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Sunday, June 03, 2012

Draw : Gesture Workshop


To Brighton for D's birthday, where we mooched around and ate food, and I stared at another naked person for two hours.

(Birthday was nice thanks, Terre à Terre was smashing, as usual, and also a shout out to the Prince George - more delicious veggie grub and a decent pint. Apart from that Brighton was up to its usual standard. We ambled around the shops, glanced at the sea, avoided the semi-ritualistic EDL shoutfest, and even sipped a Jubilee themed cocktail).

In the morning, I dropped into one of Draw's workshops, this one on Gesture Drawing. This is basically about capturing the essence of a pose in a short time.

Draw's HQ is in a rather unprepossessing, if not downright brutal, tower block in that slopey bit of territory between the high ground of the station and the low level of the Old Steine. Inside, it's all industrial paint finishes, exposed concrete and boomy acoustics. I can imagine a Blake's 7 episode being filmed there. But entering the studios is a surprise. It's a bit like Second Life actually, everything's very plain and cut and paste, stylistically, then you turn a corner and you are in someone else's head.  The Draw space is filled with bits and bobs of costumes, piles of props, shelves full of materials and books. Floaty white cloth on the tall windows distributes the light, and there are chairs and easels around.

Having gathered a quorum of artists (I got the impression that the start time was more of a suggested aim rather than a scheduled event), Jake introduced the class concept, the relationship of this workshop to the others and to the untutored drop-ins, and the model (Laura).

We started by drawing without looking. OK we looked a bit (can't help it!), but the idea was to work with the eyes and the model primarily, following the features with the drawing implement. We did a bunch of those, switching between 2-3 minute poses, before then allowing some looking ("look at the model more than the paper"), again with rapid switching of poses. Laura had her work cut out, having to spin around on her little dais so that we all got some physical variety.

The results of the blind drawings were quite scary-looking, so are probably not going to be published. EDIT: some on Flickr. Mine looked like a violent struggle had taken place on the paper, whereas others' were evocative of repetitive therapeutic movements, possibly within the scope of a medical treatment of some kind.  All very entertaining!

Advice was then given on the quality of lines to aim for : keying the important lines to the significant structure (some anatomical insight being vital); using the emotional aspect of the pose as a cue to the style of mark-making; iterating the confident, expressive line, rather than scratching a series of tentative ones. This all seemed credible, but slightly harder to put into practice.  Perhaps I could have done with some demonstrations or some feedback on what I was doing.

And so we progressed, fortified by tea and the solidarity of the company, toward the slightly longer realm of the 10 minute pose. We were encouraged to treat the first 2-3 minutes of the drawing as an exercise in itself, using the remaining time for an upgrade of the initial sketch. Drawing holistically is much more successful than working from top to bottom or left to right.  Amongst other things, it's more likely that the scale of the drawing is going to be self-consistent, which saves time in the end, and makes a composition more successful.

All in all, a useful provocative and energising class. I'm going to have to work it through somehow, of course by doing more drawing, but maybe a bit of reading, probably starting with my Betty Edwards  The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, or perhaps Kimon Nicolaides' The Natural Way to Draw.

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