D1 Assignememt 4: The figure and the head

Finished work


The brief of this assignment asked for 3 pieces of work.

  1. Figure study using line. A seated model in an upright chair. Paying particular note to the use of line to create 3D form, proportion and the figure in relation to the chair and whole scene.
  2. Figure study using tone. Using a strong light and a clothed figure, use tone to create a real sense of form and atmosphere.
  3. Self-portrait combining line and tone. Create a portrait where the proportions are believable. Try to find an interesting pose rather than looking straight ahead.

My aim as a triptych

Although the works are very individual and stand alone  I also wanted them to work together drawing on a common theme.

Common influences across all three works

My primary influence on all three pieces was a musical one. One tip from my tutor’s feedback from assignment 3 was to combine art with music. For these three pieces, I listened to Rag n bone Man’s album Human.

The lyrics are:

I’m only human
I’m only, I’m only
I’m only human, human
Maybe I’m foolish
Maybe I’m blind
Thinking I can see through this
And see what’s behind
Got no way to prove it
So maybe I’m blind
But I’m only human after all
I’m only human after all
Don’t put your blame on me
Don’t put your blame on me
Take a look in the mirror
And what do you see
Do you see it clearer
Or are you deceived
In what you believe
‘Cause I’m only human after all
You’re only human after all
Don’t put the blame on me
Don’t put your blame on me
Some people got the real problems
Some people out of luck
Some people think I can solve them
Lord heavens above
I’m only human after all
I’m only human after all
Don’t put the blame on me
Don’t put the blame on me
Don’t ask my opinion
Don’t ask me to lie
This gave me my theme and concept. To explore what it means to be “only human”. That fine point of equilibrium that sometimes feels like trying to balance a pencil on its end;  not heroic but stoic, under pressure but not crumbling, the impressive way some people stay just about OK.

Figure study using line


Finished work: Oil pastel on A1 dark blue paper.


For this piece, I wanted to explore capturing a sense of confidence under a situation that should make you feel vulnerable. Personally, I would find it very difficult to be a nude life model so that seemed like a great opportunity to practice life drawing and get the emotion I wanted.

I thought the confidence would come from the vibrancy and energy of the piece.


For the figure using  line, I returned to the work of Fred Hatt (Westmore 2017a). This piece was intended to be the most vibrant and confident so I wanted to imitate Hatt’s use of line to depict both form and energy. I had already played with these ideas in earlier sketches:

I also had in mind the famous Christine Keeler photo (Moreley, 1963). This shows Keeler simultaneously vulnerable under the fame and scrutiny that befell her – yet a confident and strong.

Image result for christine keeler chair

Christine Keeler 1963, Lewis Morley (Australian, born 1925), Gelatin-silver


To achieve the vibrancy I used oil pastel on a dark paper stock. I increased the intensity by limiting my palette to an analogous complementary colour scheme.

I wanted this to be a male life drawing. All my classes were of women – which itself made me want to draw a man. I used a stock photo for this.



I was pleased with the way the piece achieved the overall concept – confidence and energy whilst vulnerable. I hadn’t planned it this way but the background added an almost circus feel to it – this I think added to the concept I was trying to get across.  Think about sitting naked in the middle of the big top – eyes all around you.


Using the work of Hatt and Morley as my stylistic influence worked well. The high contrast of the Morely photograph worked well with the dark paper background. Hatt’s energetic use of line and colour also worked.

Where I struggled a bit was to keep the distinction between line and tone (see below). Hatt uses individual lines to build up tone relying on colour mixing in the eye. The brief here said to just use line. In order to do that I needed to keep the lines clean and distinct. I achieved it in places

Composition and balance

I wanted the figure to fill the plane to support the concept that this person was perfectly balanced. This was in contrast to the other two pieces, one much smaller than the frame, one much larger than. The chair worked well adding a hard dark element to the composition. It provides a physical support for the sitter and the drawing.

Techniques and media

The oil pastels on a dark paper worked really well – exactly the effect I wanted.

Having learnt from my self-portrait I outlined in charcoal rather than a hard pencil. That meant I didn’t end up with pencil lines under the drawing in the way I did with the self-portrait (see later).

proportion wise I was fairly successful. The one area I would have liked to fix (but the medium didn’t allow me to) was the sitters left arm. The shape of the upper arm is off and the forearm is too short compared to the right arm.

Colour theory

This piece is all about the colour. I wanted to get a feeling of vibrancy into the piece. In contrast to some of the more scribbly drawings of Hatt or my imitation of, I also wanted this to have a sense of calm. So the sort of energy that implies balance and solidity rather than movement and dynamism. That was added to by the linear background.

Overall I was happy with the colour work here but I did struggle to imply a full tonal range. In a way (according to the brief) I shouldn’t have been trying to imply tone; I just couldn’t stop myself! Once I stated I had to introduce some black to give the darkest areas. That dulled some parts of the image. I would have liked to use some form of chromatic black or perhaps a very dark blue.

Figure study using tone: John and Bella


Finished work


Most of my work to date has been done in my studio at home on my own. Most of my ideas are theoretical and imaginary. For this piece, I wanted to really engage with a real subject in the real world. I got that opportunity when away for the weekend in Brighton.

John and Bella (Post submission edit: Not their real names)

It was a beautiful November sunny morning after a bitterly cold night. That morning I met and chatted with a lovely man, John and his dog Bella. John and Bella spend most nights on the streets. John said it had been a really cold night and they were just warming up in the bright winter sunshine. I explained I was doing an art course and he was happy to let me base a piece on him and Bella and take a few reference photos.

Without wanted to romanticise or underplay the difficulties of living on the streets I wanted to capture that spirit that says – even with the harshest of lifestyles sometimes, for a brief moment things can be OK. Sitting in the warm sun with his best friend at his feet John looked content. If anything the weight of the world looked like it was on Bella’s withers. In that moment she was worrying enough for both of them.

John and Bella (Post submission edit: Not their real names) we sitting in the doorway of a church – I loved the way that framed them and it was the shadow it cast that was contrasting so powerfully with the bright sunshine they were sitting in.

This was particularly helpful as some feedback from my last assignment from my tutor was:

“experiment with composition. Also don’t just focus on the central image ‘forgetting’ to consider the space around the ‘object’ / ‘subject’, the foreground and background.”

I was keen to do that and this gave me a great scene to do it with.

So with that chance encounter, I had my third and final piece. I know I’m taking a bit of a risk – it’s not the classic reclining figure the course book brief was asking for but it just fitted so well I had to draw John and Bella.


The beauty of this piece aesthetically (as opposed to the inner beauty fo John and Bella and their bond) was in the light of the bright sun in contrast with the cool shadows. That reminded me of some of the impressionist use of light I had seen before, but more recently in Washington (Westmore, 2017b).


I was also influenced by the doorways of Matt Forster (Forster 2017). Forster’s use of light and shadow giving the effect I was looking for – to depicts a bright sunshine day.

M. J. Forster, Doorway in White and Blue, 2017


I did a few preparatory sketches to get the composition and some key features right.

The doorway John and Bella were sitting in was quite plain and so I swapped that for a much more ornate door I had seen at another church in Brighton.

To capture the right quality colour and light I used pastel on a mid-tone paper.



I was very happy with the story the work implies. I think it clearly depicts a scene of a man and his dog, lining on the streets taking some well-earned rest, warming up in the sunshine.  The doorway simultaneously providing shelter and an imposing reminder on John of the power of the institution, the fact that it is normally nicer on the other side. Today though things we Ok with the sunshine. I had swapped the plain doorway John and Bella had been sitting in for an ornate one to enhance this.

I love the look in Bella’s eyes – clearly taking the strain for both of them.


I kept the drawing loose and bit scruffy – fitting of the scene.

Composition and balance

The doorway worked really well. It frames the scene well, on one hand, looking quite imposing on the other like it is protecting them.

The only downside was that it made John and Bella a small element of the image. As a standalone piece that would have been fine – in fact, been exactly the right effect but I was mindful of the brief. This is supposed to be about figure drawing, not doors! I shortened the door as much as I dared compared to the real door – much more would have made John look out of proportion.


Because I wanted the doorway to frame the scene and to make sure John and Bella were as big as possible I went for a portrait orientation.

Techniques and media

I was pleased with the work on John and Bella (although Bella’s head does look a little too rounded).

I struggled with the pillars of the doorway. They were confusing even in reality as they stuck out of the wall in the way the pillar on the right of the image does but not so much on the left. If I had my time again I would either have simplified the scene and made them flush with the wall – or really concentrated on this area. I think I fell into the trap of drawing what I thought I saw rather than what I actually saw.

The final part I would fix is Bella’s bed – it looks like she is sitting on top of it rather than snuggly in it.

Colour theory

On the whole, I was fairly happy with the colour work.

I liked the complementary scheme of yellow and blue with just a flash of red for Bella’s lead. This was meant to project them forwards and enhance the 3D effect.

I don’t think I quite nailed the bright sunshine look but I got close. I think I should have darkened and cooled the shadows more and then I could have used more yellow in the high lights.

Self portrait


Finished work


For this, I wanted to get a feel for someone under a lot of psychological stress and pressure but coping. Someone who is only human after all.


I was really thinking about my tutor’s advice to look into graphic novel artists. The way they achieve a sense of narrative from a single image using dynamic poses and high contrast imagery.

I was also drawn to Picasso’s blue period – the sense of meloncholy that colur pattete gives to

Image result for picasso blue periodThe Old Guitarist, 1903 by Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso,  The Blindman’s Meal (1903, the Metropolitan Museum of Art), and Pablo PicassoThe Old Guitarist, 1903, Art Institute of Chicago


Finally, I was influenced by Rubens’ Old Women and Boy with Candles. I was lucky enough to see in person at the Mauritshuis in the Hague.


Peter Paul Rubens, Old Woman and Boy with Candles, c. 1616 – 1617

The use of light to accentuate the wrinkles and folds of the old lady was something I wanted to incorporate.


I actually did this piece first as I was excited by the drama of the pose in my earlier exercises. IMG_0254


To get the high contrast image I had in mind as well a to draw on the influence of Picasso’s blue period I used charcoal on mid-dark blue paper. I wanted a striking piece and so I did this on A1.



I was pleased with the effect of the final image in conveying the concept of someone under psychological pressure. Someone all consumed with their thoughts. But someone that is coping, someone in control despite the extreme pressure.

A major element to achieving this was the eyes. I re-worked these a few times with some interesting effects.

Originally the eyes looked directly at the viewer. This looked angry and aggressive – very striking but not what I wanted so I had they looking down.

IMG_0246 (1)

This looked more pensive but the shape of the face around the eyeball wasn’t right now. given the foreshortening, the eyes were just too open.

img_0253.jpgI finished with a halfway version. the eyes looking up but not directly at the viewer.



I loved the dramatic high contrast style of this. The almost caricatured features accentuated by the harsh lighting like Rubens’ old lady.

Composition and balance

I wanted this piece give the feeling of all-encompassing intensity. The composition does this. The fact that I fill the whole image, dramatic eyes in the centre and framed by my hoodie.

Techniques and media

I was very pleased with the high contrast and dramatic effect of charcoal on blue paper. I loved using buttery willow charcoal; thin sticks for line work, fat sticks for the tonal. I used varied marks, even within the large areas of plane tone – you can see the texture in them in the final work.

I had drawn this in pencil first. That allowed me to get the proportions quite precise before moving to the harder to control charcoal. The problem was that that the pencil lines showed through the overlying picture. This was partly because I had used too hard a pencil and so it had left an impression in the soft paper and partly because it acted like a resist to the charcoal. The lines were particularly conspicuous when the paper was lit from the side. Not a disaster but one to remember for the future.

Colour theory

The blue ground really worked well. It gave the melancholic feel I wanted. It was a great tone as well – allowing for both the dark shadows and white highlights to show well.


Mjforster.com. (2017). M J Forster – 21st Century Watercolour. [online] Available at: http://mjforster.com/ [Accessed 27 Sep. 2017].

Morely, L. (1963). Christine Keeler Photograph: A Modern Icon – Victoria and Albert Museum. [online] Vam.ac.uk. Available at: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/c/christine-keeler-photograph-a-modern-icon/ [Accessed 10 Dec. 2017].

Westmore, M. (2017a). Research: Fred Hatt. [online] Matt Westmore (@westmore_art). Available at: https://westmoreart.com/2017/12/08/research-fred-hatt/ [Accessed 10 Dec. 2017].

Westmore, M. (2017b). D1 A4 Gallery visit: National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.. [online] Matt Westmore (@westmore_art). Available at: https://westmoreart.com/2017/11/09/d1-a4-gallery-visit-national-gallery-of-art-washington-d-c/ [Accessed 9 Dec. 2017].

Mauritshuis. (2017). Peter Paul Rubens, Old Woman and Boy with Candles, c. 1616 – 1617. [online] Available at: https://www.mauritshuis.nl/en/explore/the-collection/artworks/old-woman-and-boy-with-candles-1150/ [Accessed 2 Sep. 2017].


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