Section 3. Weight and the Modelled Drawing

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Section 3. Weight and the Modelled Drawing

Form and Weight

With the word ‘form’ bended back and forth as it is, one would believe that real progress is being made in the effort to understand the nature of form, to realize its significance. However, I have found that most students mistake a certain type of shallow, superficial surface modelling for form. To me weight is the essence of form. And, since the life of a thing is its only real significance, I think of form as the living expression of weight. To make clear what I mean by lack of form, I need only to remind you of the cast-iron clouds and balloon-like women that frequently appear in pictures. One feels that the solid-looking clouds should be settled firmly on the earth while the hollow, bulbous figures might well be floating in the air. What is lacking in the form is a comprehension of its weight.

You can grasp the essential weight of an object even before you become conscious of its form or shape. Suppose that you close your eyes and hold out your hand, keeping the palm flat. Someone places an object on your hand. Immediately you are aware of the weight of the object. If you close your hand around it, you can tell whether the object is round or square, smooth or rough, large or small. When you open your eyes and look at it, you recognize still other details such as its color. But the sensation of weight alone was first and not dependent on any of the succeeding sensations. Form and weight are dependent upon all three dimensions — length, width, and thickness. A thing that has only length and width and no thickness (if there could be such a thing) can have no weight. We may think of form as the three-dimensional shape of weight.

Weight and Energy

In searching for a realization of weight it is not necessary to think in terms of ounces or pounds. You can feel it through your own sense of energy. Suppose you are trying to pick up some object from the ground. If it is a light object, little energy is required to lift it. If it is very heavy, a great deal of energy is required — you pull and tug at it. You can tell how heavy the thing is — comprehend its weight — by the amount of energy you expend in lifting it. In fact, you can think of weight itself as having energy. The weight of a stone presses into the ground. As you attempt to lift the heavy object, its weight resists you. It is that understanding of its resistance to our energy that gives us a real awareness of weight.


Half Hour Ex. 2: Gesture (25 drawings) Ex. 2: Gesture (25 drawings) Ex. 2: Gesture (25 drawings) Ex. 2: Gesture (25 drawings) Ex. 2: Gesture (25 drawings)
Half Hour Ex. 6: Weight (one drawing) Ex. 6: Weight (one drawing) Ex. 6: Weight (one drawing) Ex. 7: Modelled Drawing (one drawing) Ex. 7: Modelled Drawing (one drawing)
Quarter Hour Ex. 2: Gesture (15 drawings) Ex. 2: Gesture (15 drawings) Ex. 2: Gesture (15 drawings)) Ex. 2:  Gesture (15 drawings) Ex. 2: Gesture (15 drawings)
Quarter Hour Rest Rest Rest Rest Rest
Half Hour Ex. 2: Gesture (25 drawings) Ex. 2: Gesture (25 drawings)) Ex. 2: Gesture (25 drawings) Ex. 2: Gesture (25 drawings) Ex. 2: Gesture (25 drawings)
One Hour Ex. 6: Weight (two drawings) Ex. 6: Weight (two drawings) Ex. 6: Weight (two drawings) Ex. 7: Modelled Drawing (two drawings) Ex. 7: Modelled Drawing (two drawings)


Materials: Use a lithograph crayon (medium) broken in half and a large sheet of cream-colored manila wrapping paper (fifteen by twenty inches). If the edge of the crayon begins to stick, strike it sharply on a piece of paper several times or scrape it with a knife.

In this exercise you will attempt to comprehend the solidity of the model — its weight — the fact that it exists in space and moves in space in every direction. Just as in gesture drawing you concentrate on the one idea of gesture, here you are to concentrate on the one idea of weight. When you draw without a model, choose objects that are bulky and solid.


Work with the side and not the point of the lithograph crayon. Start in the middle of the figure and work out from the center to the outside contours. By the middle I mean actually the core, the imagined center, inside the form. It is not the center between the two edges of the surface (Figure 1), nor is it the center of the half of the form which you can see (Figure 2). It is the center of the whole form, the surface of which can be seen only if you walk all the way around the model and back again. You know, even if you don’t see all of it at once, that the torso is shaped somewhat like a cylinder.

Place your crayon along a line which you feel to be the center of that cylinder (Figure 3) and work outward until you come to the surface. Believe and feel that you are working backward and forward as well as up and down until you have actually filled up all the space between the center of the figure and all of its surfaces — back, front, and sides.

Grasp first the general position of the figure and feel its essential weight. Bulk up the thing as quickly and easily as possible. Then you may develop somewhat your feeling for the disposition of the various parts, showing, for example, that the lower leg goes back or the right arm comes forward. But think only of the weight of those parts. If the model stands with his weight on one leg, you should realize that that leg presses with greater weight against the floor than the other. Perhaps the easiest way to describe this exercise is to say that you work, as nearly as possible, like a sculptor modelling in clay. Usually, the sculptor works around a piece of wire that corresponds somewhat to the center or core of the form. He takes up a casually shaped mass of clay and starts shaping it into the image of the model — a large hunk for the torso, smaller and longer hunks for the legs, until gradually he has filled with clay the space which the figure occupies.

Never think of yourself as drawing a line when doing this exercise. You scarcely think of yourself as drawing at all, but work as if building up the figure with a mass of clay. Leave the edges blurred and uncertain; because you are trying to get the sensation of weight, your attention should be fixed on the center, not on the edge. Your drawing will not show anything that looks like a line. It should be a solid, dark mass. There is no sense of light and shadow in this drawing because light and shadow lie only on the surface and you never draw the surface at all. If one part of your drawing looks darker than another, it will be the core.

Think of the whole form, the surface of which can
be seen 
only if you walk all the way around the model


Keep going over the figure as long as the time allows. It doesn’t matter how black the drawing becomes. Do not try to work out in your mind any system for filling up the form. Work loosely, freely. Generally, a sort of rotating movement will best give the sensation of a constant and gradual reaching out from the center, the core, to the surfaces. Concentrate on the first big conception of the bulk. Respond with your own energy to the weight of the model.

Draw for three hours as directed in Schedule 3A.


Weight and Mass

You may feel that the thing you are trying to respond to might be called ‘mass’ or ‘volume’ rather than ‘weight.’ It is true that you are learning to represent the mass or bulk of anything you draw, but it is necessary to think further than that. A paper cup and a silver cup may take up the same amount of space, but the one is a flimsy and unsubstantial thing while the other is strong and heavy. A glass test-tube and a piece of half-inch lead pipe, in spite of their similar size and shape, have an important difference in weight. Draw a feather pillow and an iron bar, or alternate studies of clouds and stones, thinking of their weight.

Draw for three hours as directed in Schedule 3 B.


The Core

The core is the motivation of the form. If you look at the stump of a tree, you can see how the tree grew, always outward from its core. With your crayon you reach inside the model and touch that core, letting the figure grow on paper as it grew in life. Recently I watched a three-year-old child make a drawing of an apple. She carefully selected a red crayon from her box and made a dot on the paper. Then she drew with the crayon around and around the dot until a very solid, very red apple appeared. I have spent much time trying to explain how to do something that she did naturally. The significance of the form is its relation to the core. Do not worry now about the shape. Let it be vague. Think of the form as a living substance, dependent on activity. Searching for the core is another way of searching for the living impulse. What we see, what we touch, is the shell. You can only sense the core.

Draw for three hours as directed in Schedule 3 C.



This exercise carries the preceding one a step further. Spend the first ten minutes making a weight drawing with lithograph crayon. Bulk up the form quickly and in exactly the same spirit as before, but don’t let the drawing get too black in the beginning. Then, still using your crayon on the side and not making any lines, go over all the vertical contours of the figure. This is an important change. In the first step you were working inside the figure, drawing from the center out and not drawing the surfaces. Now you are actually to touch the surfaces, to run your crayon over them from top to bottom or bottom to top.

Since you are now drawing surfaces, you will naturally draw only those that you can see. Work loosely and freely with the same continuous movement that you used in the beginning. Where the form goes back or in, you press back or in with your crayon. For example, as the form moves up over the chest and then back over the shoulder, your crayon moves lightly up over the chest and then presses heavily back over the shoulder. You are trying to believe that you are touching the model and all of its many contours. Naturally, you have to push farther to reach those that seem to go back.

Student Modelled Drawings
Bulk up the form as if you were modelling with clay
Different students may work in different ways and yet all be right


Next you are to touch with your crayon all the horizontal contours of the figure. (You need not be too methodical about this — soon you will begin to touch the contours as you become aware of them whether they are vertical or horizontal.) You must not jump from one side of the figure to the other merely shading the edges dark; you must move across exactly as if you were passing your hand over it.

Student Modelled Drawing


I am sure you will see the kinship between this and the cross-contour exercise. You now use a flat crayon instead of a point and seek eventually to touch the whole figure instead of single lines, but the sense of touch is the basis of both exercises. Keep studying the model. Keep looking up there, constantly making a contact with the model as if through touch. Press hard where the form goes back — press more lightly where it comes toward you. When you press back, naturally the mark on the paper becomes darker. When you have finished, the darkest places on your drawing will be the parts of the figure that are farthest from you although they may not look dark on the model at all. The lightest places will be the parts nearest to you.

To illustrate this, I have chosen a simpler form than the human figure, a piece of wooden molding. Because it is simple, you can see more clearly that the crayon moved lightly up over the bulge and then pressed back heavily into the paper without strict regard for details. That is the principle by which the form is to be modelled, however simple or complicated it is.

Draw for three hours as directed in Schedule 3 D.


The Sensation of Modelling

Continue to work exactly as if you were a sculptor modelling with clay. You have taken your clay and distributed about the right amount of it to the various parts of the body. Now you begin to shape those parts by modelling with your fingers, pressing into the clay wherever there is a hollow in the form, pushing back wherever the form goes back. As you try to get into the smaller hollows of the form, as at the pit of the neck, you will use the point of your crayon just as a sculptor would use a smaller modelling tool. (In fact, you may come to use the point of the crayon altogether, if you like — the directions for these exercises are to be thought of only as a starting-point.) You can, bit by bit, develop a contact with every subtlety of the modelling if you attempt to feel it out with your sense of touch. Do not take anything for granted.

Draw for three hours as directed in Schedule 3 E.