Friday, May 11, 2012

Master Class in Figure Drawing

Robert Beverly Hale, compiled and edited by Terence Coyle. Watson-Guptill Publications, 1991 paperback edition (ISBN 0-8230-3014-8).

What this book is not: This book is not a reference to human anatomy or an introduction to how to draw in general. I was much happier once I stopped trying to use it this way.

What this book is: This appears to be a compilation of transcribed lectures from Hale's figure drawing classes at the Art Students League. It is arranged by areas of the body (but only loosely) and illustrated with various "Great Master Drawings" marked up with letters which are referenced by the text.

This book is best read in order, mixed with practice drawing from other references (books like Winslow's Classic Human Anatomy, or probably better yet, live figure models). If I had more time (it is due back at the library shortly), that is how I'd use it. It contains observations about anatomy as it pertains to the artist (e.g., how it is often drawn and what the salient facts and shapes are) mixed with more general advice about how to approach drawing and how not to approach it, and some witticisms and practical (but irrelevant to drawing) commentary about various pieces of anatomy.

The illustrations are generally legible, but not great; the letters are sometimes hard to make out (they are usually in red, sometimes on top of black) and I wouldn't assume, in general, that they accurately depict anything other than what Hale discusses in the text, though most of them are quite good.

His lectures assume you know certain terms such as mass, value, form, plane, all in the artistic senses of the word. It may be possible to pick it up from context but I found it quite confusing at first.

Bottom line: Fairly good if you can take the time to practice using what he teaches with supplemental references (books, other people, a mirror).  I suppose that is the point of drawing anyway; no one takes it up just to copy other artists' work, unless he is a forger, perhaps.

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