Figure drawing composition

I tried something new recently at the figure drawing session: being more aggressive about my composition. And I was somewhat pleased with the result:

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Usually, I focus on trying to capture the whole figure, like below:
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The task of composition is relatively brief here, simply focusing on fitting the figure on the page, and not making the figure too small, so as to avoid leaving a bunch of white space on the paper around the figure. Often I get a little complacent in this regard: it is possible to more or less allow the model to “set the composition” so to speak, for the particular pose, and either it will be more effective composition from my perspective in the room, or it won’t be, but there is always the next pose to move on to, so a badly composed painting doesn’t matter too much.

But with this particular study, I was really interested in capturing her face. On that day, I had a seat way over in the corner, actually I was sitting on the floor, at the very edge of the half circle that the artists sit in around the model. I could just barely see the model’s face. And I really wanted to make sure that edge of her facial profile was in view. I even made a quick ink sketch to get a sense for whether such a view was even possible.

IMG_0249And I didn’t necessarily set up to “crop” the painting so tightly, but I had focused so closely getting the details of the face that that is just how it ended up. As usual this quick, near disasters seem to produce the best results.

I liked how this extreme sense of closure makes the painting seem more dynamic, more intimate. I also liked how the dark blue value between the face and the edge of the page is 1. fairly small and focused and 2. creates a more interesting shape. Sometimes with the whole figure compositions, all that extra background space is a little bit of a chore to figure out what to do with.

Whole figure compositions can always be powerful, of course, but what I learned is that sometimes experimenting with more “cropping” in composition and a focusing on particular areas of the model can also be interesting and instructive as well.

Figure Session

Figuring drawing session went well on Saturday. It was a great model — as I do this more often, I find myself more sensitive to that vague thing called “a person’s energy.” Being in such intimate proximity to another person (nude in this case) I find the “energy” to be almost palpable.

It started out with one minute poses — this first pose with arms raised was one of my favorites…


And then two minute poses — the model was pregnant by the way


This five minute pose turned out to be another one of my favorites…


As well as this one that was ten or fifteen minutes.


To be honest I find that I do my best right in this ten to fifteen minute range and the 20 to 25 minute poses I find myself getting bogged down in details — at least that is how it has been lately.

This week I tried a little something new with the figure drawing. I put down a quick line drawing with my paint brush (i.e. a representation of the figure using lines). And this is on dry paper. Then I wait briefly for the lines to dry (doesn’t take too long because it is on dry paper) and then I wet the whole paper and add shading. Toilet paper helps to guide the watercolor a little bit more on the wet paper. I was pleased with the results — it gave the watercolor a little bit more movement/blurriness while the lines still keep the figure crisp. I would like to experiment more in this vein, possibly putting down shading/value as a first layer and then adding line.