Thursday, February 9, 2012

Step Back for the Big Picture

With regards to my artwork, I am typically better known for detailed pieces than for sweeping views. But I have found that sometimes taking a step back and getting the bigger picture is necessary.

Take today for instance. I went to a portrait drawing session offered by a local art group. I chose to set up at the back of the group. One of the other artists expressed concern that I might be too far from the model. But I saw the situation differently.

portrait sketch
charcoal on Mi-Teintes paper
approx. 12" x 10"
©2012 Stacy L. Rowan

Being further from the model keeps me from getting tied up in and distracted by the details. The position makes it easier for me to focus on the shapes of highlights and shadows.

When I sit close to the model I tend to label the parts as I draw. My mental chatter focuses on "What shape are the eyes? What are the lips like?" Labelling the features as I work makes it more challenging to ignore the mental symbols of those features and draw what I see.

When I sit further back I can't really see the details of the features. With a little squinting I can focus on the big shapes. And by drawing the big shapes the features sort of magically appear.

Definitely a situation where stepping back and seeing the big picture works better for me than getting up close and focusing on the details.

Our model today was the sister of one of the artists. She was very good both at getting back in to position after a break and at consistently holding the position. Not an easy task with 20 artists staring intently at you!

My sketch was completed in three approximately 20 minute sessions.


Jennifer Rose Phillip said...

focusing on basic shapes is what we are told to do in life drawing class. Get the basics down and then you can focus on the specifics, too many people in class focus on each individual hair and spot :/ sitting back from the model is a great thing to do, it automatically breaks the form into shapes and tones, really makes it easier to draw

M. J. Muir said...

Another thoughtful post. I think I am the one who prefers to sit close to the model.
Happy Valentines Day Stacy. I hope there is romance and chocolate.

Stacy said...

MJ and Jennifer, I went to a couple of these portrait drawing sessions last year and started out sitting close to the model, but I found it tough to ignore the details. Then one day there was no room up close. I was forced to sit further away and it felt easier to focus on the big shapes! It was a bit of a surprising outcome. :)