Rhythmic lines

Posted: August 9th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Life Drawing | No Comments »

I studied briefly with Frank Porcu years ago at the Art Students League of NY. In our Wed night anatomy drawing class, he once said: “Muscles create a more beautiful rhythmic line than we could ever come up with ourselves.”

At the time I thought that was very poetic and jotted it down, but I didn’t really understand what he meant. I was a beginner.

I did very little drawing after leaving NY, until I attended the ARA where the focus is on perfecting our ability to see form. It’s only become clear to me what Frank meant recently, after a return to practicing gesture drawing and doing line work for my teaching at Humber.

I skipped my weekly TSA drawing this morning and stayed home to copy works by Sherrie McGraw from her book The Language of Drawing. Her line quality is so beautiful and I love how she combines the black, red and white chalks in some of her figures. With a few lines and passages of tone, she captures gesture and structure while keeping her drawings delicate and expressive.

Master draftsmen know what to leave out! I’m thinking of that quote today because of her drawings.

There’s so much to think about when drawing the figure in 20 minutes or less! And it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount of information that seems important. Not every line and form need to be put down. And of the lines that are put into the drawing, not all need to be emphasized equally.

That’s the rhythm that Frank is talking about I think — selecting the key lines that describe the gesture or form AND selecting which lines will be emphasized. When well done, our eye just flows along the drawing.

Frank’s full quote from January 2003:

You must use the science of the form as the basis for your rhythmic line, and not just pure expression. Knowledge of anatomy gives the rhythmic line direction, stability, a beginning and an end — it becomes much more powerful… Muscles create a more beautiful rhythmic line than we could ever come up with ourselves.

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