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How to Sketch from Life

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How to Sketch

By Alexander Ryzhkin

In this video lesson, you will discover How to Sketch from life. Let's make another gesture sketch. This time, it will be a standing pose with the knee on a chair and the bent body over the chair.

How to Sketch

Let's begin. This is a very dynamic pose, and the usual proportion of how many times a head fits into a body doesn't work here as it does in figures that are standing upright. Some artists start drawing such poses with a quick gesture outline of the whole body to mark the main proportions and locations of body parts. I will show you another way, beginning by drawing one part of the figure in full strength and continuing to other parts, one by one. This way of sketching is quite challenging, because an artist has to see in one's head the complete figure as a finished artwork and envision all the proportions beforehand.

Children and many beginners use this method when drawing figures, because it feels like a natural way to draw, but problems begin when beginners run out of paper by misjudging the proportions from the very beginning. If your level of skill is not adequate, you may want to begin with very light pencil strokes, marking the overall dimensions and proportions, and then use full strength to finalize your sketch. In my case, I draw the final lines with confidence, having the complete drawing in my head. It is just a matter of revealing it on a blank sheet of paper.

It is very important to draw what you know about anatomy and proportions, not to copy the outlines you see on a model. Drawing what you see leads to constructive mistakes. Drawing what you know helps to create believable and realistic sketches. I will explain the difference using the following example. An arm can have two different positions—pronation and supination. In supination, the elbow bone and the radial bone are parallel to each other, while in pronation those bones are crossed. This influences the geometry of the bones and therefore the alignment of the muscles of the arm. Without understanding this anatomy, an artist will have challenges in drawing arms in a realistic manner.

You might see just a few outlines of an arm in my sketch, but the curvature and positions of those outlines come with deep understanding of why they are curved that way. Without such knowledge, an artist would have to copy what he sees and most likely misplace lines, because there is no perception why this or that line should be done in any specific way. At this point, the gesture sketch is complete, and I can leave it as is. Nevertheless, I will show you what else can be done with soft drawing materials. Instead of smudging soft chalk marks on paper with a finger or a piece of cloth, we can use water to dilute and run marks.

I'm using a flat synthetic brush and clean water to wet the chalk dust. Some drops are running down, creating interesting picturesque effects. Of course, this way is completely optional, and I use it here merely to demonstrate what else can be done with soft drawing materials. Not every drawing paper will take water the way you want. You may experiment with different kinds of drawing chalks as well as various paper makes. The best paper for watercolor is made of cotton. It is quite expensive for disposable sketches, and you may want to experiment with cheaper papers until you are confident in what you are doing.

When the paper is completely dry, you may want to fix the chalk dust on it by using a fixative or hair spray. This method of using water can work with any soft drawing material. This is a very fast way of creating soft tonal values and pushing life sketching from drawing to painting. It is very artistic and gives additional possibilities for using soft drawing materials. Keep in mind that the quality of paper plays an important role here. I will sign this artwork now.

Question:

How about watercolor pencils? Is there a risk of washing out lines completely?

Answer:

Using watercolor pencils is a great way to sketch. Marks are easy to dilute. You can even wet the whole paper and then draw with such pencils, creating interesting effects. You can also use a spray bottle to add some water to spread watercolor pencil marks. Such a drawing method is very flexible and gives a lot of freedom in artistic expression...

[ The full lesson is avaibale to Life Drawing Academy members ]


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