“How’d drawing go?” several family members asked me yesterday. The first half of the answer, I realized, is always the same–“Great”–because I’ve drawn for three hours and it always feels like exactly the way I want to spend a Monday morning. Answer 2a depends on how I like what I produced, and answer 2b depends on how much I learned. Answer 2a for yesterday is “eh.” Maybe by blogging a drawing-by-drawing journal entry I can learn enough to turn 2b into “great” too.

We started with the usual warmups, in which my only goal is to pay attention and keep working, and then this was the first 7-minute (A). Ugh ugh ugh. Stiff, proportions wrong, got lost in useless detail with hand.

7 minutes, A

Next 7-minute: ah! Now she looks alive. I kept looking back at this one for the rest of the morning to remind myself what I was going for: loose, spontaneous, responsive.

7 minutes, B

On the next two, however, I felt like I was being fiddly and had lost that eye for the light, and the sweep of the charcoal. D (the first 10-minute pose) has some good things going on in the elbow and the legs, but it also has me doing some of my clunkiest details with the wrinkles under the arm. My own arm felt stiff. (Sorry I can’t intersperse the photos the way I would like. They are below.)

On the second 10-minute pose (E) I got it again. This hand is the best thing I did all morning, especially because I find this model’s hands difficult. Hands are hands, you might think, but these are extra-challenging for me. I also like the shadows on her belly.

As I often do, I had intended to work dark, and I had backed off. Sheer timidity made it hard to pick up the soft (i.e., dark) charcoal. I kept starting with the medium one and planning to add darker shadows, then never getting around to it. On this next one (F) I got braver. Due in part to the darker shadows, something good happened with the light on the shoulder, back, and side, the kind of area that tends to be hard. I thought I got a little too fiddly again.  But in the next one (G), I also remembered to loosen up and work in broader strokes, and again I was much happier with it. I’m also inordinately proud of the half of the nipple ring I got to show. I don’t know where the other half went.

From a 2a standpoint, I ended with a whimper–I don’t like the product (H). Not enough time on the back, and a rush to sketch in the wrist in the last minute, so that I didn’t pay it enough attention and made it much thinner than it is. Most of my time went to the hand, that elusive hand, and I never managed to see the fourth finger right. Fussed over this and that detail of the hand, so that I never did capture the overall light and shadow, though the overall shape is okay. But it isn’t mostly about the product–so, 2b, what can I glean here to make the learning worthwhile? Work loose. Look for the light and shadows and put them in–just look how it worked back at that first 10-minute, with the right hand on the thigh drawn with few strokes. If I’d done that here, I might have missed a lot of detail but I’d probably have caught something of the feeling of her hand that is missing here: the weight pressing it down, the twist of the arm, the stretch between the thumb and finger.

No figure drawing until August 13, because I’ll be traveling in the Pacific Northwest, but I will get to use what I’ve learned.