Friday, February 26, 2010

The Figure: Finding a Balance

Figure drawing. Finding the nuances of the human form and documenting them faithfully or using it as an excuse to express creatively?

I've been battling with this for the past several weeks. As an art student I am required to draw the figure, and frankly I enjoy drawing from life, but lately I have been really struggling. My inconsistency as an artist is really starting to chip away at my confidence. Some days my polychromos pencil will act as if it has been blessed by the nine muses. Other days, not so much.

Part of the issue is that I am trying so hard to document the figure faithfully while finding new and interesting ways to adjust the form on my paper to create a more dynamic and well composed work of art. I am stuck between practice of technique and being creative... and most likely compromising too much on both ends.

As I obsessively work out the form and try to make it as true as can be, all my technical shortcomings are exposed and the drawings are not expressive enough to show anything about me as an artist. Yet I can't seem to get out of my headspace. Herein lies the bigger problem.

In my head I...
  • Draw too tight
  • Obsess over minor details
  • Ignore the "big picture"
  • Draw what my left brain "knows" rather than what I actually see

Once it is time to step back from the artwork, I am left disappointed in myself. If these are things that I know are inhibiting my ability to be creative, why do I continue to do them? Answer: I am afraid of myself, plain and simple. If I ever tapped into a real place it could be amazing, or it could be terrible. But one thing is for certain, the thick layer of shellac I have been layering myself in would crack wide open. Not to mention it would put the real me on the wall for others to judge. Which is something I am far too fragile to endure at this point. The one time that I had done that I left with great feedback and a bruised soul.

If I am being honest, since then, it has been difficult for me to entertain the idea of taking risks artistically. I've been second guessing everything and retreating further into my head. How do I break out of here?!

Here are some things I am going to try...
  • Stream of conscious art making
  • Take risks
  • Take breaks
  • Just draw / paint / whatever / do something!

Hopefully by doing so will enable me to approach the figure more creatively and less documentary. Van Gogh struggled with the figure as well, but knew that drawing the human form would only further his abilities with drawing organic shapes in nature. In letters to his brother, Theo, he expresses both a love for and frustration with figure drawing. But rather than obsessing over how true to life, he used the expressive lines of the human body to inform non human elements in his other works. I only hope that I too can find balance within creativity and technique.

Here's to reaching for the Star(ry Night)s. Wish me luck!

Want more on Van Gogh? check out