PART 4. Research Point 4, Structure

Leonardo da Vinci

Da Vinci’s numerous studies often evidence the fact that he dissected cadavers to gain understanding of human anatomy. I am particularly struck by this page that clearly shows drawings of the shoulder and surrounding musculature through various stages of dissection.

Laura Ferguson

Ferguson has scoliosis of the spine. Spinal fusion surgery at age 13 deferred the debilitating effects on her body for a number of years but as the condition later started to impact her, she began to study her own body to better understand what was happening to her. These studies included gaining access to resources in University medical libraries, and later obtaining a 3D interactive scan of her own body which she is able to move – pose – to inform her art.

These pieces are self portraits from her ‘Visible Skeleton’ series. They have a gritty, organic feel. The mark-making is intricate and delicate in contrast to the tonal work which seems to spill across both flesh and background, serving to tie the figure to the space and make her seem trapped in painful contortions.

Danny Quirk

Artist and medical illustrator, the graphic content pulls the eye in and causes closer examination, taking advantage of our natural morbid fascination.

Quirk is American. In the current often surreal and tense US social climate, his work increasingly incorporates a political message, and he employs the same technique to maximise the impact of his work.


PART 4. Project 3, Exercise 4, Energy

This was my first experience of 1 minute sketches, and I found it really liberating. There is no time to capture detail and the minute passes so quickly it almost feels like drawing someone in motion. The results are dynamic and fluid

These sketches were 3 minutes each, the feeling of movement is not as evident as in the first ones. This is where we see the real reflection of the ‘expressive mark-making’ exercise we did in the very first part of this course; how you make the mark impacts the feeling in the picture. These look to me like sketches of someone trying to balance, rather than someone moving.

These are 1 minute sketches of the model described in the Proj3 Ex1 post.

PART 4. Project 3, Exercise 3, Stance

I haven’t marked axes or the perceived centre of gravity on any sketches except this first one. It is something I consciously measure when I’m looking at the relative positions of parts of the body, and the following sketches are some where I remember having to pause and deliberately do that to make sure the figure looks realistically situated in space.

It’s that awful frame again…..


This pose caught my eye because weight is largely suspended from above, not supported by the points in contact with the floor

PART 4. Project 3, Exercise 2, Essential Elements

This is an exercise where I wasn’t able to follow the brief since there is no adjustable lighting in the hall where I attend the Life Drawing sessions, so I exaggerated the shadows and relative tones that I could see.

A2, hard charcoal block on cartridge paper, 10 minutes. This was the first time I had used this medium and I found this really enjoyable to work big and fast, just capturing shadows. I like the dramatic feel of it, it somehow suggests movement to me even though the model has her legs tucked underneath her.

By way of screaming contrast….. every blog should have a comedy moment and here is mine!

For this session, the director introduced a prop; a wooden frame. I measured it by pencil and eye and determined that it was a rectangle of 2:1 ratio. I’m an accountant, I love maths and nice neat ratios make my ‘left-brain’ happy, so my initial reaction was “excellent, this should be really interesting and fun to play with”. Yet somehow I created this monster. I struggled throughout the session with relating the prop to the model – I think I had trapped myself into over-thinking everything and I couldn’t see the ‘whole’. In this pose the frame is tilted forward so the ratio disappears and perspective takes away the right angles…. I couldn’t make the jump. I was trying to look at the negative spaces inside the frame to help but because the frame wasn’t mapped accurately, this could never work.

(I quite like her left foot and calf in isolation!) A2, white conte stick on black cartridge paper.

Believe it or not, this was the very next drawing I did. The cursed prop was just leaning on her legs so I could ignore it, and this is one of my favourite drawings I’ve ever done. I particularly like the shadow cast by the left arm onto the left hip, and I feel like she is ‘really sitting’ on the cushion with the grading of tone in the shadow on her leg. I think I’ve captured the weight being taken by her left arm with the slightly inverted elbow, but the shadow around her tricep is a little heavy.

PART 4. Project 3, Exercise 1, Basic Shapes

These first two studies were from my second life drawing session. They are both A2, charcoal on cartridge paper. The model was leaning back suspending her weight from her left knee with her arms. I concentrated on the torso, particularly the clavicles and shoulders, where the tension lies. I think those areas work well but the proportions of the limbs are too small and I failed to effectively deal with foreshortening in the 15 minutes I had.

Here I tried to use tone to establish the different planes of the limbs and torso, again frustrated by lack of time with the pose. The body has solidity and I think the proportions are accurate, but I would have liked to achieve a better finish.

This model was extremely petite with very thin arms and a narrow ribcage. I found these unusual proportions quite difficult to draw initially (there are some really bad 2min studies of her in the post for proj 3 Ex 4) but the quick studies really helped in that session and I was able to produce some pleasing longer seated studies. The model’s lack of any body fat meant that her muscles were well defined and her body leant itself well to the mapping of shapes at macro level for subsequent detail work. She adopted some great twisting poses for us and was utterly still. I really enjoyed doing these drawings.

A2, marker pen on sugar paper, 15 minutes. Pleased with the foreshortening of the right leg and having been able to capture the angle of the shoulders.

A2, charcoal on sugar paper, 15 minutes. I’m pleased with my portrayal of the model’s arms here, particularly the way her right tricep was pushed out by the slight pressure against her side as she leaned on the back of the chair. I feel like the study has a cartoonish quality but I’m not sure why, perhaps because the fabric on the chair is only suggested with rough strokes.

A2 White ‘coal’ on sugar paper, 20 minutes. This was the first time I used this medium, I was inspired by the model to do a tonal study and had just bought this coal, having never heard of it before. The result is unusual and quite skeletal at first glance, but I’m really pleased with it in retrospect; the more I look at it, the more I like it. The shoulder and arm work well, and I like that I got the shadow under the arm right by leaving blank paper and still managed to show the curve of the breast. I spent a while on the area around the knees at the point at which the legs cross, trying to use highlight and shadow to portray the different planes to build the distortions in the flesh caused by that contact.

From a found image:

A2, graphite stick on fine grain heavyweight paper. The photograph that this was drawn from caught my eye because of the line of the spine, and the way the weight of the torso all sits slightly to the right of the central line, counterbalanced by the extended legs

Research- Wendy Artin

In my growing fascination with light and shadows and trying to capture these effects, I’ve come across this artist, Wendy Artin. I think her figure work is sublime. I’ve been wondering about my own disinclination to include a background but I can see by looking at her work (of still lifes as well as human form) that it really isn’t necessary to do that to achieve a successful outcome, so I’ll stop worrying. I struggle with the idea that art must have meaning beyond simple aesthetics. To me these pieces are simply beautiful, they’re not trying to convey a message or challenge my perceptions in any way, they simply allow me to look and enjoy the forms, the pared-down technique, the soft, spare, but very clever, palette.

There is a quote by Adele Chatfield-Taylor of the American Academy in Rome in the film clip referenced below which describes Artin’s method thus: “She does not sketch her subject first; she watches what the light creates in her composition …. she doesn’t even paint the figure; she paints [that] effect … it almost looks like calligraphy”


PART 4. Project 2, Exercise 2, A Longer Study

From a live model, I haven’t had an opportunity to draw any hour-long poses, the longest has been 40 minutes.

This piece is A2 in charcoal, done in my first ever session and I really like it. The model had completely perfect skin, it was like drawing a statue. She was sat on a small foam block and I don’t think I have quite managed to get her feet ‘on the ground’, the angle isn’t quite right…. and it looks more like a left foot than a right foot! I have found that I’ve struggled with feet a bit, but have practiced them a lot and find that thinking about the inner structure helps. I usually still draw them too small to start with.

I’m really pleased with her neck. Just a couple of marks are enough information to show that she is looking to her right. I also like the shoulder and the small of the back, some subtle shading gives really effective volume. I ran out of time whilst finishing her calves so this is not as subtle as I would have liked. I never go back to these studies after the sessions. I was discussing this with other group members and few of them do either. I think perhaps the short duration of each pose makes all the drawings feel like studies for a final piece.

This next study was the final piece in my first ever session, so is the same model as depicted above. It was my first experience of having to deal with marked foreshortening and I think I have managed it fairly well with the arm, back and left leg. The right heel is not quite right and ruins the effect for the whole leg. A4, conte stick and pencil.

This study is A2 in soft pastels. I really liked this pose; the line of the model’s spine was beautifully serpentine, and the way her left, weight-bearing arm was locked gave a strong anchor to the composition. I’m pleased with the way I caught those two things. I’m slightly disappointed by the legs; I didn’t manage to successfully deal with the foreshortening on the right thigh, calf and foot. I knew this at the time and would have fixed that with another five minutes I believe.

A2 study in drawing pen. The model was lying on a table with cushions under her back, creating a step under the small of her back. This was quite hard to capture and it completely threw me off while mapping out the proportions of her right leg. This was my first attempt at using cross-hatching in life drawing. I’m pleased with the left calf muscle and the right breast and shoulder.


PART 4. Project 2, Exercise 1, Quick Studies

These first drawings were done in my first ever Life Drawing class. I didn’t think I had any preconception of how the session would work and I was slightly nervous being the new person in a long-established group. As the session director called out “go!”, the model pulled a snarling face and adopted the middle pose seen below. I was so surprised I uttered a fairly loud “oh!” and everyone laughed at me – excellent ice-breaker!

Quick studies. Each session starts with quick studies to get us familiar with the model. I find this really useful, almost like a warm-up before exercise. It helps me decide what medium I am in the mood to work with. I have invariably used pencil or graphite stick in my sketchbook for these warm-ups but last week tried to ‘go bigger’ with softer medium. I found it didn’t get me focused in the same way…. but it was a no-music, tired week so I’ll give it another try next time.

Trying to work larger with charcoal to get more flowing lines. 

PART 4. Research Point 3, Foreshortening

Cristina Troufa:

I first came across this artist when researching negative space, which I think she uses to emphasise the important parts of her subject. She often combines this with extreme foreshortening to increase the effect.

Voyeur #5

Troufa’s facial expression in this piece is what is important, conveying annoyance and discomfort at the intrusion of the viewer, so she brings it to the foreground. The effect is to make the viewer self-conscious; I think the title of the piece refers to the viewer.


(Tree) The illusion of great height is achieved in this piece by showing the soles of the feet, in combination with the portrayal of Troufa hanging from branches, which the viewer assumes to be in the air (ie, the figure is not lying down). There is a feeling of peril and risk in this piece, is it about fear of imminent parental responsibility? The foetus is rendered in its own small section of the canvas, which touches but is separate from the main part, almost like a so-called ‘thought bubble’, suggesting the child has yet to be born.

So Close

The grasping, reaching fingers in the foreground and the facial expressions strongly convey a sense of desperation

Jenny Saville:

Jenny Savillle paints women ‘as we are’. This piece, ‘The Plan’, of Saville herself, portrays the map-like lines marked on a patient’s skin prior to liposuction surgery. Saville uses foreshortening here to emphasise these areas to be ‘improved’ as a comment on how women often view themselves, and on the measures they will take in an effort to conform to some aesthetic ideal imposed upon us by society.