My instructor, Jeremy Deck, has recently shown me the benefits to a process of blocking in that is made easier by easing into specificity with a loose start. I was able to benefit from watching my instructor demonstrate this process many times and discussed the reasonings behind the decisions he was making. This post is an explanation of the benefits that result from a process of starting a block-in loosely. Footnotes are included in this post to indicate which sentences in this post are summarizations of ideas that the instructors at The Cambridge Street Studios have explained to me.
I used to make sure to start my block-ins with lines that were as straight as possible in order to ensure that I was not making my lines curve to the point where I would have difficulty obtaining the character of a shape. According to Jeremy Deck, once one grasps the idea of the usefulness that straight lines allow for in the clarity of seeing the character of shapes, a different method can be applied to the start of block-ins that will allow for more accuracy.¹ By beginning a block-in with more attention paid to the character of shapes than the appearance of one's lines one gains greater facility in drawing the shapes that one sees while those shapes are vivid in one's visual memory. This facility is of great importance because one can only draw from their visual memory. Since this drawing method requires for one to face their picture while drawing, one can only draw what they remember from what what they have just observed. Therefore, in order to create the most accurate representation of what one sees requires for one to transcribe that information while it is most vivid in one's visual memory. Due to the fleeting nature of the visual memory one has to draw as quickly as possible in order to represent what is vivid in one's visual memory.
It is for this reason that it is very beneficial to start a block-in with a looser manner where more attention is paid to quickly transcribing the character of the shapes that one sees rather than the clean straight appearance of one's lines. In order to gain the most facility in starting a block-in loosely one must loosely hold their pencil from the very back and draw from the distance of an arms length away from the drawing surface.¹ The same principles of the block-in process previously described on this blog still apply to this method of starting a block-in. Meaning that the lines are to be applied with the intent of being straight but if the lines become slightly curved in the process of quickly drawing shapes that is not an issue.¹ The purpose of starting block-ins loosely is the facility of putting down the shapes that one sees while they are vivid in one's visual memory.
Although this method of starting a block-in is useful for any drawing, it is especially useful when drawing the figure because the figure moves.¹ Therefore, the more immediately that one can put down the shapes that one sees on the figure the more accurate the drawing will be.¹ My portrait block-in was started in a loose manner similar to what is shown in the picture below.
In order to draw shapes quickly I often don't sharpen my pencil or roll the drawing out with a kneaded eraser because taking the time to do so disrupts my thought process of quickly drawing shapes.¹ If my first attempt is close enough I usually just refine the shapes in another pass right on top of the lighter lines.¹ Or I will quickly strike an eraser through a line and draw right on top of that. Using a soft pencil such as an HB allows me to draw on top of old lines without fear of scratching the paper.¹ When the lines become too vague due to the use of a dull pencil I must sharpen my pencil in order to gain clarity in the shapes.¹ It is the awareness of the clarity of the shapes learned from practicing block-ins the normal way that allows for one to know whether or not the lines are too vague or not.¹ Before I measure a block-in that has been started loosely I make sure to generally clean out the interior of the shape so that I have a clearer indication of where a shape begins and ends.¹ After a general height to width has been established with the loose lines from the start of the block-in, the drawing progresses with more attention paid to the straightness of the lines.
This is a portrait block-in that was started loosely and was taken to a conceptual pass. I could not get as close to the model as I would get to a cast, so I took Tony Ranalli's advice, to use binoculars during the conceptual pass to more clearly see details that were not distinct to me from where I was drawing.² Another new process that I have been learning about is to not only lighten the shapes that are less distinct but also to make them sketchier in appearence, so to give myself a broader range of the quality and edges of shapes in my block-ins. This makes it easier to compare the shapes in my block-ins to the vast range of edges that I see in life.¹
¹ Jeremy Deck, personal communication, 2013.
² Anthony Ranalli, personal communication, 2013.