Life Drawing at Newtown: follow-up

July 11, 2014

The most thought-provoking poses from last week’s life drawing session were those where the body was “bunched up”, for example, the seated poses. I think that in order to get the overall proportions right (since the pose defies the logic of head units), I need to think more about the “envelope” or the geometric shape of the whole.

I’ve spent time during the week looking at the Proko videoclips on YouTube. They are unique in giving me a practical demonstration of what’s achievable during a 2-minute and 8-minute pose at life drawing. The former concentrates on motion-not-contour and the latter on mannequinization. No other artist has every shown me visually what’s possible in these short timeframes – not even numerous life drawing teachers over the years. My teachers have been marvellous over the years at walking round the room and nodding from time to time; none has ever demonstrated what’s possible after 10, 20 or 30 seconds.

I’m limiting myself to working mostly in just graphite pencil on A4 photocopy paper. I’ll graduate to black Conte pencil in time because of the variety of mark-making it offers, especially for poses longer than 2 minutes, with cartridge paper or better to boot. The size dimensions fit the requirements of my loose-leaf Art School process diary; absolutely everything I do these days is directed towards the end-of-year Panel Assessment. This means systematically filing every sketch and study and annotation then soft-binding them into sections on a weekly basis.

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My first activity of the week though was to review the “robo bean” of Prokopenko ( which has, of course, its precedents both in the “movable masses” of George Bridgman (they’re more “immovable” than “movable” in truth) and in the torso lozenge forms of Andrew Loomis (“Figure Drawing for all it’s worth”). I’m not sure I got them as accurate as I could so I need to review the relevant Proko video clips, but at least it’s a start.

The Lower Body 

The last two life drawing sessions have highlighted my need to work on the lower body. If I was really strict with myself, I’d only draw the lower half of the body at future life drawing sessions.

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Here’s a sotto in su pose incorporating Bridgman (the enclosing envelope contour with anatomical landmarks), the “robo bean” of Proko and a third version incorporating the two with some tone.

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Here’s a subsequent page of lower body sketching, with an eye as much to Vilppu “overlapping forms” as Proko mannequinization.


Here’s a freehand sketch from a reference photograph with sufficiently Classical overtones. In the past, I would have worked from Old Master Drawings, but the photograph is closer to reality and less likely to show anatomical errors. It helps that the pose is on a pure white background, though the props are disarmingly black. You’ll notice the trapezius, almost exaggerated in its bulk, fits the Loomis description of this muscle being rendered as a “cape” falling from the shoulders. I may have captured the dynamic or gesture of the overall pose, but not its accuracy. I got the main enclosed negative shapes right but they are relatively too large. I’m concerned the pelvis is narrower than the upper leg. The front foot needs checking since the ankle in the photograph seems too high. Lots to consider! By rights, at this point some correction using a check of vertical proportions is required since the legs are proportionally over-long. The beauty of this particular photograph is that it’s almost exactly the same size as my A4 paper so comparison is made easy. I’m conscious of the various planes and how the light falls, which augurs well for transferring this to a painted version. By rights, I should go back to Charles Bargue and work on contour envelope, especially of arms, legs, feet and hands. I’ve taken on a little of the ‘straight line’ contour advocated not only by Adolphe Yvon (b.1817) but also the US pastel painter Daniel E. Greene.

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To better define the planes and details, and still focusing on the lower body, here’s a enlarged cartoon based on the photograph and it’s transfer to a 8×10″ Pebeo canvas panel primed with Art Spectrum Colourfix Primer (Rich Beige) in preference to the much cheaper Paintwell stretched canvas panels I’ve been using lately for portrait acrylic paint sketching practice. Progressing to a painted version really comes about as a result of reading the inspiring posts at and seeing how this traditional style of work diverges in the contemporary market, from the traditional realism of Matthew Collins ( to the more illustrative and graphic work of Chris Lopez (

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