Today I began a sight-size master study of a Hans Holbein the Younger drawing in order to keep my eyes seeing well and in shape. Below is the initial block-in. It is totally in progress and just beginning. It is in charcoal and is my first charcoal drawing. It has already been too long since I did the kind of rigorous drawing that I have done recently in school. Your eyes get so fine tuned working on those drawings. It has been about a month since instruction ended for me and wow, do I feel a difference starting again. I am a little rusty.
I have been working on my oil paintings and some pastels but I have not been applying myself in drawing. More and more I understand that it is drawing that holds the key of doing anything well, and with any amount of ease. When I draw academically on a disciplined schedule I paint better. My pastels are better. I enjoy the creative act more.
That is because the eye is tuned and does not struggle so much. That is so important for me. The struggle distracts me, agitates me and reduces my productive art making time drastically. I can literally feel it when I do not draw.
That is why I started this master’s copy. Even without close critique and instruction my own eyes can now see many places that I wandered off path. Where I became distracted with what I wanted to see and not what was really there. In all of those places, where I put away truth for approximation I fell away from the copy and into interpretation. I see angles that have gone awry, marks that are not on point. The more I look the more I see.
Then I go in and adjust and correct, look closer. Making my mark, double checking the angles and the distances to the plumb line slowly the spirit of the copy emerges. It is a wonderful feeling. I move closer and closer to Holbein’s hand, guiding mine. That is important to think about; the artist’s hand in the work, their decision to make certain lines thick or and some thin, curved or linear, heavy or feather light.
Those are the good moments in a copy. Then there are the moments when you look at your drawing and see where you are off, where you struggled. Then it begins again.
School starts in a couple of weeks. The unfamiliarity of the medium is slowing me down and at times pushes my hand in directions it does not mean to go. Looking at the drawing now, I have made everything a little to big, the eye is exaggerated (THAT drives me crazy) the angle of the cheek bone line is quite off and the torso line is too far over to the right – among many other things. I got too precious on the face too early and will have to significantly adjust everything.
The critique is part of the process. It sounds harsh but it is they eye pushing itself to see and to work with the hand to translate what it sees accurately.
This Holbein in charcoal is going to keep me busy and is a perfect warm up to the Bargue I will journey with for who knows how long.
I’ll post the Holbein copy along the way. I am wanting to finish it before school starts.