View Full Version : 2 hr Seated figure drawing.

Toby E
11-20-2016, 01:00 PM

Title: 2 hr Seated figure drawing.
Year Created:
Medium: Charcoal
Surface: Paper
Dimension: 17in x 24in
Allow digital alterations?: Yes!

On top of some experience in figure drawing, I've been attending a weekly, untutored drop-in 2hr portrait session over the last year.

Mostly I've been making portraits of the face in conte or pastel or charcoal but this last week I drew the whole model, mostly using line only.

There's a couple of things I would've done differently had I thought of them at the time. One would be to put a line behind the model where the wall meets the platform he was sat on. The other is that I'd have spent a bit more time tweaking the shoulders to bring the left one up a bit more.

For the purpose of this post, I'm really interested to gain some advice and opinion on use of line weight throughout this drawing.

I've seen various approaches described - ie, softer lines where the edges of the model are more shallow to the viewer / darker and thicker lines to bring things forwards...
and then also lighter lines on edges that are receiving more light and darker on those that receive shadow.

How could I have made better use of the line weights across the drawing?

Toby E
11-20-2016, 01:03 PM
Could someone please move this post to the structured critique forum ?

Mark Szymanski
11-21-2016, 06:13 PM
Since no one has answered yet, I think I'll take a stab at this for advice.

First off, there are as many ways to finish even a quick portrait as there are artists-so no single way fits everyone. With that caveat out of the way... I'll drop some quotes in from some of my favorite authors describing how to handle this issue we all have.

From Anson Cross in Free-hand Drawing... pgs 14-20. It is available in a free pdf from archive.org.

"Character appears in outlines. An object, as a cast, having a smooth, hard surface, shows these qualities in its outlines, which will be represented by relatively smooth lines. A cube with smooth faces has sharp, straight edges, which will be represented by straight lines. A box made of rough boards has broken edges, whose character may be given by drawing the irregular outline
in which one surface breaks into the other. A drawing from the figure can express the variations in the appearance of the outline, parts of which are sharp, other parts blurred by light or a growth of hair.

Light affects the appearance of the outlines strongly, in some places making them distinct, in other places indistinct. An even line for everything disregards all these variations of effect; so also does any conventional variation of strength.

The conventional accenting taught in many public schools produces the most mechanical, hard, and unnatural sketches when the student works from Nature, indoors or out. ...but after instruction in drawing, which has specified that lines must be represented with a degree of strength corresponding to their distance, he naturally does not think of observing and drawing what he sees, but simply mechanically grades the strength of line as he has been taught.
He makes the heaviest lines of the drawing where there should be the faintest indications of lines, and often where no lines at all would be better than faint ones.

It is almost impossible to get a pupil from most public schools to make sketches in which the unimportant detail, which is no part of the effect, is not brought out with heavy black lines.

A correct impression of the facts must be conveyed, and no important line of a visible surface can be omitted even if not seen. Thus, in a brick or other building, when the light comes from directly behind the spectator, and the walls of the building are foreshortened equally, the front edge of the building will be invisible, unless it is brought out by different material or color. In an outline sketch of the building it would be necessary to represent this invisible edge,and it might be necessary to represent it by a very strong line, since the edge is the nearest line of the building.

Although no rule for accenting can be given, the effect is found to conform to the principle that any detail which comes in either the mass of the light or that of the shadow is unimportant. Thus an edge defining a light surface against another surface also light is not prominent, and an edge separating a surface in the shadow from another shade surface is seen faintly. The important features are those which come between the light and the shadow. But from what has been said it will be realized that an outline drawing is most conventional, and that the representation of what is really seen of outline will often be most unsatisfactory. The contour of an object is absolute, and an outline will give what the eye sees ; but to express in outline artistically the pupil must learn to feel, and this cannot be expected at first. All that one can say to the student is observe the object, and do what is seen when this does not contradict the facts.

The following suggestions may aid pupils to accent satisfactorily:

1. The difference in distance of the different objects or the different parts of the same object, should be expressed by varied accenting, in which the strong lines represent important lines of the subject.

2. The strongest accents should represent the nearest important lines of the subject.

3. The lines of the background or any unimportant detail should be represented by light lines.

4. The forms of the different objects and their different parts, instead of those of the background seen behind the objects or between its different parts, must be brought out by the accenting.

In the drawing of the geometric objects, unless the entire light and shade effects are given, it will not be easy to improve the drawing in this way; but
in the study of common objects, or flowers and foliage, and of furniture, there will be many small cast shadows which can be seen and represented by the pupils. Even in an outline drawing these cast shadows can be expressed by a thickening of the line, the students represent all important features that they can see, the easier it will be for them to make artistic drawings."

If you download the book, there are some drawings and more description just in this section.

I think another important author has a few quotes on how to handle this sort of question. Harold Speed (my hero), has some interesting stuff to say in "The Practice and Science of Drawing", pgs 75-76.

"Variety of Thickness and Accent"
A line of equal thickness is a very dead and inexpressive thing compared to one varied and stress at certain points. If you observe any of the boundaries in nature we use a line to express, you will notice some points are accentuated, attract the attention, more than others. The only means you have to express this in a line drawing is by darkening and sharpening the line. At other points where the contour is almost lost the line can be soft and blurred. It is impossible to write of the infinite qualities of variety that a fine draughtsman will get into his line work; they must be studied first hand. But on this play of thickness and quality of line much of the vitality of your drawing will depend."

He goes on to talk about the "Rhythm: Unity of Line.
Unity of line is a bigger quality than variety, and as it requires a larger mental grasp, is more rarely met with. The bigger things in drawing and design come under its consideration, including, as it does, the relation of the parts to the whole. Its proper consideration would take into the whole field of Composition, a subject needing far more consideration...

In almost all compositions a rhythmic flow of lines can be traced. Not necessarily a flow of actual lines (although these often exist); they may only be imaginary lines linking up or massing certain parts, and bringing them into conformity with the rhythmic conception of the whole. Or again, only a certain stress and flow in the forms, suggesting line movements. But these line movements flowing through your panel are of the utmost importance; they are line the melodies and subjects of a musical symphony, weaving through and linking up the whole composition.

Often the line of a contour at one part of a picture is picked up again by the the contour of some object at another part of the composition, and although no actual line connects them, a unity is thus set up between them. This imaginary following through of contours across spaces in a composition should always be looked out for and sought after, as nothing serves to unite a picture like this relationship of remote parts. The flow of these lines will depend on the nature of the subject: they will be more gracious and easy, or more vigorous and powerful according to the demands of your subject.

This linking up of the contours applies equally well to the drawing of a single figure or even a head or hand and the student should always be on the lookout for this uniting quality. It is a quality of great importance in giving unity to a composition. "

These are two of the overarching themes I read and work with time and again. I cannot recommend these two books highly enough, I ended up buying them both, and between them do more to teach someone how to install "art" into a picture than any other books I have come across. Read them, take notes, draw the pictures from within them. The drawings in both books have SO much to teach, just looking at them doesn't convey the information. Copying to the best of the ability of the sweep of the curve, hardness of the line, why the author chose this picture to illustrate his point in the text is so illuminating you will be slapping your palm against your forehead and say "how could this incredible information be out there and I have never heard of it? I get a glimmer of what is now possible." Really, I am not exaggerating. I said that so many times reading these books.

Hope this lengthy post helps... (buy the books - you'll refer back to them often)

Toby E
11-22-2016, 05:01 PM
These are really great sources - much appreciated. I like the lengthy nature in the Anson Cross book as whilst it states some firm principles it keeps open the potential of the students own take. Some lovely passages in the book including how simplifying ones work can't be done early in one's development without the knowledge of the complex to inform it. I'm guessing my experience with line is very much like this.

thanks for the post!