Thursday, March 6, 2008

Costumed Model

Howard Pyle once said that painting a nude model is like painting a plucked bird.

As illustrators, comic artists, and animators, we’re most often called upon to portray the clothed figure. Why then don’t we spend more time in the studio drawing the figure fully feathered?

Below is a very hasty 20-minute oil sketch. It’s nothing to crow about, but I relished the chance to try something different.


Granted, there are plenty of good reasons to study the nude figure. It’s a good way to learn principles of light and shade on form. It’s essential to understand the structure of the human figure beneath the garment. And the nude is the Everest for artists, given its expressive potential and interpretive subtlety.

But there’s an anatomy of costume, too. Fabric follows different principles from bone and skin. How many art schools or ateliers teach about velvet vs. satin, halflock vs. spiral folds, and dolman vs. set-in sleeves?

Tomorrow: Microraptor Maquette

16 comments:

Brian said...

Back when I was thinking of doing drawn animation and I was going to take a post college refresher class it was suggested that I take a clothed figure. I loved it. Fold and flowing fabric is so much fun to draw.

There is a costumed model group in Sacramento CA that I would like to try out sometime...Pompsicle: http://www.myspace.com/pompsicle. Looks like a lot of fun. I wish there was a costumed model drawing sessions here in SF.

Jen Z said...

I've always admired your costume work in the Dinotopia series, being that it's a good melange of traditional dress as well as that which you design yourself. Do you have a collection of weird and wonderful costumes, (to go with those very cool goggles) or do you have an insider at a theatre to get you props?
@brian -what's to stop you from putting up signs around town or in the newspaper calling all artists to start a group like Pompsicle? I had a look at the group, it is a great idea, I think it'd be fun to try and do something similar here.

Rob Rey said...

Hm, I always wished they had covered more of this at risd. I never really got any instruction in it there though. I've got Bridgman book on drawing the draped figure, but it's a thin book. Are you planning to do a couple more posts to describe these feathery folds? please? :)

J. E. Morris said...

I've also wondered about this, rarely does anyone ask me to draw a nude woman (i.e. never) I really enjoy your blog, thanks so much for posting.

Marc Hudgins said...

In addition to being a concept artist for a gaming company that makes historical strategy games, I am an amateur costumer and I've found that the act of making and researching period garb has been an invaluable asset.

Nothing like the study of and making of clothing to really get a sense of the tactile nature of fabrics as well as insight into how they are built and drape.

Thanks again for this blog, it's becoming one of my all time favorites.

Erik Bongers said...

Well, well, we artists (me in the first place) always seem to be complaining about what we didn't learn at school.
Forget about a Book on Art Mr. Gurney, start an Art School !

I will circulate the introductory pamphlet around my selfhelp-group-for-artists-who-fear-we-can-never-reach-the-same-level-of-mastership-again.
Students guaranteed !

=shane white= said...

Mark Kennedy just unleashed the second part to the Famous Artist Courses on Folds here:

http://sevencamels.blogspot.com/

From skeleton model, to the Bodies exhibit to nude and full costume it should all be soaked up with equal veracity.

=s=

Victor said...

I think it's important to draw the figure nude AND clothed to gain the most understanding about the form and the drapery. Jacques Louis David and his pupils followed this practice (see David's unfinished canvas of the Tennis Court Oath), and I think it's a good one, however it seems like there's rarely time to do this in today's rushed modern world.

Leara said...

hi! i love your dinotopia book! i am a writer, and someday i would like to illustrate my writing. you are a huge inspiration to me. i would love it if you would read (at least some of) my book, and tell me what you think. here's the address: www.zalle.vze.com or www.gozalle.blogspot.com.

Shawn Escott said...

AWESOME! Do you arrange your own models or go to a sketch group?

Michael said...

I think both are important, except that, unfortunately only a few books and even fewer art teachers show how to draw the clothed figure.

Great post. One thing I do see in many artists is the lack of practice with fabric over the body. Just like you said, each fabric works in a different way, and it's important to know how each works!

Kevin Hedgpeth said...

I teach life drawing at the post-secondary level and the curriculum includes drawing the draped figure.

Unfortunately, many schools seem to be downplaying the value of foundational art skills these days.

Brian said...

JenZ - Good idea.

a. fortis said...

I agree with Kevin--a lot of schools seem to downplay the fundamentals. In beginning drawing I remember having to draw the nude and the drapery--but mostly separate from one another, oddly enough...

James Gurney said...

I'm on the road, so sorry I'm behind on comments...
Jen, my costumes come from the Renaissance Faire costumer Moresca, and others are homemade. A bunch are cast-off worn-out costumes that I bought from rental companies. Science fiction cons and ren fairs are a great place to see costumes and meet costumers.

Shawn, the sketch I showed was from a sketch group I organized which switched from nude to costumed poses.

Victor, yes, the Royal Academicians like Poynter and Leighton usually did the full nude studies before costumed studies, and its a great idea if you have the time.

In our visits to art schools, I have to say that overall they're starting to cover these bases much better than they used to. San Francisco's Academy of the Arts is one example that has classes on drawing the costumed figure, not just for fashion, but for narrative artists of all kinds. All art schools should build up their own costume collections and not just depend on the models to bring them.

Stephen James. said...

This is a very true statement. And I would know, drapery still gives me trouble.