This 25-minute drawing was done with the specific intent of practicing figure construction. Since I love quick-sketching the figure, I look for any way to improve my technique (I'd also like to better understand why an artist draws the figure, but that's a whole other topic). One significant way to improve I've found, is to, in sports terms, “slow down the game,” something talked about in baseball all the time (they talk a lot in baseball). Which means practicing skills until they become second nature and you don't have to think about them when you're actually drawing in the game, which in my case is drawing the model.
According to Robert Beverly Hale and others, all of the great masters of the figure—Da Vinci, Rembrandt, etc.—could draw a figure out of their head and often did. This enabled them to have a figure in their head when they drew from a live model and made it much easier to concentrate on the unique aspects of the particular pose they were drawing instead of all the little ins and outs of drawing a hand, etc., etc.
So I've been practicing drawing on my own without a model. Which is incredibly hard for me. I have found I have no imagination for making up poses. But it is helping.
In any event, the real subject of this post is that I began searching for efficient ways to “make up” a figure drawing out of my head. This led me to ImagineFX magazine's special issue on anatomy, on the newsstands now (April, 2014). That issue features two California artists and teachers, Ron Lemen and Chris Legaspi, both of whom mention the “Riley Method.” The magazine is very helpful, but doesn't exactly spell out how to construct a figure in a minute or two, so I began researching the Riley Method.
Apparently, the Riley Method, or at least drawing systems descending from it, turns out to be popular with California artists who work in the animation industry. It is a rhythmic way to quickly construct the figure as a whole. So from Hale in New York, I was led all the way out to the west coast to find more modern ways to improve my figure drawing. Except the irony is that the Riley Method was brought to California by one of his students, an illustrator and teacher named Fred Fixler. And Frank J. Riley himself was a student of George Bridgman, the very same man who Robert Beverly Hale took over from at the Art Students League back in New York! In a further bit of irony, I drew the picture above in Chicago's Palette and Chisel second floor drawing room, standing directly beneath one of Bridgman's original class drawings. Here's a photo of the drawing mounted on the wall from the P&C's Facebook page. I was standing right in front of the round mirror to the right, looking directly toward the model stand, where the camera was placed to take this picture.
I also found another California teacher, Hope Railey, whose ConceptArt posts and blog were very helpful. And many more leads to other teachers and illustrators. After all this searching, I've found it most helpful to use the Ron Lemen ImagineFX articles in an earlier anatomy special plus his YouTube videos to proceed with constructive figure practice. I'll let you know how it goes…