Thursday, September 1, 2011

Bridgman's Big Breadcrumbs

Here to leave a breadcrumb (for myself, and for anyone else trying to pick up the path in pursuit of the shapes we need to understand drawing).

So yesterday was kind of bad as far as advancing in my art skills. But in another way it was good, because the discomfort caused by the bad made me search for a solution. It set the wheels of my unconscious mind in motion.

By the time head hit pillow yesterday, I had my answer.

What was it?

The week started off with a bang, but I lost the gun.  By about Sunday,  I got really excited about the precipice of discovery in art skills that I was about to tumble over--but yesterday I seemed to have lost the path to that edge. To add insult to injury, I did a relatively weak figure drawing at the Wednesday session. It was a hard pose to be sure... a reclining pose with a lot of diagonals... not many verticals for measuring.

What did I lose? Shapes. The importance of 3D shapes. How to approach shapes in my study and practice.

I knew I needed volumes and shapes, but couldn't figure out or remember the significance as clearly nor figure out an exercise or study to do to bring them back to my mind.

It hit me in bed. I jumped up and scribbled these words:


Endorphins flowed. I had the answer again!

So what? How do I get back to giddy with excitement? Who can give me shapes?

There are TONS of places to find shapes... good shapes... good, addictive 3D shapes (including life drawing)... but studying masters is the way.

This is where my old friend George Bridgman steps back into the picture. Bridgman has always been lauded for his anatomical drawings (and for his legendary drunken lectures at the Artist League of New York); but the real gold in what Bridgman offers is in the figures he sprinkles throughout the book. He'll give you a figure, and then next to it a diagram that helps you see shapes. Usually, it's in a different position. This helps you to understand the shape in 3D; but the example drawing is always posed differently.

The example drawings are golden. That's where you dig in, as an art student looking for shapes. They're the rotisserie chickens that you pull apart hungrily with your fingers. I've been doing that, and it's gotten really exciting. Bridgman and I had our differences, but we're becoming the best of pals.

Bridgman essentially does "bridge" 3D life and 3D drawing for you; but it's a discovery you have to dig for.

Now you're not going to be able to just draw Bridgman forever; the man only gave us a few of his drawings... eventually you'll memorize them if you draw them enough... and their effectiveness in giving you shapes will diminish.

So what next? Back to studying masters, of course. Only the masters you study from here won't be giving you the answers like Bridgman has. You'll have to look harder, see the more subtle clues... and hallucinate the shapes yourself.

But the path to the shapes is one that must be walked alone... by all of us who wish to begin to see the world as expert draftsmen and artists always did. Once our eyes are in that place, and the shapes are safely tucked under our arms... we'll be the ones teaching others with our own shapes.

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