The upper portion is the least resolved so far, but the whole drawing is to be developed further by a kind of push/pull method of adding and subtracting layers of charcoal, followed by highlights in white conte chalk.
Rob started the class with a beautiful demonstration inspired by the techniques of a 19th century French academic artist named Pierre Paul Prud'hon. I had not heard much about this artist, but enjoyed seeing the exquisite reproductions that Rob shared by way of this book.
Rob made particular note of the way in which Prud'hon defined form, and his unique method of shading and highlighting. As this article by artist Rebecca Alzofon explains very well, Prud'hon had a unique method of shading--in part by creating hatch lines that followed the direction of the form, then stumping and hatching again in a similar manner with highlighting chalks. So in our class, our challenge (should we choose to accept it) is to experiment with working in a similar manner from our model. From my understanding we will work on the same pose for another two or 3 sessions.
In Rob's demonstration he used a Canson gray tinted paper (at about a value #4) which worked well, as it created a light-mid value to contrast with highlighting with white Conte. I again found myself without the proper materials to perform the task. I must have gotten an incomplete or outdated supplies list or something, but all I had was an off-white Rives BFK paper, with which I just made-do by shading with vine charcoal to give me somewhat of a "tone". I'm not sure at this point how far I can continue developing the current drawing or if it will produce the desired effect. At some point I may just start again with the proper paper, but I'd like to at least take this a little further to see what more I can do.
It has occurred to me that this method of very refined drawing is somewhat more polished than what I'm normally drawn to. Even in the Prud'hon reproductions in the book, I found myself lingering in the passagesof his drawings that were less "finished" and showed more gesture, more of the decision making process, and more of the hand of the artist.
In my own drawing, I notice myself secretly wanting to stop before I lose too much of the gesture. This is probably because in my landscape painting I've set a goal for myself to find ways of stating things more simply...to say "more with less", so to speak and to do it a bit more loosely. At the same time, the whole reason I signed up for this class is to experiment and maybe even learn something new in the process! You can't do that if you are too beholden to your own agenda.
I've been reading a great little book right now by George Leonard called Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment. Leonard is an aikido master so a lot of his analogies in the book are drawn from the martial arts and Zen philosophy. According to the author, one of the keys of mastery is entitled "Surrender":
"The courage of a master is measured by his or her willingness to surrender. This means surrendering to your teacher and to the demands of your discipline. It also means surrendering your own hard-won proficiency from time to time in order to reach a higher or different level of proficiency."
Hmmm. I suspect it probably also means surrendering your own agenda from time to time as well.