Saturday, 23 May 2015

Drawing the Lions of Nectanebo

This business of drawing, I've pretty much done it all my life, and can scarcely remember a time when I wasn't doodling something, or trying to draw something I knew I couldn't really draw well but doing it anyway.

 I forget in this age of the image, when we're perpetually bombarded with photographs and moving film and computerized images that simple drawing still interests people.  I've found myself mildly surprised when drawing something for my own amusement, to find that someone is looking over my shoulder. It's an ancient form of entertainment.

People like to draw for relaxation, which is scarcly the way I've seen it - it was just what I did. So a little practice anyone? Drawing an Egyptian sculpture? Ok... 

For this project I have chosen an Egyptian sculpture known as the Lion of Nectanebo, which currently is under the curatorship of the Vatican Museum in Rome.  The original photo can be found here.
I think that sculptures in reality or in photographs are a good source of practice for a beginner artist, and in the past students drew from plaster casts of famous sculptures as a matter of course. Some people think that tracing from a drawing or photograph is okay, but it is always better to draw something freehand. You will learn more about controlling the pencil, about judging placement of lines and it will help you better understand what you are drawing.
Firstly I want to define the structures of the sculpture.

The original sculpture, with construction lines.

The original photograph can be found hereNote how the sculptor has brilliantly captured the important shapes that make up the lion face. At first they might seem complicated, but if you study the shapes singly they are quite simple and clean, good solid monumental forms that are easy to understand.  I am going to make a fairly large drawing on board, beginning with the basic outline of the head, an oval shape, slightly pointed at top.

The basic shape of the head.

So now we begin to place in the important lines, using the above photograph as a guide, paying attention to the red guidelines. These are the supporting structure of the image. Study the image below in red showing the three basic shapes. Note that the lines of the mouth in the original photo show a strange structure just under the mouth. This is actually a hole placed into the sculpture to receive a water pipe, either by the classical or medieval Romans, so that it could be used as part of a garden fountain. For the purposes of our drawing we'll ignore it.

The facial structures

The three basic shapes of the face.

 Part of drawing is learning the accurate positioning of structural lines, these are the lines that make a 2D drawing hold together.  When drawing the lines try to be aware of the points where the lines start and end – this will help with positioning.  For example the lines of the mouth start below the nose, but must end almost at the edge of the original oval shape.  If you’re trying to draw something accurately every line in a drawing must be scrutinised for correct positioning. Do things line up?  Are they on the correct level?  If a line is curved, what exactly is that arc doing?   How close is it to other lines?  Use straight lines to make sure elements line up with each other correctly.

The shapes of the face placed on to the original oval. Ears included.
Some adjustments are always necessary so use a light hand and have a clean eraser near by. There’s nothing wrong with mistakes.  When I was a kid I was sometimes told never to use erasers – you were miraculously supposed to always get it right first time!  This is impossible. Do what you have to do to get a decent image.  Imagine a centre line running from the point at the top of the head straight down through the chin. This can be used to help position marks on the paper; it’s a kind of anchoring line that helps in judging distances between elements. Some artists prefer to use a grid, which they place over a photograph and this helps in the same way. The fact that the lions face is very symmetrical also helps.  I include the main features of the face with a grid applied to emphasise levels and the 'blocks' that the forms make.

The features within a grid.  
The outline of the image is finished with the inclusion of the mane.

Lines of the head, including ears and mane. Compare with photograph above.

To make the forms seem more real and rounded they need to be shaded. I shall use crosshatching, an effective way of applying shading and texture to an image. Depending on the style, different effects can be obtained and the direction of the lines used, help to delineate the form.

Hatching on the left, cross-hatching on the right

Crosshatching should be accomplished without very much movement of the arm; you should be able to rapidly line a section of an image using just small rapid movements of the fingers and thumb.   Do it with confidence.  Shading with lines is also about using visible or dark lines and fainter lines, which are made with a light touch.  When making an area of dark shadow, the lines made must be dark and heavy; the lines in lighter areas should be made with fainter lines to achieve a graduation of shadowing.  So after erasing and cleaning up the centre line and any other construction lines, I will start to delineate shapes with short straight lines like this.

Hatching applied to the lion face.

All of these lines start from the lower left hand corner moving upwards and to the right.   This is to simulate a light source hitting the face from the upper right.  Note how denser patches of darkness can be achieved by closer together strokes – as in the shadow in the ears.   Facility and confidence in this can only be achieved through constant practice.  But this is just hatching. Single lines going in one direction. Crosshatching as the name suggests is when lines cross over each other, and has been used by artists to give form to drawn images practically since art began. To shade with just hatching lines can make the image seem ‘samey’ and flat, to get more depth in the shadow and a feeling of texture, roundness and complexity to the surface then cross hatching is needed.  We proceed to place more hatching lines as shading on to the drawing.

More hatching starts to bring out the forms.

This is where we begin to use the method of cross-hatching, placing lines crossing over those already in place, these lines starting in the lower right and moving to the upper left. This cross-hatching will darken the areas where it is placed, giving more depth and texture, for example, the shadow under the chin, and the ears.  The lines can curve slightly to suggest form.   However they don’t need to be curved, a good sense of roundness can be achieved entirely with straight lines applied in the correct way.

A little cross-hatching is introduced, in the ears and under the chin.

Now we begin to apply cross-hatching on the cheeks and forehead to give the image increased depth and roundness.   It’s a matter of building up the level of shading until the image begins to ‘come forward’ and the forms we originally outlined in red are as well defined as we can manage.
Cross-hatching is used extensively, to darken and give roundness and texture.

In the last stage we finish the shading, applying lines to almost all the head, leaving areas free where the most light would be seen, on the forms that project out the most like the nose, snout and cheekbones.  Note how some of the darker shadowed areas under the nose and ridges over the eyes are made with very short very heavy lines, to emphasise the shadow.  The lines making the grooves on the snout where the whiskers are are all made from many short lines applied in a curve.

The finished lion with extended mane.
That's about it.  Next time, we'll look at colouring it.


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