Exercise 44: Drawing statues
A simple remit for this exercise – draw statues!
The first one that sprang to mind was the 1946 Henry Moore sculpture to be found in the gardens at Dartington Hall. I’ve admired this piece for many years, finding it a source of calm contemplation. Not sure I’ve conveyed that exactly, but hopefully I haven’t been too unkind to the old girl. This first drawing took longer than all the others, as I reverted to my old habit of aiming for a literal representation. I began by putting down the overall shape, and then added tonal shading using a 4B pencil. As with many of Moore’s figures, there is a sense of distortion here, compounded all the more by my first viewpoint (above). The head really is quite small on this figure and, from where I was standing, the right leg and feet dominated. I was very drawn to the ‘squared curves’ of this sculpture, and the sense of solidity they give. My aim was to include both soft-edged tone and hard-edged shadows here, which I think I went some way to achieving. I could’ve curved the ‘seam’ around the top of the thigh a little more, though.
The sketch above depicts the front of the sculpture. I can see now that I made the upper half of the body slightly too tall just above the ‘seam’. Here, though, my intention was to focus on context, albeit in the most basic of ways – just enough to indicate the large hedge, trees, and yews in the background. In contrast with the first sketch, I worked quickly on this one (about 10 minutes), worrying less about detail, and more about basic form and the gathering of information.
The sketch above was a 5 minute one of the head of the figure. In reality, she has the most beautiful head – sad-eyed and wistful, with an air of peacefulness. I don’t think I managed to capture that, unfortunately, although there is something in the expression here that I find interesting. Thoughtfulness. I used a Rotring ArtPen/water brush combination for this, which accounts for the scratchy quality (the pen has a very fine nib).
Next choice of ‘statue’ was Serena de la Hey’s Willow Man sculpture, which can be found on the M5. This is a familiar sight to those in the West Country, and has a similar feeling of fluidity to the Moore sculpture, I think. I did this sketch working from a photo I’d taken as we whipped past in the car. The thing that always strikes me about this figure is the feeling of motion and direction, which I tried to convey by using strongly directional lines. Curiously, the conté pencils wouldn’t always work over one another (I used three colours – sanguine, sepia and black), and this resulted in a kind of sgraffito effect, most clearly seen on the front of the torso. (As an aside: it occurs to me that the lines of the willow here are actually a form of hatching when put on paper – I generally take the view that I’m not much good at hatching, but it works here. Hatching by stealth!)
The next sketch features one of the metal horse sculptures from Antony in Cornwall. Unfortunately, I didn’t make a note of the sculptor, and haven’t been able to find any information online. There were several of these sculptures, some tarnished brown and verdigris, others (like the one above) in glowing shades of copper and rust. I worked quickly, using pastels, and unfortunately lost a little definition as I couldn’t fix the sketch until later. Again, though, detail wasn’t my main focus – instead, I concentrated on the fluid swirls of the design and the overall feeling of ‘horse-ness’. Although this was just a quick sketch, it actually went some way to sweetening my feelings towards pastels. I think working more loosely with them suits me better.
Above is a quick watercolour sketch of Eve, by Thomas Brock, which I saw at the V&A. I painted directly, with no preliminary sketching, although I did add a few red pencil touches afterwards, to give it a bit more energy. I love this sculpture, and felt acutely aware that I could easily fall into the trap of fiddling with the sketch in order to achieve a realistic and recognisable figure. This was one of the two more classical types I chose to work from, and I wanted to avoid falling back on a ‘traditional’ rendition, hence going straight in with watercolour (as it jolted me out of ‘over-drawing’). I also thought this would focus my attention on tone, as the statue had been lit so as to cast strong shadows. I used two shades of blue which were quite effective in creating a sense of depth, enlivened by the touches of red,
Finally, I did a charcoal and coloured pencil sketch of an alabaster bust from Torre Abbey. I made the face a tad narrower than it actually is, but was pleased to capture something of her downcast gaze.
An enjoyable exercise, not least because I managed to pursue a freer style, for the most part. I hope to maintain that approach for the next task… tackling trees.