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To Clothe or Not to Clothe in Figure Drawing?
We all know that drawing the nude figure is a, if not the, classical way of depicting the human body. You gain so much from the exploration — a sense of gesture, a foundation for drawing anatomy, and a close study of bodily proportions, which are crucial for establishing realism in any figurative representation. But breaking the mold and adding clothing to your figure drawing art can lead to quite a few benefits.
You are able to add intrigue to a line drawing or drama to a contour drawing and contribute to the overall message of the piece. It really just gives you a bigger visual vocabulary to work with.
Steven Assael is a master of drawing the figure in all its permutations. He is also the special guest juror of Strokes of Genius art competition, which is currently accepting entries now. As an instructor, he pushes his students to see how much variety there is in the world. He believes that every artist should take steps to capture subjects in the ways they think best — and not bow to other people’s dictates about beauty and art.
The Power of the Body
There will always be a place for drawing the figure with nothing shielding it from our gaze. Unadorned, the body is at its simplest and yet its most sophisticated. Presentations of nude figures allow an artist’s skill in anatomy to shine through. The figure often becomes about gesture and action and less about individuality.
Steven Assael’s drawings are almost heartbreaking in the way he can so closely capture the vulnerability and power of the human body in all its detail. The folds of skin around a vulnerable ankle make us aware of our own muscles and tendons. The curve of a spine that seems so delicate and yet so strong makes us feel the supple strength in our own bodies.
Why Clothing Can Lead to Better Figure Drawings
Assael just as often creates works with figures who are clothed. With these, you immediately get a sense of personality, of attitude. Constricting or tight-fitting clothing may parallel or visually represent the psychological complexities and internal conflicts within the figure — and within us all. And sometimes clothing is just about representing a person at a specific place in time: a slice-of-life depiction that is all about seeing the people around you frozen in a moment.
Other times clothing can exaggerate the gesture and movement of a body. A swirling coat can give more force and power to a figure in a street scene, for example. You get a sense of atmosphere that might otherwise be missing without the garment.
Clothing can also link a figure drawing to a culture or a time and place. If you are interested in drawings from the past with a more historical bent, or for the future, clothing can enable you to achieve your ends. Adding clothes can make a narrative element clearer to your viewer than a figure whose attire doesn’t lend itself to a specific context.
However, always remember the gesture and facial features or body position of a figure drawing are really what will make it successful and articulate, not just the clothing worn.
Strokes of Genius
Clothed or unclothed, tightly rendered or frenetically sketched, there are so many ways of figure drawing, or drawing in general, which is why Strokes of Genius can be such a lightning rod art competition. It accepts drawings of all kinds. There are no filters or hoops to jump through because we know that no two drawings can be alike and no two artists are interested in depicting the same thing.
With Steven Assael as the special guest judge for Strokes of Genius, which is accepting entries now, you are guaranteed that your drawing will be seen and assessed by an artist who believes a powerful, moving drawing can come in many different shapes and sizes. Take the opportunity to have your artwork acknowledged by this master artist and instructor!
A Figure Drawing Resource You’ll Want
As one of the most challenging, but exciting, art experiences to engage in, figure drawing takes a lot of practice. Below is a preview of Figure Drawing Essentials: Getting Started with Gesture and Shape. In this trailer, you’ll learn quick tips for capturing gesture and shapes in figure drawings.
Like what you see? You can find the full-length video demonstration on ArtistsNetwork.tv to master fundamental tools and techniques for developing a strong foundation in figure drawing. Enjoy!