- Lesson details
We are pleased to share with you a 10-week long class brought to you by Art Mentors. In this class, legendary illustrator Mark Westermoe teaches figure drawing using the Reilly Method. In this 9th lesson, Mark continues working on the full female figure, first by working on the detail of the arms and back. He later analyzes works by Dagnan-Bouveret, and lays in shadows and half-tones of the body.
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- Conté Charcoal Pencil
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In this class, legendary illustrator Mark Westermoe teaches figure drawing using the
Welcome to Week 9 lesson.
I’m going to carry the female figure further, the back view that I started last week.
I am also going to go over a really great academic painter, draftsman.
I’m going to carry the female figure further, the back view that I started last week, and
I’m also going to go over a really great academic painter, draftsman,
and I’ve brought a book on him.
In the late 19th century, second half the 19th century, we really find a good number
of really great academic painters and draftsman, and probably more in France than elsewhere.
We naturally have them in Sweden and Denmark and Spain and Catalonia, Italy, Germany, Britian
certainly, and the United States.
I’m going to bring in one of those lesser-known figures.
He was one of Jean-Leon Gerome’s greatest students, and he has quite a long name so
you’ll have to bear with us.
I’ll give you everything including his first name, which I myself have to remind myself of.
I would just call him Dagnan-Bouveret, which is already a longer
name than most artists you're going to come across.
That's his surname and it's hyphenated. Dagnan-Bouveret.
I'll just show you a few of his works
while he was studying at the École des Beaux-Arts, which is the French Academy,
equivalent to the one across the channel in England, which are the Royal Academy Schools.
I mentioned his teacher was the great Gerome.
Gerome was also the teacher of, among others, George Bridgman, who taught Normal Rockwell,
and George Bridgman, who taught Frank Reilly.
He is really in my lineage, and this is an offshoot—Dagnan-Bouveret.
This is very germane to what we’re doing today.
There we go.
Do you see how he’s able to put in some reasonably dark half-tones since, after all,
his shadows have gone almost all the way to black.
You’ll notice, too, how he is simplifies at the very beginning.
You can see the leftover of the legs.
Very clean, very simple.
The shapes are C-curves, S-curves, or straights.
Now here is one of the best examples you’ll find of a student drawing at one of the Ateliers
available in Paris at the time.
Remember, Emile Carolus-Duran had one in which he taught John Singer Sargent, and there were
a number of others.
The Académie Julian is where John Vanderpool taught Leyendecker and his brother,
both Leyendecker brothers.
There were more brothers, but the two that we know of that were painters.
This is a strictly academic figure drawing.
I am hoping you can see the silhouette of the back.
There is reflected light in the shadow but, in fact, there is more description of the
form in the shadow than there is in the light.
Usually you’re going to be describing the form in the light and suggesting it in the
But, depending on the lighting, here where it’s two-thirds or three-quarters shadow,
you can reverse that so you’re actually modeling the form in the shadow and keeping
it just very simple in the light.
Notice the importance of where the shadow meets the light and the edges that are involved.
I’ll point some of this out.
Here we get sort of a firm edge along the back of the upper arm, and where the biceps
overlap the triceps we see a hard edge due to the overlapping form.
Then we get a taught upper arm because this arm is bent holding a weight, and so this
becomes, because of the tension, a firm edge and not a soft edge.
Here, this is a softer edge behind the trochanter.
Here the edges get a little more firm where the external oblique joins to the ileum.
And here the tendons coming down including the vastus lateralis and here the iliotibial
band that goes up to the trochanter and down to the tibia.
Here all of these forms specifically especially the bony ones here like the kneecap and beneath
it, the crest or tubercle of the tibia or the fibula.
Those get harder edges even because the overlap the form behind them.
Then as we go down the tendons here become harder; rather, the edges on them become harder.
Finally, hard again at the ankle, hard at the front of the ankle, so it’s a real study
in edges almost to the exclusion of anything else.
Be really careful with your edges.
I’ll try to explain those on the female nude that I’m doing today.
Here we’re going to get softer in general edges than in the male figure.
Let’s look at a couple of these paintings and compositions.
Here is one called Orpheus’ Sorrow.
Zoom in on that.
We can see his studies on most of these too.
It’s a very good publication that I’ve got.
I’ll give you details on that in case you ever want to look into it.
He did portraits.
He was good with color.
He painted contemporary scenes, almost ala Norman Rockwell but a century earlier—not
quite a century, 50 years or more.
His drapery was beautiful and impeccable.
Here his edges make all the difference in creating a beautiful atmosphere of painting.
This is quite a nice dramatic painting.
Hamlet and the Gravediggers.
Notice the pure black and again the soft edges.
If the figure has hard edges the attention is on him.
When you look at a painting, try to look at the first read.
What is it that your eye sees first in the painting?
The Pardon in Brittany.
He used photography in many cases, so here is the figure photographed for his figure
in The Pardon in Brittany.
If you can focus on the head.
I’m not sure you can, but very classical.
In your study don’t just stop with heads and figures, you do want to work on drapery
The nuns were very graphic by nature because of the black and white of what they wear,
the wimple being white, the dress being black.
They almost landscape themselves and more coming around the corner.
This looks a little bit like a painting by Duveneck, the American
or some others of the day.
Again, in all of those countries there were some very great colorists, tonalists, and
Here we have some photography for a painting.
Sometimes it’s humorous to see how the models are posed.
Notice the very nuanced and subtle drawing on the upper left and painting on the lower
So this is Pascal-Adolphe-Jean Dagnan-Bouveret.
He did beautiful landscapes too, but I’ll leave it at this.
Okay, this particular book, by the way, is called against the modern.
“Dagnan-Bouveret and the Transformation of the Academic Tradition.”
It’s published by the Dahesh Museum of Art in New York and Rutgers University Press.
It came out—let’s see, in 2002.
I think it was about $25 or $30 if anyone might be planning on buying it.
It probably won’t go into a 2nd edition for a very long time or a second printing.
Okay, let’s get back to our model.
One of the thing you’ll notice is the photographs I showed you for Dagnan-Bouveret’s paintings
do not exactly match the drawing and the painting.
In other words, he’s not bound to them.
They are research for him.
He doesn’t necessarily stick to every detail literally, and that is an option we have with
ours or any of the references that you may find in our library or elsewhere.
It’s for you.
It’s not for the model so you draw it the way it helps you, and that’s all you need.
Let’s go back starting from the top as they say.
So now I’m going to get back in and be a little more careful and precise
with the construction of her hands.
This is a Conté of Paris, Pierre Noir, series 1710, and the weight of the pencil is a 2B.
I haven’t reached the point yet where I’m going to switch over to charcoal.
I could, by the way, switch over to Prismacolor, which I haven’t done for you yet, and I
might just do it.
It’s also compatible with the Conté because the Conté is part
charcoal and part wax.
It works with either charcoal or wax pencil.
With the wax pencil, you’ll find it difficult to erase, so you better be really sure of
your construction and your placement before you use it to model the form.
Really meticulously following all of the shadow shapes between her fingers and
her hands and her forearm.
I’m expanding the back of her head.
It was drawn a little too small at first.
I drew the top knuckle of the index finger a little too dark,
so keep the eraser on hand.
That’s for corrections and for drawing.
In long figure studies such as the one I showed you by Dagnan-Bouveret probably
was at least a 15-hour drawing and hadn’t been finished yet when it was photographed.
It was not uncommon in the Russian and the French ateliers and academies, not uncommon
at all to work on poses for 30 hours.
Which would be all week long.
You’re not going to go paintings of the sort that I showed you in 5 or 6 hours, so
don’t grown about the patience that it requires to do this.
There are many other art forms that take more time than this.
A lot of people just love drawing outright, but not a lot of people love the
patience that this form takes.
You know, it’s like poetry.
There are epic poems and there are short poems, even Haiku—17 syllables.
If that’s where your spirit lies with such things, that’s excellent, but it’ll have
to be adjusted and adapted to do an epic poem.
I’ve tried to show you over these last 9 weeks a number of artists who have studied
academic figure drawing, and they’ve put it to different purposes, whether it’s the
Russian academics or this great French painter or American illustrators.
All of them needed to do this to achieve the kind of work they did.
This fold beneath the deltoid muscle must follow
the bigger sweep of the entire figure.
Otherwise, it’ll just cut the figure apart, cutting a slash against the arm.
Here this is a simple cylinder of a soft edge where it turns from light to shadow,
and this is similar, maybe a little bit firmer edge.
so now I’m going to post the photograph of the full figure
and go about the same process with it.
We follow the trapezius muscle here with this diagonal curve,
and then we find here the erectors of the spine.
Just the weight of the pencil for even this, a dark half-tone.
This is a subtle area. Where exactly does the shadow running down her back,
where does it end? Where does the half-tone that continues that direction, where does it start and stop?
Let’s think carefully about it, and in a moment you should be able to solve that problem.
Before I do, I’m going to pick up the gluteus medius muscle here,
and the gluteus maximus muscle beneath it.
This is a very soft edge. This is a rounded muscle with fat,
and it’s going to never be too hard or firm of an edge
unless something pushes against it or maybe it’s seated on something, but otherwise, no.
Here is an important half-tone, where the sacrum joins the ileum,
and we certainly see it on both sides of the sacrum.
I’ll fade this shadow into a half-tone.
Here, again, we find a soft edge along the gluteal muscles.
we have about a half an hour—and work on the shadows that we designed.
Let’s go back now to the areas I’ve mapped out.
Notice the charcoal pencil, this is a—what do I have here—it’s a General pencil 2B.
It applies the tone in a little bit more of a line way. The strokes, each one has a distinct line,
which together fill it in. In fact, I’m just going to switch back to the Conté for a moment
because it’s faster here, for instance. I had even dealt with it last week, we can do it now. It’ll be faster.
You can use another layer on top, which could be charcoal or could be Prismacolor.
Again, this Conté is compatible with either one.
The wax and the charcoal, though, are not compatible with each other.
A lot of questions have come this term from students who are real keen on learning the best way
to apply the pigment, whether it’s charcoal or a Prismacolor or Conté.
There are a few good ways, which I’ve tried to demonstrate.
There are some very bad ways which I have avoided.
Again, there is no single way, so you don’t have to get too much anxiety over that.
What really is important are merely your shapes and values and the edges.
Everything in the shadow, that’s not so important. Everything in the light, not important.
But where they come together, that’s essential. That tells a story.
Maybe not immediately, but pretty soon, I would be putting in the hair as black.
That would give me my darkest dark. That would help establish the range of values I can use for half-tones,
and for that matter, other shadows.
The edges on the silhouette presently with her hair are rather hard. I would soften them out so it’s not so plastic.
I’m just lighting this area since I expanded her upper arm.
In the process I filled it in a little bit with some dark, and I don’t care for the texture of it,
so the eraser will help do away with that.
If you look at the photograph, the shadows are quite dark. They are not black but they are almost to that point.
I think I’ll just continue using this Conté pencil to apply texture—not texture, forgive me—tone.
Not really ever interested in texture as such at this stage in any drawing, and almost rarely,
except for perhaps the hair in a figure drawing.
Definitely in a clothed figure drawing, but that’s another story.
Now, as you apply the tone you’re going to come up against the light passages.
Be careful not to destroy or damage the work you’ve done so carefully
to delineate those shadows and their edges.
There is an example.
I don’t want to smudge the rest of the drawing with my right hand so I pull back on my grip
and my right hand is merely passing over the blank page to the right of my figure.
Here it is probably easier to do this and weave it into the shadow
so I don’t damage the edge of the shadow against her back.
Remember the edges, especially hard edges,
and like all other edges between your light and your shadow and inside the shadow itself
are at this stage are pretty much one value.
Now what that means is, when you come up for instance to a hard edge, don’t darken the hard edge,
just keep it a hard edge with the same value. This is a real common mistake,
and it can spoil the drawing and make it look amateurish.
These shadows are narrow and small so I just switched over to a charcoal pencil, which has a finer tip.
Keep the edge on the left hard because of the cast shadow from the right, and keep the right edge
soft because of the rounded form shadow at the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius.
Now, by putting in the shadow this value, I can begin to start expressing my half-tones somewhat darker.
I’ll do one or two examples, and then we’ll call it a lesson,
and then next week we’ll carry on with the lower legs
and taking some parts of this figure to what we consider a finish.
Okay, so here I’m going to switch over to a 2B charcoal pencil.
So what I’ve done, basically, is the construction.
Now we’re moving into the finished carpentry. Obviously, that doesn’t precede the construction,
so just hold off an get the construction.
There is a hard edge on the left where the scapula is pushed against the back.
There is a lot of incidental smudging that goes on, so just clean that up. That’s no big deal.
Again, this takes patience. That suits some people. They like this kind of work so you’re in luck.
Doing long poses is something you’ll enjoy.
I think for most everyone, once you’ve done it, it is enjoyable.
You have to keep your pencil really sharp; otherwise, don’t even go to try it.
Okay, that’s just a preview of what we’ll be doing next week. Thanks for watching.
Next week we’ll carry on with this figure, and I’ll do one or two other details of the figure for you.
Gosh, nothing more to say. I just hope it’s been helping you.
Next week we’ll crown it with the last lesson.