Friday, October 21, 2016

Spa Day

As I made my way toward the exit of the Chrysler Museum this afternoon, I had a nice chat with one of the employees. He laughingly called this my spa day because I'd mentioned having three kids and rarely getting to come to the museum to enjoy a long, uninterrupted drawing session. How right he was! I'd never thought of it that way before because as relaxing as it is, make no mistake that this was work!


I arrived at 10:30 in the morning, sat in Huber Court enjoying a cup of Earl Grey and a snack before heading upstairs to my favorite exhibit: 18th & 19th century European & American Art. Chrysler has a great collection of marble busts and figures, and I had decided ahead of time to work on The Wounded Indian, a marvelous life-size or near life-size marble sculpture by Peter Stephenson (American), completed in 1950.

By 11:30, I had chosen my viewpoint and set up my easel. I'm using gray toned paper (Canson Mi Tientes 12x16"), a B graphite pencil, a white pencil for highlights, and two erasers: my Tombow Mono Zero and my kneaded. I'm working standing up, but I've got one of the museum's stools so I can sit and think during my breaks. It took about ten minutes to block the figure in, holding the pencil very loosely and using my whole arm to make marks.
Ten minutes in

After half an hour I had my shapes a little more refined and some shadows lightly added to guide me.
30 minutes
One hour in (sorry for the fuzzy cellphone picture!) I started defining the contours and muscles of his back, adding more angles and working a little darker. I also erased some of the shadows from the first image as they weren't working for me.
60 minutes
I'm pretty happy at this point with how things are going. I'm still having trouble with the leg from the knee to the toes - I'd made adjustments at least half a dozen times - so I've decided to focus on the torso today. There's some complex shading happening with the twist of his body and the defined muscles of his back and abs, and that's what I'm most drawn to (haha, pun) at this point.
90 minutes in
Throughout my session, I make it a habit to step away and examine my progress. This is different from just taking a step back; I make sure to stand at least 3-4 feet back. It lends a fresh perspective and keeps you from getting lost in whatever detail you might be currently working on. People have a tendency to overwork an area when they aren't in the habit of stepping back regularly, and they can accidentally get cornered into a bad bit of drawing that's harder to correct so far in. 

The image below is two hours into my drawing. I've used my white pencil sparingly to remind me of the lightest areas on his body. I'm building up the shadows on his ribs and muscles, and darkened the contour of his back to make it stand out from the rest of the paper.
Two hours in
Two and a half hours in, I've got the torso pretty well defined, although I'm going to keep tweaking the shadows as I continue to study what the light's doing. I've shaded in some of the neck and want to hint at the draping locks of hair before I call it quits for the day.
2.5 hours in
Three hours and I'm done for now. I roughed in the ear and added a few highlights to the hair on his neck to show how it twists over itself. I'm spartan with my use of white because there are few spots on the sculpture that are hit directly by the lights in the room. Clarification: there are few spots from where I'm standing that are hit directly by the ceiling lights. The moment I sit down on my stool to take a break, there's a strong white highlight along the tibia, almost the whole length of his calf, but it disappears as soon as I stand.
Three hours
I plan to return and continue working this piece. It looks frame-able as it is, but I have my heart set on capturing the foreshortened foot and calf. There's also a beautifully draped arm and hand behind that leg that I want to draw. 

Remember that drawing is all about observation. I work slowly because a good deal of the time I'm standing there simply studying the lines, light, and shadows. Have you been to the Chrysler Museum? What's your favorite painting or sculpture? I could spend the rest of my life drawing their whole collection of old sculptures!

One more view of my drawing at the three hour mark beside the sculpture