Friday, November 20, 2015

Color study

Here is something a little different. This is a digital color study from life done today.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Recent torso demo

                      Here is a recent torso lecture using the Farnese Hercules.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Thinking Gesture in figures and animals

Here is a short post on thinking gesture as it relates to not only people but animals as well.               

The focus of this post is to highlight an understanding of animal anatomy/drawing which will emphasize design. As always my hope is that the techniques used in drawing a figure are understood to be flexible and as such able to adapt to designing animals, characters, or creature(s).

Gesture drawing at its core entails the simple usage of line (shape, value, etc.) to capture a very complex reality about the subject being depicted. Specifically when using line, asymmetry and curves provide a visual pathway from which movement is exaggerated and the workings of passive and active anatomy develop (see below examples).

The intention of this is to build an understanding of how and in what ways, through gesture, figure(s) and animal(s) can be treated consistently. This is completely possible since through the process of abstraction, gesture highlights the same qualities in animals as it does it the figure. Further, for the purposes of drawing both animals and figures, gesture serves to initiate the image thematically/theatrically and lay the groundwork for the remainder of the drawings development.   

The drawing of animals and figures alike depend on a clear and purposeful idea to establish the integrity of that drawing as a instrument of communication – this could be a mood, emotion, narrative prompt, character/creature archetype, etc. Among other things, a gesture can allow for a more classical, studied interpretation of the natural design of the form. The latter will be the focus of our current study.

Figures and Animals can be compared within gesture by considering similarities in the following areas:

Story - (Idea!) The animal/figure should always become a vehicle for a establishing mood, emotion, expression, action, etc. I usually consider story to be concerned primarily with the narrative impact the drawing/design should take. 

Weight/Balance – Figures and animals alike need to feel as if they are drawn according to the influence of gravity. This is additionally an important theme in the construction/design of the 8 parts of each. A main difference is that figures are more of a vertical balancing act while many quadrupeds  show a variation on a bridge design.

Movement – An obvious and inherent quality to animals and figures. This becomes more important to analyze when studying the variety of animal types, qualities and types of movements, etc.

Proportion – the relative organization of the 8 parts

We might consider the act of making a gesture drawing the interpretation of these 4 categories as expressed through a rhythmic organization of the 8 major masses. Below is an image showing some basic differences (among the 8 parts) between the horse, big cat, and human. The goal in this initial survey is to understand the form entirely as the result of function.

Introduction to the Spine and differences between figure and animals

As the gesture is dependent on the positioning and or attitude between the 8 parts, this section will focus on the most important of the eight: the spine. Notice the varying lengths, height, and positioning between the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar. 

The spine is the most important part to consider and where one should begin a study of comparative anatomy or gesture. What the spine allows us to understand is the inherent design of each anatomical form/machine. Each spine is built from the 3 groups – cervical, thoracic, and lumbar. However, each animal can have variation in these groups: through an increased number of vertebrae, angle, and or stability of the spine (bracing ligaments), etc. What is important to keep in mind is that the spine determines the kind of design we ultimately experience. An important principle, as it will allow us a technical constant in objectively analyzing a number of different types.

Gesture drawings begins with a studied interpretation of the spine, those qualities are then synthesized into asymmetrical rhythms. In the figure, the gesture begins with a very simple oval/sphere for the head and then moves from a line representing the cervical, through the thoracic, and finally into the lumbar. From this point the legs are integrated favoring the weight bearing side (if one exists) and lastly working into the arms. With this as a basic constant, an animal can be observed in the exact same sequence. Just remember to tailor the approach for variations to reflect unique differences such as direction of the spine, length of different parts of the spine, particular types of movements, etc.

Below is an example of the same sequence of lines used in a gesture drawing of a cat, horse, and human. See if you can match the lines used from one subject to the next to see the unity in the approach, but variation in describing types.

Notice when comparing the figure and horse the similarities resulting at this stage in the gesture. While the horse has the same 3 basic rhythms (cervical, thoracic, and lumbar) notice that the gesture has taken in to account the variations of those types by extending the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar as well as making this a horizontal passage. After establishing the torso, the rear legs are developed, beginning with the weight bearing side (if applicable), and then the forelegs.

Hopefully this helps in seeing continuity between these two subjects through a consistent approach to gesture. If you're interested in looking further into it, I might recommend checking out work by Joe Weatherly or Jonathan Kuo.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Bernini study

Since seeing it in Rome I've been fascinated by Bernini's The Rape of Proserpina. Here are a few lecture images playing around with attempting to break down the space, movement, and composition from a few angles.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Why should we care about construction? Part 5 - Conclusion

Hey All, this is the last entry for my brief investigation into the historical practices of construction. I think this is the last kind of historical survey I'll do for a while. Hopefully you found something of interest or thought provoking in it. Comments and thoughts are appreciated as always.

To provide one final example, I will consider a few of Michelangelo's sketches. Specifically, I'll be looking for examples of this transformative form language (discussed in prior posts) acting as a conduit between ideas of architecture and anatomy. 
Michelangelo’s relationship to anatomy stood in contrast to Da Vinci’s, being much more focused on the external anatomy or surface anatomy. While Michelangelo was involved and participated in anatomical dissections (some sources indicate three separate locations that Michelangelo practiced human dissections), his interest was more the design and variation of the surface anatomy, as well as its potential for movement.[1] In other words, Michelangelo may not have studied the internal muscles, organs, and deep tissue that Da Vinci was clearly preoccupied with. Michelangelo, while not making his thoughts widely available/clear on the subject, did write in a letter circa 1560 that "there is no question but that architectural members reflect the members of Man and that those who do not know the human body cannot be good architects."[2] This quote gives us another consistent view on the subject of the study of man and its benefit to the architect. Further, consistent themes from above are present, primarily the idea that architecture and anatomy are the result of the same learned process or form language. The achievement of this skill and/or artistic vision is what leads one to a superior sense of composition or design in architecture. This design is one which balances ideal forms or proportions while attempting to align the audience with a highly rational frame of mind. We might also be understand Michelangelo’s criticism of Antonio da Sangallo as one who may not have understood these design principles of the antique manner. As Sangallo was primarily an architect, and without the anatomical knowledge that Michelangelo possessed, may have lacked this greater sensitivity to design and too literally or didactically applied Vitruvian principles for Michelangelo’s tastes.

Fig. 1 Michelangelo, Design for Laurentian library door, c. 1526, pen and brown ink over stylus, 28.4x20.9cm, The British Museum.

Fig. 2 Michelangelo, Male Nude

Fig. 3 - Detail Comparison

To provide as example, I have paired Michelangelo’s Sketch of Doorway into Library (fig. 1), a study for the doorway/entrance into the Laurentian library (at San Lorenzo) next to that of an anatomical study of the front view of a male figure. The front view of the figure (fig. 2), specifically the torso, shows a striking similarity in shape, proportion, and design to that of Michelangelo’s doorway. The doorway almost mimics the proportion and design of the anatomy of the torso part for part (fig. 3). The curving arch above the doorway may be thought to mimic that of the trapezius, the proportion beneath and straight bar under, the design of the clavicle and pectoralis. On either side of the doorway stand columns that in size and proportion closely resemble the surface anatomy of the midsection, primarily that of the external obliques and serratus anterior. Lastly, the central opening in the doorway itself clearly reflects the proportion and overall shape design of abdominal wall (fig. 3). Like da Vinci’s rib cage transforming into a dome, Michelangelo has here used the abstracted proportion and design of the surface anatomy to inform his design of a doorway.

Fig. 4 - Michelangelo, bases of pillars for the New Sacristy, red chalk,1519-20.

My final example is a drawing of the bases of pillars for the New Sacristy (fig. 4). In this sketch, Michelangelo shows three columns at the base in profile. The last of the three deserves special interest as it appears to have an eye, nose, and mouth shown in profile. It appears as if Michelangelo has used a scream or dramatic expression in order to resolve his silhouette. In this final example, there is no extended transformation as both architectural motif and figure exist as one thing and seem to embody or be the other directly.  Once again, this speaks to his ability to have synthesized principles central to philosophies of antiquity with a geometric order through which those principles are made manifest. As the human figure continues to read as central to the architect's practice, it follows that this was the subject on which these principles are exercised and/or developed.
In conclusion, the study of anatomy stands as central concern to the practice of the Renaissance architecture. This is not exclusively the study of functional or even surface anatomy, but rather that of the design and proportion from which most everything else will be assessed and measured. It is my belief that the Renaissance artist/architect studied the figure primarily for this abstract exercise which when understood and distilled into a universal language of form, would then be applied as a compositional logic to that of architecture. I have shown anthropomorphic examples of large (domes/floor plans) to the smallest occurrences (doorways/colums), to highlight the point that what mattered most was the ability to see and think this abstraction and to not project a standardized plan or method. 

[1] Laurenza, 17.
[2] Geoffrey Scott, The Architecture of Humanism: A study in the History of Taste (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1914), 155.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Why should we care about construction? Part 4

Section 3 - Case Studies: Anatomy seen through the lens of architectural drafting

Figure 1Leonardo da Vinci, Heroic Nudes (anatomy and static and dynamic equilibrium) and a battle scene, 1503-6, Red chalk and pen and ink, 16 x 15.3 cm, Windsor Castle, Royal Collection Trust
  (Image taken from web).

In a drawing from 1503-6 titled Heroic Nudes (anatomy and static and dynamic equilibrium) and a battle scene (fig. 1), da Vinci shows a standing figure and the inside view of a leg with a plumb line drawn from the front of the pelvis to the toes. In the full figure, a center of balance is also indicated by showing a vertical plumb line drawn through the central axis of the hip (roughly over the great trochanter of the femur). Should the figure move off of this line either forward or backward, it is assumed that movement would occur. Important here is the idea that da Vinci is studying dynamics, or thinking the potential of transformative qualities, and not simply depicting a static position. This analysis of weight gives insight to da Vinci's interest in anatomy as a tool for critical thinking regarding the structure, composition, and balance of the figure and its component parts (and not that of shading/studying only the external/phenomenal qualities). For da Vinci, the human body is governed by geometric rules branching to all systems (vessels, lungs, muscles, etc.), all of which have dynamic/animated force. By thinking more predominantly of the dynamic weight and balance created between the parts of the figure, we are able to make a cursory comparison to the analytical thinking required in the critical act of organizing weight in building, and understanding the problems inherent within.

Figure 2 - Leonardo da Vinci, The human cranium sectioned, 1489, Windsor Castle, Royal Collection Trust
 (Image taken from web). 

To push this idea further, in da Vinci's drawing The human cranium sectioned (fig. 2), a three-quarter, top view of a skull is shown with the inside of the cranium visible. In this study of the skull, we can see da Vinci using methods of perspective as crucial tools in representing the “cut away” view. Da Vinci shows the cranial mass sectioned with the outermost quarter removed, exposing the interior. 

Figure 3 - Studies of the Leg, c. 1485-90, Pen and ink over metalpoint, on pale blue prepared paper,  22.2 x 29.0 cm , Royal Collection Trust (Image taken from web)

A similar method is used in his Studies of the leg (fig.3), showing the lateral view of a right leg.  Of specific interest in this study is the sectioned pieces separated to show the varying widths of the leg. One area (mid-thigh) is then moved to the side to show the thickness of the varied muscle groups contained within. Notice here the top-down view of the leg, and the way it resembles an elevation or floor plan. While these first two examples do not show an exact architectural crossover, they do show a willingness to treat the figure in the exact same way, using the same tools of representation (perspective, changing angles, consideration of inside and outside space).
Before moving to a discussion of the more anthropomorphic examples of anatomy and architecture, I would like to introduce one more artist essential to the discussion of visualizing proportions, anatomy, and the architectural design of the figure during the Renaissance: Albrecht Dürer.

Albrecht Dürer
Albrecht Dürer, a German artist working in Northern Europe, was greatly influenced by Leonardo Da Vinci as well by the writings of Vitruvius. Dürer makes this connection clear, stating:

As regards any discussion on building, or of its elements, I believe none among our eminent capimaestri or artisans have overlooked how the ancient Roman author Vitruvius wrote so splendidly in his books regarding the decoration of architecture: his example is a lesson to us all.[1]

Dürer’s text on the proportions of the figure was published in 1528. Prior to this, he authored books on the applications of geometry and a treatise on fortifications. Dürer ‘s motivations in studying a wide range of body types, genders, and varying shapes and sizes of individual parts was an attempt to prove that art was founded on a determinate set of rules. To this point, and still building off the thoughts of Vitruvius, Dürer states:

That master of the ancient world Vitruvius, architect of the grandiose building in Rome, states that he who intends to build should conform to human beauty, because the body conceals the arcane secrets of proportion. Hence, before discussing buildings, I intend to explain the form of a well-built man, and then a woman, a child, and a horse. In this way you will acquire an approximate measure of all things about you.[2]

The key term in Dürer’s comment is "well-built man." Following in Vitruvius's footsteps, Dürer regards man as architectural form. While Dürer wasn’t as concerned with the interior anatomy and dissection as da Vinci, his thinking shows a complete geometric and projective system for the representation of the human body. Dürer also provides an incredible range of perspective positions and views.

Figure 4 - Albrecht Durer, Stereometric Man; thirteen cross-sections of the body, c. 1523, pen and ink, 11.5 x 8 in., Nuremberg, Germany, National Museum (image taken from web).

Specifically, Dürer’s Stereometric man with thirteen cross-sections of the body (fig. 4) shows a figure built entirely from planar cubes and or boxes. With the figure holding its weight on the right leg, a clear contrapposto position is held. Surrounding the figure within the margins and surrounding space are thirteen different elevation plans/views of the figure taken from top to bottom. This ground plan or project of the figure cut at various moments shows the body as if it were a blueprint with the same technical vocabulary as the architect. 

Figure 5 – Albrecht Durer, Stereometric man, front view, profile and ground plan, c. 1519, pen and ink, 11.5 x 8.5 in.

An additional example titled Stereometric man with front view, profile and ground plan (fig. 5) dissolves the figure even further in architectural abstraction, leaving it only legible as an abstracted mannequin. Where da Vinci, in the initial drawings discussed, begins to view anatomical parts and pieces through the lens of geometric perspective (with a nod to architectural techniques), Dürer goes beyond to understand the figure as a pure subject of architecture, presenting the body, in total, as a geometric assemblage.
In the above examples, Dürer shows the figure as a series of “ground plan” views as well as a coordinated set of parallel projections and cross sections, presenting an interpretation of the figure as something constructed with mechanical instruments in strict planar terms. In these cases, Dürer’s figures shrink from having human detail so entirely that they essentially dissolve into some hybrid form of human structures. While lacking some of the eloquence in design and realization that da Vinci's sketches clearly possess, Dürer still provides an example of this shared form language that is also used by Leonardo da Vinci.

Section 3 – Mental Sculpture: Case studies in the plastic molding of geometries from the figure to architecture, or instances where abstraction gives way to the figure blending into architectural motifs.
With the above in mind, I will end with a few more examples that show a more developed design at work illustrating the transformative language shared between anatomy and architecture. In building to this point, my goal has been to establish a foundation (both in philosophy, process, and practice) for the potential for anatomy to be seen as synced to that of an architectural tradition. With that foundation in mind, I  will isolate more anthropomorphic examples that express more clearly this dissolve or blend between the two.

Figure 6 Leonardo da Vinci 

In fig. 6,  Leonardo da Vinci shows a dissection of the skull, neck, and throat paired alongside plans for columns. It appears that in this image, da Vinci has used the proportions of the hyoid bone, throat, and surrounding cartilage as a departure point for the columns shown to the right. Should this indeed be the case, we can examine this as a consideration of the macro idea of proportion and harmony aimed at a very small/micro design hidden within the surface contours of the neck. While this image very clearly shows a shared thought existing between the two, it also alludes to the transformative aspects and potential mental sculpting which may be taking place, as the mass and proportion of the throat gradually resolves into the solid cylindrical mass of the column on the right.

Figure 7 – Leonardo da Vinci, The muscles of the shoulder and arm, and the bones of the foot, c.1510-11, pen and ink with wash, over black chalk, 28.9x20.1 cm, Royal Collection Trust (image taken from web)

In the same spirit as above, Anatomical studies of the shoulder region (fig. 7) shows da Vinci's extremely elegant and concise anatomical drawings/dissection of the arms, shoulder, as well as the bones of the foot. My specific interest here is in the top of the arms pictured in the center of the image showing the external anatomy (deltoid) removed. Da Vinci here has focused on the intricate structure of tendons and muscles connecting the rib cage/scapula into the top of the humerus. Surprisingly, this extremely complicated transition isn’t at all busy or convoluted in appearance. Rather, a very clear and orderly progression of rounded triangular and square shapes design a progression of negative shapes between the connecting muscles.  

Figure 8 – Leonardo da Vinci, Studies for the tiburio of Milan Cathedra, c. 1487, ink, 28.2x23.7 cm, Codex Atlanticus, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, folio 851, Milan, Italy.

When compared to the accompanying sketch Studies for the tiburio of Milan Cathedral (fig. 8), there appears to be a great deal of formal similarity. Here da Vinci is studying, or perhaps searching for, a solution to the tiburio, or crossing tower, of the cathedral at Milan. If flipped, the previous sketch would match perfectly in shape. The tiburio study shows a very similar shape and design, and leads one to imagine that the shoulder has been abstracted into a usable language of form/function.

Fig. 9 Leonardo da Vinci, Studies for lantern of cathedral, 1478-90, red and sepia ink, The Codex Trivulzianus, folio 22, page 41. (Image taken from web)

Lastly, in Studies for lantern of cathedral (fig. 9), da Vinci shows what looks to be a simplified design for a rib cage in the top right corner of the image. The flat dome or egg shape is shown with a line down the middle and an opening at the bottom. Looking at this shape with an eye towards anatomical dissections, we could easily understand this as an exact diagram for the rib cage - the line down the center being the sternum, and the opening at the bottom being the thoracic arch (or separation at the tenth rib). The fascinating aspect to this image is the almost animated way in which this form moves from the top right, down, and into the bottom left. As this rib cage shape moves from the top right down, it begins to take on a more dimensional appearance, becoming more volumetric. It is almost as if we can see da Vinci's mental sculpting in process, as the mass of the rib cage slowly transforms into the top of the Milan cathedral. The volumes shown moving down from the top right (second and third drawing shown from beneath) appear to have a consistent geometric volume to that of the rib cage. As it moves further, what once appears to have been a rib cage, takes place at the top of a centrally planned cathedral as its dome. Around the margins of this drawing are variations of this shape showing potential iterations as options. If this is in fact an accurate description of what is happening within da Vinci's sketch, then we are able to see a completely fluid practice of  anatomy becoming architecture or vice versa. While this will end my survey of da Vinci's work and thought, I will continue in the next (and last post) with two examples from Michelangelo. While my intention has not been to relate all of the above ideas directly to da Vinci alone, he does stand as an exemplary example of this practice, creating a clear model through which a number of artists might be more easily studied.

[1] Ungers, 309.
[2] Ibid., 311.

Monday, August 24, 2015


Here are some skeleton diagrams from a lecture on landmarks and movement.