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honoria in ciberspazio

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Online students say the darndest things
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In my life drawing online class one student reflected:
I felt pretty good about the process once I (think I) figured out what we had to do. My last drawing (the 30 minute drawing) started getting a bit off of proportions. I think I was getting tired and I could see what was wrong, I just couldn't fix it (in the time frame). I think maybe I need to schedule small breaks into the process so that I don't basically draw straight through from the first 1 minute warm-up through to the last 30 minute final drawing.

The student brings up an important concept for the whole drawing process - - taking breaks!  All on ground classes take breaks.  I never thought about it in terms of the online student because I assume they take breaks on an as needed basis. One important thing about taking breaks while doing an extended drawing is to give you time to fix those things you can see are wrong.

Honoria's rant on taking beaks while drawing - do it!

When you are drawing you should take breaks to look at your work with a fresh mind. Drawing a 30-minute drawing is not an endurance test. Here's a pattern I recommend for breaks.  Draw a 1-minute gesture drawing of the model to capture the general pose and position and proportion of the model.  See the Basic Figure Drawing Techniques textbook page 25 for good gesture ideas.

Break one:  
Step back and measure the head and the midline and the 7 or 8 head scale.  Put markers on the page to show the correct proportions.  This is an overall observation break.

Back to Drawing: Breathe deeply, close your eyes, open them and look at the model and your drawing with fresh eyes.  Now squint your eyes so you only see the lights and darks on the model and the background.  Use the side of your lightest charcoal to rough in the patterns of darks and lights.  Do this for about 2-3 minutes and stop again.  This is the "I break for values" break.
Break 2:
Walk back from your drawing and see if the patterns of darks and lights match those falling over your model from a distance.  You will see that some of the values in your drawing need to be reshaped with the eraser.  

Back to Drawing: Breathe again, close your eyes, open them and look with fresh eyes at what needs to be changed and use your eraser and light charcoal to fix your patterns of values while studying this pattern on the model.  Draw with your charcoal and eraser concentrating on the pattern of darks and lights for about 5 minutes and step back.  Look at your drawing and look at the model.  Look at the background of the model.  Did you forget to put any background values in your drawing?   If so look at the area around the model and see abstract patterns of lights and darks and jot down indications of the darks around your model.  Indicate what the model is standing on.  Is he or she casting a shadow around the feet?  

Break 3:
Now you have your proportions that you checked in Break 1 and your patterns of darks and lights that you revisualized in Break 2.  Turn the drawing upside down and on the side and/or look at the drawing in a mirror.  Are there any parts that look wrong when you see them from a different angle?  If the anatomy seems wrong this is a good time to open your Peck's and see what forms are under the skin.  This is an analytical break.  What's right and what's wrong?  How can I emphasize what's right and fix what's wrong?  The following drawing time will be a time when you use your line tools such as pencils to define the contours of the muscles and garments of the figure.

Back to Drawing:  Now it's time to look more closely at your model in the areas that seemed wrong in the drawing.  Fix the things that are wrong.  This may leave traces called "ghost images" on the page. these are traces where the drawing had to be corrected but could not be obliterated with the eraser. I will not grade off for ghost images as you correct your drawings because they are a natural part of a life drawing.  Forget the ghosts and use your line-making tools and your darkest media to define the ins, outs, and arounds of your figure and their background.

Break 4:
 It’s time to evaluate the drawing as a whole from top to bottom and side to side of the page. Does the background balance with the figure? Is this drawing becoming a good composition?  What has to get darker or lighter and why? It is also the time to consider the 3-dimensional effects of your figure in space. How do I make that arm come forward in terms of light and dark or line?  How do I make that leg really go back into the picture plane? What looks flat that really should look curved? What have I learned from past drawings that I can apply to this one?

Back to drawing:  Add the darkest darks and the most defining lines. Check you drawing in the mirror.  Look closely at the model to place the defining lines.  Let your drawing rest between final touches (mini breaks) don’t overdo too many darks and defining lines.  Use them to focus the eye in the composition where you want the focus.  Rest a bit before you sign the piece because the signature is part of the composition and it’s placement is part of your drawing.

The end.  Take a longer break and decide what you learned that you want to explore in the next drawing.

As you can see, I firmly believe breaks are essential to the drawing process.


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