Leah Yand Part 4: Figure Drawings

My figure drawings are closely related to my paintings. When I started figure drawing class with Professor Gordon Wilson, I took a different approach to drawing than I had in the past. Like my Watercolor Exploration Series of paintings, I started with a medium that flowed and was easy to experiment with and move around, although in this case it was charcoal, not paint. Professor Wilson gave students the freedom to try different types of materials and mediums, and he challenged us to draw the figure with movement and in combination with other objects.  

Dancing Stag, 2022, charcoal on paper, 25.5×19.5 inches 
Details from 3 Figure Combo Drawings, 2022, charcoal on paper 

When beginning a drawing, I start with a very loose gesture drawing in order to understand the weight of the model’s pose. I try not to worry about perfect lines or anatomy until I go back to clean it up and fix proportions later. Instead, I focus on the placement of the figure on the page and cropping the figure in dynamic and interesting places. Typically, the live model would switch back and forth between two poses. I enjoy combining the poses and layering the figures on top of each other much like I do with layers of watercolor and other materials. I strive to push charcoal’s inherently smoky, fluid and dirty qualities. Oftentimes, I’ll draw with my fingers, wipe out areas, or selectively erase detailed areas like the face and the hands. Through this process, I find myself creating fantastical creatures and weird combinations of humans and nature. One of my current favorite drawings is a nymph-elvish depiction of the model that shows her in two poses and fills the entire page. I placed the model in two sitting positions, abstracted her features, accentuated the drapery that clings and blends into her legs, and mixed the fabric with root-like imagery. 

Nymphs, 2022, charcoal on paper, 19.5×25.5 inches 

A story of wood-nymphs blending into a damp, twisted forest came to fruition the more I played with the drawing and added new elements. My gestural use of the charcoal lends itself well to combination drawings, and as I observed the model, I thought about how I could emphasize certain areas, blend others, and give the drawing an enticing element of mystery or invention. I pull from the scattered parts of my mind and give in to the intuitive thoughts that tell me to start a whole new drawing, erase an entire area and add horns or branches to the leg or face. Switching back and forth each day from painting to drawing has been very helpful in my artistic practice. It has made me realize that there is a common thread of whimsy, flowing compositional elements, personal narratives, and mark-making between all of my artwork. 

Woodland Figure Combo, 2022, charcoal on paper, 25.5×19.5 inches 
Untitled, 2022, charcoal and conte on paper, 19.5×25.5 inches 
Layered figure and landscape drawings, 2022, charcoal on paper 

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