Friday, March 11, 2011

Ingre's drawing, examined some more

Here is our lady again. Tonight I want to point out a very simple thing. Look at the way Ingres conceived of the head as an ovoid or egg shape. This is constructive rather than strictly visual draftsmanship. He initially laid an oval on his paper to represent the shape of the head.

When I was a kid, I had a series of books by Arthur Zaidenburg that explained how to draw cats or horses using various ovals that were joined together by lines.While that seems pretty basic it is one of several approaches to building a drawing. There is another way, purely observational, that uses no preset armature but instead the copying of the shapes in the flat by observation. My training under Ives Gammell was more like the latter. I have over the years moved towards a more constructed type of drawing.

Then he wrapped the features around the head and not onto it. I have drawn some construction lines on the head below to show you what I mean.

The hair is laid unto the surface of that egg too, like ribbons. It sits on and defines the form of the upper part of the egg shape. The use of the hair and the way the eyes are wrapped around the head on lines that describe it's form, explains the volume of the head. Because the volume of the head is described by these lines, Ingres can dispense with most of his modeling, his line has done the work already.

Last night I talked about how we expressed the values of forms by varying the lines about them, tonight I am showing how he describes the forms by lines that plot their circumferences. Both of these are ways to make the drawing work nearly by line alone.

I have heard devotees of impressionist and mass drawing say "there are no lines in nature" and strictly speaking they may be right. But Ingres made his art from line and used some subtleties of that line to make that happen. These are abstract and elegant solutions. You cannot observe art into a drawing. Art is the result of decisions made by an artist, to make the image look a certain way. These nuances of line and the solutions he imposes on the drawing to get form and imply value are artful. When we look at the drawings we are pleased in a way that a matter of fact strictly observed (or shudder) copied from a photo image cannot approach. By forcing his drawing into the realm of line he has made something beautiful. That is not to say that there are not beautiful mass drawings, but the clarity and reduction of the Ingres is special.
Below I have shown the same method operating on the head of the boy in the same drawing.


Brady said...

I'm glad to see Ingres used construction on his figures. I've gotten in the habit of doing that and for me it brings the figure together easier than just observing flat angles. But I usually find myself the only one in the room starting off that way.

I think I need to copy some of Ingres drawings though to better understand his use of line.

Deb said...

These are so lovely. No matter how hard I try, I don't seem to be able to think in lines. I think in "chunks". Found some of my early childhood drawings and even then it seems I was concerned with building mass through light and shadow. So these are like great mysteries to me, and so inspiring. They are lyrical, like the gentle melody of a single flute.

Philip Koch said...

Good discussion of thinking in terms of line v.s. masses. Sometimes one works best, sometimes the other. Ingres did these amazing line drawings, but then went ahead and made oil paintings that excell in both line and in mass (in my opinion). Oh, and did I mention he had a mean eye for great color?

I have a birthday coming up and would willingly accept gifts of either Ingres' paintings or drawings. (They don't have to be large ones).

billspaintingmn said...

I like the way you describe "by forcing the drawing into the realm of line, he has made something beautiful."
I have always drawen, and as a little monster, I mean youngster, I would draw on eggs to learn where eyes nose & mouth go. Then I would eat them. Mmmm egg heads, good.
I just posted a drawing on my blog
if you can take a look.

Clem Robins said...

i was trained to construct at the Art Students League, when i studied anatomy. i wish i'd had your training instead. construction's one way of going about things, but at the League, and particularly in Hale's class, it was almost an article of faith. and this is far, far from the whole story.

later i wrote a book which basically parrotted these ideas.

i guess the key is striking a balance.

Deb said...

Well, we all just needed to have THIS instruction! (warning, one swear word)

Stapleton Kearns said...

I intend to do more constructive drawing, but I have lots of experience with a shapes based approach.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I of course think in mass drawing too, but I want would like to work more on line drawing. It is cool.

Stapleton Kearns said...

When I was a student you could buy an Ingres drawing for about 40,000. I don't know what the cost now. Perhaps you could get a pony?

Stapleton Kearns said...

That's a nice little drawing, the head does look like it started as an egg. He must have stayed still for a while.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I too went to the art students league for a little while. I wish I could have spent more time there.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Hey, that's funny.