Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Back to Art

I’ve done lots of life (drawing) classes. It was life drawing that got me back into art after I’d had my children. I did it because I’d always been scared of it – not the nudity bit – but the ‘being able to do it’ bit. The nudity bit, well that’s okay, maybe it makes me want to snigger just a bit while I’m talking about it, but the body is really just a series of shapes and that genuinely is how I see it. (There were about thirty seconds­ in my very first class when I just didn’t know where to put my eyes but that didn’t happen again.)

I remember one class I went to while I was doing my foundation course. It was memorable for two reasons. One, because of what I’m about to tell you, but two, because my friend Sally realised that the male model was the ex-boyfriend of a friend of hers. Anonymous naked bodies are fine but naked bodies that turn out to be the checkout girl at the local corner shop, or your daughter’s classroom assistant … well, that can be a bit embarrassing.

Anyway the pose was a continuation of one we’d started the class before. The model was placed back in the same position aided by a series of marks – chalk or in this case, most likely, masking tape and reference to existing drawings. The artists had to sit in the same positions too or the fundamentals of the drawing would all be wrong. (Sometimes the fundamentals of the drawing are completely wrong anyway because of artist error, but that’s not how it should be.)

We were using the gym and the model had been set up at one end of the room. He lay parallel to the wall, precariously placed on top of a construction of gym benches. The artists were placed in a semi circle around him, and I was at one extreme end by his head. This meant that his body was totally foreshortened (head much bigger than feet because it was nearer me). Drawing bodies is one of the toughest disciplines for a variety of reasons but foreshortening is an incredibly difficult thing to deal with. Persuading the viewer that a two dimensional picture has weight and the dimension of a solid object is hard enough, but when you’ve got to think about perspective too it’s … well, it’s easy to see why it’s a hugely important discipline.

In the first session I’d pretty much dealt with the body but it was floating and in the second session I had to face up to the difficulty of drawing in the benches on which he was lying. Because I was at an extreme end of the model, the bench was dramatically foreshortened. While it was really nearly 8ft long, it looked to me to be only a few inches long and so I had a terrible time. I tore my hair out and at the end of the two hour session our tutor, Roger asked me how I’d felt about the class and my work. “Oh,” I’d said “I’ve had such a difficult time. I’ve basically only drawn one line.” And he turned to me and he said, without a trace of irony, facetiousness or taking the piss, “Oh, but look: what a line!”

Two hours: one line.

So why am I telling you this? Because when I write my blog, I can happily trot out a six, seven hundred words about something trivial but true, but when I write my novel, it takes me two hours to draw one line.


SueG said...

To be able to write and draw? That amazes me. I never got past the stick figure phase. I love the way you write about drawing, describing what you see and why. Great post, JJ.

JJ said...

Oh, Sue, is that greedy? Oh well, I do want them both! But only one at a time maybe?

Thanks though. JJx

Yvonne said...

Wow what amazing drawings, I'd love to be able to do it - but writing is the only creative thing I'm able to do.

I think I trip up with my writing when I compare myself to others - it's good to hear other people's methods but often I'll worry that I'm not doing enough compared to them. It's great that you already know your style and your pace, and are at peace with it. I hope I achieve that soon.

Calistro said...

Ooooh I LOVE your drawings. I've wanted to do a life drawing class since...well...forever (never done one). Must pull my finger out this year and sign up for one. There you go, you've inspired me!

BTW I can relate to the 'one line' thing. It's down to feeling too self-conscious when you write. Keep repeating the 'permission to write rubbish' manta and if all else fails have a large glass of wine first!

SpiralSkies said...

Wow, stunning drawings... I suppose the trouble comes when something means so much to us? It kind of trascends our subconcsious ability to just have a scribble with our great big technicolor wax crayons.

Fab post :)

Debs said...

What beautiful drawings, I would love to be able to draw.

I know what you mean about the line. I suppose it's because we want it to be perfect that it takes so long to actually do it.

A. Writer said...

You are such a talented artist.

I would kill to be able to draw people like that! I can draw landscapes and objects but not people. They always look odd when I draw people :(

Jon M said...

Brill drawings and a good comparison. The one line might be pure gold though!

Kate.Kingsley said...

Those drawings are amazing!!

I wish I could draw ~ i am so in awe of anyone who can. You have a real talent for it.

Lucy Diamond said...

Oh, I wish I could draw! Those are fantastic - really beautiful. You are so talented and cool, m'dear!

Angie said...

I'm a bit late to comment on this post, but I wanted to tell you it was an excellent post, and I'm going to remember that analogy when I've only written a little bit at the end of the day.

And those drawings are fantastic, JJ!