Learn to Draw – Model in the Interior

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Model in the Interior

In our second last life drawing class we were introduced to the notion of drawing the model in the interior and I had no idea what how complex the subject could be.

Drawing the model in the interior involves a dialogue between wildly different elements, sometimes in conflict or opposition with each other. Depictions of interiors can reveal a great deal about human life, social conditions, politics, history and the personality and mood of the artist.

The figure needs to be compatible with the interior; the two elements must go together.  The interior becomes somewhat of a “still life” with the figure adding specificity. The conflict results from the figure distorting the sense of interior environment of the drawing. The psychology is within the figure and in the field much less.

Figures in an interior symbolize a certain take on an individual in terms of his interior/exterior. The interior becomes a pictorial desire to gain light inside and another kind of light outside and therein lays the contrast, the interior and exterior lights are different.

There is an exception in the interiors of Matisse. His outdoors and indoors were consistent (except in the drawing) and sometimes his outdoors were more artificial and illuminated than the inside. His exteriors appeared to be a continuation of interior space.

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“Open Window Collioure” – Henri Matisse 1905

In 1942 an interviewer asked Matisse, “Where does the charm of your open windows come from?” He replied:

“Probably from the fact that for me the space is one unity from the horizon right to the interior of my work room, and that the boat which is going past exists in the same space as the familiar objects around me; and the wall within the window does not recreate two different worlds.”  From a radio broadcast transcript made available by Pierre Schneider, J. D. Flam, Matisse on Art, Phaidon Press, Oxford, 1978.

My favourite drawings of the model in the interior (above) were done by American artist Richard Diebenkorn.

In a 1952 radio interview Diebenkorn stated, “There is a hierarchy of importance to the various elements, the chair less, the rug less, the hands, clothes more, the faces vary accordingly.” 

Here are some drawings I did in class.

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Model in the Interior

Can’t say I was overly pleased with them.  The teacher said the man on the top right was too skinny and the lady on the stool drawing needs to be cleaned up.  Oh well, back to the drawing board so to say!

A drawing and painting site by Edward A Burke is a great reference.

Drawing – Still Life, Puzzle Pieces and Giving Up Control

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Remember when you played with jigsaw puzzles as a kid, the same principle can help you to make amazing artwork.   “Puzzle pieces” are geometric shapes including highlights, shadows, reflections patterns and textures.

“Puzzle pieces” add so much vitality and variety to our drawings and if we are not daydreaming, we see them on or around objects every day.  At first, it may be hard to see them as shapes but sure as eggs, they are indeed two-dimensional shapes.  A shadow or a distorted reflection, both stand tall as geometric shapes in their own right.  They could be elongated triangles, dented circles or weird shapes with their own crazy contours.

Putting these shapes together is like making a jigsaw puzzle.  Each highlight or reflection is an added detail to make your work look soooo much better. This is what makes your work the real deal.  A work rich and beautiful is created by the looker’s awareness of the “puzzle pieces.”

Exercise – Allow 30 minutes for this drawing.

  • You will need a pencil (HB, B or 2B) with a sharp point.
  • Paper for drawing large enough to draw your object life size.

Find a jar or bottle made of tinted glass and place if in front of you. I did a stainless steel coffee pot and that is okay too.  Draw the hugest shapes first, make an effort to keep that pencil on the paper.  Try drawing “blind” 3 or 4 times. That means looking at the bottle, not your paper!  Scribble in the smaller shapes next then the many reflection-shapes in the glass.  If there is a label, you can draw some crazy letter shapes if you like.  Allow three or four restatements (going back overs) to give character and freshness to your incredible drawing.

Do not be concerned with the finished result of your drawing, chill!.  Try to give up your white knuckle control on doing a perfect drawing just for now.  After all, is there such a thing as a perfect drawing?

Unless you want to spend years (about 10!) learning to draw (as artists did in the olden days) you had better get used to your shapes being somewhat distorted, fresh and original.  Those who have practiced drawing for many years find it very difficult to go back to the childlike, fresh and lively drawings you see here.

Your best drawings are the ones that come from your heart.  They come not from your mind but from your spirit.  Look at these amazing works by Peter Arscott.  Was he freaked out about his drawings? I think not!

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And this awesome work by Picasso.  No stressing about drawing here!

Pablo Picasso

You can paint and draw just like this if you just let go! 🙂

Drawing – From the General to the Specific

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The pencil is poised, the subject is before us and the blank piece of paper is screaming  “START!”  But where? How?

It seems easier to work from the general to the specific rather than the other way around. Starting with the largest thing you see, drawing that shape and forgetting everything else helps make marks to guide you to make other marks.  Drawing the whole idea gives you a frame to start putting the details into the correct place.

It could be a vase of flowers or the outer silhouette of a person sitting on a chair as above. Your drawing may include one or more shapes together as in both these examples. That way, you capture them as a whole idea.

The drawing does not need to be executed perfectly and if yours looks wonky, do not despair.  You now have something to build on, something to restate, compare with surrounding shapes (see previous drawing posts) and subdivide into smaller shapes if you think fit.

Choosing your large shapes is up to you and if problems beset you, try squinting first then draw the shapes you see.

Tips and tricks to help you along the way:

  • All drawing is process.
  • Be brave and courageous by making some marks on the paper.
  • Those marks help guide you to make other marks.
  • Actually, you don’t always know where you’re going until you get there.
  • A large shape is the start of that process.

Away with you to your studio/loungeroom/study or whatever to START!

An Easy Exercise with Oil Crayons after Modigliani

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Modigliani was an Italian painter who painted mainly in France during the 1920s.   He was a figurative painter who was known for his modern style.  His style was characterized by mask-like faces and elongation of form. Sadly, he died at age 35 from meningitis caused by poverty, overwork and addiction to alcohol and narcotics.

Here is a simple way to copy the unmistakable style of Modigliani using oil crayons, baby oil and a pencil.

Allow 1 ½ hours for this exercise.

You will need:

  • 1 set of oil crayons (these are usually inexpensive)
  • 1 A3 size piece of good quality paper which will take some heavy duty “crayoning” (you can use a smaller piece of paper if you wish.)
  • 1 bottle of baby oil (I used coconut oil.)
  • 1 6B graphite pencil
  • A clean rag or disposable kitchen cloth.
  • A picture to copy from.  It is best to use a person with their neck and shoulders visible in the snapshot.  Great photos are obtainable from www.morguefile.com with no restrictions on copying.
  • 1 medium sized paint brush (watercolour brushes are good)

In true Zen style, you will approach this exercise with no purpose in mind; you are doing it for the fun of it, the joy of it.  If you can let go and enjoy the process, you will be surprised at the result.

Step 1

Tape your paper to a board (optional).

Taping the Board

Step 2

Loosely draw in the figure with a black oil crayon. Make sure to show the head, shoulders and clothing.  The more elongated the face and neck the more like a Modigliani your work will be.

Mogdiliani Process 1

Step 3

Fill in all over the drawing with light coloured crayon.  I had only a dull orange so went over it again with white.  Don’t worry about staying within the lines, just colour over everything.  The grey smudges will add life to the work.

Mogdiliani Process 2

Step 4

Select your colours and place them out of the box.  To obtain colour harmony it is best to restrict yourself to either:

You may use various tones of these colours so get out all the reds, all the greens, black and white or all the yellow/oranges, all the blues, black and white.

Colour the shapes with the selected colours.  Go over them again with another colour to blend and make interesting shades.  Go over the colours a third time to make sure there is a thick coating of oil crayon.  The more oil crayon on the paper the more the work will look like an oil painting.

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Step 5

Paint the baby oil on all sections of the drawing.  Make sure to wipe your brush clean with a kitchen cloth before painting over a new section. This will help to avoid “muddiness” of colours.

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Step 6

Draw in the outlines again with your 6B pencil to sharpen up the image.   Make it nice and dark and keep your marks loose.  You may wish to hold the pencil by the tip to loosen up.  Don’t worry if you go outside the lines.  That’s what makes a loose authentic picture drawn by a unique person – you!

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In the end, I thought my painting made the girl look too pretty.  If you research Modigliani’s work, you will see the elongation much more pronounced and the faces more mask like.

Here is a portrait done by Modigliani for you to compare your work with.

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