I have always loved charcoal drawings. A few years ago, I came across a book of charcoal figure drawings by Henry Yan , who was then an instructor at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. I immediately bought two copies of the book–one to keep in my studio as a reference and one for my family room just so I could have it close. I spent several months looking at Yan's drawings and studying the essential drawing methods demonstrated throughout the book. I bought additional copies for friends in my studio art group so they could enjoy them, too. I was totally captivated.
|Rose by Rob Goodman, charcoal drawing.|
But this blog is not about figure drawing or even Henry Yan. It is about how a drawing can be so exceptionally captivating that color is not a critical component at all! The still life charcoal drawing shown here was drawn by Rob Goodman, a former student and now Fellow at Studio Incamminati. A joint effort of sorts, the still life was set up by one of his fellow classmates, Peter Kelsey, who is now an instructor at Studio Incamminati as well as a Fellow. Their collaboration produced Rose, a still life drawing that captivated me much the same way that some of Henry Yan's drawings do.
The drawing is featured on the Studio Incamminati website and is described as "offering the advantages of a variety of forms, shapes, surfaces, texture, placement in space, and relation to the background, all vital issues in realism." Charcoal was the chosen medium because it is very painterly and provides a bridge for an artist who is ready to move from drawing to painting. What draws me into the piece is how deceptively simple the design is and how it calls forth emotions in me every time I look at it. There is something about the focal point–the rose coupled with pearls flowing from the low dish, and both of them catching the light–that draws me in.
The drawing uses multiple devices to guide the viewer through it, from focal point to focal point. The strongest may be the use of diagonals. The diagonals extend from left to right, with a small thin book (and accompanying shadow) placed at the left front edge of the picture plane to lead the viewer's eye to the pearls and, ultimately, to the rose bathed in light inside its small round vase. There is a dark diagonal shadow on the wall behind the vase, making the rose stand out even more.
In the other direction, the diagonal starts from the right foreground of the drawing with the fabric that is draped over the dresser on which the still life sits. Its folds go from right to left and extend back towards the rose.
The viewer "entering" the drawing from the left-center finds yet another diagonal as the eye travels to the pearls (the low point of the diagonal), then to the rose, and then to the glass cylinder, which is the tallest object in the drawing and the high end of the diagonal excepting the background shadows.
In addition to strong diagonals, Peter and Rob used an unequal division of light and shadow, with the light coming more from the rear left of the tableau than the front and the shadow running from back to front on a left to right diagonal.
A bit dizzying isn't it? But besides these signs of technical acuity, I look at that drawing and find myself a voyeur imaging what the scene could possibly mean. Has a romantic evening just ended? Has it not yet begun? I don't regularly find myself caught up in the narrative of a drawing but in this case I really want to know what is happening. In short, I am captivated! I hope you are too!