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Backgrounds in Life Sketching

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Backgrounds in Life Sketching

By Alexander Ryzhkin

In this video lesson, we will talk about Backgrounds in Life Sketching. I will demonstrate one of the ways in which background can be incorporated into an artwork. There are different ways of drawing from life. In many cases, art students concentrate on a figure and often run out of time when it comes to backgrounds.

Backgrounds in Life Sketching

Introducing a darker tone background may give an interesting appearance to an artwork. The drawing begins in the usual way when the figure is depicted using constructive drawing principles and the knowledge of human anatomy and body proportions. Although I start drawing from the arm, you may want to use a different approach to marking the overall proportions of the figure first. With my level of skills, I can judge the dimensions and location of the figure by eye without additional measurements and marks. If you are still learning, I would suggest spending more time on preparatory steps before placing lines in full strength.

This is a very fast gesture drawing, so precision is secondary. Nevertheless, you must draw what you know about anatomy rather than copying what you see in life. Making fast outlines, I do not strive for exact shapes but portray the overall impression of the figure's pose. As soon as we have general outlines of the figure's shape, we will keep it light and continue working on the background around it. For example, the brown chair has a strong contrast with model's pale skin. So, I do negative drawing by depicting the space around the body instead of concentrating on the body itself. Dark background goes around the body, creating a well-defined border between light and dark tones. The main feature of this drawing is the figure's "sign" or symbol of its shape, which makes it instantly recognizable and unique.

We continue rendering the background in darker tones to separate dark and light areas in this drawing. Working with soft chalk allows filling big areas with tone rather fast. So, life drawing is not only about drawing figures as they are and the actual backgrounds they have, but it can be more creative and inventive. However, the figure is drawn using realistic body proportions and looks believable in this arrangement.

The creative task I have in mind is not to make this drawing super-realistic and accurate, but stylized and artistic. That is why I invent a darker background instead of a white wall. A series of parallel lines gives not only the tone, but also some rhythm to the artwork. Just by having a few dark places on the background, we shift this artwork from a figure study to a creative composition with some spatial arrangement of surrounding backdrop...

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