Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Body Memory & Art

While writing the post for drawing eyes, it got me thinking about one of the initial inspirations.

I was visiting another blog (unfortunately I don't remember which one), where the artist mentioned that his teacher assigned the class to draw 500 eyes over a weekend. After sketching eyes intermittently for myself over a few weeks, I doubt that he could have done that and had any time for eating, sleeping, working or any other assignments. But it was fun to do, nonetheless. Even 100 eyes in a weekend would be difficult, I think. More probable, though. Especially if you count each eye instead of the pair. so instead of 100 pairs of eyes, it's 50 pairs of eyes.

Either way, I think the point of the exercise is to draw something so much that it becomes second nature to you. I think of two musicians and body memory. One musician is a rocker that has been drinking and doing drugs, and yet can get on stage and still play the song without missing a note. (Believe me, I've been to these shows.) The musician has practiced the song so much, he doesn't have to be cognizant of what he is doing, his hands will automatically go to the next chord or note. The other is a story about the musician Sting. I remember watching a behind the scenes where he was talking to another musician about a part that he wanted to him to play. Sting began playing the bass line so the other musician could play over top of it, but forgot where he was in the song. They had a good laugh, and Sting mentioned he can't play the part without singing along with it. His body had become so accustomed to playing it along with his vocals, that to separate the two was difficult for him. that's the idea of body memory. That you do something so much that you don't have to mentally think about it anymore, it just comes out.

So I wonder, is it even feasible for an artist to reach for that goal, or is the body memory something for musicians, because they play the same song over and over, while we draw different pictures each time? Is body memory more likely for an artist like a comic book artist that draws superheroes easily in any pose because he has done that for so many frames over so many books — while a portrait artist or landscape artist uses different models, lighting, colors, scenery, etc. and never really gets to that level of body memory? I'm unsure and am curious of your opinions on this subject.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Eyes Have It

One would think being a landscape artist, I wouldn't care much about the human form. Truth is, I enjoy drawing and painting the human form a lot. The main reason I draw people is to keep my drawing skills honed. While drawing trees and the landscape I still must be accurate, but if I move a branch up a few inches, who will notice? Now if I move a nose up a few inches, well everyone will say I can't draw.

I began this exercise of drawing eyes when one day I was drawing a person and realized I was struggling with the eyes. The only way I know to get better at something is to consistently do it. You know the adage, "Practice makes improvements." So I set out to draw and study eyes. Above is a montage of some of those sketches. (While all these are the eyes of women, I did male eyes too, and differing ages. I will post them at some point, I'm sure.)

Sometimes I would just draw the eyes, other times I would anchor them to the nose and cheek structures. Other times, I found myself intending to just draw the eyes, but not being able to stop and winding up drawing the whole face. One of the things I was trying to find out as I was drawing was just how much shading was needed, especially around the nose area. Sometimes there is a distinct line for a nose, but other times I found I didn't need that at all. The rule of thumb is that when drawing eyes and the nose line (especially on a woman) if the angle of the face is over 2/3rds a line for the nose should be drawn, if it is less than that it isn't necessarily needed. Of course, it is strictly up to the artist to determine how much detail he/she wishes to put into the sketch or drawing. It is worth experimenting with, though. I often think it's what we leave out that's just as important as what we put in the work. Like rests in music.