. . . which is a good reminder that progress isn’t linear (sigh). I’d learn more, though, if I looked at the previous week’s drawings before I went off to draw some more. They are the best reminders of what I’m doing that is and isn’t working.


With the above drawing, I grabbed my darkest charcoal and avoided getting bogged down in delicate shading. Quick, dark, high-contrast. Seven minutes doesn’t allow for much more (yet–I’m speeding up), which is good; and I know how hard it is for me to sustain energy while getting into detail. On the next drawing, I lost my nerve, used the medium charcoal, and got picky again, and it shows. It’s not a disaster–there is some good light on the thumb and fingers–but all in all the first drawing has more of the energy of the person modeling.

The most alive parts of the above are the elbow and the shadows cast by both arms.  I’m getting less intimidated by the subtlety of the contours of backs.

The first two drawings were on newsprint, but the above and those that follow are on paper with a lot of “bite” and texture. It is more forgiving when I make an unintentionally sharp edge: for example, on a shadow that actually fades into light more gently. On the newsprint, the sharpness will always show, but on this heavier, rougher paper it can be softened.

I don’t pay a lot of attention to composition in these sessions–I go by instinct and I don’t fuss if my composition gets messed up by my miscalculating how long the legs are or some such–but I like the composition on the above. Also, it’s an illustration of the importance of shadows. She would appear to just float if there weren’t those shadows anchoring her to the floor. That’s fine if you don’t want to evoke the space she’s in, but I do. I want to sense as I draw, and I want the viewer to sense, what she is feeling where her hand and arm and side touch the carpet. I didn’t realize that until I wrote it just now.

Back to the dark charcoal on the above, to good effect. I started to draw the face, also; it went all wrong; so I started again in the corner of the paper and drew the one that follows (you can see some of the gone-wrong face in the lower right). What success I had with this was due to keeping in mind what I try to remember when I’m drawing hands and feet: it’s just like the rest of the body, just pay attention and respond to what you see. (To misquote Annie Savoy from Bull Durham: “Drawing is like hitting a baseball. You’ve just got to relax and concentrate.”) There’s a freedom to this drawing that I’ve never achieved in a portrait before.

I’m happy with this last one because the hand and wrist convey a sense of the weight they’re supporting. It’s the first drawing I’ve made that I think is good enough to go into the future exhibit of hands that I sometimes think about putting up in the lobby at church.