It all begins with the basics. Draftsmanship. It’s ALL about the drawing in the early stages. This is where you work out problems in symmetry, proportion, and perspective. It’s where you decide areas of light and shadow. It’s where you get to know your subject . . .let it in . . .so it can be expressed. The drawing is where you create the underlying structure for the painting. It’s where you define your space. Structure and space are fundamental. The drawing is where I decide line thickness to show weight and volume. The drawing presented to you above was extremely difficult. It is a study of an angel which lives in the Hermitage Museum, in St. Petersburg, Russia. I tried to reduce everything to line, while showing you the volume and mass. The lines have an energy which leads your eyes along their lengths. Until then it remains an exercise in line . . .and light.
My favorite draftsmen are Michelangelo, William Bouguereau and Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres. If you look at their drawings, the first thing you’ll notice is the quality of their lines. They are at once expressive, beautiful, subtle yet bold, forceful and inviting . . .so few lines, so much life.
Michelangelo’s drawings are instantly identifiable. At first glance they appear quickly done. But upon further study, you will notice a sublime beauty that reveals itself like a flower, opening layer after layer . . .telling secrets. Each drawing is just a few lines, weight here, volume there . . .the thoughts inside. Michelangelo’s drawings are studies in the psychology of his subjects, their souls, as much as they are about their image.
William Bouguereau had the rare ability to work from memory as well as he could work from life. He believed in absolute perfection of the finished image, and thus would create numerous drawings, mastering the history of his subjects. He made a deliberate, careful study of form and technique, and saturated himself in knowledge of classical sculpture.
Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres was a master of line. In his time, he created an unrivalled and highly detailed record of the female image, primarily through portraiture. Ingres could, using nothing but line, make you experience the sensation of touching the fabric on his subjects. He was obsessed with perfection and mastery of form. He was an idealist in pursuit of “high art”, combining the purity of draftsmanship with a love of classical historic painting.