I did two sessions of life-drawing this month, trying to find the media and style that I want to employ, and I think I’m nearly there.
In this post I want to try to show how I assess the life-drawings that I’ve made in a session, and more specifically how I use that to decide changes that I want to make in future sessions.
The first session produced drawings that were clean and careful, which I think was a result of not having done that much life-drawing over the past few months, and therefore wanting to go back to simple basics and, to some extent, reassure myself.
These first drawings were done with sanguine pencil and a little white pastel crayon on A2 Clairefontaine Naturel paper.
For the second session (a week later, with the same model) I knew I needed to loosen up a bit, and get back some of the elements that I really enjoyed in the large-scale charcoal drawings for England’s Dark Dreaming, and the pastel drawings from The Court of Queen Mab, without just returning to either of those specific styles.
I swapped the sanguine pencil and white pastel from the first session for Conté crayons — a limited palette of sanguine, black, and white — but kept the tinted A2 Clairefontaine Naturel paper.
I think I’m somewhere close to how I want to draw now, but — whilst studiously steering clear of whimsy or soft-focus — I’d like to introduce a bit more haze (for want of a better word) in places to contrast with the more brutal “bruised raw flesh and bone” feeling that I was pleased with in the drawings from the second session (I should note that I want to retain much of the “bruised raw flesh and bone” feeling, but I think a bit of haze alongside it would work even better).
I think this will mean slightly reducing the amount of white and black Conté crayons, reserving them for more extremes of light and dark, and letting the sanguine Conté crayon deal with a greater range of the midtones and also take a more dominant role in the definition and line of the figure.
Another possible change might be letting the colour of the paper emerge unmarked at places within the body of the figure.
Finally, I need to deal with the annoying tendency of the white Conté crayon highlights to turn slightly grey due to any black Conté crayon beneath them.
This problem might naturally solve itself with my plan of reducing the use of black to just the darkest shadows, because there’ll simply be less black on the paper to muddy the white Conté crayon, but otherwise maybe a quick spray of fixative before adding the white highlights may be necessary.
Some experimentation on this point above may be necessary as fixative does irrevocably change the surface of the paper and the way the white Conté crayon makes marks on the paper changes accordingly.
So these are my “notes to self” for when I set up my next life-drawing sessions in May.