It Was “This” Big | When It’s Okay to Exaggerate

There’s a place called Turtle Creek where I used to go night fishing on a regular basis. It ran between a railroad track and a country backroad, and a one-lane bridge would take you to either side of the creek. The stars are so much more beautiful out there compared to the filtered version that I see now, living in the city where light pollution hides all of those twinkling wonders. They were one of the reasons I loved fishing there so much, at night in particular–that and the roaring trains that would rattle the bridge with their noise just often enough to remind me that civilization was never too far. Recently I went back during the day and looked out across the creek, which now reminds me of a Richard McKinley landscape.

To this day, I’m still notoriously known for catching nothing but blue gills that are as small as the palm of my hand, but once I had sat next to the water with my pole, watching a butterfly that landed on my knee and silently begging it not to leave, I had taken my eye off of the bobber, which had been yanked underwater. My husband ended up coming to the rescue and grabbing my pole before it, too, disappeared, and before I knew it, we had a two-pound catfish. Not bad at all! We released it into the water after gently removing the hook, and then realized that we hadn’t taken a picture. I don’t know how that fish has fared since that peaceful afternoon, but in my husband’s retelling of the tale, it has grown significantly.

figure study by artist Steven Huston

Figure Study (2007; charcoal, 24×20) by Steve Huston. Collection of the artist.

Robert Barrett claims that there’s a time and a place for exaggeration. It has nothing to do with fishing, but everything to do with drawing the figure. “A strong statement approximates reality better than a timid or understated one,” he says in Essential Figure Drawing Strategies.

Gestural drawing by Robert Barrett

Gestural drawing by Robert Barrett

Robert Barrett, on the Importance of Exaggeration:

As you work through your gesture drawings, try to exaggerate what you’re seeing or experiencing. Not only does exaggeration often come closer to the truth than understating the facts, but it will also help you carry your enthusiasm for your subject through to the end. So if you see something is curved, make it more curved than it is, or if it’s relatively straight, make it straighter. In a foreshortened pose, make the parts of the figure coming toward the viewer bigger than they actually are. This process involves editing and simplification to strengthen and enhance the model’s pose and the concept of the drawing. ~RB

Remember that exaggerating can be a good thing.
Keeping it real,
Cherie

Cherie Haas, online editor**Learn about Essential Figure Drawing Strategies: Rhythm, Gesture, and Envelope, our newest digital magazine (it’s almost 30 pages of guidance for drawing the figure, and is only $2.99) that features Robert Barrett, Sadie J. Valeri, and Steve Huston. Brought to you by The Artist’s Magazine.

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