Lesson 8 Homework: Your Future Study
Divide, Conquer, Synthesise
I have seen many people repeat themselves when practising figure drawing, myself included, too attached to the outcome of making a nice drawing, and too passive and lazy to get to work on the parts that actually need the work.
Unfortunately this often results in not much progress being made, and here is why: drawing, like all plastic arts, involves a synthesis of competing aspects, and it is really in the manner of synthesis - simplification to essentials of each aspect, the emphasis of one aspect over the other, combined with the manner of final integrating, that is the means of expression for the draftsperson. Each aspect is a subprogram, as it were, and your drawing will be limited by one or all of them. If you focus on one aspect at a time, you can avoid becoming overwhelmed with the complexity, and instead make progress in each narrow area. By doing this you develop subprograms, that keep running in the background even when you don't consciously use them. The answer to the synthesis presents itself naturally as you focus on each area and allow it to speak through you, rather than trying to will a "good drawing". The purpose of the activities presented above is to focus your attention onto particular parts of the overall challenge, allowing you to discover what really needs more work.
Therefore, my advice for your future drawing study is:
1. From life and reference, cycle through the activities presented in the summary from Lesson 8 Life Drawing, solving problems as they present, and being patient as you do so. Notice when you get attached to the outcome of drawing, put that aside and allow yourself to notice which aspect is your particular weakness at this moment, or where you get the most bang for your buck in working on that aspect. Be willing to work on the aspects you discover to be weaknesses after the drawing session
2. As well as study from life or reference, draw from imagination, using your drawings as reference for the pose, or another source, but avoiding "look and put" and getting into construction and big movements. This is part of the after session study mentioned above, but is important in its own right as it develops a certain mental capacity for visualisation that is extremely important for the integrative aspect of drawing.
3. As well and study from life & reference, and imagination, draw from master drawings that capture a quality you admire. You can save yourself a lot of time reinventing the wheel if you simply learn from the simplifications, emphasis and integration of a master's drawing
4. Make sure to do both long drawings - 2 hours or more as well as short drawings, down to 30 second drawings, and everything in between. This will help you to develop an intuition for prioritisation and organisation.
Be patient - don't expect the process to be faster for you than for anyone else who has mastered the art. You will always be able to see beyond what you can actually do - get comfortable with this. Get comfortable with this being a life long process, without losing the fire of your ambition.
Reflect on what would best serve your development at this time, and have the courage to do that, even if it is uncomfortable now. You are ultimately your own teacher: be firm, disciplined and challenging - but compassionate and patient with yourself.
Focus at least some of your time just on what you love in your subject and in drawing - be honest with yourself. The way a particular shoulder turns in to a neck, or the proportions of a male or female neck in more general terms, for example. Find a reference or subject, whether living model, sculpture, photo reference or some other form from nature - for example a leaf, twisting tree root, or cloud, that you can feel aching with beauty in its shapes in space. Seek to understand what you find compelling now - this creates a certain spark, a motivation that can make other less appealing but nonetheless necessary aspects become more interesting. Never lose this spark completely to your discipline.
And extending this: seek to refine the bigger vision that is most exciting for you - this is the basis for authenticity. The thing that holds magic for you - not just what looks impressive - this is truly an expression of what you love deep down, not what other people want or approve of. This is perhaps the most difficult thing of all, but in this is your real power.