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Figure Drawing Inspiration and Moving Forward

As I’ve been working the last part of this module, I’ve spent much more time hunting around for influences. With the way this year has gone, it’s been difficult to get out to many exhibitions or galleries, aside from seeing the Lucian Freud portrait exhibition in early summer, so I’ve mostly had to hunt around in my own virtual galleries for the same kind of  experience of looking closely at other people’s work.

Seeing Lucian Freud’s collection of portraits was a wonderful witnessing of how an artist can evolve. It was fascinating following the exhibition through from his earliest work - wide-eyed, dead-skinned, simplistic portraits – through to a much more life-like approach and a fascination with intimate and disturbing poses and scenarios. His techniques changed, from flat skin tones and areas of colour, through to more dynamic use of colour tone and brush work. It showed me, in a slow walk through his career, how much an artist can GROW and change. As a very fledgling artist it was a challenge to me not to be afraid or down-heartened by these early years work of mine, knowing that I have more in me, and that progress comes with taking the thing that really inspires you – for both of us, people – and using that as a springboard to experiment and development.

For my last project piece I hope very much to do just that, in so far as I’m able. The more figure work I look at, my own as well as other artists, the more I am turned off by classic poses, depicted cleanly, or with very gentle tonal subtly, with the emphasis on realism and demonstration of very fine skill. I like it, I think it’s clever and admire it, and I even want to emulate it, but it rarely really moves me personally. I think as a learning artist there is the tendency to try and pursue this kind of work. It is obvious from the pictures themselves that the artist is skilled at the art of portraiture and drawing/painting techniques. And of course, I’d like to be able to demonstrate the same, but pursuing it doggedly can also become a self-limiting way to try and prove yourself.

Moving forward I want to try and shift my focus away from the demonstration of realism and emphasis on overly impressive fine skill, in an effort to try and create something I’m pleased with, and instead work the other way around. I will start at thinking about what excites me, what fires up my interest and then try and find different ways to capture this interest.

With this module it was the more informal drawings I loved doing most. Sketching people on the street, taking secret photos to work from, trying to hunt out interesting or intriguing scenarios… They weren’t always my most accurate drawings, but they were my most interesting. So I’d like to try and use this type of figure drawing as my base to work on. More sketches, live when I can, or using a combination of live and photography when I can’t or want to work in more detail, and then developing these drawings by working bigger, trying different media, perhaps using more colour.

With this in mind, it’s the following I will be carrying with me to inspire me as I start my last pieces of work:


Egon Schiele

I am increasingly fascinated with this guy’s work. A young protege of Gustav Klimt, he died tragically young along with his wife in the early part of the 20th century. Admittedly, some the drawings and paintings he produced are pretty disturbing. I don’t always love the way he portrays women in his pictures, and many of his work seems to reveal a dark, conflicted mind, with endless slightly tortured self portraits. But he was BRAVE. He seemed to want to challenge what was beautiful, breaking away from traditionalist ideas. For me the draw is particularly to the way he uses interesting, twisted poses. There is often the sense of the subject being ‘caught’ in the act of something rather than posed, and they have an energy, intimacy and immediacy about them. Most feature strong or snaking lines with selective use of colour which I really love.

Standing-Girl-In-A-Blue-Dress-And-Green-Stockings--Back-View Self portrait 1 Man-Bencind-Down-Deeply Forwards-bent-feminine-act


Use of Colour

Paul W. Ruiz

by Paul W. Ruiz

I’d like to have a go at experimenting with coloured pastels and oil pastels more and it’s works like these by contemporary artists that show me how colour can be used in figure drawing in ways that are exciting. I love how just simple sweeps and blocks of colour can still express so much grace and character.

Jaeyeol Han

by Jaeyeol Han


Brush and Ink

by Jordan Mejias Jordan Mejias - Splash

It’s been suggested by tutor that I might want to try brush and ink as a media to explore, and I would love if I could find a way to use simple washes and splodges in the same was as Jordan Mejias, above. I thought I’d seen most of Georgia O’Keefe’s work, being an especial idol of mine, so I was quite delighted to come across this work of hers below showing a similar technique.

As well as washes like this, it would be good to try bold line drawings with a brush. Scary though – I always find ink so intimidating as it’s so permanent!

Georgia O'Keefe

by Georgia O’Keefe


Situational Compositions

Lastly, I have been particularly inspired by drawings of the everyday. These charming illustrations by Kaatje Vermeire convey something of what I’d most like to be able to pin down – a moment, captured. I like the emphasis on specific details and objects as well as the people, the shoes, bag, umbrella, as well as the sense of movement and action – something I’d very much like to get better at.

Kaatje Vermeire

Kaatje Vermeire1

1 Comment

  1. I have to admit to having often shunned art classes because of the formality of having to learn the techniques and the poses and so on, rather than just diving straight in. But I do think it makes a difference to be able to do the formal art first and then take it where you want it to go. Probably. I definitely know that I am lacking in that formal training and would love to go to art college and study it. But I do also know that my dad found that his formal training ended up stifling his creativity a lot and he did very little after college, so perhaps I fear that.

    I almost completely incapable of drawing (freehand) anyone other than standing facing forward with their hands almost on their hips, but behind so I don’t have to draw the hands. (One of the many things I would like to improve on!)

    Love the inspiration pictures you’ve posted. My favourite are the last two.

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