C  H  A  P  T  E  R    S  I  X

UNDERSTANDING FORM ON THE INSIDE

Reverse, 1997

Pencil on paper, 24 × 18″ (61 × 46 cm)

NO PART OF THE BODY IS FLAT, nor does its curvature remain constant from one point to the next. (That would be another, more insidious kind of flatness.) Instead, it is characterized by converging, irregularly turning, twisting forms that have changing degrees of curvature. In other words, it is very complex. That’s one of the things that makes drawing the figure so interesting. And it’s why we lay out the groundwork (the block-in, gesture, and contour) so patiently and methodically. Without a well-organized linear foundation, it’s very difficult to construct the form on the inside.

The representation of form on the inside is guided by the same principles that guide the representation of form in the contour: fullness, continuity and discreteness, and organization. But while these principles are expressed through line in the contour, here they must be expressed with tone. On the inside, as in the contour, forms are rounded; they “turn.” Every form turns. One end of the form “turns up” toward the light and the other “turns down,” away from the light. Thus, every form acquires a degree of value change and a definite tonal progression. This is true of all forms on the body, both great (the model’s back) and small (the seventh cervical vertebra). Inside drawing is the process of giving each of these forms the specific progression proper to its place in the figure as a whole.

Class Demo: Right Ear, 1997

Pencil on paper, 24 × 18″ (61 × 46 cm)

Curving, wrapping, wedging, and tapering: such is the action of form on the inside. It doesn’t have to be moving to be energetic. Nothing in the body is static, even if the model is holding perfectly still. Notice how the forms of this ear twist and funnel into one another. Everything tapers and turns. Notice the interlocking convergence of forms as the earlobe modulates into the rim. This is not just some kind of mushy transition; it is a very specific structural connection.

Aurora, 1998

Pencil and pastel on gray paper, 19 × 25″ (48 × 64 cm)

Form and light are really inseparable parts of the same study.

FULLNESS

The fullness of the body is expressed through a multitude of convex forms. Convex, as you may remember, means outwardly rounded. In the contour, convexity is expressed with arcs of varying amplitudes. On the inside, it is expressed with tonal progressions.

Each form on the inside has a subtle border and its own flat, block-in shape: its shape as projected onto the picture plane. Within that shape you can express fullness by creating a tonal progression that darkens as it moves away from the light source. This makes the form appear to turn. If the light source is to the upper right, for example, the form would darken on a diagonal toward the lower left. You can increase or decrease the degree of a form’s convexity by manipulating the tonal range of its progression. The tonal range is the amount of value change from beginning to end. More value change makes a form appear rounder and fuller; less makes it appear tauter. This handling of tonal progression on the inside of each form is one of the subtlest aspects of inside drawing.

Hand with Seed Packet, 1997

Pencil on paper, 24 × 18″ (61 × 46 cm)

The quality of tautness can be felt and seen in this drawing, especially in the form and contour of the thumb. The forms are full but, hopefully, not too full. The curves are stretched tightly along the contour. The roundness of the forms on the inside is regulated by carefully controlling the progression of values.

MAJOR FORMS

Fullness of the form is expressed not only in each of the many convexities of the surface of the body, but also in the massive, underlying structures that support them. The individual forms of the ribs, for example, curve around the mass of the rib cage. The forms of the knuckles are built onto the mass of the hand. The tiny puckered forms of the lips sit upon the lobes of the lips, which in turn conform to the “tooth cylinder” (the convexity of the form of the teeth when taken as a whole). This then combines with other composite forms to express, finally, the mass of the jaw and the head. Such underlying masses are called major forms. The hierarchical stacking of lesser forms upon major forms is called packed form.

Figure in Space, 1998, with overlay

(For unobscured image, see this page.)

An opaque object is seen by way of the light patterns it reflects, which are in turn a function of its form and the light that shines on it. The form of an object is its mass, shape, surface, and structure. Through study of the figure we begin to develop sense of form—the awareness and understanding of the form of the body. Here an overlay of cross-contour lines has been added to illustrate how the figure occupies space through its full, massive shape.

Detail of Figure in Space, 1998, with overlay

(For full, unobscured image, see this page.)

In this detail, you can perceive the influence of inner, full, massive elements, not only in the shapes of the skull, rib cage, and pelvis, but also in the shapes of the arms and legs.

Detail of Sleeping Giant, 1995

(Full image shown below.)

Note the successive convexities that culminate in the kneecap of the far leg. This illustrates the concept of packed form. Packed form is what happens when multiple individual convexities appear to be stacked, like a wedding cake, atop a major, underlying full form. Here, the individual convexities of the shin, knee, and thigh are packed on an underlying fullness that comes from the pressure of the leg on the stool.

Sleeping Giant, 1995

Pencil on paper, 18 × 24″ (46 × 61 cm)

CONTINUITY AND DISCRETENESS

Tonal progressions begin and end at the borders of forms. Within each form, the progression is continuous. But between forms the tone change is discontinuous, meaning that there is a sudden, abrupt value change. On the active side, where forms collide and bunch up, it’s easy to see these edges between forms. On the passive side, where they stretch out, the effect is nearly invisible, but it is there.

The form of the body is one uninterrupted surface, but it is also a multiplicity of separate structures. If the tonal system within a drawing isn’t discontinuous enough between forms, the drawing can look too smooth and undifferentiated. This results in an unnatural “auto body finish” style of drawing. On the other hand, a tonal system that lacks unity can make a drawing look choppy. This is called overmodeling. What we want is a tonal system with differentiation and structure, and at the same time a feeling of oneness and wholeness. As you develop your skills you’ll acquire an ability to see and represent ever more subtle tonal progressions and edges.

Detail of Twilight, 1998

(For full image, see this page.)

Though we tend to think of anatomical parts as separate from one another, in appearance and function the structure of the body is one, simple and indivisible. Here the foot, ankle, lower leg, knee, and thigh can be seen as one continuous form. An unbroken succession of full forms proceeds out of the leg and into the foot and toes in a cascade of integrated structures. Notice that while the progression is continuous, the surface isn’t uniformly smooth. To produce these kinds of effects it’s necessary to identify each specific form, the progression of light cutting across each form, and the very delicate transitions between forms.

Detail of Moon Maiden, 1998

(For full image, see this page.)

The surface of form on the inside is defined with light rather than line. We need to learn how to shape and modulate the light very subtly to create form that is smooth (but not too smooth), well ordered, structured, continuous, and unified. We do this by very carefully monitoring the subtle tonal progressions within the forms, and the equally subtle edges between forms. Notice for example the way the forms along either side of this model’s spinal column are individually shaped, how each has its own specific tonal progression. Notice also how each form fits in with the other forms around it.


TIP

Words are of all things perhaps our greatest obstruction in learning to draw. Take the nose, for instance. It goes without saying that when we mention the nose we refer to a specific piece of real estate, occupying a definite part of the face and bounded on all sides by property lines that divide it from the rest of its surroundings. So in drawing the nose we very nicely delineate those boundaries and isolate it from the rest of the face, as if it were the Duchy of Liechtenstein or the Principality of Monaco. The only problem is, it isn’t. The nose is not a separate country. There is no Great Wall of China protecting the genteel population of the nose from the barbarians of the forehead and cheeks. No airlift need deliver food and medicine to an embattled nose surrounded by hostile forms of a different political persuasion. The nose doesn’t take its neighbors to court. It doesn’t have any neighbors. It is so knit, so rooted into the head as to be inseparable from it: one, undivided.

In fact, the nose is of the very substance of the head, of the whole body. There are no boundaries of the nose. It reaches all the way to the tips of our fingers and the soles of our feet. Each of us is a nose with hands, a nose with a job, a nose with clothes. The rest of our body parts are just there to lend support. The point I’m trying to make here is that there are no boundaries, or at least there are very few, between the various regions of the surface of the body.

Detail of Aurora, 1998

(For full image, see this page.)

In this detail, the model’s eyes, nose, and mouth are suspended in the surrounding tonal field of the face. They turn as the face turns. They’re not separate from the structure of the head. They are the structure of the head.

CONNECTING FORMS

When major forms in the body collide, they send out ripples. Major forms wedge into one another like tectonic plates, pushing up mini mountain ranges. The impact is expressed in a pattern of smaller, intermediary transitional forms. These are called bridging or connecting forms. Connecting forms are small forms that connect major forms to one another. In a sense, all forms are connecting forms, since they’re all acting as transitional elements, uniting forms around them. All forms are part of a flow of form, an orderly succession of both great and small elements. But the term “connecting form” refers in particular to a class of small forms that connect larger forms by providing little transitional ramps, thus expressing continuity of the form.


Arm Study, 1997

Pencil on paper, 18 × 24″ (46 × 61 cm)

Connecting forms are the small, full forms that bridge the gaps between the various larger, fuller forms of the body. They are little transitions, like the little concrete section between a driveway and the street: nearly invisible, but nevertheless very important. Without them, the form would be choppy and unnatural.

As you work up convex forms on the inside, you have to look carefully to see how they connect along their edges. The forms of the body don’t generally butt up to one another like two bricks lying side by side. Instead they interdigitate. To interdigitate is to form a connection like the kind you get when you interlock the fingers of your two hands. Forms mesh with one another, with the help of connecting forms, across zigzag, sawtooth edges. These kinds of connections have a lot of tensile strength; they’re not apt to pull apart. The entire surface of the body is woven together in this way.

Detail of Phases of Dane: Full, 1998

(For full image, see this page.)

In this detail, the sternocleidomastoid muscles wrap around the neck, with the larynx in between and small portions of the trapezius visible to left and right. All these forms are full and massive. The borders between the large forms are bridged by small, connecting forms, which fill in parts of the surface that would otherwise be concave. In fact, the entire surface is coated with a thin sheet of connecting forms. It is this outermost layer of form that interacts with the light, that we see, and that we draw.

Detail of Self-portrait, 1997

(For full image, see this page.)

The form of the body is never entirely smooth. Micro-modulations, subtle form changes, spreading in all directions, cover its gently undulating surface. These delicate modulations can be seen here in the forehead. They appear as a result of a combination of factors, including the irregular surface of the skull, the form of the frontalis muscle, and the thickness and texture of the skin. In order to see and draw the actual surface of the body, it’s necessary to tune your perceptual faculties to a refined and delicate sensitivity.

Man with a Pole, 1998

Pencil on paper, 24 × 18″ (61 × 46 cm)

At a certain stage in the development of the embryo, the outer surface of the body is formed. In one of the last phases in this particular developmental stage, the two sides of the surface of the body approach one another and “zip together.” They interlock like the sutures of the skull, or like the fingers of two hands inserted into one another. This occurs along the centerline of the front of the body, the line along which the right and left halves of the body meet. This centerline is not really a line, like a simple pencil line. It is a place of union. It is bridged by many small connecting forms, woven together and interlocking. In this illustration, a portion of the centerline can be seen running from the pit of the neck down along the front surface of the sternum, past the belly button and into the pubic region. Small connecting forms join all the way down the centerline’s path

THE EFFECT OF THE GESTURE

The gestural action reconfigures all form, not only in the contour, but also on the inside. The substance of the body has plasticity. Its form changes radically. There are no normal forms, but there are “normal actions,” and we should be able to read this action in the form on the inside as easily as we can in the contour.

The normal actions that are the basic elements of gesture are flexing, extending, turning, suspending, and compressing. Where muscles are flexed, or active, forms bunch up. Where they are extended, or passive, forms stretch and attenuate. Turning twists the forms of the body like the strands of a piece of rope. Suspension results in draping and hanging forms; compression results in forms that are squeezed and squished. Every pose has an overall gestural action that consists of most, if not all, of these actions, combined in various ways throughout the figure. Thus, for instance, the head may be turned to one side, one hip compressed, one arm extended and the other flexed, and a leg suspended.

Detail of Constellation, 1998

(For full image, see this page.)

In this detail, notice how the (invisible) chair is compressing the muscles through the bulging shapes of the upper arms and the crunched gesture of the torso. The front of the body is bunched up, an effect typical of the contracted, active side of the form.
    This detail also shows the effects of suspension. As gravity pulls on the forms of the body, it sometimes results in draping (suspension) effects. When a form hangs between two points of attachment, this draping effect is expressed by a downward curve. You can see this in the upper right arm of the lower figure and the thighs of the top figure.

ORGANIZATION

The surface of the body is orderly, but not mechanically so. It is patterned after the manner of other natural forms, like wood, for instance, with its grain, water with its waves, and mountains with their geological strata. These patterns have a rhythmic quality. The rhythmic arrangements of the forms of the body wrap around the figure like a suit made of an intricately marbleized fabric. But unlike the arbitrary patterns of a piece of fabric, the patterns of the form of the body are always functionally related to the underlying anatomical structures, as well as to the action of the pose and the light direction. Each point on the surface of the body is an intersection of two or more wave patterns. That’s why we refer to the surface of the form as a fabric, although it’s a fabric in which the threads don’t run at right angles to one another.

PATHWAYS OF FORM

The strands of which the figure’s fabric is woven are called pathways of form. Pathways of form are strings of formal elements that appear to line up on the surface of the body. The formal elements are bits and pieces of forms and their associated light effects—an edge here, a highlight there, a little downturn, a dark accent, a shape of reflected light, then an upturn, and so on—that often have no apparent functional “reason” for lining up as they do. Perhaps they exist for no other reason than for artists to draw them. Whatever their purpose, or whether or not they even exist apart from our perception of them, it is at least certain that they have played an important role in figure drawing at least since the time of Michelangelo, in whose drawings they are demonstrably present.

Pathways of form cover and organize the surface of the body, providing a network by which all individual forms may be located. By scanning along the pathways one develops a sense of the proportional and positional relationships of the various forms. You may remember the point-to-point scanning method used in the block-in, and the idea of the inner gestural flow (see this page and this page, respectively). These two modes of seeing are combined in the way we locate forms by following pathways. The eye cascades along the pathways, skipping from one form to the next. In the process we register positions and connections of disparate elements, and get a feeling for how they all link up and relate to one another.

Foot Exam, 1996

Pencil on paper, 18 × 24″ (46 × 61 cm)

The form of this foot is like a thin sheet of water, rippling over the surface of a piece of weathered rock and creating a multilayered pattern in three dimensions: ripples on top of ripples.

The human figure is living sculpture of the most sublime kind. It occupies space in a fascinatingly beautiful way. As you examine and evaluate form in your drawing, always think about how it turns, how its structures foreshorten, how its aspects change depending on its rotation in space, and how it projects within the virtual three-dimensional reality of the drawing. Give the form mass by developing its quality of fullness. Make these masses appear to turn (to have a particular degree of rotation in space) by situating their features correctly. Differentiate the masses by elaborating a network of pathways that wraps around them. And then refine this differentiation by chiseling into their surface to create many individual forms.

Finally, pay attention to your scale of observation. Forms of many different sizes coexist peacefully in the figure. Depending on your scale of observation, you may see only the tiny little forms, such as the separate forms that compose the eyelid, or perhaps only the great big ones, like a single mass of the hips and thighs. Large underlying forms convey the monumental nobility, while lesser forms suggest the anatomical mechanics, and the smallest forms express the elaborate and intricate structure of the surface of the body. If, in the course of drawing the figure, you integrate these different scales of observation, your drawing will develop a dynamic structural integrity, and the form of the body will take on a beautiful, naturalistic quality.

Detail of Philosopher and Poet (in progress)

(For image with tonal work further developed, see this page.)

This model is a veritable museum of pathways of form. Notice the movement coming from his left shoulder diagonally down across the chest. There’s also a nice pathway running from the back of his right elbow, diagonally up the arm, skirting the underside of the shoulder, right through the middle of the collarbone, and into the neck.

Ripples, 1997

Pencil on paper, 24 × 18″ (61 × 46 cm)

Pathways of form curve around large, underlying, full forms. They wrap like ribbons around the rib cage. They don’t go straight. They don’t run parallel to one another. They converge and radiate. Notice in this illustration the slightly nonparallel orientation of the ribs. Their axes converge toward the model’s right shoulder.

Lost in Thought, 1998

Pencil on paper, 24 × 18″ (61 × 46 cm)

In this drawing, forms of different magnitude can be seen in the tummy, which has one simple, underlying rounded nature (a major form), composed of a half dozen or so midsized convexities, each of which in turn consists of a handful of small forms and connecting forms. This same kind of analysis could be made of any part of the surface of the body.

Scott, 1997

Pencil on paper, 24 × 18″ (61 × 46 cm)

The myriad small, individual, convex forms on the surface of the body manifest the inner, noble masses underneath. We refer to the underlying masses of the body as noble because of the way drawings look when such masses are missing: pinched, meager, and mean-spirited. The trick is to organize and draw all the tiny little forms as if they were many little wavelets on a great big wave.