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The Complete Bridgman Part 1
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HOW TO DRAW THE FIGURE
Before you make a line you must have a clear conception of what you want to draw. In your mind it is necessary to have an idea of what the figure to be drawn is doing. Study the model from different angles. Sense the nature and condition of the action, or inaction. This conception is the real beginning of your drawing.
These few simple lines place the figure. They give its general proportions, indicating its active and inactive sides, its balance, unity and rhythm.
Bear in mind that the head, chest and pelvis are the three large masses of the body. They are in themselves immovable. Think of them as blocks having four sides, and as such they may be symmetrically placed and balanced, one directly above the other. In this case, the figure would have no movement. But when these masses bend backward, forward, turn or twist, the shifting of them gives action to the figure.
Whatever positions these three masses may assume, no matter how violently they may be drawn together on one side, there is a corresponding gentleness of line on the opposing, inert side and a subtle, illusive, living harmony flowing through the whole, which is the rhythm of the figure.
PROPORTIONS OF THE HUMAN FIGURE
All measurements of the human figure are divisions of the body into parts of given measurements. There are many conceptions of measuring, scientific and ideal, and they all differ.
If given proportions were used, even though these proportions were the ideal average, they would result in a drawing without character. Again, to apply these so-called canons of art, the figure must be on the eye-level, upright and rigid. The least bending of the head or body would change the given proportions visually, though not actually.
From an anatomical point of view, taking the skull as a unit, horizontally, the bone of the upper arm, the humerus, is about one and one-half heads in length. The bone on the thumb side of the forearm, the radius, is about one head in length. The forearm bone, the ulna, or the little finger side, measures about one foot from elbow to wrist. The thigh bone, or femur, measures about two heads, and the leg bone, or tibia, nearly one and one-half heads.
The illustrations show three different methods of measurement; one by Dr. Paul Richer, one by Dr. William Rimmer and one by Michelangelo.
You have to measure, first of all, with your eye; and by studying the model judge the comparative measurements of its several masses. Then measure mechanically. When measuring mechanically, hold your charcoal or pencil between the thumb and fingers and use the first finger and the tip of your charcoal to mark the extremities of the measurement you are taking. Your arm should be extended to its full length and your head so tilted that your eye is as near as possible to the shoulder of the arm you are using in measuring. From the model, the space registered from the first finger to the end of your charcoal or pencil may be one inch; but on your drawing this measurement may possibly be two or more inches. In other words, all your measurements are comparative and if the head spaces seven times into the length of the figure and registers, say, one inch on your charcoal or pencil, obviously the height of seven heads should be marked off on your drawing regardless of the size of your drawing, which size you had, in a general way, predetermined and may be anywhere from miniature to mural.
The arm has its axis at its connection with the shoulder blade. The eye, being above the arm and more forward, has an entirely different axis and radius; arms and necks vary in length. Also, in measuring, as in target practice, it is natural for some to close the left eye, others the right, and still others to keep both eyes open. So, with these varying conditions it is difficult to set down any fixed rules for the technique of measuring, your own physique and tendency to use one or both eyes are such important factors. In any case, however, you must keep your eye as close as possible to the shoulder, your arm extended and stiff.
On a figure, there are no marks that may be used in proving your measurements correct. Again, the model may be far above the level of the eye, causing violent perspective. Only at the eye level can the pencil be held perpendicularly. Above or below the eye level, the pencil or charcoal must take some studied and given angle, and to determine this angle accurately requires some practice. To find this angle, take a panelled wall or a vertical pole and upon it mark off six or seven spaces a foot or so apart. Then seat yourself several feet away and at arm’s length, with eye close to shoulder, incline charcoal or pencil to register correctly each of the spaces you have marked off. As in revolver practice, you will become extremely accurate in judging the angle at which the charcoal should be held at different distances. This same method of angles may then be applied to measuring the figure.
WEDGING, PASSING AND LOCKING
The upper and lower limbs are held in place on the cage and pelvis by mortise and tenon, called ball-and-socket joint and at elbow and knee by the ginglymus or hinge joint. The surrounding muscles, by their position, shape and size are capable of moving these joints in any manner that the construction of the joints permits.
As movement occurs, and the body instinctively assumes a position suited to the taking of some action, the muscles, by contraction, produce the twisting and bending of the masses. In so doing the muscles themselves expand, shorten and bulge, making smaller wedges or varied forms connecting the larger and more solid masses. This shortening and bulging of the muscles becomes an assemblage of parts that pass into, over and around one another, folding in and spreading out. It is these parts passing into or over each other that gives the sense of wedging or interlocking. This might be compared to the folds in drapery: where the folds change, their outline changes.
A form either passes around or enters into the outline of the visible boundary of a figure. It should be an indication of what it really is: the outline of a form. Within this outline, for the same reason, forms pass into and over other forms. They wedge, mortise and interlock.
The outline of a figure may be so drawn that it gives no sense of the manifold smaller forms of which it is composed. Again, the outline of’a figure may be so drawn that the sense of the figure’s depth, of the wedging, interlocking and passing of smaller forms within the larger masses conveys to the mind an impression of volume and solidity.
When several objects are balanced at different angles, one above the other, they have a common center of gravity. In a drawing there must be a sense of security, of balance between the opposite or counteracting forces, regardless of where the center line may fall. This is true no matter what the posture may be. A standing figure whether thrown backward or forward, or to one side or the other, is stationary or static. The center of gravity, from the pit of the neck, passes through the supporting foot or feet, or between the feet when they are supporting the weight equally.
In a way, the pendulum of a clock when hanging straight, or perpendicular, represents a standing figure without movement. It is static, stopped. So is the clock. But start the pendulum swinging. It describes an arc, moving back and forth, but always about a fixed center of gravity. The position of the pendulum when at one or the other extreme of its swing or arc, from its center of gravity, represents the extent to which a figure may be thrown out of balance. And this position would also represent the greatest rapidity of motion in the drawing of a figure in action. Yet even in the most extreme motion there must be a sense of security, a feeling that the figure, like the pendulum, could come back to a fixed center of gravity. This feeling or sense of balance which must be recorded in the flow or sweep of a drawing is continuity and rhythm.
The consciousness or idea of rhythm can not be traced to any period, or to any artist or group of artists. We know that in 1349 a group of Florentine artists formed a society for the study of the chemistry of colors, the mathematics of composition, etc., and that among these studies was the science of motion. But rhythm was not invented. It has been the measured motion of the Universe since the begining of time. There is rhythm in the movement of the sea and tides, stars and planets, trees and grasses, clouds and thistledown. It is a part of all animal and plant life. It is the movement of uttered words, expressed in their accented and unaccented syllables, and in the grouping and pauses of speech. Both poetry and music are the embodiment, in appropriate rhythmical sound, of beautiful thought, imagination or emotion. Without rhythm there could be no poetry or music. In drawing and painting there is rhythm in outline, color, light and shade.
The continuous slow-motion picture has given us a new appreciation of rhythm in all visible movement. In pictures of pole vault or steeplechase we actually may follow with the eye the movement of every muscle and note its harmonious relation to the entire action of the man or horse.
So to express rhythm in drawing a figure we have in the balance of masses a subordination of the passive or inactive side to the more forceful and angular side in action, keeping constantly in mind the hidden, subtle flow of symmetry throughout.
TURNING OR TWISTING
In a human figure there are the masses of head, chest and pelvis. Each of these has a certain height, breadth and thickness. Considered as blocks, these masses balance, tilt and twist, held together in their different movements by the spinal column. As they twist and turn, the spaces between them become long, short or spiral.
We might liken these movements and the spaces between the masses or blocks, to an accordion when it is being played. Here we have an angular, virile, active side, the result of forcing the ends or forms towards each other and by this action compressing and bringing together on the active side, the pleats of the accordion; the opposite or inflated side describing gentle, inert curves.
The blocks or masses of the body are levers, moved by muscles, tendons and ligaments. The muscles are paired, one pulling against the other. Like two men using a cross-cut saw, the pulling muscle is swollen and taut, its companion is flabby and inert. When two or more forms such as the chest and the pelvis are drawn violently together, with cords and muscles tense on the active side, the inert, passive mass opposite must follow. There is always to be considered this affinity of angular and curved, objective and subjective, active and passive muscles. Their association is inevitable in every living thing. Between them, in the twistings and bendings of the body there is a harmony of movement, a subtle continuity of form, ever changing and elusive, that is the very essence of motion.
LIGHT AND SHADE
Shade with the idea that light and shade are to aid the outline you have drawn in giving the impression of solidity, breadth and depth. Keep before you the conception of a solid body of four sides composed of a few great masses, and avoid all elaborate and unnecessary tones which take away from the thought that the masses or planes on the sides must appear to be on the sides while those on the front must appear to be on the front of the body. No two tones of equal size or intensity should appear directly above one another or side by side; their arrangement should be shifting and alternate.
There should be a decided difference between the tones. The number of tones should be as few as possible. Avoid all elaborate or unnecessary tones and do not make four tones or values where only three are needed. It is important to keep in mind the big, simple masses and to keep your shading simple, for shading does not make a drawing.
DISTRIBUTION OF THE MASSES
It is not granted many of us to remember complex forms. So in considering the human figure it is better, at first, to think only of those major forms of which it is composed, and these may be thought of and more easily remembered by a simple formula such as the following:
Considering the Wedging and Passing of Forms from the Front of the Figure—The square ankle passes into the triangular calf of the leg and this in turn passes into the square knee. The square knee passes into the round thigh and the round thigh into the mass of the hips, from the sides of which a triangular wedge enters the rib cage. The rib cage is oval below, but approaches a square across the shoulders. Into this square enters the column of the neck which is capped by the head. The head when compared with the form of the neck, is square.
Considering the Wedging and Passing of Forms from the Rear of the Figure—The head is square, capping the round neck. The rib cage is square at the shoulders, wedging into the neck, and triangular below, wedging into square hips. The square hips rest on the round pillars of the thighs. The knees are square, the calves triangular and the ankles square.
BUILDING THE FIGURE
From a piece of lath and a few inches of copper or other flexible wire, a working model of the solid portions of the body may be constructed. Cut three pieces from the lath to represent the three solid masses of the body: the head, chest and hips. Approximately, the proportions of the three blocks, reduced from the skeleton, should be—Head, 1 inch by 5/8 of an inch; torso, 1 1/2 inches by 1 1/4 inches; hips, 1 inch by 1 1/4 inches.
Drive two parallel holes perpendicularly through the center of the thickness of each of these blocks, as closely together as practicable. Wire the blocks together by running a strand of flexible wire through each of these holes, allowing about half an inch between the blocks, and twist the wires together.
The wire in a rough way represents the spine or backbone. The spine is composed of a chain of firm, flexible joints, discs of bone, with shock-absorbing cartilages between them. There are twenty-four bones in the spine, each bending a little to give the required flexibility to the body, but turning and twisting mostly in the free spaces between the head and chest, and between the chest and hips. The spine is the bond of union between the different parts of the body.
The portion of this wire between the head and chest blocks represents the neck. On the neck the head has the power to bend backward and forward, upward and downward, and to turn. The head rests upon the uppermost vertebra of the spine, to which it is united by a hinged joint. Upon this joint it moves backward and forward as far as the muscles and ligaments permit. The bone beneath this hinged joint has a projection or point resembling a tooth. This enters a socket or hole in the bone above, and forms a pivot or axle upon which the upper bone and the head, which it supports, turn.
So, when we nod, we use the hinged joint, and when we turn our heads, we use the pivot or axle.
The wire between the two lower blocks represents that portion of the spine which connects the cage or chest above with the basin or pelvis below. This portion of the spine is called the lumbar region. It rests upon the pelvis or basin into which it is mortised. Its form is semicircular: concave from the front. On this portion of the spine, the lumbar, depends the rotary movement between the hips and the torso. As the spine passes upward, becoming part of the cage or chest, the ribs are joined to it.
The masses of head, chest and pelvis, represented by the three blocks, are in themselves unmoving. Think of these blocks in their relation to each other and forget, at first, any connecting portions other than the slender wire of the spine.
In the little tin soldier at “attention” we have an example of the symmetrical balance of these blocks one directly over the other. But this balance never exists when the body is in action, seldom, indeed, when it is in repose. The blocks in their relation to each other are limited to the three possible planes of movement. They may bend forward and back in the sagittal plane, twist in the horizontal plane or tilt in the transverse plane. As a rule, all three movements are present and they may be closely approximated by turning and twisting the three blocks in the little model of lath and wire.
The limitation to the movement of the spine limits the movements of the three masses or blocks. Such movement as the spine allows the muscles also allow.
Architectural mouldings consist of alternate rounds and hollows, of plane or curved surfaces, placed one beneath the other to give various decorative effects by means of light and shade.
The human figure, whether standing erect or bent, is composed of a few big, simple masses that in outline are not unlike the astragal, ogee, and apophyge mouldings used in architecture. Looking at the back of the figure, there is the concave sweep of the mass from head to neck, then an outward sweep to the shoulders, a double curve from rib cage to pelvis, ending abruptly where the thigh begins, a slight undulation half way down to the knee, a flattened surface where it enters the back of the knee, another outward sweep over the calf and down to the heel; the whole, a series of undulating, varied forms. And the front of the figure curves in and out in much the same manner, a series of concave and convex curves, and planes.
The distribution of light and shade brings out these forms.