Section 13. The Sustained Study

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Section 13. The Sustained Study

The Welding of Your Knowledge

In each of the exercises you have taken up we attempted to isolate some important principle in order that you might be able to concentrate on it with all your energy. All of these ideas are a part of drawing — it seems to me an essential part — and they are eventually to become welded into the one act of drawing. This is the point in your study at which the welding begins. Actually this process of welding has already begun, as you will readily see if you compare your first drawings with the ones you made yesterday. Your gesture studies now have much more of the form and perhaps something of the quality of contour while your line is capable of showing both gesture and weight. But at this point you begin a sustained study in which you consciously try to utilize all that you have learned. It naturally follows that, unless you have practiced the preceding exercises as you were directed and for as long as you were directed, you must fail in doing this one. All of these exercises are tied up together in the effort to understand the fundamental truth out there — in the model or the event. Each effort, as fleeting as it may seem, is a link in the chain of your progress. If you have missed any one, go back to it now. The person who tries to get ahead of himself is like a juggler trying to juggle eight balls before he has learned to juggle two. It takes him twice as long if he finally succeeds in learning it at all.


Half Hour Ex. 2 and 29: Gesture (25 drawings) Ex. 2 and 29: Gesture (25 drawings) Ex. 2 and 29: Gesture (25 drawings) Ex. 2 and 29: Gesture (25 drawings) Ex. 2 and 29: Gesture (25 drawings)
Half Hour Ex. 31: Extended Gesture Study (one) Ex. 31: Extended Gesture Study (one) Ex. 31: Extended Gesture Study (one) Ex. 31: Extended Gesture Study (one) Ex. 31: Extended Gesture Study (one)
Quarter Hour Ex. 8: Memory (15 drawings) Ex. 11: Reverse Poses (6 drawings) Ex. 8: Memory (i5 drawings) Ex. 12: Group Poses (7 drawings) Ex. 20: Gesture of the Features (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. 32: The Sustained Study (one study composed of three drawings) Ex. 19 and 31: The Head in Pencil (one drawing)

Remember the Daily Composition (Ex. 14 or 30) every day.



Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Dancing Figure by Pontormo

This is the first step in the sustained study, but it is one which you will use also for separate half-hour drawings. Start with a gesture study on a large piece of manila paper, using a 4B pencil, and go on from that to delineate more carefully the forms and contours, including the outside contours. Having made a real contact with the gesture in the first few minutes, you can then afford to develop the drawing as to its other details such as the forms of the various parts. You may include some feeling of the contour study, but continue to use the same principle of thinking what the thing is doing, still feeling the quality of the gesture even when you are drawing a contour. Use an eraser if the number of lines used in the beginning confuses this more clear delineation of the forms. You may use any and all methods at your command to arrive at the correct proportions and the posture, even to the extent of measuring how much higher one point is than another or the angles and distances that are created from point to point. In such measuring there is danger of making your drawing static so, after you have checked up the proportions, return again to the conviction of the gesture. Do not shade the drawing.


Materials: In addition to a 2B and a 4B pencil and a kneaded eraser, you will need a piece of manila paper and two pieces of tracing paper all of the same size (fifteen by twenty). Tracing paper is a transparent drawing paper which may be bought in single sheets or in pads. The kneaded eraser may be shaped into a point so as to erase a very small part of the drawing if desired.

First make an extended gesture study (one-half to one hour) as described in Exercise 31. When you have carried the drawing as far as possible on this particular piece of paper, place a piece of tracing paper over it and make a contour study (one-half to one hour). As in previous contour studies, draw only when looking at the model, glancing down at times to locate your place on the paper. But now, because you see your gesture drawing underneath, a certain correlation is set up between the impulse that you are getting from the model and the drawing which shows through the tracing paper. You may look at the paper a little more often in order to coordinate the two, but draw only when looking at the model.

Kroller-Muller Foundation, Wassenaar
Carpenter by Van Gogh
You cannot start where some other painter left off.
You have to start where he started — at the beginning —
and you have to start with the same integrity and the same interest


Draw for three hours as directed in Schedule 13 A.


Remove the extended gesture drawing altogether and place a clean piece of tracing paper over your contour study. You are now to model the drawing, using alternately the 2B and the 4B pencil. Even if you find yourself working successfully with one pencil, change at intervals to the other. At this point you make a definite change in the way you model the figure, though the change is not so great as it may seem at first. In the modelled drawing in lithograph, ink, and water color, the part of the form which was closest to your eye was made lightest. Actually, the lightest part of any form could never be at a point directly opposite the eye because, if it were, the source of light would have to be in the eye. Even if the only light on the figure were from a flashlight held close to your eyes, the lightest part of the figure would not be exactly opposite you, though almost. Now you are to make lightest that part of the figure which actually is the lightest, and darkest that part which actually is the darkest. In other words, the part of the figure that is now made dark is the part that has shadow on it, but you are not to feel that you are drawing the shadow. You are modelling the figure exactly as you did before except that you let the drawing become dark where the shadow happens to be.

Use exactly the same emotional and physical reaction to the form, thinking that one part is near you while another goes away from you. Once you have shifted the lightest part of your drawing away from the point opposite your eye to the point where the light falls, you will forget that there is any difference between this and your first modelled drawing. The change is so simple that many students make it instinctively before it is described to them. In your first modelled drawing, if the lightest part of your drawing had corresponded to the lightest part of the figure, you could never have been sure that you were drawing the form and not the light and shadow. In the effort to make the adjustment of the eye from a dark part of the figure which appeared light in your drawing, or vice versa, you became aware of the form as completely distinct from the light on it.

You are still to be aware of the form in that way. Draw the actual form, which is something solid and real that you could touch, and not the lights and shadows which are passing and intangible, changing when the light is moved a few feet. As a rule, the lights in a classroom are arranged in a semicircle overhead around the model, throwing many cross-shadows which tend to confuse the form. Make a decision as to what you will consider the main source of light, whether it be from the left or right or front, and attempt to use only the one set of shadows which indicates the one source of light. Don’t try to match in your drawing the degree of light or shade that you see. Your drawing may look very dark or quite light when you finish. That doesn’t matter as long as the forms are clear.

Eliminate cast shadows

A cast shadow is one which is cast on a form from another form. For example, if the light is from the front and the model stands holding his arm in front of him, the shadow which the arm throws on the body is a cast shadow, whereas the shadows on the arm itself are natural shadows caused by the fact that the arm is round and parts of it move away from the light. (Later you will utilize some cast shadows, for there are times when a cast shadow helps to show the projection of the form which causes it and to delineate the contours of the form on which it falls. But nearly always, if you use them at all, it is necessary to modify their value, to make them less dark than they appear to the eye.)

Keep the contour drawing underneath as long as it helps you with the position of the forms. Remove it when it is no longer needed because the edges of a modelled drawing will naturally not be as dark as the lines of a contour drawing. As you model the lightest part you may find that it becomes somewhat shaded so that it is hard for you to make other parts dark enough by comparison. Then use the eraser to pull the form toward you, making it white again. But do not leave those parts of the figure white from the beginning. If you do, it is like leaving a hole in the figure at that place. You want to feel that you have touched the entire figure. The softer pencil is useful in the absolute undercut, as in the corner of the eye, the nostrils, the ear, and between the toes and fingers. When you are trying to suggest a hole going into a form, that place becomes darker by its very nature than the parts around it, not necessarily because it is dark but to suggest its hole-like quality.

Draw for six hours as directed in Schedule 13 B and 13 C.


Changing the Point of View

It is well known that the printed or spoken word has a tendency to take on authority once it is printed or spoken. To get away from it almost takes a revolution. The same thing is true with your own drawing. The very mistakes you make, as they linger on the paper, have this tendency to become authoritative. To combat it, move about the room during the long pose, making occasional scribbled drawings. A thing is factually the same from whatever point of view you see it, but seeing it from different points of view will illuminate the meaning of the forms and lines you have been looking at.

Draw for six hours as directed in Schedule 13 D and 13 E.


The Pose Nude and Clothed

In each of the succeeding schedules you are to make two sustained studies of the same pose. For one the model will pose nude and for the other in whatever clothes he or she happens to be wearing. The pose is to be exactly the same for both drawings and you draw it from exactly the same position. Begin by making an extended gesture drawing of the nude and another of the clothed pose. You should always make a contour study of the nude, but you may sometimes omit the contour study of the clothed pose, modelling the clothed figure on a piece of tracing paper placed over the nude contour.

For the quick studies also the model should alternate posing in the nude and posing in his clothes. Apply what you have learned about drapery to everyday clothes. In drawing the folds you may leave white that part which is lightest and you need not limit yourself to three simple tones, but make up your mind from the beginning which is the top of the fold, which is side, and which is base, and draw those elements just as clearly as before. The base will be that part of the clothing which touches the figure and it must now be modelled as the figure would be. The knee, the shoulder, and the elbow will play an important part as hubs.

Selected Pictures to this Section

The Louvre, Paris
Head of a Woman by Leonardo Da Vinci


Albertina, Vienna
Spring by Pieter Bruegel


Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Studies for the Libyan Sibyl by Michelangelo


Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Study of Trees by Titian


The British Museum, London
Study for Landscape with Cows by Rubens


The Louvre, Paris
Seated Nude by Corot


The Louvre, Paris
Study of Female Torso by Watteau


Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art: H. O. Havemeyer Collection
The Shepherdess by Millet


Collection of Marcel Bing, Paris
Three Nude Dancers by Degas