right) while they are all clearly painted by three different artists, you can see a visual connection.
Mattise and Picasso’s style, I imagine as a result of their well documented rivalry did change into very different approaches, Mattise using the Fauvism style a strong, vibrant, and flat aesthetic vs Picasso’s Cubist approach, which aimed to capture a subjects form at a range of viewpoints, the very opposite of flat. Below is an example.
Art movements do follow a set of ideas and style which in turn dictate how the subjects are presented, the nude figure is no exception.
Individual beliefs and values
Nudity in art doesn’t necessarily suggest sexuality, The renascence artists seemed to prefer to show the nude form not to convey lust in any form but as a study of anatomy, after all these were usually religious pieces and the subjects the art focused on were not always of that nature. Baroque art shows us a more dramatic nude, but again, usually had religious content.
There have been many artists that have used sexuality as their muse, the ones that stood out during my research were Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Lucian Freud. Egon Schiele had an amazing and unique sense of style and focused on nudes of both genders, his art is raw and in some cases quite graphic, and sexually explicit, Schiele was a protege of Gustav Klimt, Klimt’s work also showed quite a lot of sexuality, particularly his sketches. the sketches are quite far removed form his painted works, his paintings are characterised by his use of pattern, the sketches are quite sexual in nature, particularly from his choice of pose.
Lucian freud also shows us a graphic nude, although quite differently to Schiele ( I did read that Schiele was an influence), less sexuality seems to be on display, we are shown in his male nude studies, great detail and realism depicting just how ugly and grotesque a male figure can be, as the grandson of Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud you can imagine the work is intended to be quite cerebral and jarring, maybe even as the viewer uncomfortable.
I mentioned this before in one of my previous exercises about statues, Michelangelo’s representation of the nude female he is apparently using male models. There seems to be no way of knowing exactly why, I have read several different theories, one was that Michelangelo’s own sexuality or maybe even a lack of it meant he never saw the female form, another theory was that he was incredibly religious and would not look at the female form, living for the catholic church in celibacy. It has also been suggested that female models were hard to come by. Michelangelo was not unique in this case, other Renaissance artists seem to have used male models for female studies, nude or clothed, Raphael’s St Catherine of Alexandria was based on a male model, while not as immediately apparent as Michelangelo’s sculpture “night” this could mean Raphael was familiar with the characteristics of a female, and how best to adjust the male to female characteristics to portray the gender. Donatello, was said to have been homosexual and was quite obvious about this, despite what the catholic church would say, his version of David is now considered to be a work of homoeroticsim, a google search brings up quite a few articles on this. It is quite hard to find which one, if any applies, wether sexuality, beliefs or risk of offending the Catholic church, who was commissioning the artwork at the times was the contributing factor of the artists of the Renaissance periods choice of model.
My time spent researching the changing nude has probably brought up more questions than I ever imagined and certainly more I have the knowledge to answer without more extensive research. Above are three broad reasons that I imagine are all valid contributors in the evolution of the nude in art, I’m sure there are many more. Importantly for me, I think the biggest message I have taken from the research is context, and how it reinforces the choices of the artists, and what it means to the overall experience or message if it is removed, corrupted or even unintentionally changed.
This exercise called for a series of quick sketches based on a seated model. the first instruction was to familiarise myself with the pose by drawing some 2 minute sketches. I worked with my large graphite pencil, I am increasingly leaning towards this tool for quick studies, preliminary sketches and just to capture some energy before moving on to detail. I tend to do the exact opposite of what the exercise text suggests, I don’t start from the middle but work more gesturally, I may put a curve in to suggest the forward arching torso or a bending hip, I then normally mark out my proportions for the head, and work in the rest of the gestures for the other parts of the body. I tried to change my approach to working from the middle but it was quite tricky to break my habit, I will try to force this more in my upcoming sessions, it may bring on some positive changes.
I outlined the gesture with repeated marks, trying to feel out the form and the tension points keeping the pose in one solid mass, i could see there was tension in the arms as they pull the back towards the tightly gripped hands, the pulling force opposite the arched back was really what was going to sell this image and its representation of the pose.
Pre sketch 1
I remember my first mark on this sketch was actually a quick line to suggest the backs curvature and then an upward mark from the ankle to the knee, this first sketch while using more exploratory lines offers less impetus, the pose seems passive and relaxed, indeed the model did move slightly between the two pre sketches but i wont use that as an excuse, I want to be more mindful of the weight and direction of my lines, especially where a point of tension, or stress is involved, it stands to reason that the energy used in making my mark, will lend itself to the drawing.
Pre sketch 2
This sketch seemed to have less marks than the first, I feel it also has more information, the stretched material at the points of stress seem to offer an extra layer of tension in the pose. This could be that I have entered the correct mindset to be analytical of my subject or it could even mean that going through the motions once I have a greater understanding of the pose. I do tend to work my drawing from a sketch to refined sketch to finished piece, getting into the habit of making these preliminary sketches seemed to be most fruitful and should be incorporated more into my workflow.
10 minute drawing 1
I did this larger sketch with the thick graphite pencil, again feeling the gesture and form with quick marks. it is in fact made up of two layers, a lighter tentative under drawing and then thicker strokes.
10 minute drawing 2
The second drawing I decided to use charcoal sticks, selecting quite a large short stick, as I wanted to deliver bolder marks with blocks of tone, the smallest lines accomplished with a flat edge. I did quite enjoy using charcoal, I don’t often use it because it is messy and cumbersome, it always looks very energetic and appealing, and seemed to fit the idea of a quick study, so seemed a suitable choice for this exercise.
I was also asked to make some other sketches with slightly adjusted poses. i wanted to try to do these with a brush pen, I suspected it would offer a good range of line weight, would be permanent and force me to correct the drawing without erasing.
Again I enjoyed the impulsive feeling it added to the drawing, I did several of these sketches, and stuck with the brush pen, it was very liberating freely throwing lines over the drawing adjusting my pressure from hard to slight, I had a lot of fun. there was plenty of flaws in these sketches and I didn’t mind at all, they wasn’t supposed to be refined or finished, but as an exercise I felt they had served their purpose. In fact I think I some of these were indeed my favourite of the exercise.
This was by far the most tedious exercise, I wanted to get a sense of perspective in the figure, its one of the skills I would like to work on, I find it hard as the slightest mistake either way to long or short, small or large and it throws the drawing off. I tried, and I tried and tried some more. Even our dog Hugo was bored half way through and decided to sit in his bed. I tied making adjustments to the pose, I couldn’t get the length and sizes for the lower half right, I lifted the subjects leg up hoping to bridge the gap but no luck, eventually I got there I feel. I was sick of the pose and it didn’t seem, to be working, I didn’t let it beat me though, I changed both the pose and position and carried on afresh.
My alternative pose seemed to be a bit more candid and closer to the subject, with that in mind I was more than happy to change. Sometimes if things aren’t working it is best to just start again rather than make do with something that is off. After all its these events that teach us some of our most revealing lessons.
I was happy with my final image, Hugo had gone to take inventory of his toys and hidden dog treats by the time I started the drawing, I was tempted to add him in from memory but as a lot of the figure was obscured I decided to use the remaining forms to describe the slumped and relaxed pose.
I managed to acquire my stepson Mason to sit for this sketch, the caveat to this was he wanted to lay down and watch a seemingly endless stream of mind numbing drivel on TikTok, It didn’t seem to be a bad way to get him to sit still for a duration so I agreed to his terms, his diplomacy in his debate club seems to be paying off. I completed three drawings for this exercise, the first two being preliminary drawings, this was a great way of understanding the pose and the position of the body. The angle of the head the arms relaxed over the trunk and the legs crossing over and locking at the feet, the second drawing was all of the above but with more of an emphasis on the composition and atmosphere.
Basic shapes and their relation to one another, I was careful to try consider the weight and downward force that came from the reclined pose.
More background and interaction with the soft furnishings helped to describe the weight and mass from the subject as he absorbs some annoying visuals and grating sounds. This was also a good lesson for me to remain focused throughout polluting distractions.
With the form explored, understood and committed to muscle memory, I selected a larger sheet of paper around A3 size, I followed my normal process and selected my 5.6mm mechanical pencil, I am aware that this is almost becoming a crutch to lean on, it seems to be working so while I am reluctant to change things up I will try to change my process in the spirit of experiment. I loosely and lightly outlined the forms onto the page, I am conscious to not make the pose mechanical or too rigid, I introduce the background at this step too as this will be directly affected by the model, if the background was a lamp or a bookcase for example I would probably imply it is there on the sketch and work that up once my anatomy seems successful. This drawing needs to have weight and the sofa needs to show that, it needs to wrap, distort and change its shape to follow the subjects form. The hatched lines on the material added to the compression effect on the soft material.
Using both linear and tonal value to describe the influence each form has on one another. The exercise notes did suggest that the model be prepared to sit for an hour, we didn’t sit down for more than 35-40 minutes in total including a toilet break half way through the final drawing, luckily I had all the information needed to pick up the pose where we left off. I don’t know how I would have used the extra 20 or so minutes, I feel I had enough time, I may have spent the “free” time to work into the sofa some more, really describing the forms with a little more intensity, although this may have detracted from the pose overall so I am not too concerned.
This exercise asked for a sequence of six different poses lasting 10 minutes each. I didn’t have access to a model at the the time, and I did want to complete some studies of the unclothed figure. Due to lockdown I was unable to join a life drawing class, the only alternative was to work from photographs. I did have several books on poses for artists, these while wasn’t as good as a real model was quite useful, every pose was photographed from various angles surrounding the model, from this you could get a better sense of the forms of the body, it was an acceptable middle ground.
I set a timer for 10 minutes, my aim was to use blocks of tone, I used the edge of the pencil to make my strokes broader, covering the space and rendering the forms quickly, refinements being sparred until the end.
\All but two of the studies showed a slight lean from the models central axis, that was the seated figure and the standing arms crossed. I have marked below where I believe the models centre of gravity and weight distribution would be calculated.
I found it hard to choose a preferred drawing, they all felt like the poses had a sense of distributed weight and mass, and I was pleased with the forms I described in the 10 minutes allotted to the task.
This was an exercise comprised of quick 2 minute sketches with the emphasis on balance and observing the figures centre of gravity. I have marked on the image where I believed each central axis was during each pose. I noticed how much more confident I had become drawing the figure, especially ones that are off balance. I feel this section has definitely given me a greater understanding and the start of some good practices to draw a successful figure.
This was another round of quick sketches focusing on energy, I used a brush pen, I enjoyed working this way on the loose sketches of Exercise 1: Quick studies and wanted to use it in a similar way to capture the motion of the subject. I asked my subject (Kathleen) to stretch, lean and pull in various poses, everything seemed to affect the poses, if my placement of the feet was off slightly then the poses intensity was reduced. I refined my lines until I was happy they conveyed the correct amount of force, weight distribution and any other physics that applied.
A reaching stretch, a pulling force with the right arm against the left
leaning backwards on the door handles, the tension in the arms taking the majority of the backwards force
cross armed lean, the weight on the subjects left foot, countered by the extension of the right leg
leaning over the counter reaching for the computer mouse, weight on the left leg and supported by the stool on the right leg.
I used this exercise to get a greater understanding of not only the shape and form of the body parts but their function as a mechanical object. I tried to cover the whole body and picked out some of the more complicated structures and their relation to each other not only in position but size also.