08 August 2007

two feet

stefanie's feet
Strathmore drawing 180gsm 18" x 12". 15 minutes.

focusing on a single part of a model's frame reduces the demand of the pose and allows for a more relaxed address by the artist.

the amount of time the artist has to spend on different parts of the body is necessarily unequal: the face, hands and feet are the most difficult human symbols to draw, then comes the head, legs and arms, and finally the easiest of all is the torso. if the artist distributes the time equally across the whole body, then the face, hands and feet get less than they require; if the artist spends too much time on the extremities, the overall figure suffers.

the easiest poses are those in which the model has hidden her hands (behind her back, or under her folded legs); the feet and even the head can often be omitted from a pose if the hands are done well.

whenever i examine a figure drawing, i always look first at the hands, feet and face. these are both the most acute test of the artist's drawing skill, and also reveal his strategy for dividing up the time available and allocating it to the different figure drawing problems. the ideal is that the finished piece is balanced and complete, with all parts conforming to the same standard or style.

every figure artist develops shortcuts and tricks for handling these difficult parts. i will be exploring the portrait face as i blog along, but the hand conforms to a few simple principles, shown in the photo at right.

the hand is essentially a long paddle, articulated at the wrist and knuckles. the first three fingers, the end of the paddle (A), are exactly the same width as the wrist. the fourth finger (B) and thumb (C) are basically extensions off the side of the paddle from a narrow and a wide right triangle, both with the hypoteneuse along the sides of the palm. the fourth finger extends as a straight line off its narrow triangle, which extends along the entire side of the palm and defines the width of the palm across the four knuckles. the thumb extends from a shorter, fatter triangle that does not reach the base of the first finger. the thumb has one less joint and is usually flexed into the palm: its tip extends to between the second and third joint (knuckle) of the first finger. the palm is about twice as long as the wrist is wide (two squares), and the fingers are shorter than the palm. the middle finger is longest, and the finger segments grow shorter toward the tips.

the foot is a bit harder, as the toes all extend off the end and the curves of the foot, including the arch and the ankle bones (base of the tibia) and the tendon from the heel are complex and change depending on the weight on the foot and how much it is turned at the angle. but here again some simplifying tricks are possible.

a basic rule of art is that simplification develops from complexity. egon schiele had a very powerful way of schematicizing the hands, and the hands by the painter ingres always have a bourgeois plumpness and complacency. hands and feet reveal the strengths of an artist, because they show his tricks for simplification most clearly.

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