Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Excerpts from Walt Stanchfield’s Handouts

This is something I collected last year. After reading the pdf file of Walt Stanchfield's handouts on figure drawing, I found several parts that describe very similar ideas as those Stephen Gaffney teaches. So I copied and pasted these parts into one word file, and gave it to Stephen before I went on summer vacation. I remember that once Kat commented on how Stephen collects and brings things to class that proves him right, in a joking manner. I remembered that, because I do the same thing.

And here is a copy of the document, with newly added comments in brackets to show why I included each section.


(Reminds me of pairing)

I always advocate, and urge, and even plead for the termination of the practice of drawing one elbow without the other elbow to relate it to—or one knee without the other, or a hand or a foot or shoulder, etc. Observe people at play, at work or at rest--there is a constant relationship between the joints and appendages. They are either complementing, opposing or balancing each other. It is this relationship that creates the angles and tensions that are the tool of expressive gesture drawing.

(Below is similar to what Jim Mcmullin said, that you have to look at the subject as if he/she is your lover. Also reminds me of what Jim wrote, that, surprisingly, it is when you are most absorbed in the model, that most individuality would show up in your drawings- since its your truest perception and opinion unblocked by deliberate styles)

Here is another quote from “The Art Spirit” (I replaced the words portrait and painting with the word drawing.) “An interest in the subject; something you want to say definitely about the subject; this is the first condition of a drawing. The processes of drawing spring from this interest, this definite thing to be said. Completion does not depend on material representation. The work is done when that special thing has been said. The artist starts with an opinion (first impression), he organizes the materials (the elements I spoke of above), from which and with which he draws, to the expression of the opinion (first impression). The things have no longer their dead meaning but have become living parts of a coordination. To start with a deep impression, the best, the most interesting, the deepest you can have of the model; to preserve this vision throughout the work; to see nothing else; to admit of no digression from it.... every element in the picture will be constructive, constructive of an idea, expressive of an emotion. Every factor in the drawing will have beauty because in its place in the organization, it is doing its living part. It is only through a sense of the right relation of things that freedom can be obtained.”

(On Hirerarchy)

Earlier I mentioned body syntax. That's a phrase worth coining. The non-grammatical meaning of syntax is: "Connected system or order; orderly arrangement." What is a pose or gesture but an orderly arrangement of body parts to display a mood, demeanor, attitude, mannerism, expression, emotion—whatever. That phrase "orderly arrangement" (body syntax), is worth ruminating over. An orderly arrangement of body parts. I love it. Even the sentence places arrangement before parts.

(Where the "high-focus" lies, Why it's important to make meaningful marks, Why overly-voluptuous lines or exaggerated anatomical forms should be cautioned.)

An orchestra conductor, in a discussion on conducting Mahler's 1st symphony, said he had to be careful not to have too many climaxes in the performance. It is a relatively long symphony, 55 minutes in length, and is full of delightful passages that could be featured each in their own right. But there needs be control over such a temptation so that the overall theme of each of the three movements shall prevail. Drawing is like that. We are the conductors who are tempted also to feature the many interesting passages on the model. Some passages—a wrinkle, a belt buckle, a hair do, are sensuous to the point where we want to render them into little masterpieces of nonessential detail. Usually, a drawing has but one theme, and that theme must be featured or the drawing disintegrates into a montage of unrelated climaxes. There is a story to be told in drawing, whether it is one drawing of a model or many drawings in a scene of animation. True, in both cases there are secondary actions and costuming that must be dealt with, but the story (theme) is all important, while all else must be kept in a subordinate role. Subordinate doesn't mean unimportant. Everything on the drawing is there to help stress the story. Every line drawn should help direct the eye to the theme.

(Building the body through parts, being present while drawing)

Back to walking. When I am walking, I am (just) walking. I feel the cool breeze or the soothing warmth of the sun; I hear whatever sounds pass into my consciousness; I feel my heels strike the ground as they make contact; I enjoy the sway of my body as it negotiates for balance and forward motion; I watch the scenery go by and am aware of the three-dimensional quality unfolding around me. These factors are all happening simultaneously yet can be enjoyed separately. The same goes for every activity of your daily living. It is possible to go through life (or sometimes just big chunks of it) in a sort of dream state wherein you don't really experience the things you do. And so it is possible to make a drawing (many drawings) without being wholly conscious of what you are drawing. To apply that philosophy to drawing, you simply have to realize: when you are drawing a beak, you are drawing a beak; when you are drawing a feathered head, you are drawing a feathered head. And that goes for any of the hundreds, or will it be thousands, of separate parts you will be called upon to draw. This may seem contrary to my usual preaching about not drawing details in the gesture class. It is a matter of sequence—first the rough gesture drawing, then the detail. The line used to lay in the pose or action (acting) can be all one kind of line, as long as it is flowing, expressive, flexible, searching, and basic. The line to "finalize" the drawing must describe the shape, texture, and malleability of each part. So when drawing a bird's beak, you should aspire to make the drawing say "beak." When you get to the feathered part of the bird, you shift gears or press the, "When I am drawing feathers, I am drawing feathers" button.

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