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Life Drawing in Charcoal by Douglas R.…
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Life Drawing in Charcoal (1971)

by Douglas R. Graves

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553332,909 (4.5)None
Rather than building up a drawing from lines, this innovative method encourages students to begin with tonal masses. Suitable for experts as well as beginners, its step-by-step demonstrations feature over 200 illustrations. Topics include foreshortening, use of modeling to achieve added dimension, facial features, and other aspects of life drawing.… (more)
  1. 00
    Artistic Anatomy (Practical Art Books) by Dr. Paul Richer (Sylak)
    Sylak: A classic book on the subject, suggested by the author on page 84.
  2. 00
    Atlas of Human Anatomy for the Artist (Galaxy Books) by Stephen Rogers Peck (Sylak)
    Sylak: Further reading advised by Graves
  3. 00
    Art Students' Anatomy by Edmond J. Farris (Sylak)
    Sylak: Suggested reading by the author (page 84) as a low cost, but information packed book.
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Compared to my UK 1973 Pitmans hardback edition, the 1994 Dover softcover edition has been revised with new material.

Project 23 has been retitled 'Drawing the face, head, and hands' and given new artwork.
A new Project 24 'Different modes of charcoal rendering' has been specially writen for this edition.
Project 25 'Composing a figure on a page' is newly created by reorganizing material previoysly in Project 23 (originally titled 'Drawing the face and positioning the figure').

Due to the above; Projects originally numbered 24, and 25, are now re-numbered Projects 26 and 27.
Various other material throughout the book has also been shifted about.

Both editions are useful, the core material remaining much the same. If you find one of the old copies going cheap, don't hesitate. I still refer to my 1973 edition because the hardback sits nicer in my hands and the pages are also made of ribbed cold pressed paper which is tactile and a pleasure to the finger tips.
  Sylak | Oct 8, 2018 |
For this review I'm trying something different.

This book is split into 25 projects (27 in the new revised edition), each designed to help you improve your life drawing skills.
Having done almost no life drawing for a number of years, has provided me with the opportunity, un-burdened by all my bad habits, to lean the technique from scratch.
I wanted to give myself the best chance of success, so I enrolled in a lifeclass and, using the book as a guide, set out to learn a skill.

This review will be updated weekly to give a real time record of how I progress using Douglas Graves as my teacher.
I am using the SPOILER TAG to leave only the details specific to the actual review of this book visible. My lifeclass diary (with a record of my artistic progresss using this book) can still be viewed if you wish, in the SPOILERS.

Prior to my first class I had pre-read:

Project 1, Materials and Exercises
Here I read about the use of a chamois and discovered powdered charcoal. The project also demonstrated the many different marks you can make (crosshatching, smoothed with fingertip, etc.)
Project 2, Seeing Tonal Quality
In this project you are told to start by sketching an egg from life.
Project 3, The Difference Between Lines and Edges
Project 3 is expended to sketching a jug
Project 4, Objects as they are
...moves on to a plaster cast hand
Project 5, The Traditional Use of Plaster Cast Figures
I produced a couple of still-life charcoal sketches of a plaster cast human skull (as I do not own any plaster cast figures). This lesson could be seen as half way between Project 4 and 5.
Project 6, Keying a Drawing
This is all about setting your scale of tones. By limiting the number of tones it is easier to keep track of tonal value so that you don't end up with the wrong value of shading in the wrong area. Very important so that you maintain a solid looking picture.
Project 7, Translating Color to Black and White
Seeing in tones rather than colour.
Project 8, Some Basic Figure Proportions
I managed to read this prior to taking my class that day. I now had just enough good information to set me up for life class.

Tues 18th September 2018 (2hr session)

Model: Samuel (Male in early 20s)
Lighting: fluorescent overhead ceiling lights and one overpowerful spot FL500 Paterson (which caused the models already white skin to glow)
Three one minute sketches, followed by a one and one half hour sketch (with a tea break in between).


Using the technique from Project 1: Materials and Exercises, I covered my paper with a base of powdered charcoal representing my middle tone. I then proceed to clear out the high tones with the chamois and putty rubber, then with charcoal add the low tones and what shadows I could pick out (due to the lighting conditions).
In conclusion I found the principle of the technique I'd learned from Douglas Graves very good at blocking out the sketch quickly. I was less happy with my interpretation and lack of skill; but definitely feel that this technique is the way to go forward. Same model next week, so last chance to get it right till they bring in a new model for week 3.

Tues 25th September 2018 (2hr session)

Read from book pages: 46-52 (Project 9)...

Model: Samuel
Lighting: fluorescent overhead ceiling lights + one spot FL500 Paterson (Wattage reduced from last week)
Three one minute sketches, followed by a one and one half hour sketch (with a tea break in between).


Same technique as last week, didn't require the putty rubber at all, with much better results. The image had a much softer look compared to last weeks effort. The model was skinny. But I must put more substance into the limbs as my pictures so far look a little skeletal.

Tues 2nd October 2018 (2hr session)

Model: Sharon (Female 60s-70s)
Lighting: fluorescent overhead ceiling lights + one spot FL500 Paterson. Poor lighting conditions again produced quite flat light with only subtle contrasts.
Model was late, and so the class teacher stepped in for several clothed 1 minute sketches, followed by one long sketch (broken in to two sittings) once the model arrived.


A more pleasing result this week. My picture could hardly look skeletal since the female model was rather well covered. However, I am still encountering difficulties with my tonal masses.
The correct technique explained in Project 10 should fix this matter for me next week.

Tues 9th October 2018 (2hr session)


Read: Project 10: Seeing large tonal masses

Model: Sharon
Lighting: fluorescent overhead ceiling lights + one spot FL500 Paterson. Light facing the wall produced much better contrast.
Three 1 minute sketches, followed by one long sketch (broken in to two sittings).


Not a good night for me. I have no idea what caused my inability to render what I saw. But my work was decidedly off tonight. I will try to get some more prep in during the week and see if revising a few more chapters and getting a few more projects under my belt before next week helps.

Tues 16th October 2018 (2hr session)

Model: James (Male in his 20s / facial hair)
Lighting: fluorescent overhead ceiling lights + one spot FL500 Paterson. Lighted on one side.
Three 1 minute sketches, followed by one long seated sketch (broken in to two sittings) with a tea break between.


(half term break)

Tues 30th October 2018 (2hr session)

Model: Terry (elderly male)
Lighting: fluorescent overhead ceiling lights + one spot FL500 Paterson. Lighted on model's right side.
Three, dynamic one minute sketches, followed by one long sketch of model layong on his back, legs elevated (broken in to two sittings) with a tea break between.


Tues 6th November 2018 (2hr session)


Read: Project 11 - Alighnments: Constructive aids to correct proportions

Model: Terry (elderly male)
Lighting: fluorescent overhead ceiling lights + one spot FL500 Paterson. Lighted on model's right side.
Three, dynamic one minute sketches, followed by one long sketch of model seated. (broken in to two sittings) with a tea break between.


Back on track this week. Much happier with the results, but need to pace myself better or build up more speed in order to get nearer completion in time given. However this will come naturally in time I am sure.

Tues 13th November 2018 (2hr session)


Read: Project 12 - The reclining figure, and started Project 13.

Model: Andy (middle-aged male with full beard)
Lighting: fluorescent overhead ceiling lights (low illumination) + one spot FL500 Paterson. Lighted on model's right side.
Three, dynamic one minute (kung-fu style) sketches, followed by one long sketch of model seated. (broken in to two sittings) with a tea break between.


Tues 20th November 2018 (2hr session)


Read: Project 13 - Foreshortening, Project 14 - Idealization or Interpretation, Project 15 - Why study anatomy?, Project 16 - Male and Female Figure Distinctions.

Model: Sharon
Lighting: fluorescent overhead ceiling lights + one spot FL500 Paterson. Light facing the wall.
Three 1 minute sketches, followed by one long reclining sketch (broken in to two sittings).


Tues 27th November 2018 (2hr session)


Read: Project 17 - Negative Shapes

Model: Sharon
Lighting: fluorescent overhead ceiling lights + one spot FL500 Paterson. Light facing the wall.
Three 1 minute sketches, followed by one long sketch (broken in to two sittings).


Conclusion:

This book has certainly helped me focus on drawing by providing me with a set pattern of working. If I compare to the drawings I did many years ago, I can see a vast improvement. I still have a long way to go before I am satisfied that I have reached the potential I feel I am capable of acquiring, that being a more photo-realistic interpretation of the subject. I am tempted to re-enrol for next term, having caught the life drawing bug.

----------SPRING TERM----------

Continuing my quest for self improvement, my aim for this term will be to increase my speed in order to complete my drawings within the 1 1/2 / 2h time frame, as well as to achieve the desired 'realism' and steering away from a more stylised interpretation of the subject, to something more accurate and lifelike.

8th January 2019 (2hr session)

Model: Terry (elderly male)
Lighting: fluorescent overhead ceiling lights + one spot FL500 Paterson. Lighted on model's right side.
Three, dynamic one minute sketches, followed by one long sketch of model seated. (broken in to two sittings) with a tea break between.


This is one of my favourite models. Terry will always strike dramatic poses that challenge you as an artist. He will often lay up-side-down on his back, with his limbs strewn about like a fallen soldier on the battlefield of war, or a car crash victim. The foreshortening of limbs and odd angles make for very difficult drafting, but always an exciting result.

15th January 2019 (2hr session)

Model: Sharon
Lighting: fluorescent overhead ceiling lights + one spot FL500 Paterson. Light facing the wall.
Three 1 minute sketches, followed by one long sketch (broken in to two sittings).


Because this model carries a fair amount of body fat, you need a great deal of anatomical knowledge to visualise where the structure of the body lies beneath. Sharon also has a habit of falling asleep, so capturing her likeness is also not easy since so much of a person's personality is in the eyes. My least favourite model to draw, more owing to the fact that I clearly need more practice with understanding the skeletal system. Note to self: practice drawing anatomy from text books (since I do not have access to a full human skeleton.

22nd January 2019 (2hr session)

Model: John (elderly male)
Lighting: fluorescent overhead ceiling lights + one spot FL500 Paterson. Lighted on model's right side.
Three, dynamic one minute sketches, followed by one long sketch of model seated. (broken in to two sittings) with a tea break between.


29th January 2019 (2hr session)

Model: John (elderly male)
Lighting: fluorescent overhead ceiling lights + one spot FL500 Paterson. Lighted on model's right side.
Three, dynamic one minute sketches, followed by one long sketch of model seated. (broken in to two sittings) with a tea break between.


5th February 2019 (2hr session)

Model: Emma (young woman)
Lighting: fluorescent overhead ceiling lights + one spot FL500 Paterson. Lighted on model's right side.
Three, dynamic one minute sketches, followed by one long sketch of model seated. (broken in to two sittings) with a tea break between.


Emma is a young woman with an hourglass shape and a classic 1920s-30s look.

12th February 2019 (2hr session)

Model: Emma (young woman)
Lighting: fluorescent overhead ceiling lights + one spot FL500 Paterson. Lighted on model's left side.
Three, dynamic one minute sketches, followed by one long sketch of model reclining. (broken in to two sittings) with a tea break between.


----------half term----------

26th February 2019 (2hr session)

Model: James (young man)
Lighting: fluorescent overhead ceiling lights + one spot FL500 Paterson. Lighted on model's right side.
Three, dynamic one minute sketches, followed by one long sketch of model seated. (broken in to two sittings) with a tea break between.


James is a young, blond, man with an ectomorph body type.

5th March 2019 (2hr session)

Model: Andy (Bearded man)
Lighting: fluorescent overhead ceiling light left side only.
Three, martial arts style, one minute sketches, followed by one long sketch of model reclining (broken in to two sittings) with a tea break between.


( )
  Sylak | Sep 18, 2018 |
Useful for seeing how a life drawing can progress without the model. ( )
  deckla | Jun 13, 2018 |
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