Sunday, 6 February 2011

Clothed Figure - research

I wanted to look at some drawings of the clothed figure before I started this section. I had some artists in mind: Frederic Leighton; Henry Moore and Alison Watt.

Frederic Leighton

I went to an exhibition of his drawings and studies at the Hunterian Art Gallery a few years ago. I just happened to pop in and I wasn't aware of the artist before hand. However I was really impressed by these studies. They were so beautiful and so detailed, I was in awe of the work that went into them. My drawing tends to be very rushed and I'm too impatient to spend ages on tiny detail. Paradoxically though, I am most inspired by this type of drawing and painting.
In these studies for his large paintings he repeatedly concentrated on figures draped in yards of (seemingly) luxurious fabric. He predominantly used black and white chalk on coloured paper or graphite on white paper.

These studies above demonstrate the lengths to which he went to prepare for his paintings. He was known to carry out many preparatory sketches focusing on small areas of figures which he then traced onto his canvases. At first glance these drawings of drapery have an abstract quality but Leighton has skillfully described the curves of the underlying figure so that and on further inspection they are almost nudes.

He has used the brown paper as the main tone for the fabric and the black and white chalk serve to show the shadows and highlights respectively. This technique is so simple and yet so effective.

Henry Moore

I don't know an awful lot about Henry Moore but I happened to catch a programme about the drawings he did when he was sheltering in the London Underground tunnels during an air raid in WWII. As far as I can remember, he was stuck there one night and had to shelter so made use of his time by studying his fellow sufferers huddled together under blankets. He then made drawings from memory and would came back to London over and over for inspiration.

Many of his drawings were done using a "wax-resist" technique in which he drew with a wax crayon and laid washes of ink over the top. This technique works really well for the subject I think. You really get the feeling of a blanket draped over a sleeping figure. The wax is laid down where the highlights would be and then the other tones go on using watercolours or ink. I'd like to give this method a go.

Alison Watt

I was reading over the instructions for this section and we are asked to draw lots of squares in which we then draw close up areas of a piece of fabric, so in essence each one is a little composition in itself.

This made me think of the Scottish artist Alison Watt. A couple of years ago there was a BBC Artworks Scotland programme which documented her solo exhibition Phantom, at the National Gallery in London. Although they aren't drawings, her amazing abstract close-ups of fabric on a large scale are breathtaking in their beauty. Luckily there is one of her paintings in the Kelvingrove art gallery in Glasgow that I have been able to see.
Pulse oil on canvas 10 x 7ft

Phantom oil on canvas 213 x 335cm
Root oil on canvas
I love the way she has made such a simple subject so beautiful. She has obviously spent a lot of time considering the composition for each painting, each crease and each highlight are carefully thought out.
The link below on youtube shows some of her preparation for her NPG exhibition and is a great insight into how she works.The appears to have been influenced by Jaque Loius David and Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres and the way they painted fabric particularly the male fashion at the time, the neck-kerchief. She talks about negative space and her difficulties depicting this. This negative space is the focus of Root and Phantom shown above.

Although these are oil paintings, because they are monochrome it is easy to see how they could translate to drawing using pencil or charcoal on white paper.

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