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The Best of Drawing

to Draw How to Begin a
In All Media Figure Drawing

Study of Flesh Color and Gold

by William Merritt Chase, pastel

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12 The Three-Layer Figure
Approach the figure through structural
analysis and intuitive, layered line.

20 The Core Figure: A Source of Power

and Accuracy
Much of a figure drawings energyas well as a
subjects likenesscomes from the compelling
and accurate representation of the torso.

34 An Unrelenting Gaze: The Drawings of

Philip Pearlstein
This celebrated artist uses drawing to depict what he sees
with little thought for accepted standards of draftsmanship.

48 Fundamentals of Proportion:
Measuring the Figure
Using this easy technique, you can measure key
proportions in the early stages of drawing and be sure
you have an accurate foundation from which to work.

6 Editors Note

10 Contributors

112 Endpaper

Study of Flesh Color and Gold
by William Merritt Chase, 1888, pastel, 18 x 13.
Collection National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
2 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
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56 Learning From the Masters:

Ingres Miraculous Lines
The French masters graphite drawings teach
us much about contour and portraiture.

68 A Many-Sided Approach to the Figure

Dan Thompson encourages students to
celebrate the complexity of learning how
to represent life through drawing.

76 Beauty, Balance & Accuracy

Mark Tennants drawings evidence both rigorous academic

standards and sensitivity to the nuances of the figure.

84 12 Anatomical Differences
Between Men and Women
The differences between male and female
bodies range from the obvious to the very subtle,
and knowledge of these details can lead us to
more informed, realistic figure drawings.

94 Making Lines Move

The drawings of Fred Hatt are as much
performances as objects.

102 Lessons From a Drawing Book

The figure and portrait drawings that we often
come across in textbooks and drawing manuals are
there for a reason. Whether we want to learn about
chiaroscuro, line, negative space or perspective,
these great drawings have much to teach.

Printed in the USA. Copyright 2016 by F+W Media, Inc., all rights reserved. The contents of this publication may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the consent of the
copyright owner, F+W Media, Inc.

4 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G

NOTE The Best of Drawing

Brian F. Riley
Austin R. Williams
Michael Woodson

Figuratively Speaking ART DIRECTOR

Amy Petriello

n the field of drawing, the human figure captivates and Courtney Jordan
inspiresand, perhaps, frustratesmore artists than any VICE PRESIDENT/GROUP PUBLISHER
other subject, and learning to draw the figure is practically Jamie Markle
an artistic discipline of its own. In this special publication, Drawing
revisits some of our favorite articles from past issues to investigate ADVERTISING SALES TEAM LEADER

the limitless possibilitiesand many challengesof figure drawing. FINE ART DIVISION
Mary McLane (970) 290-6065
Jason Franz begins our instructional program by suggesting
a three-stage process for drawing the figure (page 12). We
next address a question that has stymied us all at one time or
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another: Where to begin? Dan Gheno suggests that the torso, or
core gure, is a good place to start (page 20). Jon deMartin then MEDIA SALES COORDINATOR
reveals a simple but remarkably effective way to measure the Barb Prill (800) 726-9966 ext. 13435
gure (page 48); Dan Thompson offers 10 directives relating to
proportion (page 68); and Larry Withers points out anatomical
details artists can use to distinguish women and men (page 84).
We also look at the work of accomplished artists, past and present.
We trace the career of Philip Pearlstein, one of the most celebrated
figurative artists of our time (page 34). We reflect on the phenomenal
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graphite portraits of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, which
remain a high point in the history of drawing (page 56). We meet two CEO Thomas F. X. Beusse
very different contemporary artists in Mark Tennant and Fred Hatt CFO James L. Ogle
(pages 76 and 94, respectively). And our last article takes us out on COO Joe Seibert
top, as Kenneth Procter walks us through some of the great drawings SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, OPERATIONS
Phil Graham
that pop up in one textbook after another to see what we can learn from
such artists as Drer, Prudhon, Degas and Van Gogh (page 102).
We hope these articles illuminate and inspire as you FOR NEWSSTAND SALES, CONTACT:
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pursue your own artwork. Drawing the figure is the work of a life-
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6 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G

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JON DEMARTIN (Fundamentals of Proportion: JOHN A. PARKS (An Unrelenting Gaze and
Measuring the Figure) teaches at Studio Incamminati, Parsons Making Lines Move) is an artist and teacher at the School of
School of Design and Grand Central Atelier. View his work at Visual Arts and a frequent contributor to Drawing. View his work at

JASON FRANZ (The Three-Layer Figure) has taught KENNETH J. PROCTER (Lessons From a
drawing, painting and design at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, Drawing Book) is the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences
Xavier University and the University of Cincinnati. He is the at Georgia College and State University, in Milledgeville. He can
co-founder and executive director of the Cincinnati nonprot be contacted at
Manifest Creative Research Gallery and Drawing Center
Approach to the Figure and Beauty, Balance & Accuracy) is
DAN GHENO (The Core Figure: A Source of Power and the senior editor of Drawing.
Accuracy) teaches drawing and painting at the Art Students
League of New York and the National Academy School of Fine LARRY WITHERS (12 Anatomical Differences
Arts, both in New York City. His book, Figure Drawing Master Between Men and Women) is a founder of On Air Video, Inc.
Class, is available for purchase at For more information, visit

MARK G. MITCHELL (Ingres Miraculous

Lines) is an illustrator and author of books for young people.
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Three-Layer Figure
Approach the figure through structural analysis and intuitive, layered line.
by JA S O N F R A N Z

12 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
y drawing method has three-stage process discussed here. In shape its describing is convex or
evolved alongside my teach- both cases these rules apply: concave, and ask yourself what
ing at the college level. The 1. Work simple to complex, light to the function of the line is: Is it to
more Ive had to hone my classroom dark, large to small, and general establish an intersection, denote a
lessons and philosophy on drawing, to specic. level of finish or establish a focal
the more these lessons have been 2. Divide your work into three layers. point?
absorbed into my own working pro- Layer 1: searching, questioning. 8. Drawing from life involves a trans-
cess. In 1998 I decided that in order to Layer 2: confirming, defining. lation of the three-dimensional
be an effective instructor of drawing Layer 3: refining, unifying. world into two-dimensions.
from life, I would need to demonstrate 3. Draw what you see, not what you
the rigor and discipline I expected think you see.
from my students. It was at that point 4. Eagerly accept the risk of errors.
I began working from a live model Let your effort to correct errors Searching, Questioning
on a weekly basis, and I continue to become part of the fabric of your
do so today. Teaching in both ne art work. Start by drawing a proportional rect-
and design programs has developed 5. Embrace time as a medium, along- angle into which your subject exactly
my current drawing techniquea side paper and pencil, and use it ts. You want to ensure the correct
blend of both disciplines. I have taught consciously. Work at a rapid pace proportion of height to width, based
college freshman observational draw- but understand that your pace will on your point of view. This enables
ing with a more basic version of the change in each of the three stages. the subject to be scaled and placed
6. Lines have characteristics, including onto the paper exactly where you
direction, speed, weight and quality. wish. (A rectangle is easier to move,
2010_5_18 (Regal 1) 7. To determine the weight or den- resize and revise than an entire
2010, graphite, 14 x 11. sity of a line, consider whether the human figure). The rectangle also


Study according to your schedule

With over 24 years experience teaching

thousands of students at the Watts Atelier,
Je Watts has prepared an unprecedented online
program based on the traditions of the masters. Just
like at the Atelier, students are strongly encouraged to
build their skills in Drawing rst, and then branch out
into Painting and Master classes. Images Watts Atelier
Illustration 1: 2012_1_24 Illustration 2: 2014_9_2 (post)
2012, colored pencil, 14 x 11. 2014, ballpoint pen, 14 x 11.

supplies a valuable framework for (All of this groundwork paves LAYER 2:

the drawing. Reference points can the way for a quicker laying-in of
be created and located relative to the models contours, details and Conrming, Dening
the rectangle to confirm the fig- character.) This support structure
ures proportions. (See Illustration enables the spontaneous and ener- In layer 2, dene the contours and
1.) The first reference point is called getic, yet highly accurate, work in mass of the various parts of the
the anchor, and all other established the other two layers. Adhering to figure: the head, hips, legs or shoul-
points are made relative to it. In a measurement process (by means ders, for instance. Heres where
layer 1 my rectangle often contains of the reference points) helps the the underlying structure created in
within it a triangle, since I work to mind convert a three-dimensional layer 1 allows for a gestural approach
identify at least three key reference subject into two-dimensional data. at roughing-in the contours. (See
points on the figure. Concentrating on seeing the model Illustration 2.) Work between the
Measure the angle between each as a collection of points, lines, general and the specic; let your eyes
point on the subject with a pen- angles and shapes will help you zoom in and out, focusing on ne
cil and mark it down on the paper, record what youre actually seeing details and a narrow range of view
confirming the angles several rather than what you think youre (for example, look at eyelashes or the
times to ensure theyre accurate. seeing. shape of a ngernail) and then back

14 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
2015, ballpoint pen, 11 x 14.
I enjoy taking some parts of a drawing to a more nished state
and leaving others at layer 1 or 2; doing so creates a story, a bit
of drama, and something more valuable than an equal-all-over
completed figure.

2016, ballpoint pen, 14 x 11.

16 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
Enter in up to 8 categories
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+VMZ"VHVTUJTTVFPGThe Artists Magazine.

October 14, 2016
Discover more and enter online at
Red (oil on board) by Britton Snyder, Sam (oil on panel) by Jane Radstrom, Resolve (colored pencil on board) by Jesse Lane, Us (mixed media on canvas panel) by Maureen S. Farrell
In layer 1, I spend most of my time
looking at the subject (getting
information) and only a little time
looking at the paper (making marks
and creative decisions). In layer
2, I divide my time about equally
between the two. In layer 3, I spend
most of my time looking at the
paperthe drawing itself becomes
my subject.

up to see the whole figure. Having

set up a reliable matrix of lines, you
can now spend time almost playfully
translating organic masses (muscles,
bones, tendons) into line, through
spontaneous gestures or even a blind
contour approach.
The circular marks visible in
most of my drawings show where
Im thinking about how I might
make the form if I were using
clayrolled into the right shape and
pushed into place. Theyre my way of
marking and establishing the con-
ceptual masses of the interior of the
form (as compared to the contour)
Illustration 3: 2012_1_3
and sometimes the literal interior, 2012, colored pencil, 14 x 11.
like the skeleton.

nevertheless, must be understood as

LAYER 3 a human form. I enjoy taking some BE BOLD
Rening, Unifying parts of a drawing to a more nished
state and leaving others at layer 1 or 2; Use unforgiving
In the nal layer, refine small details, doing so creates a story, a bit of drama, media such as
ballpoint pen,
polish line weights, clarify inter- and something more valuable than an grayscale markers
sections of line, and bring all the equal-all-over completed figure. or colored pencils.
elements together. (See Illustration 3.) Ive embraced line drawing because Doing so creates an
You may jump quickly from one part its more conceptual and immediate intensity of focus,
of the gure to the next, looking for than highly rendered value drawings and willingness to
relationships in the line works weight (although I make those, too). Lines let mistakes and
or quality. While this stage is often are abstract representations of where corrections become
the quickest, its quite enjoyable. surfaces change direction and masses an integral part
of the workand
At this stage, Ill untape the paper overlap or end. Line drawings do not evidence of time
from the drawing board, rotate it and seek to create an illusion, even while spent thinking and
spend time working with it upside conveying absolute information. There rethinking.
down or sideways. This change is a certainty in line, and its obvious
dislodges my tendency to take the when lines are awed or incorrect. In
information on the page for granted this way, theyre demanding of preci-
and forces me to see the drawing as sion and awareness and, therefore, an
an abstract collection of lines which, ideal way to hone skill and perception.Y

18 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G


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Submit your work and you could see it featured in The Artists Magazine!

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Blueberry Club (detail) By Elizabeth Kenyon (pastel on paper, 10x12)

A Source of Power and Accuracy
Much of a figure drawings energyas well as a subjects
likenesscomes from the compelling and accurate
representation of the torso.
by DA N GH E N O

W here do I start?
Thats a question that most artists
advanced or beginnerface when making a
figure drawing. Is it best to start with the head and hang
the body below it? Should you first draw the chair that the
model is sitting on? Or the feet? Or the torso? Artists can
Sometimes in drawingas in many areas of lifethe
most obvious and elementary facts are the most essen-
tial. The basic facts governing the construction of the
start with whatever they prefer, but the soul and core of human figure are frequently ignored by beginners who
the figure is the torso, or as I call it, the core figure. are eager to move on to seemingly more sophisticated
To see the power of the core figure, look at any of concepts, and they also are often overlooked by advanced
the many broken Greek and Roman torso fragments in artists who dismiss them or who never learned them.
museums. The inherent beauty and power of the core Too many artists think of the torso as a static and solid
figure speaks for itself in these fragments. You can form. The torso is actually an inherently dynamic form
infer most of the remaining pose with great certainty that consists of two chief interacting structuresthe
just based upon the gesture of the surviving core figure. pelvis and the chestplus the smaller but nevertheless
The torso is possibly the most important body part, and crucial shoulder girdle (which consists of the free-floating
its mastery is essential to the creation of a dynamic fig- shoulder blades, or scapulae, and the collar bones). Where
ure drawing and even to a close-up portrait. This article they connect into the torso, the roots of the arms, legs
will examine some obvious and some not-so-obvious and neck should also be considered an integral part of
facts about the human torso, its anatomical and super- the core figure. The scapulae intrude into the torso with
ficial structure and how this knowledge can be used to the greatest frequency and dramatic effect. When pushed
give your figure drawings more dimension, gesture and inward by the arms, as demonstrated in Michelangelos
character. A Male Nude Seen From Behind, the scapulae bunch up

20 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
A Male Nude Seen From Behind
by Michelangelo, ca. 15391541, black chalk, 11 x 9 316 . Collection British Museum, London, England.
Notice how the arms influence the structure of the rib cage, pushing the shoulder blades toward the
bodys center and causing the overlying muscles to bulge outward. T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 21
Archers Shooting at a Herm
by Michelangelo, ca. 1530, red chalk, 8 58 x 12 34 .
Collection Royal Library, Windsor, England.
On a standing figure, the pelvis tends to cant forward, and the rib cage tilts backward.
This is often the case in a running person as well.

by Dan Gheno, 2009, sanguine crayon, 17 x 8.
Collection the artist.
In this drawing, an example of drawthrough, the form of the rib cage is first indicated
by a faint, quick and loosely sketched elliptical shape. The form of the breasts and arm
are added later, after the gesture of the core figure has been established.

the upper torsos muscles, almost completely obscuring the more

tubular form of the rib cage underneath.
Although the individual chest and pelvic body parts are them-
selves immobile, the torso is highly mobile in the midsection,
linked in the back by the flexible spine and in the front by the
stomach muscle. Its extremely important to remember that the
chest and pelvis always move in opposition to each other. In a
standing pose, the chest tilts backward and the pelvis tilts for-
ward. In a seated pose it is the opposite, with the pelvis tilting
backward and the chest tilting forward. This principle may seem
elementary, but ignore it at your own risk. Called contrapposto by
Italian Old Master artists, this elegant counterpoint of the chest
and pelvis governs the gesture throughout the overall figure.

22 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
The neck tends to tilt forward in vertebral column governs the torso shape and all the resulting zigzag rhythms
reaction to the chests backward lean. that run through the body.
Meanwhile, the front muscles of the The spine is made up of four reciprocating curves (see Figure 1 on page 25).
upper leg swing forward in opposi- Starting at the bottom of the spine and moving up, the first curve begins at the tail
tion to the tilt of the pelvis, continuing bone, where the spine cants outward. Second, the spine curves inward just below
the back-and-forth rhythmic move- the rib cage. It then angles up and back along the lower portion of the rib cage and
ment that starts in the core figure continues to curve around the bulk of the rib cage. Finally, it tilts inward again at
and persists downward through the the top of the chest, leading into the neck and the underside of the skull.
entire length of the leg. Youll see this Notice how the spine moves fluidly into the neck. In your drawing, make sure
back-and-forth movement magnified the line of the spine links up with the neck rather than aiming toward some inde-
when your subject wears high heels. It terminate point outside the figure. The rib cage is also an indispensable part of the
even holds true in a running pose, as torsos structure, but dont get intimidated by the individual ribs. Its much more
you can see in Michelangelos Archers important to understand the chests basic planar structure (Figure 2, A on page
Shooting at a Herm. 25) and the general angular thrust of the ribs (Figure 2, B), starting high on the
Furthermore, if one hip is pushed up backside of the chest and looping down toward the front.
by the supporting leg, as in Johnsons
Academic Drawing (page 24), then the
corresponding shoulder above slants
downward in compensation. This prin-
ciple of contrapposto manifests itself in
by Dan Gheno, 2009, colored pencil and white charcoal on toned paper, 24 x 18. Collection the artist.
many ways throughout the core figure. The pelvis tends to tip backward in a seated figure, and the chest slumps forward.
But there are many exceptions to this
rule, particularly when the model
raises an arm or places a hand on a
hip. Then, the shoulder on that side
rises up, whether or not its located
above the supporting leg, as shown in
Sargents Standing Male Nude, With
Raised Right Arm (page 26).

A little knowledge about anatomy
can be dangeroussome beginners
become too preoccupied with anat-
omy and strain to find muscles on
the model where their eyes see none.
On the other hand, many advanced
artists prematurely skip over the
basics of anatomy in their headlong
rush to make art.
Its imperative that all artists draw
from the skeleton at some point in
their training and make themselves
familiar with the bony foundations
of the human form. All the bones
are valuable to study, none more so
than the spine, or vertebral column.
Bounded by a group of parallel, pil-
larlike muscles called the erector
spinae, or erectors of the spine, the T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 23
Academic Drawing
by Johnson, vine and compressed
charcoal on Michallet paper,
24 x 18. Collection the Art
Students League of New York;
New York, New York.
In a standing pose, the side
of the pelvis above the
supporting leg tips upward.
Meanwhile, the shoulder above
the supporting leg usually angles
downward in compensation.

24 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
Figure 1
by Dan Gheno, 2010, sanguine crayon, 8 x 6.
Collection the artist.
The spineand consequently the gesture of
the torsois built on a foundation of four major
reciprocating, curving actions.

Figure 2
by Dan Gheno, 2010, sanguine crayon, 12 x 9.
Collection the artist.
The rib cage tends to be tubular, and the pelvis
3 is relatively boxlike in nature. The chest is not
simplistically curvaceous however; it contains B
plane breaks such as the one that occurs at (A).

Figure 3 D
by Dan Gheno, 2010, sanguine crayon, 12 x 9.
2 Collection the artist. C
Look for the bilateral relationships governing C
the torso, found in lines that run through the
shoulders (G), across the nipples, below the
breasts (F), along the base of the rib cage (E) and
spanning the top of the pelvis (C). Compare these
widths to the more shallow depths of the side
1 planes found in the pelvis (D) and the chest.


The superficial structures of the pelvis and rib cage are another not-so-obvious
aspect of the core figure that is worth understanding. Think of the pelvis as a
boxlike shape and the chest as an angular, tubelike shape, as in Figure 2. Called
form concepts, some artists have difficulty identifying them when looking at the
F more varied, complex forms of the model in front of them. I often use imaginary
construction lines when trying to define these forms on my paper, utilizing what
E is known as bilateral symmetry to establish the models basic volumetric forms.
As in the example in Figure 3, you can lightly sketch bilateral construction lines
D to chart the front-plane relationship of the pelvis using the frontal bony points of
the pelvic crest (C) as your landmarks. Then, compare this front plane to the shal-
lower side plane (C to D). For the chest, draw traverse construction lines across the
lower points of the rib cage (E), spanning the base of the breasts (F) and along the
I outside edges of the shoulder girdle (G). As with the pelvis, compare the chests
slightly curving front plane to its more shallow side plane.
You should always trust your eye while drawing the model from life, but it
helps to keep these form concepts of the chest and pelvis in the back of your
mind as you draw the models visible forms. Besides helping you to intuit
the sculptural volumes of the figure, lightly sketching these form concepts
helps you see what your eye often misses. On a side view, for instance, many
artists draw the breast or pectoralis in loving detail but forget to place the T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 25
Standing Male Nude With Raised Right Arm through the stomach and finishes in
by John Singer Sargent, ca. 18901915, charcoal, 24 34 x 19. Collection Harvard Art Museum, Cambridge, the crotch. Look for the angles and
You always need to trust your eyes, since there are many exceptions to the so-called rules. Here, the
tilts of the centerline; on an average-
shoulder does not slope downward over the supportive leg, because the model is lifting his armand his size person, it tilts out at the chest,
shoulder along with it.
sometimes swings inward below
the chest, moves out again around
the belly button and dives back in
toward the crotch.
The front centerline is most
descriptive and easiest to find on a
side view or three-quarters view,
but it is more difficult to grasp when
looking at the model straight on
from a f lat frontal or back view
the centerline almost appears to be
straight up-and-down at first glance.
However, there will always be some
slight back-and-forth thrust to the
centerline. A problem often occurs
where the centerline spans the dis-
tance between the belly button and
the pubis. Many artists put the
pubis directly below the belly but-
ton as if on a vertical plumb line.
But because of the severe backward
tilt in the pelvismost obviously on
womenthe centerline usually cuts
inward from the belly button as it
makes its way toward the pubis. If
there is even a small amount of turn
to the figure away from the straight-
on view, this inward position of the
pubis is greatly magnified.
Looking at the dynamic, highly
foreshortened Watteau drawing at
right, observe how the large forms
of the chest and pelvis interlock
with each other. The erector spinae
muscles on the back and the stom-
ach muscles on the front serve as the
transitional shackle between these
two forms. When seen from above,
these bridging forms will seem to
supporting rib cage underneath. Ive made that mistake often, so I now first originate on the chest and insert
draw a loose, elliptical shape for the basic position of the chest, and I later into the pelvis. The opposite is
add pectoralis or breast shapes on top. true when viewing the figure from
Linking these two form concepts of the chest and pelvis together is the belowthese front and back bridg-
centerline (Figure 3, H). Perhaps the most crucial of all your imaginary con- ing forms then seem to stem from
struction lines, the centerline controls all the complex movements in the the pelvis and stab into the chest.
torso. This imaginary line is real enough in the vertebral column, which Whenever possible, look for simi-
serves as a natural centerline. Establish the line of the spine early on in lar overlapping concentric lines that
the drawing process, especially when drawing a back view or a side view. help reinforce those all-important
When drawing a front view, you need to look a little harder to find a cen- basic form concepts underlying the
terline. It starts at the pit of the neck, runs down the center of the chest core figure. Youll find them often

26 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
in the creases that f low through the
stomach area and the stretch marks
that develop between the rib cage The question of Where do I start? remains. Even though its imperative to
and the pelvis in an action pose with establish a dynamically gestural core figure early on, you cant just drop a fully
a lot of twist. drawn torso onto the paperyou still need to put your first line somewhere.
On athletic models, pay par- I usually start with the head, scribbling a loose loop or circular shape for its
ticularly close attention to the basic sizeand not much more. This gives me a preliminary sense of size of
descriptive edges of their muscle the rest of the figure and helps me to gauge whether it will fit properly within
shapes. Far from the f lat, maplike the space Ive allotted for it in my composition.
shapes found in 2-D anatomical Its important to establish the overall gesture of the figure near the begin-
charts, real muscles conform to the ning of the drawing process; you need to have something to aim for, even if
3-D curvature and angular plane you prefer to work with details from the outset. If you are unsure about your
changes of the human body. When sense of proportion, you may want to quickly place light tic marks on your
viewed from above, as in Carraccis paper to indicate the top, middle, bottom and quarter points of the models
A Triton Blowing a Conch, notice how overall lengths. Once you have secured the general gesture and proportions of
their shapes are visually warped the figure on your paperhowever simplisticallyyou can deal with the more
into a subtle downward-facing complex problems of form and surface details later as they come up.
manner. This arcing distortion of Quite a few artists from the Renaissance to more recent times have codified the
the muscles is similar to the way a many natural lines of action or rhythm that physically course through the core fig-
straight line drawn around a bar- ure. Its useful to study charts such as the one by the anonymous Milanese master
rel curves downward when viewed (page 29) or to investigate Frank Rileys teachings on the subject. Sometimes
from abovealthough this effect is the core figures lines of rhythm can be as simple as two overlapping triangular
far more restrained on the human shapes. But in the end, when standing in front of your drawing board, its best to
figure. Conversely, that barrel line trust your own eye. Just get something down, even if it is only some doodly lines,
and the more complicated muscu- to establish the general slant, length and width of the figure.
lar shapes of the human body bow
upward when the forms are seen
from below. Just remember when
drawing the figure, this visual Study for a Satyr About to Attack
torquing distortion is only slight by Antoine Watteau, ca. 1717, red, black and white chalk, 4 1 4 x 8 38 . Frits Lugt Collection, Foundation
and never evenly circular like the Custodia, Paris, France.
stylized muscles found on many car- When viewed from above, notice how the form concept of the chest overlaps the form concept of
the pelvis. These are seemingly separate units, yet they are dynamically connected by the hint of the
toon figures. stomach muscles in the front and the spine muscles on the back. T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 27
Dont let your drawings become styl-
ized or schematic in your attempt
to draw a dynamic core figure.
Remember that a torso is as unique to
a person as his or her face. I use the
same method for finding a likeness
in the torso as I do when drawing a
portrait. Much as the face can be
divided into major sections, the torso
can be defined into three segments.
Starting at the top, these areas are:
from the pit of the neck to the nipples;
from the nipples to the belly button;
and from the bellybutton to the crotch
(or symphysis pubis).
In many classical canons, these seg-
ments are defined as equally long. But
as with the face, there is much variation
within human torsos. Among women
in particular, the distance between the
pit of the neck and nipples can differ
quite greatly from the normmostly
because of variable breast sizes and
whether the breasts sit high or low
on the ribcage. When contemplating
these three segments, ask yourself
which segment is the longest and
which is the shortest. You wont be
able to establish the likeness of your
model unless you first determine
these bigger proportional relation-
ships, and finding what distinguishes
each face and figure from the norm
will also allow you to determine what
distinguishes each model as a unique
Dont dismiss the importance of
finding the torsos likeness, or you
may set off a chain reaction of propor-
tional problems throughout the rest of
A Triton Blowing a Conch
your figure if, like many artists, you
by Agostino Carracci, ca. 15971601, black and white chalk on light blue-gray paper, 16 x 9. compare the length of your limbs to
Collection J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California. landmarks on the core figure. For
Notice the downward-curving quality of the muscle shapes in this drawing of a figure viewed from instance, I often compare the position
above, similar to the downward-facing curve found in a cylinder viewed from above.
of the elbow to the lower edge of the
rib cagethe elbow usually relates
Geometrical Scheme of Movements of the Body
to this part of the torso aligned along
by Anonymous Milanese artist. Collection The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, New York.
In every era, artists have studied and charted the many internal rhythms found within the human
an imaginary, gently curving line that
figure. Old Masters such as Leonardo, Drer, and this anonymous artist left many diagrams for us to crosses a little bit above or below the
study. Although these charts are useful to look at, its also very important to observe the human figure
yourself. Notice how body parts relate to each other, finding rhythmic relationships between them,
rib cage. But if I make the nipple-to-
whether in size or in some sort of curving alignment. belly-button segment too long, Ill

28 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 29
consequently make the upper arm too long and the lower arm too short. The next into it should be lower as well.
time that you think an arm, leg or other body part looks proportionally out of But there are times when a portion
whack even though it measures correctly against the core figure, make sure that of the core figure is indeed too wide in
you havent drawn one of the three major torso segments inaccurately as well. comparison to the rest of the figure.
This happens frequently when artists
agonize too much over internal details
IS THE TORSO TOO WIDE OR within their core figures. They uncon-
TOO THIN? sciously expand the outside edges of
Sometimes a form appears too long when, in fact, it is too thin, or too short when the torso in order to squeeze in all the
really it is too wide. Perhaps youve had this problem when sketching a side view: details theyve added to the internal sur-
Your drawn torso seems to measure correctly, but it appears either too short or face form. Sometimes its just a matter
too long to your eye. Quite often, artists misplace the lower curving line of the of one side of the figure being too large,
buttock where it inserts into the leg, putting it either too low or too high com- in which case you can either shrink it or
pared to the crotch on the front. In general, this gluteal insertion point resides enlarge the other side. But most often
high on the male form, whereas on the female form the line usually drops low into when you are having width problems,
the leg, well below the crotch. But always do a visual double-check on the actual its not that simple, and you need to
model, using a horizontal plumb line to compare the insertion of the buttock with readjust both sides of the figure.
the position of the crotch. If your core figure looks too long or short on a front Before you change anything on
view, take a second look at the position of the inner thighs where they overlap the your drawing, always go back to the
pelvis (Figure 3, I on page 25). Artists often draw this inner position of the leg too centerline and reassess the entire
high within the figure, making the torso look too short. This happens a lot when torso from top to bottom, comparing
the figure is standing on one leg. In most cases, artists usually position the upper the widths on one side of the torsos
line of the thigh correctly on the supportive leg. However, they often place the line centerline to the widths on the other
of the thigh too high on the other side, not taking into account that the pelvis tilts side. Start at the shoulders, since
downward on the nonsupported side, so the upper line of the leg that connects that is where most width problems
reside. For instance, you may perceive
that the shoulders are too wide, even
though their exterior width measures
Study of an Antique correctly against other proportions. In
Venus this case, look at the position of the
by Michelangelo, ca.
15241525, black chalk,
armpitsartists often position them
10 116 x 7116 . Collection too far apart, particularly on large or
British Museum, London,
muscular people. And remember that
Here, the flexed side of you usually cant reposition one arm-
the figure is active in its pit without repositioning the other.
outside contour, and the
opposite stretched side Another problem area when draw-
is relatively passive in its ing the torso in a three-quarters view
outer shape.
is that artists often make the distant
OPPOSITE PAGE buttock too largebigger even than
Academic Drawing the nearer one. In this situation, take
by Richard Tweedy,
18941899, vine charcoal, another look at the position of the glu-
24 x 18. Collection the teal fold on the model. Although never
Art Students League
of New York; New York, in perfect alignment with the spine, it
New York. should line up somewhat and not be
The pelvis often slopes wildly to one side or the other.
downward to one side, as
in this drawing. The inner Drawing both sides of the torso in
line of the leg that con- relationship to each other can be espe-
nects into the downward
side of pelvis should cially helpful when you draw the figure
follow it as well, sitting from life. Your model is a living, breath-
lower than the line that
describes the inner thigh ing human and will inevitably move at
of the other, higher leg. least a little within the time it takes to
complete a drawing. In my career as
a teacher, I have seen many advanced
artists work obsessively on one side

30 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 31
of the figure. They then work just as
obsessively on the other side, without
noticing that the model has rotated
away from them, exposing more of the
models opposite side. Finally, when
they add this extra piece of anatomy
to their drawing, they wonder why
their figure looks too wide. You can
eliminate or minimize this pernicious
problem by intermittently looking back
and forth across the width and length
of the models forms.

Another common problem occurs
when an artist draws the torso too
symmetrically. Its always a good idea
to draw back and forth across the
width of the core figurewhen you
place a line on the paper for one side
of the rib cage, put a line down for the
other side. However, try not to auto-
matically make one side of the torso
equal to the other, like a balloon.
There is nothing worse than drawing
a balloon torsounless, of course,
that is your goal. Its a common prob-
lem for beginning artists who fall
into the trap of thinking the figure is
symmetrical on all sides, something
that even many advanced artists are
ensnared by when drawing heavy or
muscular models.
To help free yourself of this mind-
set, try to draw the model from the
skeleton outward. Notice that there
is comparatively less fat on the back
of the torso. Even on extremely heavy
models, most of the fat hangs from
the lower, front side of the rib cage
the back side of the torso will seem
relatively flat compared to the front
of the stomach. You will observe this
most readily when drawing the torso
from a side view. Begin your drawing
by laying in the spine, rib cage and
Core Figure the boxlike shape of the pelvis. Notice
by Dan Gheno, 2009, sanguine crayon, 15 x 712. Collection the artist.
that the stomach does indeed bulge
Its always important to find an anchor or focal point in your drawing. When concentrating
on a torso-only drawing, try to let the rendering gradually taper away in definition. Dont outward below the rib cage. But
end the drawing hard at a joint or form edge. rather than bulging like an evenly

32 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
circular balloon, the stomach slopes
outward and downward in a series of
flat angles from the arch of the rib
cage where it originates. The stom-
ach tends to level out above the belly
button and then quickly dives back
inward toward the crotch.
As you draw down the core figure,
remember the active/passive rule that
exists within all living things: If one side
of the form is active, the other side is
usually passive. This is most noticeable
in the limbs, but when drawing the core
Further drawing
figure in action, as in Michelangelos
instruction by Dan
Study of an Antique Venus (page 30), you
Gheno is available
will notice that the stretched, extended
in the book Figure
side of the torso appears relatively flat
Drawing Master
and passive, and the other flexed side,
Class. For more
with its compressed skin and muscles,
information, visit
looks pronounced and active.
Never assume that any part of the
human anatomy is absolutely symmet-
rical. Although you might think that
a stationary torso balanced on both
legs is symmetrical when viewed from
the front, look again. You will find
some subtle amount of asymmetry
in its forms, and this slight lopsided- Daniel
ness is what differentiates your living, by Gianlorenzo Bernini, 1655, red chalk on paper, 14 x 9.
breathing model from a lifeless, styl- Collection Museum der Bildenden Knste, Leipzig, Germany.
ized mannequin. The torsos internal, Although intended as a study for a sculpture, this drawing has sur-
vived the test of time while other sketches from the same period have
interlocking shadow shapes often perished. This drawing lives on because of Berninis elegant line work,
accentuate this natural asymmetry. balanced composition and rhythmic focus on the core figure.

USING AN Take the highly rendered Academic Drawing by Richard Tweedy (page 31) and
ANCHOR Berninis quick working sketch for a sculpture seen above. Tweedy seems to have
When working with a live model, your stopped when he ran out of time, and Bernini seems to have stopped when he had
time is usually limited, and its easy to satisfied his research needs. More than likely, both artists knew their time limits
lose track of time when rendering many and/or had an end goal for their drawings.
details and internal shadow shapes. It is not pure luck that these drawings have survived the test of time when
Although its important to work globally millions of others have perished. From a compositional point of view, both artists
throughout the figure, no matter how stopped their drawings at very opportune places within the figures, not at a joint
good a multitasker you are, its criti- or at the edge of a body part. The artists created a transitional passageway within
cal to find a couple of focal pointsan their drawings, concentrating on their anchor point of the core figure and letting
anchorin your drawing. Concentrate the details fade out past the border of the torso.
the majority of your efforts there so that
if you run out of time, you will have at
least refined the most crucial areas of
the drawing, and your figure will have Knowing where to stop a drawing is almost as important as knowing where to
a look of completion. start it. Lets face it: Its hard not to get lost in the joy of details. Always remember
In most of the drawings reproduced that the torso sits at the core of the figureall the individual body parts and seem-
in this article, the artists found their ingly important details emanate off the core figures inherently dynamic, gestural
anchor in the all-important core figure. structure. For me, the drawing both starts and stops with the core figure. Y T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 33
The Drawings of
Philip Pearlstein
This celebrated artist uses drawing to depict
what he sees with little thought for accepted
standards of draftsmanship.
by J O H N A . PA R K S

P hilip Pearlstein (1924) emerged as a major force behind

the resurgence of representational painting in the
New York art world in the early 1960s. At a time when
Abstract Expressionism still held sway and the wry sophistication of Pop
Art was in its early stages, Pearlstein came up with a vision that swept
aside most of the tenets of Modernism and its insistence on surface and
Seated Female Model and
Male Model on Quilt
1973, sepia wash on paper,
30 x 22 .
All artwork and images this
article courtesy Betty
Cuningham Gallery, New York,
New York, unless otherwise
flatness. In his edgy, intense drawings and paintings he championed a
return to the creation of an illusionistic space behind the picture plane
observed from a single viewpoint. Moreover, he proposed to take on a
central concern of Western painting: the direct observation and render-
ing of the human figure. His paintings of nudes, presented in a raw,
detached and highly concentrated realism, devoid of either the painterly
excesses of the Abstract Expressionists or the layered ironies of Pop Art,
came as a complete surprise to the art world and quickly propelled the
painter to international recognition.
Throughout his career the artist has made drawings, and at times
particularly in the 1950shis drawings led the way to considerable
breakthroughs in his work. To fully understand how Pearlsteins mature

34 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 35
Male Nude Reclining
1948, charcoal, 19 x 25.

36 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
work came about, it is necessary to
go back to the very beginning of his

hilip Pearlstein was born
in Pittsburgh in 1924 and
grew up during the Great
Depression. He was encouraged by
his parents and teachers to paint and
draw and was sent off to the Carnegie
Museum of Art for Saturday morning
art classes. All this youthful activ-
ity culminated in early recognition
when he won a national competition
for high-school students, resulting
in two of his paintings being repro-
duced in Life magazine in June 1942.
The young man went on to study art
as an undergraduate, but his life was
interrupted by World War II.
The army used Pearlsteins tal-
ents, employing him in a graphic
workshop in Florida, where he
worked for several months on signs
and illustrations for army training.
There he found himself in the com-
pany of men who had worked in
commercial art in civilian life, and
from them he quickly learned the
techniques of the trade, becoming
familiar with ruling pens and silk-
screen printing. Later Pearlstein was
sent to Italy in the infantry, again
finding himself working in a shop
that was making road signs for the
war-torn country. In Italy he made
a long series of drawings depicting
typical events in the life of a soldier.
The drawings have a straightfor-
wardness in which every element is
clearly readable. I guess I was going
to be an illustrator, says the artist,
and that is a quality that illustration
Pearlstein was kept on in Italy
after hostilities were over, and he
used the opportunity to see art that
had been hidden during the war.
He also visited the Vatican collec-
tions and the churches of Venice,
and he remembers paying caretak-
ers in Florence to get into locked T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 37
Study for Eroded Cliff For nearly eight years Pearlstein and asked if he could talk about the
1955, sepia wash on paper, 18 x 23 . worked for Ladislav Sutnar (1897 work. He took me through each of
1976), a graphic designer with the paintings in turn, talking about
close ties to the Bauhausa school them in my terms rather than those
churches to see pictures by the great in Germany that combined crafts of his own paintings. It was the best
Renaissance painters. and the fine artsand Pearlstein critique I ever got.
Returning to the United States, absorbed much of the Bauhaus Following the lead of the Abstract
Pearlstein went back to Carnegie aesthetic. At this time he was also Expressionists, Pearlsteins paintings
Tech to finish his training. One of involved with a group of painters at the time were heavily painted but
his classroom friends was the young that included Willem de Kooning not exactly abstract. He produced
Andrew Warhola (19281987), with (19041997) and Philip Guston images based on popular American
whom Pearlstein eventually made (19131980), and in 1954 he joined cultureincluding an American
his way to New York in 1949. The the Tanager Gallery, one of the first Eagle, a dollar sign and eventually
two shared an apartment and both co-op galleries in the city. Really Supermanin the early 1950s, years
found work, Warholaor Warhol, as it was like a graduate school for before Pop Art was born. Clement
he eventually came to be known me, says Pearlstein. People like Greenberg (19091994) spotted
in illustration and Pearlstein as an Greenberg or Guston would just stop Pearlstein and included him in an
assistant to a graphic designer. After by and chat. One morning, I found Emerging Talent show in 1954.
about 10 months or so Warhol had De Kooning sleeping on the steps Meanwhile, with the encourage-
become a successful illustrator. The outside when I went to open up the ment of Sutnar, Pearlstein enrolled
two parted company when Pearlstein gallery. I had an exhibition of paint- for a masters degree at the Institute
got married. ings up, and he eventually came in of Fine Arts at New York University.

38 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
Pearlstein wrote his thesis on the 1950s she began to invite a number lighting so often adopted in the art
work of Francis Picabia (18791953), of artists to make figure drawings in schools of the time.
and it may have been the study of this her studio during six-hour marathons From the earliest examples it
artist that moved Pearlstein to begin on Sunday evenings. Pearlstein, who is clear that these drawings were
doubting the orthodox viewpoint had moved uptown, welcomed the anything but classical. They were
championed by Greenberg. Rather chance to fraternize with fellow art- generally executed in a continuous
than a grand advancement toward ists but quickly discovered an intense line that developed from an attempt
flatness and the dominance of the working atmosphere. The poses were at completely direct seeing. The art-
picture plane, Picabias workwith simple and natural rather than the ist was obviously trying to confront
its lively and inventive shifts between classical contortions favored in the the problem of rendering head-on,
Cubism, Dadaism and Surrealism art schools. In the early days poses without recourse to any preconceived
suggested that all kinds of approaches were short10 minutes or soand standards of draftsmanship. He
might be viable. Pearlstein drew quickly, either with started almost anywhere on the
Another important development a soft 6B pencil on hard drawing body and followed the form wher-
was the artists association with paper or with brush and raw-umber ever it might have led. This approach
Mercedes Matter (19132001), an watercolor on charcoal paper and
artist who would go on to found the later on Arches watercolor paper. The
New York Studio School of Drawing, lighting was bright and overhead Tree Roots Clutching
Painting and Sculpture. In the late as opposed to the soft directional 1959, sepia wash on paper, 13 x 16 . T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 39
I accept what I do. I dont second-guess myself. The drawing is
a result of considerable concentration and intense effort on my
part. If that is the way I saw it then I stand by it.

40 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
Male Model Seated
on Floor
1962, sepia wash on paper,
13 x 16 .

Female Sitting Up,
Male Reclining
1962, graphite,
13 x 16 .

sometimes resulted in oddities or based on rocks that he collected out-

quirks in the drawing that the artist doors. These paintings, hovering
chose to keep. Indeed, the drawings between abstraction and traditional
of this era, like the drawings that landscape, were very much part of
would come in later decades, show the artistic currency of the day, and
little or no signs of correction or era- Pearlstein was able to show them and
sure. I accept what I do, says the garner some support. In 1958 he won
artist. I dont second-guess myself. a Fulbright grant and went to live for
The drawing is a result of consider- a year in Italy, where he continued
able concentration and intense effort his landscape work. The drawings
on my part. If that is the way I saw it and watercolors he made at this time,
then I stand by it. however, show an increasing real-
ism and a tendency to render more

t was a long time before this precisely and fully. This year also
early figure work was to yield marked the end of Pearlsteins work
fruit as paintings. Throughout as a graphic artist. Upon his return to
the 1950s Pearlstein painted Abstract New York from Italy he began teach-
Expressionist landscapes, often ing at Pratt Institute and went on to T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 41
teach at Brooklyn College for many more than posed figures forming a a routine medical exam that included
years. dynamic composition. an eye test. I had been wearing the
It wasnt until 1962 that Pearlstein The artist began making paint- same prescription lenses since high
first showed his figure drawings at ings from his drawings and school, he says. When I was in the
the Allan Frumkin Gallery, in New eventually painted directly from the army they just copied the prescrip-
York. After the Abstract Expressionist model. The resulting pictures were a tion, and I never thought to change it.
years, in which the figure had only considerable departure from his early When the doctor popped a different
been acceptable if it was charged work, eventually dropping all the set of lenses into the apparatus I sud-
with enormous emotion and paint- heavy manipulation of paint favored denly saw the world jump into sharp
erly drama, the cool, almost clinically by the Abstract Expressionists and clarity for the first time. I said, Give
detached quality of Pearlsteins draw- instead using a lean and economic me those! It was such a pleasure see-
ings came as somewhat of a shock style. In part the artist attributes this ing clearly I never wanted to look at
to the art world. There was also the evolution toward a more precise treat- an Impressionist painting again.
curious quality of images in which ment to leaving the world of graphic In the early 1960s Pearlstein had
two nude people were displayed in a design. Once I wasnt doing it for a three young children and money
situation that was potentially sexual living the same impulse went into was tight. Nevertheless, he took the
but which, in fact, involved nothing the painting, he says. plunge and began hiring his own
Another more prosaic event also models. Right from the beginning he
increased his interest in precision. In carefully controlled the studio con-
Seated Female Model and
the late 1950s Pearlstein worked for a ditions. He used three blue-tinged
Leaning Male Model few months for Life magazine where, floodlights facing slightly toward the
undated (1960s), graphite, 18 x 23 . for insurance purposes, he was given wall, and he curtained the windows

42 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
to keep out daylight. Painfully con- authenticity of the act of looking. In a
scious of the cost of paying a model, sense Pearlstein is making art more
Pearlstein worked quickly, vow- closely related to that of Czanne
ing to complete each painting in a than that of the academiesthe
limited number of hours, further appearance of the work is dictated by
contributing to the sense of direct- the process of looking at the world.
ness in his paintings. The drawings Pearlstein showed his paintings
of this period remained linear and at the Frumkin Gallery in 1963 and
were completed in either graphite received an enthusiastic review from
or brush, with the artist favoring Sydney Tillim, an important critic
a Chinese brush that allowed him at the time, who recognized that
a combination of delicate line and Pearlstein had returned to a tradi-
broader swaths for washes. tional concern of artthe depiction
As he tended to begin in the mid- of the human being in real space
dle of the paper and work along the from a single viewpointwithout
forms as he found them, the result- having recourse to all the baggage
ing images would often be cropped of that tradition. Gone were the
Foreshortened Nude
when he finally arrived at the edges. academic poses and the carefully 1966, black wash on
Heads, feet or any other part of the balanced compositions of academic paper, 29 x 22.
body might be missing. For the
viewer the effect can be somewhat
alarming, but the artist is comfort-
able with this as long as he feels the
image makes sense. Pearlstein attri-
butes part of his interest in cropping
to his time at Life magazine, where
he would often be obliged to crop
photos. I became more interested in
what was left on the outside after the
image was cropped, he says. The art-
ist acknowledges that in his drawings
a sort of reverse cropping takes place.
The image travels and unfolds until
it reaches the edge and is stopped. If
the edge is slicing through a thigh or
a breast or a neck, the artist simply
accepts the outcome.
Some of the drawings of this early
period introduce a further device: a
broken or dotted line that the artist
used to notate a surface feature for
later work in another medium. The
line might show the position of a
bone or muscle beneath the surface
or merely indicate the edge of a cast
shadow. The artist is clearly inter-
ested in limiting his observation to
visual events rather than looking for
visual clues that will enable him to
render a fully volumetric form along
classical lines. He accepts the distor-
tions, quirks and flattening of space
that often result from this approach
because his faith is grounded in the T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 43
began to introduce pieces of heav- It seems that what Pearlstein is up
Female Model on Two Female Models
Chrome Stool, Male on Peruvian Rug ily patterned textiles, a move that to in these paintings is to overload
Model on Floor With Mirror involved the challenge of reflected the work with symbols, signifiers and
1978, sepia wash on 1976, sepia wash on color and dynamic shifts between the potential meanings so that in the end
paper, 40 x 59 . paper, 29 x 41.
Private collection. subtleties of flesh color and the bril- they simply point us back, exhausted,
liant local color of the fabrics. to the electric pleasures of seeing the
Since the early 1980s, Pearlstein objects and models themselves. I
has been making increasingly com- posed one model with a diving air-
art, and gone were the drama and plex paintings and drawings in which plane and a model of Mickey Mouse,
angst of Expressionism. They had his nudes are joined by a wide array says the artist. The model told me
been replaced by a cool, fearless of props. These artifacts are drawn that the work was certainly a com-
and unrelenting gaze. The models from the artists large collection of ment on 9/11 with Mickey Mouse
remained in relaxed and more or less American folk art. The nudes are sud- standing for American culture. I
natural resting poses. There was no denly entangled in compositions that told him that I was more interested
attempt at gesture, interaction, sto- might include a large model airplane in how the shape of his hairline mir-
rytelling, idealization or any of the along with a childs car-plane toy. rored that of Mickey. I think he got a
other garnishings of representational Wooden rocking horses and model bit upset, and after the painting was
painting. The pictures looked radical, fire engines compete with antique done he shaved his head.
groundbreaking and somewhat chal- chairs and weather vanes, crowding Pearlstein has remained active
lenging. Pearlstein quickly gained a and threatening the human mod- into his 80s and 90s. A visit several
wide reputation. els with their sharp edges and hard years ago to his studio in Manhattans
surfaces. Garment District found him working

s the 1960s progressed, With so many powerful images at on several very large canvases, aided
the focus in the paintings play, the viewer is naturally tempted to by three models. The artists collec-
sharpened. Moreover, the look for meaning in the work. Surely tion of American folk art is joined by
backgrounds and physical contexts a pair of nude women, dozing while collections of Roman and Greek frag-
of the models were worked up to the a zeppelin dives vertically between ments, Egyptian pots, Japanese prints
same hard finish. Gradually the artist them, must be an image of war and and much more. Pearlstein takes obvi-
started to include one or two props, destruction. Or perhaps not. Im ous delight in exploring his collection
usually furnishings from his own making puzzles for future art histori- with a visitor, making it clear that the
house: a sofa, a chair, a carpet. Often ans, quips the artist, who points out pleasures of looking and the enjoy-
these objects played pivotal roles that it is difficult, if not impossible, to ment of discovering how other artists
in the composition, reflecting and control the meaning of a work of art have seen the world continue to fuel
reinforcing movements that occur because the context in which it is seen the creative energy of this wonderful
through the figures. Pearlstein also is always changing. and important artist. Y

44 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
Two Seated Models, One on Eames
1982, charcoal, 30 x 44 .

Model With Leg Extended on Wooden
1983, Cont, 30 x 40. T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 45
Nude and New York
1985, graphite, 23 x 29.

Male Model With
Foot on Barber
undated, sepia wash
on paper, 41 x 29 .

Philip Pearlstein has had
more than 100 solo shows in his
career, and his work appears in
The Metropolitan Museum of Art,
in New York City; The Museum
of Modern Art, in New York City;
the Smithsonian American Art
Museum, in Washington, DC;
The Art Institute of Chicago; the
Whitney Museum of American
Art, in New York City; the Museum
of Fine Arts, Boston; and dozens
of other major public collections.
Pearlsteins many awards include
a National Endowment for the
Arts scholarship, a John Simon
Guggenheim Memorial Foundation
fellowship and a Fulbright
fellowship. To learn more, visit or the website
of Betty Cuningham Gallery at

46 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
Two Models
With Recliner
and Lion
1991, graphite,
23 x 29.

Model With
Gargoyle, Lion
and Mirror
undated (1990s),
graphite, 30 x 40. T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 47
Measuring the Figure
Using this easy technique, you can measure key proportions in the early stages
of drawing and be sure you have an accurate foundation from which to work.
by J O N D E M A RT I N

48 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
I n order to appear lifelike, a figure drawing needs to accurately rep-
resent the proportions of the model. And in order to represent the
figure in correct proportion, we need sound measurement strategies
that will allow us to check what weve drawn for accuracy. Such basic measure-
ments are not difficult to make, and in this article, we will look at a simple
technique that allows you to verify that the most important proportions of your
figure drawing are correct. By checking your drawing with this technique
early in the process, you can then continue to work with confidence that your
drawing truthfully captures the most important proportions of the figure.

The Proportions of
the Human Body
According to Vitruvius One of the first things the figure
(The Vitruvian Man)
artist must consider is the size and
by Leonardo da Vinci,
pen-and-brown- placement of the subject on the page.
ink, brush-and- Remember that it is vital to com-
brown-wash and
metalpoint, 13 x 958 . pose your figure in relation to the
Collection Gallerie overall page and not make the fig-
Venice, Italy. ure so small that it floats against
In addition to applying the background. Inversely, the fig-
basic proportional ure shouldnt be so large that it goes
measurements, it is
important to have beyond the limits of the page or
some knowledge of touches the top or bottom of the sheet,
classical proportionsa
topic Leonardo creating uncomfortable tangents.
investigated in his In classical academic life drawing,
famous drawing.
Knowledge of classical on a typical 18"-x-24" page, its advis-
proportions helps able to fit the figure approximately
you avoid serious
distortions, and " to 1" from the top and bottom of
because nobody the page. See Illustration 2 for a typi-
exactly matches
the classical ideal, cal academic life-drawing format.
it also allows you Working large in this way not only
to appreciate the
differences that make fills the page compositionally but
each body unique. also allows you to see proportional
relationships more easily.
RIG HT Good proportion is based on divi-
ILLUSTRATION 2 sion; bad proportion is based on
Young Man in Profile
Holding a Ball addition and subtraction. In other
by Charles Bargue, ca. words, we first need to establish the
18261883, lithograph,
24 x 18.
outer dimensions of our subject and
keep this size unchangeable. Then, subjects longest dimension. For a
we can consider the correct division standing figure, these marks should
of the parts within the whole. When define the uppermost and lowermost
an artist adds to or subtracts from the points of the figure. (See Illustration
outer dimensions of the subject in an 3b, with horizontal marks indicating
attempt to repair incorrect proportions, the figures extremities.) Throughout
the drawing can fall into a continual the rest of your drawing process, do
state of flux with proportions spiral- not alter or deviate from these marks.
ing out of control and figures that dont By keeping them sacred, you create a
even fit on the page. But with a little definite baseline against which incor-
discipline, you can avoid this. rect proportions can be adjusted and
The first marks you make should corrected. If you were to fix pro-
indicate the extremities of your portional inaccuracies by adjusting T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 49
the overall height of the figure, you
would soon find that your correction 3B
in one area threw everything else out
of whack, leading to adjustment after
adjustment as you attempt to solve
more and more problems.


Before we discuss strategies for
measuring the figure, I should
emphasize that it is important to
first draw by eye so that you can use
your estimated drawing as a basis
of comparison. The measurement
ILLUSTRATIONS 3A strategies described here should be
After marking the
employed after you have made an ini-
extremities of your tial line drawing, such as the one in
drawing, find the action
both inside and outside
Illustration 3b.
using light and breezy As you study the principle lines of
lines that relate to the
figures most important
the figure, you will notice that they
projections (usually invariably relate to the boney land-
boney landmarks). Re-
member that the head is
marks of the skeleton. This brings up
a crucial shape that can an important point: It is the skeletal
telegraph good propor-
tion (or bad). It should
frame that determines proportion,
be drawn at the outset. not the muscles. The boney land-
Lightly indicate the
surface centers (median
marks are the nails upon which the
lines) of the head, rib bodys whole structure depends for
cage and pelvis; these
lengths are the basis of
solidity. To determine the propor-
good proportion. tions of the figure, we will look for
major points of the skeleton
that can serve as landmarks of locating the tear duct when draw-
3A on any model. ing the headafter youve correctly
When measuring the located the tear duct, all other facial
figure I find it easiest to focus features can be found in relation to it.
on just two very significant On the back view of the figure, I
proportional landmarks. On use the base of the skull as the first
the front of a figure, these landmark, if it is visible. If not, I
two internal landmarks are instead look for the 7 th cervical ver-
the bottom of the chin and tebra, which generally protrudes
the pubis. (See Illustration prominently near the bottom of the
4a.) The chin is vital neck. The second landmark on the
because it gives us a correct back of the figure is the coccyx, or
head proportion, which will tailbone, at the base of the torso. (See
give scale to our drawing. Illustration 4b.)
The pubis, or groin, mean- Whether the pose is foreshortened
while functions to establish or not, these landmarks are the basis
the base of the torso, which for good figure proportion. Once
varies on each person. Once you have completed your initial line
weve found these two land- drawing, to ensure your drawing has
marks, the bodys other correct proportions, measure whether
parts will fall into place. It these two landmarks are correct. If
is similar to the importance they are, you can move on to placing

50 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
Bottom Base of skull
of chin
7th cervical vertebra


4A 4B

To check your initial proportions on a frontal view of the figure,
locate the chin and the pubis. For a back view, locate the base of the
skull (or if it is not visible, use the 7th cervical vertebra, located at the
base of the neck) and the coccyx, at the base of the torso. T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 51

Remember to keep
both your measuring
stick and your drawing and refining smaller forms within proportional landmarks, which
surface vertical
when evaluating your the figure. If you find that these requires only a measuring stick,
proportions. landmarks are incorrectly placed, such as a knitting needle.
adjust them, and then re-measure. One advantage of optical reduc-
Once they are correct, you can move tion is that you dont have to fully
on to other parts of the drawing, extend your arm, which elimi-
knowing that your figures founda- nates a common source of error.
tion is accurate. (Comparative measuring, in con-
trast, can only be done with the arm
MEASURING THE INTERNAL fully extended.) However, when
LANDMARKS using optical reduction, your mea-
suring stick must remain vertical
There are a variety of ways to deter- and parallel to the picture plane, as
mine whether you have accurately shown in Illustration 5. Your draw-
placed landmark points on your ing paper must also be vertical.
drawing. Some artists use compara- To find a landmark in the figure:
tive measuring, sometimes called
counting headsseeing how many
head lengths fit into the overall fig-
ure and comparing the length of
various parts to the length of the
head. Personally, I find this method
tedious and inaccurate because the One advantage of optical
head doesnt always align itself to a
convenient landmark. I prefer the
reduction is that you dont
technique of optical reduction, intro- have to fully extend your
duced to me by my teacher Michael
Aviano. This is an ingenious, empir-
arm, which eliminates a
ical method for locating the figures common source of error.

52 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
hold your measuring stick so that the 7A ILLUSTRATION 6
top of the stick aligns with the top of To check proportion, hold your
the models head, while your thumb- measuring stick so that the top of the
stick aligns with the top point on the
nail aligns with the bottommost model and your thumbnail aligns with
point on the figure. (See Illustration the lowest point on the model.
6.) Holding the stick as still as pos-
sible, place your free thumbnail at LE F T
the landmark you wish to capture 7A AND 7B
in this case, the bottom of the chin. To check whether you have drawn the
models chin in its correct position,
(See Illustration 7a.) Keeping your point off the models chin with your
fingers at the same points on the free thumbnail. Hold your thumbnails
in place, align the needle with your
stick, hold it in front of your draw- drawing, and compare your upper
ing. By moving the stick forward or thumbnail (the chins location on the
model) to the chins location on your
back, align the top of the stick and drawing. In this demonstration, the
your bottom thumbnail with the top measurement shows that the chin in
the drawing is located in the correct
and bottom of your drawing. Make spot.
sure both the stick and your draw-
ing surface are absolutely vertical.
Then, check the location of the chin
in your drawing. If it is located at the
same point as your upper thumb-
nail, the chin is correctly placed. If
your drawing does not match your
thumbnail, adjust the drawing as
necessary, and then re-measure. To
find the pubis, repeat the operation,

6 7B

If youre interested in
learning more about
the fundamentals of
realistic drawing, we
recommend the book
Drawing Atelier:
The Figure, by Jon
deMartin. It covers
subjects including
how to construct
basic shapes, how to
capture the gesture
of a figure and how
to draw specific body
parts and facial
features. For more
information and to
purchase a copy, visit
figure. T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 53
8A AND 8B 8A 8B
Use the same technique of
pointing off to check the loca-
tion of the pubis, our second
proportional landmark.

this time placing your upper thumb- be applied specifically to the head
nail at the location of the pubis, and if youre drawing at a close enough
again comparing it to your drawing, distance. Using the same tech-
as shown in Illustrations 8a and 8b. nique, you can check the location
This measurement technique of the tear duct on your drawing,
takes a little manual dexterity, but related to the top and bottom of the
once you become adept with it, models head. (See Illustrations 9a
youll find it to be the most effi- and 9b.) Once youre sure the tear
cient and practical of all measuring duct is correct, it can serve as the
techniques. It is, in essence, a lin- determinant for the proportions of
ear proportional device: It compares the heads other features.
the length of part of the body to By using optical reduction, you
that of the whole. The technique can rectify any proportional prob-
can also be used along a horizontal lems early on, which then allows
lineif you are drawing a reclining you to develop your drawing with
model, for instance. In this case, confidence that what youve drawn
simply mark the extremities of the is accurate. This tool guarantees
figures width, and then locate the accuracy, reduces frustration and
head and pubis along a horizontal enhances creativity, all for the price
length. Optical reduction can also of a knitting needle. Y

54 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
9A 10


Optical reduction can also be applied to
the head. Use it to check the location of
the tear ductthe primary proportional
landmark on the front of the head.

by Jon deMartin, 2012, black and white chalk on toned paper, 25 x 19. Demonstration drawing at the
Grand Central Academy.
Each human being is unique, and when we gain the mastery of controlling the size of our drawing and
of the subjects proportional relationships, we can then tackle even more challenging posesand the
creative possibilities of drawing become endless. T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 55
Learning From
the Masters:

Lines The French masters graphite drawings teach us much
about contour and portraiture.
by M A R K G . M I T C H E L L

Portrait of Charles-Franois Mallet
1809, graphite, 10 916 x 8 516 . Collection The Art
Institute of Chicago; Chicago, Illinois.

56 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 57
58 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
S o thats what Paganini looked like
in his cravat and coatcurly haired,
serene and assured, more than a bit of a
showoff, cradling his violin and bow with his right arm,
the comfortably articulated fingers of his left hand sup-
porting the neck of the bow.
Its a small graphite drawing, less than 12 inches high.
that textile historians study his drawings and paintings
to learn about fabrics of that time.
Ingres paintings are a universe of their own. But his
draftsmanship is what people remember about him. The
figures in his pencil portraits created out of controlled
maelstroms of ethereally soft shading, vigorous darting
marks and powerfully assured and sinuous repeating
It seems to be as much about the wooden musical instru- lines seem more forthrightly present than the sitters, not
ment as the virtuosic musician who holds it. But its also only in earlier drawings but also in the drawings of any
about that ample coatthe thick texture and decisive era, wrote Sanford Schwartz in The New York Review of
folds of it and how the material hangs over the form of the Books, regarding a 2006 exhibition of Ingres works at the
man. Its also about those expert thumbs and fingers pro- Louvre. Ingres made sitters more physically tangible and
truding from the cuffs of the coat.
Its about the face. The gaunt
cheeks and confident eyes say
everything about this performer
who was like the Jimi Hendrix of
classical music in his day. And in
the end, its about the charm and
authority of the total drawing,
which is itself like a well-composed
piece of musican apt simile,
not just because of the subject.
The artist who drew the picture,
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
(17801867), also played the violin
all his life.
I remember being fascinated
with Ingres pictures back in col-
lege, says Mary Sullivan, an artist
and illustrator from Austin, Texas.
I dont know why I liked him so
much. It must have been that I had
something deep down in me that
he too had. Im such a line person,
like he was. Theres so much in his
detail: the fabric, the folds in the
drapesyou can even see what
kind of material it is. Ive heard

Portrait of Alexandre Lethiere, His
Wife Rosina and Their Daughter Letizia
1815, graphite, 10 1516 x 8 1116 . Collection
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Boston,

Portrait of Paganini
1819, graphite,
11 34 x 8 58 . Collection the Louvre, Paris, France. T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 59
While the French Revolution was raging, Ingres
attended the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture,
in Toulouse. Here he was introduced to the work of
Renaissance painter Raphael, which would inspire him
for the rest of his life. Art historian Arthur Millier wrote
that Ingres was guided first by the marvelous functional
design of the ideal human body, and second, the linear
and spatial pictorial design which Raphael perfected.
In 1797, at the age of 17, Ingres arrived in Paris to study
in the studio of Jacques-Louis David (17481825), the neo-
classical painter-in-residence of the French Revolution
and then Napoleons art czar. The diligent teenager from
a nowhere country town quickly stood out in Davids ate-
lier of nearly 300 students. A year later he was admitted
to the cole des Beaux-Arts, Frances premier arts college,
and in 1801 Ingres won Frances top art scholarship, the
Prix de Rome. That singular achievement for someone
so young raised everyones eyebrows, including probably
those of his teacher, David.
Napoleons wars had drained the treasury of cash, and
it would be five years before Ingres could get to Rome
to study with the prize money. In the meantime he was
commissioned to paint a portrait of Napoleon, then the
First Consul of France. Napoleon was a fan; it would be
the first of several portraits Ingres would be asked to do
of the leader.
ABOVE Ingres finally made it to Rome in 1808 and was able to
Portrait of Jacques-Louis Leblanc stand in front of his beloved Raphaels. He lived in Italy,
1823, graphite, 18 x 14. Collection the Louvre, Paris, France. then run by the French, for the next 18 years. He studied,
OPPOSITE PAGE drew and painted in Rome, Naples and Florence. When
Portrait of Mrs. Vesey and Her Daughter Elizabeth Vesey, Later the stipend dollars ran out, he supported himself and
Lady Colthurst
1816, graphite, 11 34 x 8 1316 . Collection the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard
his wife with sporadic painting commissions from the
University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. state and hundreds of graphite portraits he made of the
tourists, traveling dignitaries and wealthy migrs who
sought him out for his uncanny facility for capturing a
likeness. He reportedly sold these sketches for 40 francs
psychologically present than they had perhaps ever been each, with his barber frequently acting as his agent. The
in the tradition of portraiture. He created one rounded, little graphite portraits are great works of art, catching in
fully autonomous character after another ... resulting in a miracle of talent features, poses, costumes, atmosphere
an array of personalities who, in a flowing organic way, and character, wrote art historian Stephen Longstreet.
sum up an entire era. The people are real. They breathe and exist solidly on

hat an era it was, too. Jean-Auguste- In 1824 Ingres returned to Paris to paint big pictures
Dominique Ingres was born in the tiny and teach in his own atelier. More than 100 pupils con-
town of Montauban in southern France vened to learn his rigorous classical methods. Eventually
a few years before the fall of the Bourbon monarchy to new kinds of paintingincluding naturalism and
the guillotines. His father worked in the applied arts: romanticismbegan to upstage the whopping allegorical
He was a sculptor, painter, architect, stone mason and history paintings that were being labored over by Ingres
home decorator who recognized his firstborns preco- and many others. Editorial cartoonists poked fun at
cious talent early and began to instruct him in all matters Ingres for his stubbornly backward-looking art and views.
design. It was said that Ingres could draw before he could The artists famously thin skin for criticism and rejection
walk. I was raised in red chalk, Ingres once stated. He only made it more fun for the press. Ingres left Paris in a
learned by copying his fathers drawings and a collection huff in 1835 and returned to Italy to take over as director
of engravings of the work of other artists. of the French Academy in Rome at the Villa Medici. He

60 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 61
62 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
Portrait of La Principessa Fiano
1817, graphite, 8 58 x 6 1316 . Private collection.

Raphael and Fornarina
1825, graphite heightened with white, 7 x 5 34 . Collection the Louvre,
Paris, France.

Portrait of M. Taurel, Engraver
1819, graphite, 11 14 x 8. Private collection.

So familiar to us are both the materials
[graphite on smooth white paper] and the
manner that we forget how extraordinary they
must have seemed at the time, wrote the late
Agnes Mongan. David had used white paper
and occasionally a pointed graphite pencil, but
never with such constancy, such subtlety or
such harmony. Ingres manner of drawing was
as new as the century.
First mass-produced in Germany in the early
1660s, graphite pencils werent exactly new
in Ingres day. Still, fine pencil drawing comes
along rather late in art history, notes painter
Phillip Wade. Everything from the time of
Raphael was a blunter black chalk or red chalk
or pastel, and the drawings seem rather broad.
So technical innovations can make a difference
in what things look likejust like oil painting
created a whole different world from that of
tempera painting.
We talk about the richness of his darks and
the luminosity of his drawing, painter and art
professor Frank Wright says. He drew with
really hard pencils, not so much soft pencils,
and he drew with delicate, parallel shading.
It looks like overall tone, but if you put them
under magnification, you see these fine lines.
I cant figure out how someone could get such
richness using such hard pencils.
Part of Ingres trick was to draw on coated
paper. Ordinary paper is very absorbent,
Wright says. But if you cover it with gesso, or
white tempera, and the coating dries, it com-
pletely changes the surfaces. Ingres drew on
coated English Whatmans paper, which made
his graphite drawings look like silverpoint. T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 63
Study for the Portrait of Madame dHaussonville Portrait of Madame dHaussonville
ca. 18421845, charcoal over graphite on thin white wove ca. 18421845, graphite, 9 316 x 734 . Collection the Fogg Art
paper, 14 18 x 8 16 . Collection the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard Museum at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. At this point, Ingres had settled on the composition and squared
Ingres made nearly two dozen similar studies before executing the sketch for transfer.
the oil portrait.

reinstilled classical and Renaissance traditions with their draftsmen who ever lived. When he put a line on, he did
emphasis on drawing and revived the struggling school. it with such certainty. How did he draw with such author-
In 1841 he returned to Paris, straight into the embrace ity? Its one of the things you cant teach about Ingres, but
of the new French court, as well as the powerful new you can be aware of.
middle class. Here was his new market for portraits and I think the word talent comes into play here, says
other commissions. He drew and painted and taught and Wade, who has examined Ingres work and studio
hosted dinners until 1867, when he caught a cold that materials in Ingres hometown. His contour lines are
turned into pneumonia. He died at 86, leaving a body of extraordinary. Contour, or outline, was the grammar and
work that still dazzles. code for Ingres art. We talk in classes a lot about the lost
and found line, the lost and found edge and the open

ngres drawings are distinguished by their form versus the closed form, says Wade. Botticelli
careful containment of form, perfect lines and and Ingres are thought of as closed-form artists, they
subtle shadings, says Phillip Wade, a painter and enclosed everything in line; whereas Delacroix and
instructor from Texas. Ive never seen anyone who could Rembrandt are examples of open formtheir drawings
do outlines as well as he could. explode over the edge of the contours. You cant even find
Ingres was a miraculous technician, adds Frank the line in some of their drawings. With Ingres, though,
Wright, a painter and professor of art from Washington, its really all about the containment of form with lost and
DC. He was one of the most remarkably assured found line.

64 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
Study for the Portrait of Madame Moitessier
ca. 18441851, black crayon over red chalk, 14 116 x 12716 . Collection Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, Massachusetts.
This portrait took Ingres 12 years to complete from the first drawing study to the final oil portrait. T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 65
it emphasizes the sculptural effect. But front lighting
emphasizes the edges, the arabesque line that Raphael,
who was Ingres god, involved himself so much with.
Raphael did a lot with the curves of the form, the edges
of the form. Raphael, Ingres and others knew when to
interrupt the line, to allow the light to come in, so the
line is not continuous. They let it be broken to show the
saturation of the form in light, or be bolder on the other
side to show the form is turned away from the light.
To really succeed in a portrait, first of all one has to
be imbued with the face one wants to paint, to ref lect on
it for a long time, attentively, from all sides, and even to
devote the first sitting to this, Ingres once said. Indeed,
he had a way of capturing the core personality of a sit-
ter, and he believed that his accuracy came from careful
observation. He even captures their self-consciousness
in posing, Mongan noted.
Ingres was a compulsive drawer, urging students to
draw with their eyes when they could not do so with a
pencil. For his painted portraits and murals, Ingres
sometimes made hundreds of preparatory drawings. He
seemed to find this step of the process more satisfying
than actually painting the murals, which he sometimes
abandoned. The stages were: studying from life,
wrenching truth from experience, squaring, enlarging,
Sheet of Studies of Women for The Turkish Bath
ca. 1830, pen, brown ink and graphite on two joined sheets, 6 34 x 4 34 .
transporting onto canvas, going back, if necessary to the
Collection the Louvre, Paris, France. model for this or that detail, wrote the late artist and
historian Avigdor Arikha. Asking the Count de Pastoret
for his gloves or going back to Madame Moitessiers left
arm, drawing it life-size so as to transpose it directly onto
Ingres draws with a more subtle and various line canvas, going back to it again and again. This is when
than any of his contemporaries, wrote the late Agnes Ingres got bogged down. It was an over-elaborate
Mongan, a pioneer in the study of drawings. Shading almost obsessiveproceeding, the aim of which was to
is sometimes done with fine hatching; sometimes by get nearer to the truth of the matter.
smoothing with a stump, and there is an occasional The artist posed models (as opposed to his portrait
discreet touch of wash. But these types of modeling are subjects) in the nude, to better understand the underly-
kept to a minimum. Line is supreme. With a graphite ing structure and thus get the folds exactly right in the
line that is constantly and finely adjustednow narrow, garments or drapery falling over the body. He spent nine
now thick, pressing firmly or more swiftlyhe defines days painting one hand for his famously stunning por-
contours with a remarkable range of modulations. Form trait of Louise d Haussonville. We are sometimes not
is described above all by such calibrations of contour as aware that the people who are great are the people who
well as by direction of a line. are willing to spend more painstaking time on a piece,
Ingres often employed musical metaphors in describ- says Wright. Whereas someone less great would knock
ing his process to his students. If I could make musicians it out and be satisfied and stop, a person like Drer or
of you all, you would thereby profit as painters, he said. Raphael or Ingres would actually bring more humility
Everything in nature is harmony; a little too much, or to the task.
else too little, disturbs the scale and makes a false note. Despite the fact that so many people could draw well
One must teach the point of singing true with the pencil then, his works were livelier and much more delight-
or with brush quite as much as with the voice; rightness ful to look atspontaneous and fresh, Wade says. For
of forms is like rightness of sounds. Ingres, drawing was contour, with very simplified color
He was excellent at gesture, but contour held that and very simplified form.
musicality for him, says Wright. Of course, Ingres A concept not lost on Degas, Matisse and Picasso
stacked the deck in his favor by deliberately using a and so Ingres drawings inf luenced modern art, just as
frontal light. If you have light coming from the side, they continue to fascinate us today. Y

66 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
Nude Man Full Front, His Head Facing Left, Left Arm Raised, Holding a St. Remi
Staff in His Left Hand 1844, black chalk and oil on canvas, 8 34 x 3 58 . Collection the Louvre, Paris,
ca. 1842, graphite, 15 34 x 8. Collection the Louvre, Paris, France. France.
An example of Ingres following academic tradition by first drawing the figure nude, This painting served as the model for one in a series of stained-glass
then painting the clothed figure. windows for the Saint-Ferdinand chapel and the royal chapel of Dreux. T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 67
James II
2015, graphite,
29 x 23. Collection
the artist.

A Many-
The Figure
Dan Thompson encourages students to celebrate the
complexity of learning how to represent life through drawing.
by AU S T I N R . W I L L I A M S

68 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
A rtist and instruc-
tor Dan Thompson
feels the same
sort of passion for art education that
he feels for the craft itself. I believe
that the art of studying art, getting
another, and it does not erode the
previous issue. A holistic approach
keeps this in mind. Its aware that
every decision layers over a previous
one and connects to the next thing
through a thread of craftsmanship.
or her. It can be unique not because
its different or clever but because it
deals openly and honestly with what
you have before you.
Thompson suggests that after a
model assumes a posein essence, a
proficient at the language, is a dis- Here, Thompson pulls from his designthe artist should first focus
gracefully underappreciated aspect of holistic approach to share a variety on the figures armature, the major
learning to draw and paint, he says. of strategies for beginning a figure lines that define the pose. There
Theres an incredible richness to drawing and for handling the chal- are lines in that design that are long
this language thats not often talked lenging questions of proportion and and striking, he says. Maybe it has
about. measurement. to do with how the elbows line up,
Thompson strives to explore this an unexpected angle or something
richness throughout his busy instruc- else happening that is arresting. By
tional schedule. He teaches topics
STARTING OUT: beginning your drawing with those
including drawing fundamentals, Honesty, Design, major lines rather than focusing on
painting the figure, the history of Simplicity individual parts and later connect-
drawing materials and the relation- ing them, the resulting drawing will
ship between sculpture and drawing. Drawing a human being means hav- appear unified and harmonious.
He has taught at numerous schools ing a human interaction, Thompson Students often have a very hard
including the Art Students League says. If you think about it, youre time getting to the essentials of what
of New York, the New York Academy making something together. And theyre seeing, Thompson says.
of Art, Studio Incamminati, Parsons its important to recognize that every They start a drawing with a thou-
School of Design and the Janus aspect of how you set this up has to do sand things on their plate. But if you
Collaborative School of Art. with that human interaction. Youre focus on the idea of something like
A lot of us dont see ourselves as trying to know who that person is in the armature, the drawing will begin
art teachers, Thompson says. Far order to create a unique vision of him to grow and relate to itself. It becomes
be it from me to ordain somebody as
an artist. I focus on skills, which I
call the language. And it needs to be Dan Thompson conducting a demonstration at
the Art Students League of New York.
appreciated as an incredibly complex
thing, not something to be covered in
a semester. His instruction reflects
this philosophy, pulling from many
traditions and staying conscious of
the fact that certain methods work
for some artists but not others.
Thompson advocates what he calls
a comprehensive, holistic approach
to learning how to draw and paint,
which incorporates quick sketch-
ing, measurement, anatomy and
other considerations. In any suc-
cessful practice there is a level of
mental engagement that needs to be
stimulatedyou need to feel your-
self assembling something, he says.
When youre studying from the
model, you might look for a moment
at a plumb line, then focus on ana-
tomical points. One thing leads to T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 69
proportionally harmonious them in mind.
and moves the practitioner to Each line is a harmonic
the next phase of the visual indicator, Thompson con-
dialogue. tinues. If I can get those
As a drawing gets under- to extend, the drawing will
way, an artist can seize on start to draw itself. Its not
specific parts of the design just a case of adding more
that are intriguing and things. Rather, its a way of
beautiful. Things catch dealing with whats already
your eye and take on some there in a deeper, more
kind of significance to how appreciative manner.
you put together an image,
Thompson says. Maybe 2. Fixed and Vari-
your sitter leans back and her
head is amazing. Or maybe able Coordinates
you lift your eye level and
Sometimes during a draw-
something grabs you. Think
ing parts of the body become
about how what you see can
so large that the figures
be conveyed in a subtle man-
feet or head do not fit on the
nera poetic interpretation
page. One remedy for this
of whats going on. Therein
is to fix certain spots at the
lies design.
beginning of the drawing
Thompson recommends
processsuch as placing
striving for simplicity
the top of the head at the
throughout the drawing pro-
top of the page and the bot-
cess. Cut to the chase of what it is These arent new concepts, nor
tom of the feet at the bottom of the
that youre seeing, he says. It can are they entirely distinct from one
page. Do not allow yourself to devi-
appear very vital and alive through another, but together they form a pro-
ate from these fixed coordinates.
very little means. He notes that gram that can help anyone drawing
Other points remain variable, leav-
when drawing a quick pose, an art- from the model.
ing the artist creative room to draw
ists instinct is often to put a lot of
and interpret the pose.
marks on the paper, as if to make up 1. Linear Extension I show my students drawings,
for the short duration of the drawing.
mostly standing poses, with the head
Early on, those multiple statements The lines that begin a drawing are at the top of the paper and the feet at
may look dynamic, but there comes a simple, fundamental and straight, the bottom, with not even a millime-
time when it stops working because Thompson says. Those key lines not ter of wiggle room, Thompson says.
there are just too many statements, only can be seen for the space they You can see this in the great Art
he says. From the beginning, you occupy but also can extend and pass Students League drawings from the
need to decide what youre getting into other regions of the design. For late 1800s. These artists were con-
at. example, if the line running along the crete in their notion of top to bottom,
tops of a models shoulders is one of but they were probably quite open to
10 DIRECTIVES the dynamic action lines of the pose, the idea of width. So they could put
the artist can extend that line beyond together a convincing human thats 4,
ON PROPORTION the shoulders and use it as an impor- 7 or even 20 heads tall. This aspect
To help artists through the figure- tant axis in the drawing. Artists can
drawing process, Thompson has of comparative measurement can be
either lightly draw these lines in or one of the great secrets of how an art-
developed 10 recommendations relat- simply imagine them extending into
ing to proportion and measurement. ist can develop into a draftsperson
space and compose the drawing with

70 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
who captures the entire model and
doesnt lose anything unless he or she
wants to lose it.

3. Environment
If the model is in a classroom, then
behind the figure in the painters
line of sight is a lot of stuff you prob-
ably dont want to include in your
drawingcurtains, garbage cans,
thermostats, Thompson says. But
they are valuable tools for propor-
tioning the modelall those objects
form a natural grid. Include them!
Draw plumb lines from them. Use
the grid surrounding the model to
get a more comprehensive figure
drawing. I dont understand why
more students dont include those
when drawing the figure and take
them away later.

4. Notional Space
Notional space refers to the imag-
ined rectangle that encloses the
model. The lines of this rectangle are
horizontal and verticalthey extend
out from the lowest, highest, farthest
left and farthest right points of the
pose. This rectangle gives a valuable
height-to-width comparison.

5. Draw First, Measure

There is a belief among some artists
that measurements are to be placed
before the marks representing the
body are made, Thompson says.
Ive always felt that this is problem-
atic; it makes one inhibited in his or O PPOS IT E PAGE ABOVE
her approach. It means an artist is Portrait of John Pence Demonstration Drawing of Amy
being driven not by natural means 2006, graphite, 22 x 15. Collection John Pence 2009, graphite, 24 x 18. Private collection.
Gallery, San Francisco, California.
but by adherence to a grid.
I think a measuring mark is T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 71
meant to be in support of a drawing
mark, he continues. If you draw
first, then measure, you eventually
may not have to measure as much.
If you draw without measurement,
youll draw naturally, and that nat-
ural way of drawing will get more
refined as you grow to appreciate that
the eye is the final judge.

6. Halfway Mark
Rather than concentrate on one
proportional canon of heads
such as saying that a figure is 7
heads tallThompson advises tak-
ing a halfway measurement on the
figure. If I have to take a measure-
ment, Id much rather end up with
two pieces than seven and a half
pieces, he says. Using a halfway
point also teaches about perspec-
tive. From a seated pose, you notice
that from halfway, perspective is
quite exaggerated. Perhaps youve
read that a certain area or landmark
is the halfway point of the body
around the pubic synthesis, for
instance. But, because of perspec-
tive, the natural halfway point on
your figure drawing might not be
there at all.

7. Plumb Line
Plumb lines are among the most
familiar measurement tools, and ABOVE O PP OS IT E PAG E
Persian Archer Amy
Thompson believes they should be
2010, graphite, 17 x 23. Collection the artist.
used strategically, in conjunction 2004, oil, 28 x 18. Collection Joh. Barth & Sohn,
Nuremberg, Germany.
with other strategies. I would start
a drawing not with plumb line but
with other forms of inquiry, such as
linear extension and environment,
Thompson says. I strive to main-
tain openness in mark-making.
But at some point, Ill close that
openness by running angles into

72 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
one another. Once those major are usually 4 heads from the top of
angles are established, Thompson
8. Two-Point the head to the bottom of the pelvis.
switches to using horizontal and Measurement Then, when somebody doesnt exactly
vertical plumbs to help with accu- match those proportions, you know it
Two-point measurement refers to
racy. Theres a whole hidden grid immediately and can use that devia-
using a length between two points
system to play with, he says. tion from the norm to better depict
as a standard against which to mea-
An artist can choose to either draw the figure. The goal isnt to force an
sure other parts of a figure. One
these lines in or simply visualize them individual into a preordained system
such method is assessing the body in
for reference. For gesture drawings, but to notice and celebrate variation.
units of head lengths. If I take a head
Thompson suggests you go ahead
length and multiply it, I get into a
and draw them in. That line is like 9. Three-Point
canon of proportion, Thompson says.
an artifact thats part of a visual note-
book, he says. On the other hand, if
Everyone whos studying how to draw Measurement
should look at a canon and begin to
youre dealing with a long-pose draw-
draw a canon from memory to develop Three-point measurement involves
ing and developing other ideas, I
an understanding of the tendencies of identifying major and minor points
wouldnt necessarily draw the plumb
human figures. For example, maybe and comparing triangles and angles
lines. Imply them, use them quietly.
youll learn that in a seated pose, there against one another. Triangulation is T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 73
Zoe (preparatory drawing) lines converging, the dynamism of
2004, graphite, 17 x 23. Collection Bay Area
10. Major Anatomical a posebefore putting a name to
Classical Artist Atelier, San Carlos, California. Landmarks a given point, he explains. So I
hold off on using anatomical knowl-
Thompson advocates using ana-
edge until Im far enough along in
a good word for it, Thompson says. tomical knowledge in conjunction
a drawing. When you think about
It allows you to notice immediately with all the other tools in an artists
anatomical landmarks, it awakens
if something is bigger or smaller. arsenal. Among other purposes,
all kinds of things youre familiar
These triangles can be based upon it can help one recognize how the
with, which can become a kind of
the areas between the major points of body positions itself in space. But
gateway into other, subtle aspects of
a figure. With time and experience, Thompson warns that anatomy can
form expectation.
you can tell if a certain point is a major involve certain strategic limitations.
point or a minor point, Thompson In my view, the knowledge of anat-
says. Some points are important, omy is best employed after looking
others not. at pure designthe abstraction, the

74 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
n all, Thompsons multi- or her to transcend it, Thompson
tiered system of teaching says. Without the advantage of ABOUT
figure drawing is itself a valu- training, the individual is lost THE
able reminder to not become too within the indecision of igno- ARTIST
fixated on a single method or tool. rance. Some instructors advocate
This multiplicity can be liberat- the study of expression and ideas Dan Thompsons art has
ing. I am fascinated with the idea only. Techniques, tools and skills received numerous awards and
that you can take a drawing system gel with some artists temperament been exhibited throughout the
world at venues including the
with all these things in it, apply it and not with others, but with the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the
to an individual, and this aston- skills, an artist is able to focus on United States Capitol, both in
ishing language will enable him things other than skill. Y Washington, DC; the National
Arts Club, in New York City; the
Pasadena Museum of California
Art; the Art Gallery of Ontario,
in Toronto; and the Beijing World
Art Museum, in China. The artist
co-founded two schools of art
in New York City: The Grand
Central Academy of Art and the
Janus Collaborative School of
Art.Thompson has served on
the M.F.A. faculty of the New
York Academy of Art for 15
years, and he is a senior faculty
member of Studio Incamminati, in
Philadelphia. For more information,

2016, graphite, 29 x 23.
Collection the artist. T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 75
2016, charcoal, 24 x 18.
All artwork this article
collection the artist unless
otherwise indicated.

Balance &
Accuracy Mark Tennants drawings evidence both
rigorous academic standards and sensitivity to the nuances of the figure.
by AU S T I N R . W I L L I A M S

M ark Tennants charcoal drawings com-

bine academic rigor and intensity with
harmony and beauty. His figures are
tightly rendered in places but also somewhat ethereal,
with limbs often dissolving into the vast negative space
surrounding each figure. The drawings exude discipline
away from the action, he says. If I start getting into areas
away from the action, I may destroy the overall effect.
Tennant notes that even the finest academic drawings
can be so tightly rendered and consistently finished that
they appear too complete. You have to finish in the right
place; you dont have to go wall-to-wall on the whole thing,
and balanceprinciples that guide many aspects of he says. All the good art is about real restraint. Tennant
Tennants art. quotes Joshua Reynolds advice: No work can be too much
Part of this discipline can be found in the fact that finished, provided the diligence employed be directed to its
Tennant has practical reasons for the many beautiful and proper object; but I have observed that an excessive labour
intriguing effects visible in his drawings. The limbs that in the detail has, nine times in ten, been pernicious to the
fade to white, the dramatic contrasts between deep shad- general effect. ... It indicates a bad choice.
ows and broad lights and the sketch lines left to indicate Tennant aims first to grab the viewers attention
otherwise unfinished areas of the figure are present not through the design of the piece and the pose of the model.
only for their aesthetic value but also for compositional Then, once the viewer has stopped to look at the drawing,
purposes. I want to direct the eye to the beauty of the he or she starts participating with the artwork by mentally
figure, Tennant says. connecting the dots between highlights and shadows, fill-
His desire to guide the viewers eye is the main reason ing in the form and imagining the parts of the scene that
Tennant chooses not to fully render his figures, instead have not been rendered.
leaving limbs and extremities unfinished or entirely Another goal of Tennants artwork is to reveal some-
absent. If Im getting to the extremity, Im pulling the eye thing about the figure that viewers may be aware of

76 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
Untitled Untitled Untitled
2009, charcoal, 24 x 18. 2016, charcoal, 24 x 18. 2016, charcoal, 24 x 18.

but that they have never fully realized or articulated. experimenting with a more straightforward, contempo-
Through art, you can tell them what they didnt really rary look. What makes the figure beautiful is balance,
know that they knew, Tennant explains. I want viewers he says. When one muscle contracts, another expands.
to think, That light is connected to that transition...which When one side is curved, the other side is straight to sup-
is connected to that form shadow...and it falls across the port it. Thats what Im looking for in these poses. Im
shoulder like that...I never knew that I knew that. The looking for that rhythm that flows from the model stand
artist cites John Singer Sargent as a master of this effect. all the way through the head.
His drawings are unbelievably smashing, Tennant says. The artist begins drawing with a preliminary diagram
Theyre Perfect with a capital P. to help determine balance, proportion and placement; he
compares this sketch to a recipe or a set of blueprints. He

reating an image captivating enough to engen- often draws it in a corner of the paper that he will use
der such intense involvement on behalf of the for the finished drawing, and he sometimes doesnt erase
viewer begins with selecting a compelling pose it. He does this to leave a trace of his process, although
for the model, and Tennant often looks for effective poses sometimes the sketch remains simply because I forget
used by other artists. I go with poses that are tried and to take it off. These initial sketches, as well as all the ini-
true, maybe with adjustment here and there, he says. A tial lines outlining the figure, are drawn with Tennants
frequent source of inspiration is contemporary artwork hardest, lightest charcoal pencila Generals HB (or an
from Russias Repin Academy. I think thats some of the extra-hard 2H). Later in the process he switches to a softer
best work being done right now, he says. Those instruc- charcoal pencil (Generals 2B) and willow charcoal from
tors really know what theyre doing, and those poses really Winsor & Newton or Coates. Tennant draws on 18"-x-24"
work. Tennant also looks to Prudhon and 19th-century sheets of 70-lb white drawing paper, often Utrecht or
French academic painters for poses, and lately he has been Strathmore. T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 79
2009, charcoal, 24 x 18.

2009, charcoal, 24 x 18.

I sharpen the pencils to needle-sharp points, Tennant finished drawing will often show light lines from these
explains, then I hold them with thumb and forefinger measurements in place of arms, legs or furniture that
and draw with my entire arm, not just with my fingers have not been rendered. Underneath the drawing, the
and wrists. You need to sit well back. All your measure- construction lines are there, he says. I dont want it all
ments should be made with arms-length extension so to disappear.
that every time you make a sight measurement, the pen- The artist favors a light source that is above, in front
cil is the same distance from your eye. and to the side of the model. The sun is above our heads,
He carefully measures shapes by comparing height he says, we respond to things lit from above. I exaggerate
and width proportions and using every bit of informa- it for the drama and the effects it creates. Such lighting
tion he can get for points of comparison, including plumb allows Tennant to draw deep, delicately rendered shad-
points and level points, as well as fixed points on furni- ows. I spend a great deal of time drawing the shadow
ture. You cant measure too much, he says, and all the shapesas much time as I do searching for anatomical
measurements that you make support the expressiveness landmarks, he says. A lot of people just want to start
in the modeling. Head size is key, and he closely adheres massing in a dark shape, but I find its important to con-
to a 7-head academic proportion. It needs to be done in struct the light source in the shadow.
a precise and accurate manner, he says. Theres no good Once he has measured all the shadow shapes and out-
enough or thatll do. If you do this, and all your combi- lined them in hard charcoal, Tennant masses them in
nations agree, the drawing cant help but be accurate. A with willow charcoal in a medium or dark value. Willow

80 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
is very soft and forgiving, like a powder, he says. By
massing that in, you can tell pretty quickly if the light is
convincing. I take off the excess with the back of my hand,
and then I work back into it using the 2B pencil. Then, if I
took too much off, I go back in with the willow.
Throughout the process, Tennant stresses that careful
planning is essential. Its three minutes of thinking and
one minute of drawingor five minutes of thinking and
30 seconds of drawing, he says. The pencils and brush
dont have to be moving the whole time. It doesnt mean
youre not working if youre sitting there and studying.
Although Tennant advocates the use of precise mea-
surement, he warns against rigidity in the drawing
process and cautions that artists need to know when to
break free of academic procedure. There needs to be a
balance, he says. If the process is too mechanical, the
drawing is going to be that way. You need the structure in
order to support the artistry, but you have to know when
its time to cut loose a bit. The drawing cant say, See how
well I can draw. It has to reach for something.

ennant takes inspiration from artists throughout
history, but he particularly admires 19th-century
French artists whose artwork seems both tradi-
tional and modern. I love Manet and his teacher, Thomas
Couture, Tennant says. Their drawing is reminiscent of
the Old Masters. Its just gorgeous, but theres something
about it thats not the dry academy. Its 19th-century, but
it rises above the 19th century and leads us where we are
today. Tennant also holds Thodule Ribot, Hans Makart
and Carolus-Duran (the teacher of Sargent) in high
regard, and he has especially high praise for Jean-Jacques
Henner. His art is very soft, with beautiful color,
Tennant says. It has a dreamlike quality. As for more
2009, charcoal, 24 x 18.
contemporary artists, Tennant describes Deane Keller as
one of the most important people that Ive ever encoun-
tered. He also admires the artwork of Edward Schmidt,
Steven Assael and Alex Kanevsky. the years of varnish on there and track the stages of the
After more than 30 years as an instructor, Tennant is painting from the construction to the grisaille and finally
full of valuable advice for draftsmen working to hone their developing the color. Your copy is just a copy, but then
craft. He advocates hard work and building a connection when you paint, you know that you have walked in the
with the Old Masters, principles which have led him to footsteps of a master. What it does for the students confi-
teach courses on copying at museums. Theres nothing dence is amazing.
like it, he says. To stand in front of a Rubens or Van The practice has rich historical precedent; Tennant
Dyck and spend hours in silent conversation with these cites Veroneses The Marriage at Cana as one pinnacle
pieces will broaden you like no other experience. You of human and artistic production that has been copied
come away almost like a changed person. In the French for centuries. Tennant has also looked through copyist
academic tradition, Tennant notes, students first paint- records at the Louvre and discovered handwritten names
ings are copies. Next to figure drawing, copying is the of great artists who registered as copyists, such as an H.
core of the curriculum, but its been overlooked of late. Matisse who signed up to copy a Chardin in 1893.
Its not about making a reproduction, he contin- Nothing, however, can take the place of hard work.
ues. Its about making a copytrying to look through Like anything else, you have to work, you have to T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 81
2016, charcoal, 18 x 24.

82 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
practice, Tennant says. We say that its work, but its fun.
You have to love it, though, and you have to do it every day.
Theres no such thing as drawing too much. You need
to study the proportion charts and realize that when you
draw, youre constructing, not imitating. Youre building
the figure the way a carpenter builds a house. And you
need to keep your tools in perfect condition.
Through it all, Tennant emphasizes the need for bal-
ance in art and work. It goes back to balancethat
harmony between warm and cool, thick and thin, he
says. Straight lines and curved lines complement one
another. A straight line will make a curved line more
beautiful, and vice versa. I keep finding that its all about
having control over yourself and finding that balance in
your art and life. And of course, my art is my life. The bal-
ance exists throughout. Y

Mark Tennant
received a B.F.A. from the
Maryland Institute College
of Art, in Baltimore, and an
M.F.A. from the New York
Academy of Art, in New
York City. For the years
2008 and 2009 he was the
director of graduate fine art
painting at Academy of Art
University, in San Francisco,
where he had been an
instructor since 1998.
Among other exhibitions,
his paintings have twice
been displayed in the Salon
dAutomne, in Paris. He has
taught museum copying
at the Louvre, in Paris; The
Metropolitan Museum of
New York, in New York
City; and the Legion of
Honor, in San Francisco.
For more information, visit T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 83
Anatomical Differences
Between Men and Women
The differences between male and female bodies range from the
obvious to the very subtle, and knowledge of these details can lead us
to more informed, realistic figure drawings. Vive la diffrence!
by L A R RY W I T H E R S

L earning to draw and paint anatomi- Many are related to a womans ability to procreatethe
cally accurate figures can be the work ability to carry, give birth to and nurture a child are
of a lifetime. Specifically, depicting reflected in the female bodys outward appearance.
the finer differences between male and female figures Every person is unique, and plenty of individuals differ
is a challenge even for the greatest artistsas much as from the norms presented here. But on the whole,
I admire the figures of Michelangelo, his work is prima these principles hold true for the majority of figures, and
facie evidence that breasts and genitalia alone do not knowing these attributes can help you draw from life or
make a male or female figure. These are the most obvious from imagination with greater confidence and accuracy.
physical attributes that distinguish the sexes, but theyre Before we begin, a note regarding proportion: When com-
not the only ones. The characteristics that distinguish paring bodies, we must take into account the size difference
women and men are many and subtle; an inch here, between men and women. In some cases the difference
a curve there. But the cumulative effect is unmistak- between male and female is merely a factor of males being
ableits why we can often distinguish a man from a on average larger. For instance, the width of the male skel-
woman a block away, even if they are identically dressed. eton at the shoulders is greater than that of the female skel-
In this article well address 12 charac- eton, but this is simply because the male skele-
The Fall and Expulsion
teristics that help to identify a persons From the Garden of Eden ton is generally larger overallthe proportions
sex. These physical differences have to by Michelangelo Buonarroti, are the same. Here, well be looking at cases in
15091510, fresco, 110 x
do with proportions, muscle definition, 224. Collection Vatican
which the difference between male and female
bone structure, fat deposits, and so on. Museums, Vatican City. is not simply a factor of the bodys overall size.

84 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
Adam and Eve
by Jan Gossaert,
15071508, oil on
panel, 22 x 14.
Collection Museo
Madrid, Spain.


The general profiles of men and
women are differentoften strikingly
so. Male bodies tend to be broad at the
shoulders (A) and taper as they descend
to the hips. With women, its the op-
posite (B). In fact, male and female
pelvises are different in all dimensions.
A womans hips are wider, not as high,
and shallower from front to back.
The configuration of the hips affects
many surface forms of the torso. Take
Pouparts ligament, for example. This
important long fibrous tissue is at-
tached to the pelvis and marks the point
where the torso ends and the thigh
begins. Since the female hips are lower
and wider, the slope of this ligament is
flatter on a female body than on a male.

Female hips are wider than male hips,
as shown by Measurement C. Male
hips, however, are deeper, as shown
by Measurement D.

The angle of Pouparts ligament (E) is more vertical

on males and more horizontal on females. T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 85
The slightest tilt of the pelvis (A) FEMALE
sets off a string of compensatory
movements that affects the
female forms whole posture.

The difference in pelvic tilt
between men and women is one

of those characteristics that has

a lot to do with procreation. The
male pelvis is relatively vertical,
whereas the female pelvis has a A
notable forward tilt (A), which
helps a woman carry the weight MALE
of a child.
Womens pelvic tilt produces
a forward shift of weight. To
compensate for this, a womans
thorax, or chest, tilts backward
(B). As a result of these two tilts,
the lumbar region of a womans
spine has a pronounced curve
(C). The tailbone also rises, Venus Binding Her Hair (detail)
making the posterior hike up by John William Godward, 1897, oil,
(D), which opens up the angle 8958 x 44 58 . Private collection.
In this painting Godward illustrates the sweep-
between the rib cage and the ing lumbar curve of the female lower back,
hipbones (E). mirrored by the abdominal curve in the front.


Proportionally, male and female rib cages are not too
different, with one exception. A females rib cage is

the chest the appearance of jutting forward. This

angle is not so pronounced on a female sternum,
shorter, giving it a more rounded appearance when making a female chest appear comparatively shallow.
seen from the front. In turn, a males sternum, or Finally, the floating ribs (the two lowest ribs, which
breastbone, is proportionally longer than a females. do not attach to the sternum) are smaller on females,
When seen from the side, the sternum has a bend leaving the female body with more room for child-
in it, which can be quite noticeable in the male, giving bearing.

86 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
When humans stand erect, palms
facing forward, the lower arm
Woman Carrying
Firewood and a
by Jean-Francois
Millet, ca.
flairs away from the body. This is 18581860, oil on
panel, 15 x 11.
referred to as the carrying angle. Private collection.
This anatomical feature permits
humans to carry objects, say a
pail of water, without banging
into our hips. The precise angle
depends largely on the width of
the hips. Because a mans hips are
proportionally narrower, a mans
carrying angle is generally smaller
than a womans.

The angle of the condyle

of the humerus dictates
the carrying angle.

20 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 87
The difference in
the amount of space
between the bottom

of the ribs and the
iliac crest at the top
WAIST LENGTH of the hips accounts
for the shorter waist
We noted previously that the in men and the longer
waist in women.
female pelvic region is pro-
portionally wider and not as
high as the male and also that
the female rib cage is shorter
than the male. Taken together,
these differences mean that the
distance between the bottom of
the rib cage and the top of the
hips is greater in females, so the
female waist is more elongated.
While were discussing the
region of the waist, lets address
the abdominal muscles, the
stomach muscles that originate
at the pubic bone and insert
at the 5th, 6th and 7th ribs. As
the pelvis and the rib cage are
configured differently between
the sexes, the abdominals are
configured differently as well.

Grande Odalisque
by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, 1814, oil on canvas, 35 x 64. Collection the Louvre, Paris, France.
Ingres painting depicts a woman whose back has no end. Ingres was constantly in search of ideal in the human form, and he was willing to bend the laws of anatomy to
find it. His handling of this figure is reminiscent of 16th-century Mannerist painters, who often contorted and elongated parts of the body to expressive ends.

88 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
Princesse de Broglie (detail)
by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres,
18511853, oil, 47 x 35. Collection The
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.
The downward-angled clavicles give the
effect of rounded shoulders.


The clavicle, or collarbone, is the only horizontal bone in the body, and it acts like a strut
on the wing of an airplane to keep the shoulder blade in place. Seen from the front
the bone looks straight. Seen from above it exhibits a slight S-shaped curve. Its a great
landmark for artists because it can be seen just under the skin for its entire length.
There are distinct variations in the clavicles of men and womenso much so that
forensic experts use it to determine gender when examining skeletal remains. In men,
the clavicles are thick, rough and stout, with pronounced curves. From a frontal view, the
bones appear relatively level or even angle up as they move out to where they articulate
with the shoulder blade. In women, the clavicles are slenderer, smoother and have shal-
lower curves. In a frontal view, the female clavicles are either level or angled slightly

MALE FEMALE On average, male

clavicles are angled
higher than female
clavicles as the
bones move from
the neck out to the
shoulders. T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 89
A certain amount of body fat, also called adipose tissue, is essential
to human life. In fact, the entire body is covered with a layer of
subcutaneous fat. Fat insulates and regulates body temperature,
provides energy stores and protects and enhances body contouring.
The typical man has less fat, as a percentage of his overall mass,
than does the typical woman. Authorities differ regarding the precise
amounts of fat common to male and female bodies but generally list
men as averaging 4% to 6% less fat. Furthermore, fat is distributed
differently on men and women. With men, fat tends to collect around
the belly. With women, it gathers on the thighs, hips, and buttocks.
These areas of fat further heighten the physical differences in the
sexes. For instance, the flanks, the area on the sides of the spinal
column between the ribs and hips, is markedly different in men and
women. With men, this area is lean, revealing more the outline of
the hipbones and the surrounding muscles. On women, the hips are
more often obscured by fat tissue, creating a gradual slope from the
waist to the buttock. Another example: The widest part of the male
figure (disregarding the arms) is located at the greater trochanter, a Typical fat deposits on male and female
projection of the femur, or thigh bone. As a result of fat deposits, the figures. On males, fat is more concentrated
in the belly, whereas on women, fat is more
widest part of the female figure is just below the greater trochanter. concentrated in the thighs and hips.

Men on average have more muscle fibers and muscle mass, so
they appear more muscular. This difference is amplified by the

fact that women have more fatty tissue, which obscures the con-
tours of muscles.

Samson and
by Anthony
van Dyck,
16281630, oil,
58 x 101 316 .
Vienna, Austria.

90 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G

There is considerable variance among the
length of individuals arms and legs, but
on average, men have proportionally longer
arms and legs than women. This can be an
advantage for women, whose shorter legs
give them a lower center of gravity, making
it easier to carry heavy objects, such as a
child in the womb. This also means that the
midway point on the figures height seems
to be slightly higher on the female body.
Men have longer arms, as well. With
arms hanging at his side, a mans elbow
falls somewhere between the rib cage and
the hips. A womans elbow generally falls
higher, nearer the rib cage.

Leg length is
generally the greatest
determining factor of
a persons height rela-
tive to other members
of his or her sex.

Adam and Eve

by Harald Slott-Mller, 1891, oil on panel, 30 x 3118 . Collection Statens
Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark.
A womans legs are proportionally shorter than a mans, giving women greater
stability. T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 91
10 ADAMS APPLE The columnar shape of the trachea helps to fill out the
rounded anterior shape of the neck. The purpose of the
thyroid, among other th
temperature and metab
things, is to help regulate body

The Creation of
ADAMS Adam (detail)
APPLE by Michelan-
gelo Buonarroti, ca.
15101512, fresco,
225 x 110. Collection
Vatican Museums,

The Birth of
Venus (detail)
The trachea, or windpipe, is a tube through which air is drawn by Sandro Botticelli,
into and expelled from the lungs. The windpipe is protected tempera on canvas,
by a hard outer shell made of several pieces of cartilage, the 6778 x 10958 .
Collection Uffizi
thyroid cartilage being the largest. The thyroid cartilage is Gallery,
notable for a large projection just under the skin called the Florence, Italy.
laryngeal prominence, or, more commonly, the Adams apple. Theres a marked
difference in form
The Adams apple is a larger, more dominant feature in men. between
Just below the Adams apple is the thyroid gland, which Michelangelo and
Botticelli. In
helps to control the bodys rate of metabolism. The presence Michelangelos
of the thyroid fills out the shape of the neck. It was once Sistine Chapel fresco,
the original Adams
thought that the female thyroid was larger than the male, apple is quite evident.
but current opinion holds that the female thyroid only looks Botticelli, in contrast,
eschews all muscle
larger, because the female Adams apple is so small that the definition in the neck
thyroid looks large in comparison. of Venus.


Womens hands are, on average, proportionally
smaller and slenderer than mens. The male foot is
proportionally larger than the female foot.
Its interesting to note that mens index fingers are
generally shorter than their fourth fingers, whereas
womens index fingers are generally longer than
The Fall their fourth fingers.
of Man
by Cornelisz van
1592, oil,
107 x 86 58 .
Rijksmuseum, MALE FEMALE
Amsterdam, the

92 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
The Arnolfini Portrait

The skulls of young boys and girls are quite
by Jan van Eyck, 1434, oil on oak,
32 38 x 23 58 . Collection National
Gallery, London, United Kingdom.

similar, but as they age, differences emerge. Most

of these have to do with the size and angularity
of the facial bones. The zygomatic, or cheek
bones (A),are broader and more pronounced on
males. The same can be said for the mandible, or
jawbone (B).
The male supraorbital ridge, or brow ridge (C),
just above the eye socket, enlarges and advances,
creating a visor-like prominence. It also gives the
male forehead a sloped-back appearance, whereas
the female forehead is more vertical. The male
eye socket (D) is squarish, as is the angle of the
jaw. The female skull, in contrast, exhibits a more
rounded appearance in both these areas.


C Male skulls are

D generally broader
and more angular
A than female skulls.

W e should conclude by again noting that these differences between men and women are not
absolute. No two bodies are alike, and in many cases not all of the attributes outlined here
hold true. But on average, they do, and together this conglomeration of attributes allows us to visually
distinguish between men and women. This knowledge can be put to use when drawing, either as a guide
to drawing an ideal figure or as a standard to measure our individual figures against, allowing us to
further appreciate the unique appearance of every person. Y T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 93
The drawings of Fred Hatt are
as much performances as objects.
by J O H N A . PA R K S

I n a series of enormous drawings on black paper,

Fred Hatt presents a swiftly moving rhythmic line in
a multitude of vibrant colors. From a shifting mesh
of shapes and movements emerges images of nudes dancing,
romping, posing and resting. At certain points the line has been
enhanced by suggestions of tonal development, perhaps the
inclusion of a highlight or a small area of color clinging to a
shape to intimate the solid forms of the human body. But for the
most part the line is left alone to move with its own raw power,
projecting a sense of joyous energy as it surges through the work.
Incredibly, given their scale, these drawings are developed
from life in front of a model. I work on the floor, crawling over
a large sheet of paper and covering it with overlapping sketches
of movement or quick poses taken by a model-collaborator, says
the artist. Once the drawing reaches a specific density, like a
tangle of threads, I begin to work on carving a structure out of
this undifferentiated energy field. I bring some of the layers of
drawing forward by adding depth and weight to the forms, and
I push other layers into the background or into abstraction. I
alternate between crawling on the drawing, where individual
Photos of artwork this article: TK

lines can be followed like paths, and standing back to get a sense
of overall form and balance. Hatt generally uses Caran dAche
aquarelle crayons occasionally augmented by oil pastels to do
these pieces. He purchases black or gray charcoal paper in large Mesh
rolls, although he has sometimes worked on black gessoed can- 2005, aquarelle
crayon, 60 x 60. All
vas. The drawings are generally exhibited attached to the wall artwork this article
with large paper clamps. collection the artist.

94 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
Photos of artwork this article: TK T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 95
96 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
2009, aquarelle crayon, 2712 x 19 34 .


2008, aquarelle crayon, 2712 x 19 34 .


Active Mirror
Location photograph.

Double Exposure Stretch
2006, aquarelle crayon, 30 x 30.

An intense physical involvement,

both with the drawing and the
sense of situation developed with
the model, is at the heart of Hatts
work. He sees art as central to life,
as a dynamic force that can involve
itself in all aspects of being. In pre-
modern cultures there are no firm
boundaries dividing art from magic
and religion or from everyday life,
he says. Visual artists make masks
and paint drums and bodies for cer-
emonies and festivals. In our time
everyday life, religion, philosophy,
science and the arts have all been
made into clearly separate fields of
endeavor, and the arts have been
further separated into discrete dis- gallery wall, Hatt tends to see his pieces as part of a web
ciplines. Even beyond that, high art has been separated of movement and performance undertaken by models,
from popular culture and separated from the average peo- dancers and other performers in conjunction with a visual
ple behind walls of elitist intimidation. From my point of artist. On many occasions he has made a piece that is
view these developments are not positive for humanity or entirely bound up with a performance. In one piece, the
creativity, so I choose to strive, in my own creative life, to Active Mirror, I stood inside a Midtown Manhattan store-
reintegrate everything in any way I can. front window owned by the arts organization Chashama,
The artist believes that drawing is uniquely suited to recalls the artist. Whenever someone would stop on the
this enterprise of giving art a much broader role in our sidewalk outside the window, I would draw a quick sketch
culture. To me, drawing is more interesting than paint- of that person on the inside of the glass. Over a period
ing because a drawing retains the gestures of its making, of hours, the window became covered with images of the
whereas in a painting things tend to get blended and fin- diversity of Manhattan street life. Thus the act of drawing
ished, says Hatt. Gestural markings are the core of became a direct way of relating to strangers through see-
drawing, and in this sense drawing is similar to dance or ing them and responding to them without words. The
music, as it depends on the artist maintaining a focused piece was a big success and furthered the artists desire to
form of movement for a designated period of time. Its not integrate art more widely into life. People loved it, says
a long step from having this understanding of the work Hatt, and the audience was far broader than it would have
to finding ways of presenting drawing or painting as a been for anything that people would have needed to come
performing art. inside for, even if it were free and heavily advertised.
Rather than producing an independent, aesthetically Hatt has also undertaken performance pieces in
pleasing object suitable for framing and placement on a more theatrical environments, including involving T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 97
98 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
2008, aquarelle crayon, 60 x 48.

2008, aquarelle crayon, 2712 x 19 34 .

2008, aquarelle crayon, 2712 x 19 34 .

himself with performers of butoh, a form of

Japanese dance. In a piece titled Shadows,
which Hatt staged with the dancer Corinna
Brown as part of a butoh program, the
dance was performed as a shadow play on
a big white screen. As part of the perfor-
mance, I painted with ink on the screen,
tracing the shadow of the dancer behind
the screen, producing an abstract painting
of calligraphic, swooping lines in response to the dancers practitioners of massage, shiatsu, Rolfing, Reichian ther-
movements, says Hatt. apy, et cetera. All this knowledge is relevant to seeing and
Hatts studies reflect his interest in the ephemeral understanding the body. Hatt points out that when he is
nature of the human body. Most figurative artists study standing in front of the model his drawing is influenced by
the anatomical structure of bones and muscles, says the far more than the things he actually sees. What I feel also
artist. I felt that I wanted to portray the body not only as comes into it, he says. When I am drawing from obser-
an object or form but also as a living structure of energy vation of the human form, I draw on my memories of the
in dynamic tension, so I went on to study the anatomy of kinesthetic experience of my own body in stillness and in
movement, the networks of vessels and nerves and the pat- motion. Here my experience with yoga and my own time
terns of chakras and meridians and auras as described by on the modeling stand informs me.
yogis and acupuncturists and healers. I was also interested If Hatts work is molded by an almost transcendental
in the hands-on understanding of the body as described by sense of what it means to be human, his drawing practice T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 99
Anna Marie
2008, aquarelle crayon, 2712 x 19 34 .

2008, aquarelle crayon, 2712 x 19 34 .


2006, ink, 24 x 36.

has developed from many years of work in front of very separated the genres of the portrait and the nude. Nude
real models. He has spent years attending several life- portraits are hard to sell, he says. If someone wants a
drawing sessions per week, and for years he served as the sexy nude to hang in their bedroom, they dont want it
monitor of a weekly three-hour nude long-pose session to look like a specific individual person that they dont
at the studio of Minerva Durham, who runs the famous know. Most people like nudes to be a bit idealized or
Spring Studio in Manhattan. Having to attend the long- generalized. A lot of artists who study life-drawing gen-
pose class all the time was a challenge for me because eralize the figures deliberately because theyre trying to
Im naturally attracted to quick poses, energy and move- learn to draw the generic human figure. But to me the
ment. But Im glad Minerva asked me to do it because it most interesting thing about the endless parade of nude
forced me to learn to sustain my attention on a drawing models is their individuality. The amazing variety to be
and really develop it. A lot of what I do at the long-pose observed in breasts or collarbones or noses or body hair is,
sessions could be called nude portraits. to me, fascinating and beautiful. And every bodymale
Hatt is particularly intrigued by these nude portraits or female, young or ancient, bony or fleshyis beautiful
because of the way in which the Western tradition has when you are looking with the artistic eye. Hatt finds

100 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
that the people who most admire these drawings are the he says. In the quicker draw-
models themselves, who are delighted to find themselves ings the use of color is more ABOUT
appreciated for their individual qualities. And people abstract and intuitive. I may THE
who like my work often commission me to do nude por- choose colors for their emotional ARTIST
traits, he says. I think Ive done more nude portraits by feel or just for the quality of light
commission than conventional portraits. or energy they suggest. And Born in Oklahoma,
Like his big performance drawings, Hatts work in the when working on black paper, Fred Hatt drew
life room also involves color. Someone once said an art- the bright colors can take on a and painted from an
ist can be either a draftsman or a colorist but not both, neon quality. early age. He studied
filmmaking in college,
he says. I always take this kind of dualistic statement as Hatt is extremely thoughtful eventually moving to
an artistic challenge, and so I tried to be both a drafts- when talking about his enter- New York and beginning
man and a colorist. Using crayons on dark paper allows a prise as a whole. I like to think to draw seriously. He
kind of additive color approach. If you mix two colors of about philosophical, physical has exhibited widely in
paint the result is always a bit darker and duller than its and metaphysical questions, mostly experimental
galleries and alternative
sources, but as Seurat discovered, if you juxtapose small he says, and my art is the field venues in the New York
strokes of various colors, especially when those colors of practice where I test and City area, supporting
are brighter than their ground, the light reflected from develop my ideas. I try to work himself as a freelance
the colors blends in the eye to make colors that may be in a spirit of joy, and so I hope videographer. For
brighter than their source colors. that the artwork carries that more information, visit
Hatt finds that his approach to color is rather different spirit and communicates it to
in his long studies than it is in his large performance draw- those who see it. I believe dual-
ings. In drawing colors from observation during a long ity is an illusion, so, like an alchemist, Im always trying
pose, the colors of the crayons never match the object colors to achieve a conjunction of opposites, making work that
I see, he says, but I keep looking for subtle shifts of tone. is both classical and expressionistic, both Apollonian and
Human flesh has subtle coloration with translucent layers Dionysian. I want to maintain a connection to the primal
and many variations of tint, reflection and undertone on art of the Paleolithic painters, the craft of the Old Masters
a single body. Studying it is like analyzing the complexity and the playful experimentation of the moderns. Y
and character of a fine wine. I go over and
over looking for tendencieswhat areas
are a little more yellowish than the rest, or
where do I see a cooler cast? Where is the
salmon, the olive, the cyan? Hatt says that
he is not so much interested in the accu-
racy of his color as he is in capturing the
feeling and complexity of the subject. I
like these drawings to look very classical
and realistic when seen from a distance,
he says, but wild and loose when seen
from up close.
In the big experimental drawings, how-
ever, Hatts color is used rather differently.
When overlapping many figures I choose
colors at random but keep changing them
in order to have a way of distinguishing the
lines of one figure from those of another, T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 101
102 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
From a
Drawing BookThe figure and portrait drawings that we often come across in
textbooks and drawing manuals are there for a reason.
Whether we want to learn about chiaroscuro, line, negative
space or perspective, these great drawings have much to teach.
by K E N N E T H J. PR O C T E R

W hen I teach drawing, I begin with chiaroscuro because I want

my students to achieve solid, sculptural form right from the
start. (There are other techniques for rendering solid form, but
they are more abstract.) At the beginning, I want to train the eye, and chiar-
oscuro describes patterns of light and shadow that can be observed; learn
the pattern and you learn to see better. Know the pattern and you can work
from memory and imagination. Chiaroscuro is powerful.
At its most fundamental, chiaroscuro starts with a single, direct light
source, usually angling toward the subject from above and the side, as if
from the sun or a window. Set up this way, light and shadow form pat- Standing Female
terns that are consistent, regardless of the subject. As volume curves away Nude, Seen From
from the light source, the lightest and brightest areas fade to half-light. by Pierre-Paul
Just where form curves into shadow, we see the darkest valuesthe core of Prudhon, 17851790,
charcoal heightened
the shadow. Beyond the shadow core, opposite the light, shadows brighten with white chalk
from reflected and ambient lightlight bouncing off the walls in the room on blue paper,
24 x 13 38 . Collection
or some other surface. This light within the shadow can be among the Museum of Fine
most subtle and beautiful passages in a drawing. Rendered in color, the Arts, Boston; Boston,
effect can be breathtaking.
To demonstrate chiaroscuro, I shine a spotlight on a ball, a tube, a cone and
a box. These suggest the patterns for head, limbs and a pedestal. After theyve
had some practice, I show my students the work of Prudhon (17581823).
Standing Female Nude, Seen From Behind is a perfect example of chiar-
oscuro. This or another Prudhon is in most drawing textbooks. Its a
beautiful setup. The light comes in at right angles to the artist, so the whole
range of shadow spreads across the form. Prudhon made the most of it.
To the modern eye, the drawing is an old-fashioned academic study,
an acadmie, but its an instructive setup. The shading is clear and T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 103
Study of Flesh Color and Gold
by William Merritt Chase, 1888, pastel, 18 x 13.
Collection National Gallery of Art, Washington,


Peasant of the Camargue (Portrait of

Patience Escalier)
by Vincent van Gogh, 1888, brown ink over
graphite, 19 716 x 14 1516 . Collection Harvard
University Art Museums, Cambridge,

sometimes otherwise. They describe

different dimensions. Outward con-
tour defines the arc of the models
thrusting hip; curving opposite, the
shadow core tracks the rise and fall
of the volume and describes form.
Contour and chiaroscuro work in
Chiaroscuro has a drawback: Colors
turn gray in shadow, especially in the
shadow core. Outdoors, the blue light
of the sky can lend shadows a cool tone
to very beautiful effect. Indoors, how-
ever, only one color of light is available,
and shadows can gray. But artists have
many ways to transform a potential
drawback into a strength.
Lighting his model straight-on,
William Merritt Chase (18491916)
banished shadows to her sides in Study
of Flesh Color and Gold. The patterns of
chiaroscuro shading are still visible but
compressed to slivers. Clear of shadow,
the models back is a clean, sensuous
expanse, true in color and dramatically
set off by her upswept hair. Flat lighting
unambiguousexactly what begin- background. He created the drama. tends to flatten her back, but backs are
ners need to see. I have tried to Even observation requires artistry, flat anyway, so the trade for clean color
match the lightingmore precisely, and that is a fundamental lesson. is worth it.
the shadow. I can darken the studio. A second lesson of the draw-

I have spots and floodlights. But the ing is in the pose. Prudhons model owever a drawing text-
setup never looks like Prudhon. The stands in a modified weight-shift book divides, line always
shadows on the live model lack the poseweight on a support leg, with gets its due. Van Goghs
drama of the drawing. Maybe there the other leg relaxed. By leaning on (18531890) work might appear in a
is a trick to the lighting I have yet to the pedestal, she exaggerates the hip chapter on line, or maybe one on pat-
learn, but I think the answer is art- thrust and shoulder drop on the side tern and texture. Often you see one of
istry. For Prudhon, the model was of the support leg. From head to hip his landscapes with lines and dots, the
a point of departure. The shadows to heel, her pose forms an S-curve. As abstract equivalents of impressionist
may have been faint and washed out, contour describes the edges of form, brushwork. Lines and dots look like
but he knew the pattern and his cre- the shadow core meanders back and grass and flowers. But a face is another
ative vision was clear. He enhanced forth down the middle. Sometimes matter. The equivalence of marks to
the shadows and darkened the contour and core run parallel, subject is less straightforward.

104 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 105
You have to look at Peasant of contours and cavities, yet the face The Pacha
the Camargue twiceonce for the is flat, like a mask, cheeks splayed by Jean-Honor Fragonard, ca. 17601790, brush
and brown wash, 9 x 121516 . Collection the
marks and once for the man. Van wide, eyes set oddly apart, a likeness Louvre, Paris, France.
Goghs technique is not neutral made shape by shape. Van Goghs
and invisible the way a fine hatch penstrokes are so emphatic that the
of lines might be. His lines and marks stay marks even while they

dots call attention to themselves as describe. Marks sit on the paper and n The Pacha, Fragonards
marks, an aesthetic scheme that is flatten the face. Heavy outlines rein- (17321806) pyramidal compo-
somewhat independent of portrai- force the flatness. sition takes you right to the top,
ture. For me, the marks are the star Even the background is strange. where you see the face and immedi-
of the show. The dots can be read as an analogue ately grasp the whole. But cover the
Likeness depends on the accurate for space, or maybe for surface, but face and The Pacha is barely com-
description of features. Even carica- they dont stay in the background. prehensible as a figure. Beyond the
ture works that wayproportions They press forward and respond to the billowy clothing, the setting is hard
are exaggerated, but shapes, how- man and his hat. Whatever they rep- to discerncushions and creases at
ever stretched, stay accurate. Lose resent, the dots are emphatically dots, mosteven when you know what to
the shape and lose the likeness. Van rendering the idea of background into look for. Volumes and foreshortened
Gogh probably got a likeness. The something both physical and abstract, forms turn into a swirl of abstract
peasant has character; he looks like foreshadowing the inventive complex- brushstrokes, deKooning-esque whip-
somebody we would recognize. But ities of abstraction and representation lash lines. Fragonards drawing is a
Peasant is strange. Lines carved out in early-20th-century art. lesson in how much information the

106 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
shakes your sensibility. He could rules. Schieles line doesnt trace ana-
have cropped at the waist. He could tomical contours; it gets at the lumpy,
Fragonards have drawn the full figure. But he angular guts of the thing. It scrib-
cropped right below the crotch. bles around. It cuts off limbs. Ruddy
drawing is a Schieles composition f launts sexu- washes bruise his exposed, emaci-
lesson in how much ality. The man f louted community ated flesh.
standardshis work and his life- Schieles expressionist style is
information the style once got him chased out of archetypally modern, yet the prec-
brain will supply town. edent and pattern piece is Albrecht
Self-Portrait is a work of his youth. Drers (14711528) self-portrait.
to make sense of Without clothes or setting, and sport- Although self-revelation is common
perception. ing indeterminate tousled hair, there to both Schiele and Drer, Drers
are few clues to the age of the draw- drawing is a product of his maturity
ing. It doesnt look dated. It looks like and, according to scholarship, cre-
it could have been drawn yesterday. ated in a period of convalescence. If
brain will supply to make sense of The artist was 21, confessional and the drawing is evidence, his recovery
perception. confrontational. It appeals to the seems well along: His torso looks
To learn from the drawing, ana- brasher youth. patterned on the muscular, classical
lyze what the brain fills in. Go over And then there is the style. Like cuirass. At least superficially, Drer
it section by section. Ask what the brazen adolescence, it flouts the appears more fit than convalescent.
lines and the spaces do. For example,
the near leg bends and the knee proj-
ects. Fragonard indirectly showed that by Egon Schiele,
by means of the drapery. Each stroke 1911, watercolor,
of the brush describes a crease, each gouache, and
crease curved just so around the hid- 20 x 13.
den knee. The fabric stretches taut Collection The
over the knee, so no lines there, but Museum of Art,
all around, an amazing configuration New York,
New York.
of disconnected swirls somehow pro-
vides enough information to fill in the
blank. No one line does the trick, its
in the pattern.
A drawing like this comes from
instinct honed through practice.
Practice builds skill right into the eye,
hand and mind so that in the fervor
of the moment, the drawing is instinc-
tual and automatic. The Pacha is a
performance. Fragonnard is like those
violinists who play with frayed strings.
If a string snaps in recital, improvis-
ing through to the end is high stakes
and dangerous. Only skill and daring
can pull it off. But stop to re-string
and the performance is lost. Brush-
and-ink is like that; it leaves no room
for error or overworking. Thats why
The Pacha is in the drawing books.

lipping through a drawing
book, Schiele (18901918)
is hard to miss. His full-
frontal nude self-portrait grabs and T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 107
Foreshortening, not modeling, gives Degas drawing
dimension. The lines of perspective serve as pointers,
reinforcing the gesture of the figure and the height of
the space.

108 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
Schiele is beyond anorexic. Two without much modeling, he flattened modern times and people. Everyone
examples may not prove a rule, but the space and flattened the figure to knows about his focus on theater,
they fit Goethes famous character- fit the composition. Foreshortening, ballet and the circus. Yet here, in the
ization that classicism is health and not modeling, gives it dimension. The modern idiom, for the entertainment
that romanticism (and by extension, lines of perspective serve as pointers, of the paying public, is the Baroque
expressionism) is disease. reinforcing the gesture of the figure saint ascending into a domed illusion
To the beginner leafing through and the height of the space. Still, she of heaven.
the drawing book, trying on styles hovers. And that suggests a tradition The traditional and radical
to test the fit, Schiele may look like transformed, perhaps with tongue in nature of Degas masterful draw-
something readily mastered, as if cheek. Famously, and in contrast to a ings should get him a place in all the
passionate messing around will get long academic tradition of historical drawing books. Degas surprises me
you a drawing. Passion and con- and mythical figures, Degas explored again and again. Y
frontation may seem easier than
quiet, introspective classicism. But
passion isnt easy to do well, and it
can look contrived. Self-Portrait has
a blunt, loud impact. Schiele died
seven years after this drawing
much too young. Could he, like
Francis Bacon a generation later,
have sustained and developed his
youthful angst throughout a career?

first saw Degas (1834
1917) Miss Lala at the Cirque
Fernando and some related
studies while preparing this article.
As an artist interested in perspec-
tive, I was struck by how Degas
had worked out the geometry of
the ceiling. Although some of the
Impressionists were criticized for
lack of design and finish, Degas
work was always carefully com-
posed. For this reason, I usually
include several of his paintings as
examples when I teach perspective.
The study for Miss Lala is no mere
impression. It is a geometric pro- LE F T
Nude Self-Portrait
jection of the ceiling structure. It is
by Albrecht Drer,
complex architecture: a polygon in ca. 1503, pen and
plan, with foreshortened trapezoids brush, heightened
with white on green
rising toward a pinnacle. A very grounded paper,
tricky construction, and it is this 11 x 6. Collection
Klassik Stiftung
careful construction that gives the Weimar; Weimar,
final work its rigor. Germany.

After working out the geometry,

Degas worked away from it. Ruled O PP OSIT E PAG E

and measured lines are still clearly Miss Lala at the

Cirque Fernando
visible near Miss Lalas feet, but his by Edgar Degas, 1879,
loose pastel treatment disguised most pastel, 24 x 18.
Collection Tate
of the construction. He cropped close Gallery, London,
to the figure, and using local colors England. T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G 109
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The Madonna and
Child With Saint
John the Baptist
by Raphael, ca. 1507,
black chalk with
traces of white
chalk, outlines
pricked for transfer,
36 1516 x 26 38 .
Collection National
Gallery of Art,
Washington, DC.

ets end on a High Renaissance note. For centuries the work of Raphael (14831520)
has been considered the epitome of artistic grace, thanks in large part to the artists
skill in arranging his figures into designs of unsurpassed harmony. We see one such
compelling composition here, in a chalk cartoon for the oil painting of the same name, now
hanging in the Louvre.

112 T H E F I G U R E : T H E B E S T O F D R AW I N G
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