Flex Your Artistic Imagination

Surrender charcoal drawing by Brady Allen
Surrender charcoal drawing on Stonehenge paper

Making a drawing or painting from your imagination is sometimes the best test to see where your skills are at, and it’s also a lot of fun. This charcoal drawing of two knights confronting each other on the battlefield is a little outside of my usual fare, but sometimes as an artist you just have to go with it.

Every week the website Illustration Friday, offers a word to be interpreted in art. I didn’t want to join the website or participate with it online, but I thought the word Surrender would be a good theme.

I brainstormed for a bit and thought of two guys fighting on a battlefield and one is surrendering to another about to attack him. Before this drawing, I had never drawn a knight in armor and I thought it would be interesting to finally draw one.

I started with some thumbnail sketches and came up with the pose I wanted. I didn’t want a full scene, just a vignette, because I wanted to focus on the armor.

Surrender sketch
Surrender pencil sketch

I followed the deadline of only having a week to complete the drawing, so I started on the poses of the figures. I didn’t have the time or ability to get models in the poses, and I had no access to real armor so everything had to be done from my knowledge of the figure and photos of armor I found online.

After this stage I transferred the sketch to tracing paper to refine the contour, or outline which I would then transfer to the Stonehenge paper to render in charcoal. (Unfortunately, I threw away the tracing paper drawing thinking I would never need it again.)

I used Coates vine charcoal and a kneaded eraser to complete the final rendering of the drawing, that you see at the top of the post. I had to keep a consistent light direction in mind when deciding on how the highlights and shadows would work. Also, I had to think of how the different materials would move, or fold and drape, such as the difference between cloth and the chain mail under the plate armor.

It was a good challenge and I’m mostly happy with it, which I find typical for almost every artist since there’s always something to do or change.

I encourage anyone who wants to test themselves to pick up a pencil or paintbrush and try something from your imagination to help build your artistic skills.

Warning Nude Art Below 2

Drawing of masked nude woman by Thomas Eakins

Continuing the post from yesterday, this woman isn’t really wearing a bag, but she is wearing a bag-like mask in this drawing by Thomas Eakins. During the 19th century it was considered a step above prostitution for a woman to be a figure model, so to protect their virtue they wore masks during the drawing session. I’m sure artists were grateful for the women who risked ridicule to sit for them.

Still today there are widely held misconceptions about what a figure model does. Some wrong ideas are that it is some sort of sexually charged lurid thing and that artists are looking for a thrill and the model is some sort of exhibitionist. The truth is quite a different matter.

During a drawing or painting session the artist is busy thinking of angles, light, color, value, composition, handling, proportion, and a million other things that go into an artwork. And the model is thinking about finding a creative pose, holding the pose and not moving, making sure they have the right expression on their face, and more.

A figure drawing or painting session is really a collaboration between the artist and the model to achieve the best artwork possible.

Unfortunately there have been cases in the past that stand out, probably for their rarity, such as the painting Chloe by Jules Joseph Lefebvre.

Chloe, a painting by John Joseph Lefebvre of a young french girl.

Marie, who posed for the painting, and her sister lived just outside Paris and were from a very poor family. They both moved to Paris in the waning decades of the 19th century and they became figure models. This painting was done when she was 19. She modeled for Lefebvre, who did have a reputation for getting too close to models, and she fell in love with him.

Unbeknown to Marie, Lefebvre was also carrying on with Marie’s sister, and roughly a year after Chloe was painted he suddenly dumped Marie to marry her. Marie didn’t want to ruin their happiness, so she kept a lid on her pain until two years later when she poisoned herself in the kitchen while a party she had been hosting carried on in the other room.

On a tour to Australia in the 1880’s the painting was auctioned off to a doctor who later sold her to Mr. Young. Chloe is now a national icon, and resides in the Young & Jackson Hotel in Melbourne.

It’s also one of my favorite paintings from the 19th century.

Charcoal drawing on red paper of a nude woman by Brady Allen

This last drawing is actually one of mine. It is black and white charcoal on Canson paper. This model has a very long and angular frame and is a challenge to get right since it’s easy to make her look out of proportion. I’ve had the opportunity to draw her three or four times and this is my favorite of the bunch.

I’m grateful to her, and all the other art models who’ve posed for me since there is no other way to learn drawing as quickly.