Research Point: 4.2.1: Foreshortening and the Human Form

For this piece of research, I tried to begin by seeing foreshortening in the world around me; my husband relaxing on the opposite settee (creating an illusion that his furthest arm was much smaller than his closest), my daughter resting her feet on me and her head further away (creating the illusion that her feet were a lot bigger in scale than her head).

I then turned to the internet to try and find some images of historic pieces of art where the artist has been rather successful in creating the illusion of depth with foreshortening within their pieces.

Fig. 1. Mantegna, A The Lamentation over the Dead Christ (c.1490)

The first piece I came across was the above piece by Italian Renaissance artist, Andrea Mantegna. I was instantly drawn to this piece due to the quality of the illusion created. Whilst I know it has been created on technically just a flat, even surface, I feel as though I am looking through a square window, into the room and directly onto the subject, Christ. The artist has been very successful in taking the vertical figure and making it appear almost horizontal. I am a little confused by the fact the feet do not appear massively bigger in scale than the head, yet it is clear that the feet are in the foreground and the head in the background of the piece. Perhaps it is the shortening of the limbs and torso? Or perhaps the delicate shading and tonal changes? Perhaps it is a combination of both? Whilst I do not think I will ever have the skill to be able to compete with this level of skill, I think I can definitely learn a lot from it regarding being subtle with my mark making and exaggeration of limbs and features. Whilst I think I would still enjoy creating a little too much over-exaggeration, I will definitely try to do more in moderation.

Fig. 2. Caravaggio, M Supper at the Emmaus (1610)

Next I came across the above piece by the Baroque artist, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. At first glance, this piece also makes me feel as though I am looking through a window and eavesdropping on this deeply-heated conversation. The artist has somehow made the depth of the piece so realistic, with the arms looking as though they are literally coming through the flat surface in a 3D method.

I then tried to find some contemporary pieces but, taking into account my tutor’s comments regarding personalising, I decided to find works I felt I could recreate somewhat. In Fig. 3., the piece has a strong outline (though not with a solid line), yet is rather expressive inside. I decided to dissect the piece in my sketchbook, cutting the parts of the body into easier shapes to assist in measuring the differences in scale due to the foreshortening aspects.

I really like how the artist has used the direction of the line to show the contours of the surface, such as the depth and shape of the breasts and the flesh of the leg. I decided to recreate this in oil pastel on a black piece of paper.I tried to recreate similar colours seen in the original, using line and expressive marks to show the contours and highlights of the flesh.

This piece focuses on a completely different part of a female than other pieces seen in this Research Point; the bottom. The artist has laid the model in a somewhat diamond shape on the chosen surface. The bottom has been magnified greatly compared to both the head and feet of the model due to the foreshortening of the chosen angle. The shadow above the bottom and towards the feet help only to emphasise the highlighted mass of the buttocks and upper thighs. I tried to recreate the piece using charcoal to try and garner a better understanding of the artist’s intentions. I really enjoyed recreating this piece, with its diamond shape and strong tonal contrasts. I think I have left the buttocks much darker than the original. Overall, however, I think I will consider this construction technique when I create my own pieces and also how this artist has created the piece focussing on tone as opposed to details.

This piece is somewhat similar to the piece created by Mikawoz in respect of the composition used. I like the use of a different colour than just black to create this piece, and also how there is an outline and rather controlled markings inside those lines, but then some rather expressive marks around the outside of the piece. Again, this piece has been constructed focussing more on tone than detail. There are hints at detail, but no complete sections.

This piece is by far my favourite piece. I really enjoy how large the foot and toes are compared to the head and hand. I like that the indication of a hand is there but is not detailed. The smaller foot also has some detail, but is nowhere near as much as the larger foot. I think, if I were to try and recreate this properly and for it to work efficiently, I would be best suited to using a large surface, such as A1, so that whilst the smaller details of the piece would be small, they would still be much larger than if I were to create them on A3, for example.

I chose to recreate this piece on a black surface with chalk to lift the highlights from the shadows and then used some willow chalk to put some of the darker areas back in. Whilst I had difficulty with the face and then decided to work the features back out, I am actually rather pleased with the outcome, even if somewhat different to the original. I actually really liked the process used to create this piece and think I will use it again in the future.

Mirrored Self-Portrait

Self-portrait through a mirror

As instructed in the textbook, I sat myself in front of my wardrobe mirror and drew what I could see of myself. I was sat on the floor with my knees bent in front of me. I wore a black vest top and a black pair of leggings.

I think overall I have managed to scale the different parts of my body rather accurately as I tried to bear in mind that those things whcih were closest to the mirror would be larger, whilst those which were further away would be smaller, such as my facial features and elbows.

I think I have been rather successful in recreating the shadows and other tonal patches within the piece as well as the general measurements of the body and limbs, whilst considering the foreshortening aspects as well. I do, however, think I have created the head a little too small and the resemblance to me is not very strong, though this was not my prime focus within this piece. I also think the purple adds a little something different to the piece and makes it a little more interesting than just the black and white. I think this may hopefully assist me in working on the hues of the colours if just using them in a limited palette method.

List of Illustrations

Fig. 1. Mantegna, A (c. 1490) [tempera on canvas] At: http://www.essentialvermeer.com/glossary/glossary_d_i.html#foreshortening (Accessed on 13 August 2019)

Fig. 2. Caravaggio, M (1610) ‘The Supper at Emmaus’ [oil on canvas] At: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supper_at_Emmaus_(Caravaggio,_London)#/media/File:1602-3_Caravaggio,Supper_at_Emmaus_National_Gallery,_London.jpg (Accessed on 21 August 2019)

Fig. 3. Hatt, F (2010) ‘Dynamo’ [crayons] At: https://fredhatt.com/blog/2010/09/26/end-on-extreme-foreshortening/ (Accessed on 21 August 2019)

Fig. 4. Mikawoz, S. (2013) ‘61745766923’ [unknown] At: https://felixinclusis.tumblr.com/post/61745766923/wasbella102-by-s%C5%82awomir-mikawoz (Accessed on 20 August 2019)

Fig. 5. George Dawney. (2016) ‘George Dawney’ [conte] At: https://georgedawnay.tumblr.com/post/143542835392/recliner-sanguine-tumblr-conté-strathmore (Accessed on 20 August 2019)

Fig. 6. Hankin, J (2017) ‘Foreshortened’ [Photoshop] At: https://www.artstation.com/artwork/oKDXL (Accessed on 21 August 2019)

Bibliography

Essential Vermeer (Unknown) ‘The Essential Vermeer Glossary of Art-Related Terms: D-I’ [online] At: http://www.essentialvermeer.com/glossary/glossary_d_i.html#foreshortening (Accessed on 13 August 2019)

Wikipedia. (2019) ‘Supper at Emmaus’ (Caravaggio, London) [online] At: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supper_at_Emmaus_(Caravaggio,_London) (Accessed on 21 August 2019)

Fred Hatt (2010) ‘End-On: Extreme Foreshortening’ [crayons] At: Fredhatt.com/blog/2010/09/26/end-on-extreme-foreshortening/ (Accessed on 13 August 2019)

Research Point: Historic and Contemporary Artists’ use of the Body’s Underlying Structure

When I first looked at this Research Point, I was rather hesitant to look into it as I thought that, whilst I really enjoy drawing the exterior of the figure, the underlying structure did not really appeal to me too much. However, I decided I had to look deeper than I would have by choice and was surprised to come across a few pieces which actually caught my intrigue.

Firstly, I knew from general knowledge garnered over the years that a keen lover of the human figure was da Vinci, with his Vitruvian Man so I decided to look into whether he had studied the underlying structures (as I was not aware of this side of his workings) and was rather surprised to find the below image.

Fig. 1. da Vinci, L Pen-and-Ink Studies of Human Fetus (1510)

Whilst the fetus appears to be intact and covered with skin, it is clearly shown as though from within a woman’s womb. This fascinated me as clearly da Vinci really was interested in all parts of the human body and I think these notes and sketches and the delicate techniques used to create the baby shows his admiration for the whole process of our coming into being and his respect for nature’s powers and beauty. Da Vinci has used hatching and the shadowed areas to show the depth of the sketch’s details and also and the roundness of the fetus’s enclosure. The only detail in the sketch is created purely by shadowed areas. I think this could be really useful for me to recreate in areas I struggle with, toes and fingers for example.

Fig. 2. del Barbiere, D Two Flayed Men and their Skeletons (c. 1540 to 1545)

I came across the above image and found it rather interesting. The piece shows two men whose muscles are all exposed, standing next to what appears to be their own skeletons. Whilst there is a lot of detail in this piece, I really like how the artist has, just like da Vinci, used shadow to show the parts and finder details of the men instead of having drawn each part individually. I like how the artist has used more of a solid coloured approach in the piece, using the side of the pencil as opposed to the point. The artist has also used a broad tonal range throughout which, again, I can bear in mind for my own pieces.

Fig. 3. Rubens, P Anatomical Studies: A Left Forearm in Two Positions and a Right Forearm (c. 1600 to 1605)

I find the piece above slightly disturbing for some reason; I think perhaps it is because it appears unnatural and malformed. The index fingers also appear to be placed in unnatural positions; I think these are natural positions, but without the overlay of skin, they appear somewhat disjointed. However, I really like how the artist has used very light and precise cross-hatching and other techniques throughout to bring depth to the piece. The darkest areas of the piece have also not been created in too heavy a hand and do not appear to be as dark as they possibly could. This is something I definitely struggle with as I really enjoy creating the darkest parts, however, it is something I need to work on controlling to better myself.

Fig. 4. Dine, J The Side View (1986)

When I came across the above image, I was instantly drawn in and mesmerised by it. I just love how dark the darkest areas are, how the whole top right-hand corner is very shadowed and the lower left corner rather light. The markings used to create the shadowing to the depth of the skull are very expressive. Before I started this research, I was not very keen on the skull as a subject, however, since seeing this piece, I have become fascinated with it and consider it is something I think I will really enjoy working with. I think the reason I am drawn to it is because there are hardly any fine details besides the teeth, but there are several angles and deep hollows in such places as the eye and nose cavities. There are also areas where shadows do not really hit, such as the bulk of the bulbous part area and the fore-front contours of the teeth. I can really see myself creating something very similar to this and use the skull as a focal point within my work.

Fig. 5. MalteGruhl 196978999515 (unknown)

Again, when I came across this piece, I was instantly drawn to it but for slightly different reasons. Whilst the artist has also used the skull, this time the marks have been made using more of a brush stroke technique and the paint applied rather liberally. It appears almost as though the skull has been covered with material and the lower part removed. I really like the block colours and contrast between the darker and lighter areas. The top of the skull does not quite look right to me. The outline looks rather wrong and cartoon-like. I think the piece would have been much better without the addition of the outline. However, it does work to create a sense that the outline is somehow above the rest of the piece, for example as though it has been drawn on a sheet of tracing paper and placed on top of the original.

I like this method and think I will give it a try as it will come in rather handy when I have to create pieces which have blocks of tonal values.

List of Illustrations

Fig. 1. da Vinci, L (1510) Pen-and-Ink Studies of Human Fetus [Pen and ink] At: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Leonardo-da-Vinci/media/1/336408/15647 (Accessed on 15 August 2019)

Fig. 2. del Barbiere, D (c. 1540 to 1545) Two Flayed Men and their Skeletons [engraving] At: https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/49.95.181/ (Accessed on 15 August 2019)

Fig. 3. Rubens, P (c. 1600 to 1605) Anatomical Studies: A Left Forearm in Two Positions and a Right Forearm [pen and brown ink] At: https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1996.75/ (Accessed on 15 August 2019)

Fig. 4. Dine, J (1986) The Side View [etching, soft-ground etching and drypoint on paper] At: https://i12bent.tumblr.com/post/705695652/jim-dine-the-side-view-1986-etching (Accessed on 21 August 2019)

Fig. 5. MalteGruhl (Unknown) 196978999515 [painting] At: https://www.designspiration.net/save/196978999515/ (Accessed on 21 August 2019)

Bibliography

Arcy Art. (Unknown) ‘Structure – Arcy Art Original Oil Paintings Art Dictionary’ [online] At: https://www.arcyart.com/ad-structure.htm (Accessed on 15 August 2019)

Britannica. (Unknown) ‘Leonardo da Vinci: Italian Artist, Engineer and Scientist’ [online] At: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Leonardo-da-Vinci/Anatomical-studies-and-drawings (Accessed on 15 August 2019)

The Metropolitan Museum. (2002) ‘Anatomy in the Renaissance’ [online] At: https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/anat/hd_anat.htm (Accessed on 15 August 2019)