Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Teaching observation

In life class my instruction is loose and relaxed. I go from easel to easel, encouraging, guiding and instructing less experienced individuals on how to construct the figure in front of them, but so much of that instruction is teaching the person how to observe.

I use a sketch pad and show angles of limbs and body contours, how to measure and judge proportion, using intersecting body parts as markers and invisible lines to measure angles. Each time, I find it interesting to see how much people really don't' see when they look at the subject. When a correction is pointed out, it becomes apparent and they can refine their drawing, while I try to remember what I observed in my very early days of drawing.

I'm sure I was the same. I didn't see the subtle changes of value representing shadow or the slight curve of the torso, the angle of the leg, how it intersected with the foot or calf of the other leg and so on.

After 30 years or more of drawing, I can capture lines fairly well, but if I did not practice daily, that skill would slow and limit my ability to draw effectively. Some individuals who attend life class don't do any drawing between classes. Something that I am trying very hard to change!

There are a few commonalities in those learning to draw the human figure.

1. There is little knowledge of human anatomy and proportion. Facial features are not symmetrical or in proportion. Torsos and limbs are either lengthened or shortened and generally not in proportion to the rest of the figure.
2. There is a habit of getting caught up in detail and forgetting the global view, especially in very short poses.
3. The habits of childhood are still ingrained in the adult and they flow forward into the drawing. Whether 16 or 60, the 10 year old's drawing still prevails until practice and ability grows.
4. The ability to observe the reality of the subject and translate that accurately onto paper is not suffciently developed and it can be a source of frustration for the individual.
5. Overall shape of hands and feet are challenging to draw and many individuals don't know how to block in overall shapes then refine the digits. (my mantra to them is 'think mittens and socks!'

charcoal on newsprint
copyright Jeanette Jobson

I didn't manage much drawing on Monday night, due to my attention being with those drawing. These are a few very quick sketches done mostly to demonstrate a line or form to another person.

Visual art is a way of seeing and expressing that thing seen in a manner not given to everyone. That statement could be misconstrued as prideful, but anyone engaged in painting as a profession knows that isn't true. (Ed Pointer)


vivien said...

a really good post and so true in my experience - I like 'think mittens and socks' :)

I tell mine to stop going on automatic pilot and draw what IS there not what they assume is there.

Jeanette said...

Thanks Vivien. Simplifying shapes makes it so much easier for them to draw.

The challenge is in getting them believe their eyes instead of their brain. That labelling function is firmly fixed in there. :)