Artistic Anatomy- Book for Art Students and Illustrators
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Art and Anatomy
ARTISTIC Anatomy, so-called, like perspective, when ill-digested, often leads a student astray. Many drawings from the figure are mere anatomical diagrams, looking as if the model had been flayed. Fresh from their books of diagrams students search the figure for anatomical details. They even ask the model to tighten the knee or the armpit, so that they may mark more definitely the forms of those regions. This does not mean that anatomy should not be studied, but that it should be used as a key to the construction of the figure, rather than displayed for its own sake, Moody, in his "Lectures and Lessons on Art," a book now out of print, but one well worth the careful study of the art student, says :
"Intellectual work is the hardest work of all. . . . Just consider, for instance, the result of avoiding the effort necessary to master the position and details of the ankle. The want of that knowledge will probably plague you at least twice a week : it will delay your work, you will get into trouble every time you draw the figure, making altogether a sum total of annoyance, satisfactory work and feelings a hundred times greater than the expenditure of time and thought which would have been necessary to surmount the difficulty at first."
First in importance is a clear knowledge of the bony framework and its articulations. It settles the movement and the proportions, and at the joints where the bone crops up and shows almost its actual build, it indicates the important accents of form by a squareness and clear cut shape, which must be appreciated if the drawing is to avoid wooliness. On the other hand the muscular masses fill up the gaps and suggest the first great lines of the pose.
All the parts of the skeleton which determine the surface forms should be carefully studied, and especially the shoulders and hips. The former may be described as a floating girdle, for they are attached only by the collar bones (to .the notches in the breastbone), the remainder being free except for muscular and tendinous attachments. Hence the comparative freedom of action, while the complexity of structure, the combination of clavicle, humerus and scapula, add to the difficulty of expressing the forms. The hips, on the other hand, form a fixed girdle, firmly attached to the backbone. The two halves of the shoulder girdle can move independently, but the hip girdle moves only as a whole, like a basket tilted. When in a standing pose the hips are aslant, this means that the model is resting the weight on the leg to the side where the hip basket is higher, and therefore a vertical line `drawn, say, through the pit of the neck, will pass through the ankle of that leg, which slants inwards in order to support the weight. The other leg, which carries little or no weight, droops with the lower side of the hips, hence the knee of that leg is lower than that of the supporting leg. And by way of compensation the head and shoulders often slant in the opposite direction, forming a series of radiating lines which cross the long lines of the pose at right angles, and steady it. (FIG. 26).
The main articulations may be reduced to their simplest terms by a diagram such as is shown in FIG. 16A, similar to FIG. 26. Something like this construction must form the commencement of every drawing of the figure which has any claim to movement and structure. All the articulations including the shoulders are represented by cross lines. It is for want of the study of these crossings or articulations that the drawings of beginners look boneless and yet wooden, for they appear to have no ankles, and wrists, to say nothing of hips. It should be noted especially, and the skeleton largely supplies the reason, that these crossings of the
extremities are oblique. This is seen clearly in the elbow and ankle. In the latter the obliquity
is caused by the fact that the inner ankle is higher than the outer, a matter of the bony construction. In the elbow the slant comes from the origin of the supinators being higher than those of the flexors.
FIG. 26 shows these slanting crossings at an early stage in the drawing. The point to be borne in mind is that anatomical construction corroborates right procedure in drawing the figure.
In poses with some degree of torsion as in FIG. 27, these cross lines, all marking the bony or muscular structure, radiate from a point at no great distance from the figure. The greater the movement the closer in is the point of radiation. The matter has an interest for students as showing a structural basis for the composition of line which sometimes mystifies them. They are apt to think that these rhythmical lines, whether in the direction of or across the figure, are imagined by the teacher, and a real service is rendered by showing them. cause and effect.
The old fashion of learning the muscles singly and detached is answerable for much of the wrongly applied anatomical drawing mentioned above. Usually they are seen in groups, and should be studied as such.
Too often the only glimpse students have of the nude figure in action is when the model walks to and from the throne. A regular exercise should consist in the model moving freely at will, the students marking the changes of form which take place.
This is not a book on artistic anatomy, for which students should study the regular manuals.
An anatomical detail often misinterpreted is the function of the neck muscle (sternocleido mastoid) in turning the head. When the neck muscle on the right contracts, the skull rotates, the mastoid process of the skull being brought forward, and it follows that the head is turned to the left.- It is often supposed that the contraction of a sternocleido turns the head to that side, but observation of what takes place will correct the error.
Fig. 28--A drawing with black and white chalk on grey' Michallet paper.
The reticent use of the white chalk should be noted.
Fig. 29 -- A drawing on blue paper with black and white chalk by J. M. Swan. The simplicity of the work should be noted and the way the white chalk is used to divide the figure into a few planes. Large areas are untouched. [British Museum].
DRAWINGS ON TONED PAPER.
TONED paper with black and white chalk is often used by painters, when making studies, for carefully chosen, it provides a ready-made middle or half tone, and hence saves time and labour. Especially is it suitable for drapery studies, and Lord Leighton's drawings in this medium are well known.
Students of painting should use this method sometimes when drawing, for it fosters modelling "in the light." With pencil or black chalk on white, as the tone of the object approaches the tone of the paper, so work has perforce to cease. That is to say, on white paper most of the modelling is done on the dark side, and the tendency is to leave the lighter tones more or less empty. Work on toned paper is concerned as much with the light passages as with the dark, and hence follows more closely the method of painting.
One common error may be noted here. It is that of first making a completed drawing in black on the toned paper, (and owing to its completeness the eye has subconsciously disregarded the tone of the paper and assumed it to be white), afterwards using the white chalk freely for the lights, with the result that all the tones are falsified.
When drawing on toned paper the figure should be examined in order to determine which areas may be assumed to be equivalent in tone to that of the paper. The black chalk may be used first to place the figure, to indicate the chief darks, and to suggest the main structure, then the white chalk should be substituted in order to place the lights. Generally the white chalk should not touch the black (except for cases of special emphasis), a space of plain paper being left between the two, representing the tone chosen as standing for the tone of paper.
Often when working on toned paper the student darkens unduly the parts approaching half tone, only finding at the close of the exercise that the tone of the paper would have sufficed. The untouched paper is the best part of the drawing if it is in the right place and corresponds with the tones of the model. (FIG. 29).
In drawing from draped figures evidence should be sought of the form beneath. Beginners draw the drapery only, as if on a clothes horse. They sometimes stop short at a sleeve, having omitted the continuity of arm and hand. Even in a fully clothed figure much of the form is suggested by the planes and by the pull of the drapery from the points of support, this often resulting in a beautiful series of radiating curves. It should be remembered that the deep parts of the folds represent the figure, for there the stuff rests upon it, and these shapes should be carefully searched out. (FIG. 28). A good deal of interesting matter concerning drapery will be found in Leonardo da Vinci's "Notes," and in Moody's "Lectures on Art," while the subject is dealt with in Lanteri's "Modelling," Vol. II.
EARLY AND MODERN REPRESENTATION OF FORM.
IF an early painting be examined, even one so late as Botticelli's Venus, certain mannerisms are noticed which are of great interest to the student of form.
The painter has evidently not worked directly from the model. The treatment is "sympathetic" rather than the result of observation. He has perhaps drawn on his reminiscences of classic sculpture, or even from contemporary engravings of the nude.
Judged by modern standards, there is a lack of construction in the figure generally, and especially is this seen in the feet, which, like those in contemporary work, never seem to stand firmly on the ground, perhaps because extreme foreshortening forbids the clear representation of all the toes, which were invariably shown. All this in no way detracts from Botticelli's beauty of line and suavity of form. He might be said to claim kinship with the Chinese and Japanese masters, so easy and fluent are his contours.
Italian Art of the Trecento and Quattrocento periods exhibit generally lightly shaded forms. The expression is empirical rather than that of personal observation, a convention derived from wall painting.
Leonardo da Vinci changed all that and formulated the rules governing the expression of form by light and shade. In his work are seen the "lines of shade" and their soft or smoky (sfumato) appearance. He was the first notable academic, and on his work the teaching of light and shade, as now taught in schools of art, was founded.
Since Leonardo the study of drawing has depended, upon "appearance." The photograph, essentially light and shade as it is, and simulating the endless gradations of natural lighting, has tightened the chain of tradition. Consequently students are told to be truthful, honest, to draw what they see, to copy nature-- impossible task and misleading advice. Moral issues are needlessly dragged in. The main thing is for students to be artists. But if the test of appearance be conceded, if the object with its environment is to be represented, what are the limits of the convention which is called drawing ?
First it is clear that it is quite impossible to show on a plane surface all the gradations of light occurring on a curved surface. In attempting to do so the student merely deceives himself, loses his way, and consequently all profit from his study of drawing in line and tone.
The great realistic painters, such as the Dutch and the Spaniards, chose a few tones. They painted in the general tone, and into this they brushed the dark and the light tones. On the latter they placed the high light, and in the dark the reflected light. Their practice shows that these few tones are the essential ones.
Drawings made with the stump are specially open to the objection that by continuous working, students delude themselves with the idea that they are making a complete expression of the tones of the subject, whereas the fictitious relief, apparently destroying the plane surface of the paper, is a vulgar and meretricious quality, crushing the student's powers of artistic appreciation.
Students should understand that all drawing is a convention, and that it is impossible fully to realise any object, except by means of a trick, (the history of Art is full of instances, from the grapes of Appelles onwards), and should be urged not to copy the object, but to express those essentials of form which they can discern. In a sense the more they try to make their drawings like, the more they cloud and confuse their artistic intelligence. Every drawing done should be an artistic effort, and made with artistic intention, for drawing cannot be divorced from art.
This disposes at once of the old-fashioned practice of outline drawing. Outline or contour drawing, such as the outlines of ornament (with sections) drawn by an architect for a carver to follow, is a convention used professionally, but as study, pursued for long periods, it is destructive of interest in the appearance of things.
Nothing written above is intended to relieve the student from the responsibility of taking his drawing as far as possible. We have only to look at the great masters, at the early work, say, of Velasquez, Rembrandt, Franz Hals, and at the drawings of Holbein, to see what an amount of eyesight they putt into their work, what an incredible amount of pains they took with mere details of dress, etc. Velasquez spent himself in studying the effect of light on homely pots and pans, to a degree which hardly any modern student has felt necessary. A friend of the writer once reported a conversation with a great living sculptor and decorator who, speaking of the modern pseudo-decorative effect obtained by the slurring of detail, declared that he would exhibit the very pores of the skin on his figures if it could be done. He meant that the most realistic mode of expression is possible in the hands of a true artist, and not only not incompatible with but enhancing the 'decorative effect he may wish to secure.
DRAWING FROM MEMORY.
MANY professional artists from necessity have had to train themselves in drawing from memory long after their student days were over. The translation of the writings of Lecocq de Boisbaudran has had some share in the interest now taken by schools of art in the subject. Lecocq especially emphasized the necessity for the visual retention of a definite form, and drawing being taught in those days from flat copies, he naturally used them, thus obtaining the clear precise statement of fact which he desired. His first exercise was the outline of a nose, and from this his teaching extended over the whole field of representative and imaginative art.
Memory drawing as practised at present often takes lines quite other than those of Lecocq, sometimes missing his basis of definite form. Pupils are sometimes shown an object of intricate construction for a few moments, and are then expected to reproduce it from memory. They may have looked at it superficially, but they have not really examined it and made themselves thoroughly acquainted with its proportions and structure. Consequently after their memory vision has become dim, they elaborate their so-called drawing from memory, with imaginary details. They must know the object intimately before they can draw it from memory; its construction, and especially its proportions, should be ascertained; it should be scrutinized from various points of view, and, if need be, handled.
A class of students drawing from memory gives the art teacher some puzzling moments. The slackest art student is often found to be far ahead of his fellows in the power of visualizing, and reproduces seemingly without effort, while students with more developed sense of form may find the memory exercise very difficult.
Galton, in his "Inquiries into Human Faculty," tells how in a "series of queries related to the illumination, definition and colouring of the mental image" addressed to "Ioo men, at least half of whom were distinguished in science or in other fields of intellectual work," he asked them to visualize "the breakfast table." The answers showed that while some saw the scene perfectly clearly, in full light and colour, with the objects so sharply defined that they could, as they said, have drawn them had they the power, others experienced gaps in their memory, a dimness of illumination, an indistinctness of form, while a number would not admit that they had any power at all of vizualizing.
Whether the power of drawing from memory be a "gift" or not, there is no doubt that the best results are obtained when memory work is regarded not as merely part of the study of drawing, but as a system in itself, such as, for instance, that practised by the Japanese.
(FIGS. 30, 30A).
The late Joseph Crawhall was an example of a training in art exclusively through memory work. His early studies were directed by his father, who taught him to observe, and then make records from memory. India- rubber was not allowed, and attempts, one after another, were thrown aside until the desired impression was secured. All through life this habit of seeking after a completely artistic expression of his visual memory, persisted, and his friends have told their sorrow at seeing him destroy beautiful drawings, which, however, lacked some quality he sought. His desire to express himself was spontaneous, and overwhelming when it manifested itself, and often at the most inconvenient times. Another interesting feature was the sudden emergence of impressions which had lain dormant for a long period. One of his latest drawings, the subject of which was an episode from the Spanish bull-ring, was made fifteen years after he had actually witnessed such a scene. (FIG. 3 i).
His choice of subjects, animals and birds, and of his medium of expression, watercolour on linen, show him to have been much influenced by the Japanese. It is significant that at his death his studio was empty save for two partly finished drawings. There were no records of study, no bundles of notes, and no stacks of 'drawings, for as mentioned above, he destroyed all imperfect work. His drawings are hard to see, no public galleries having acquired any, but a good many reproductions of his work can be seen scattered among the volumes of the "Studio."
But while Crawhall may have been a case of a special gift, it is evident that all art students can profit by a training in memory, and gain from it certain important benefits.
Whistler is an instance of an artist who trained himself to draw from memory, and Menpes' account of the way he studied his nocturnes on the spot with a friend, turned his back on the scene, and described the effect ; kept it before his consciousness during the evening, and painted the picture the following morning, makes very interesting reading. We may almost consider him a pupil of Lecocq, some of whose students he knew.
Millet is another example of a painter, who lounged about Barbizon, apparently the laziest man there, but all the time absorbing the form and spirit of the peasant life around him. Afterwards in his studies he "squeezed the sponge" and produced those paintings, of which the simplicity of the composition, the largeness of the forms and the unity of the whole, make it certain that they were not produced out of doors under an umbrella, and amid the distractions of details and variety, which invariably occur when one is painting from nature.
When one looks at the drawings and paintings of the Chinese and Japanese--all memory work--one is amazed at the intimate character of the expression of form. The familiarity with the structure extends to the minutest detail. Early exercises in memory drawing should take note of this quality and insist on the exercises being of objects with which the students are familiar, or which they can examine closely. The procedure of examination might follow some such steps as these :--(i) general proportions ; (2) type form, as cube or cylinder, on which the object is based ; (3) main line of enclosing shape; (4) construction in detail of the object.
Quite another type of exercise consists in asking the students to visualize a familiar object, which, however, is not produced at the time. An interesting exercise is one which Mr. Catterson Smith has initiated, consisting of drawing with the eyes closed. The exercise allows the following of the mental image by the hand without the embarrassment of seeing how far short the drawing comes. Certainly this method gives good results in composition, the movement being generally animated and rhythmical.
In drawing the figure from memory, it will be well to take into account its powers of movement. Most really interesting pictorial material is evanescent, moving, shifting. The clouds chase one another across the sky, birds fly, animals walk, trot or gallop, water flows, breaks into foam, or marshals in waves, people meet and separate, all the time constantly moving. If drawing is attempted in presence of this living cinematographic picture, too often one finds one's sketchbook full of shreds and patches. One is lucky to secure a line suggesting the movement without the detail.
A training in memory drawing of the right sort is wanted, and it should consist in approximating the conditions to those of the world outside the studio.
The life model is posing, say for time sketching. Every period of such work should include at least one memory exercise, and it is well to consider what will be most suitable. All art students will remember attacking a pose which captivated them, but which the model was unable to keep. It is these poses full of action which are required for the memory exercise. The model should be required to take up a vigorous attitude, such as throwing, running or thrusting, where the limbs and torse are extended to furnish a fine general line, a pose which, as a rule, is the despair of the life room, but in this case to be kept for a few seconds only. The student meanwhile watches the figure, searching the pose for the long line which shall establish the proportions and movement of the drawing. (FIG. 32).
The model then rests, while the students seek to express their first generalization. The pose may need to be resumed several times before a firm foundation for the drawing is obtained. During repetitions of the action the students examine the construction, and especially the placing of the feet if the model is standing. Even the light and shade, so far as it explains the structure, may be memorized. The exercise has the further advantage of forcing the students to draw on right constructive lines. This method also secures good proportion, for working on the right principle,. from big to little, the proportions are seized from the commencement, and are often better from this point of view than those of drawings made with the model sitting continuously.
Another advantage is that the student sees what is too rarely found in the life room, the model in strong action. When a model is put up for a long period, the pose necessarily degenerates, because other muscles are brought into play. An experienced sitter is often an adept at making slight compensating alterations in the pose. With a view to assisting the model, aids such as a wedge placed under the heel when off the ground, are often used, or a hand in the act of pushing is supported, both cases a complete contradiction of the original idea. Students, seeing these devices used, become imbued with the notion that the model posed is a fixed object, and feel aggrieved if they detect the slightest deviation.
FIG. 30 -- These drawings from Japanese copybooks are intended for tracing from until the pupil is line perfect. Not only are they beautiful examples of brush drawing but the objects are associated in a symbolic way, the motives in Chinese and Japanese art having to serve a double purpose. But these trammels seem to stimulate the artist to more original and beautiful compositions.
Fig 30a -- The Japanese masters have left behind precise and direct drawings of every natural or fashioned object existing in their country. It is easy to see what an asset this is to a system of memory drawing. The west is without such a legacy.
FIG. 31 - A memory drawing by J. Crawhall in watercolour on brown holland.
FIG. 31A --Drawing with charcoal on Michallet paper. The sensitiveness of the contour should be noted.