Fine Sculpture And The 129,600 Drawings
In my last blog I addressed the concept of fine art/sculpture as an unrelenting pursuit of truth and beauty. In this blog, I would like to briefly address one of the technical aspects of fine sculpture, and that is the concept of 129,600 drawings.
In the world of representational (realistic) art the artist’s objective is to capture the essence of what is real, what is seen and what is perceived. In two dimensional work (paintings and drawings) the profile of an object is the only objective component. The edge of the figure is as clearly delineated as can possibly be. Sometimes a fine line drawing of that contour can be amazingly beautiful and quite complete in it’s own right. Shading is the process of creating the illusion of form, depth, and volume.
The human eye is not capable of seeing the actual depth of the notch in the neck for example. Lights and shadows can exaggerate or minimize that depth. It can only be seen through the interpretive eye, meaning by applying a life-time of experience, of closer examination of that feature, and sometimes by touching that small concave form with the tips of the fingers. And even then it remains a subjective understanding when compared to the true profile or contour of the figure.
So to create a convincing likeness in two dimensions, the artist needs to create one fine contour drawing followed by touches of shadows and highlights that create the form between the contour.
In the three dimensional world, the same principles apply. I begin by creating as true a contour line as possible from one view. During this process I also apply visual references and volume to the in-between areas. I then turn the model and the sculpture 90 degrees, and apply my observational skills at creating a second line, also roughly filling in the in-between. Two more 90-degree turns provides a rough figure.
I should add that I use a proportional caliper throughout the process assuring an accurate proportional figure. And most importantly, I try to keep an eye on the emotional attitude and the body language right from the start, and maintain that etherial pursuit throughout the process.
So now I essentially have four drawings.
A three dimensional object has 360 degrees. This means there is a potential of 360 drawings to create. That only covers the profiles from a singular height view. As with our planet, there are latitudinal lines as well and longitudinal lines that encompass the globe. Returning now to our figure, if I raise my view a degree at a time following each vertical line, the potential number of profiles are multiplied to 129,600 (360×360) The truth is that the number is infinite. The other truth is no human will live long enough to create all the possible contour forms accurately, and it is not necessary to do so. But the simple point is this:
The higher the number of profiles studied and applied unto a figure, the more authentic and true it is, and the more beautiful it will appear.
If you’ve ever walked around and carefully looked at a sculpture of a figure, and at some point something looked odd, the chances are that “odd” bit reflects an inauthentic area, a spot that wasn’t profiled accurately. A sculptor who only works from photographs will encounter these problems because even if one could take enough reference photographs, converting this mass of data from 2-D to 3-D would become too daunting. By contrast, studying a live model provides the opportunity to view dozens of profiles simply by rocking side to side a few inches.
A final word. With experience, a sculptor is able to recreate the whole figure or bits of it from memory. But those sculptures will always be missing that spark of life, the uniqueness of the individual, that unique crease or fold. As with writing good fiction, the search for authenticity comes from studying the real thing, not just assembling bits and pieces from my memory bank.
As I ponder all this, I am amazed at how applicable are these principles to so many areas of life. But that’s for another blog.
So in my pursuit of truth and beauty, I always work from life first and foremost. I do leave room for interpretation and for my vision of beauty. My professor called it my idealizing. I make no apology for that, since through that process I am inspired to be more and to grow in my understanding of that infinite truth and beauty we are invited to pursue and enjoy.
© Victor Issa