I hiked the Salkantay Trail and part of the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu in Peru last week, 9/14 – 9/24/2010, with a group sponsored by REI Adventures partnering with Mountain Lodges of Peru. I had debated whether to take any books for reading, or just my sketchbook and camera. As it turned out, I had no time for reading, and hardly any time for sketching, because we spent so much time and energy hiking. Any down-time was consumed by rehydrating and recovering. I did get 3 hours to sketch in Machu Picchu Sanctuary on my last day there.
The friend who was coming with me on this trip had to cancel, so I was with people I didn’t know, but we all became friends. The group consisted of an incredible guide, Dalmiro Portillo Esquivel, and 9 people in addition to myself, ranging in age from 30 to 74 years old. All were well prepared, physically, and we all were well-motivated. Several other members of the group also were taking photographs, all of us being amateurs, but some with technical training. I myself have essentially no technical training in photography, trusting my instinct for composition and letting the automatic point-and-shoot camera do the rest. For the most part, I just take advantage of time, place, and light with the subjects I happen upon.
These are my sketches and a few of my photographs. Later I may put all of my vacation photos together in a photo-journal of sorts.
For several weeks at Studio b.‘s figure drawing sessions, we have been focusing on negative space. This week our focus was the silhouette of the figure, essentially the contour line which separates negative space from positive space. Our instructor Heather Clements says that when the contour is interesting, that’s half the battle. Learning to accurately draw the contour comes first, and after that the artist decides what elements to exaggerate to make the contour more expressive. Heather directed us to fill in the positive shape so that it reads as a single shape. I had a lot of fun with this exercise, since I was thinking I would not be turning out anything worth keeping, which freed me to use some colors and textures I might not ordinarily use. The night passed quickly. In this post I have decided to also include all of my warm-up drawings, to show the differences in approach to each pose, and to give an idea of what is actually happening in a 2½ hour figure drawing session at Studio b. The final drawing is shown first, followed by the initial 30-second and one-minute gestures, progressing up to 4-minute gestures, all of which I usually end up throwing away, and then the 15-minute silhouette drawings.
This week at Studio b., Heather Clements led us in continuing to explore negative space and negative shapes, which involves drawing the area around the figure, instead of drawing the figure. We started this exercise last week. I found it easier to focus on negative shapes this week, and began to play with the negative space a little in my later drawings, adding some color and other shapes. I used charcoal pencil and then nupastel on the 1- and 2-minute warm-up drawings, and I used water-soluble ink pen and watercolor pencils on the longer poses. I left the positive shapes stark white, waiting until I washed over the drawings at the end to perhaps add a little tone to the figure.
Even after practicing this exercise for only two weeks, I can see shapes better as abstractions. An arm is not just an arm, for example, it is also the shape around it that defines it as an arm.
The drawings at lower right are the same pose. I had time left over after I finished one, so I started the second one.