gemma sketch


When I was in high school, I lusted after and received for my birthday…a book. At the time it cost a small fortune and my parents’ eyes probably watered at the price. But it was a book and in our household, budget was always found for books. My mother always liked to give us multiple presents on birthdays, but that year all I received as THE BOOK and my world was complete.

The Complete Works of Michelangelo is massive. It covers everything – his life, drawing, painting, sculpture, architecture and writing, the works of a true Renaissance man.

I must confess, I have read very little of the text. I am not in the slightest bit interested in his writings and architecture, it was the drawing, painting and sculpture that floated my boat. But especially, the drawings. I love them so much I am absolutely gutted that I cannot go to this exhibition in Boston. One can just imagine the hours and hours he must have spent drawing to achieve such mastery of the human form. I love the unfinished aspect, the idea that there is more that he could have depicted but he only drew what he needed to master at the time. Some of the drawings you can see correlate to figures in his paintings or are studies for his sculptures. But some have never been anything but drawings. I am absolutely sure the drawings that exist today are just a tiny example of his actual complete works. I suspect thousands of sketches and doodles were burned, trampled, given away, trashed, forgotten, abandoned.

It may seem slightly presumptuous of me to be writing about one of history’s masters of the human form while displaying a drawing of mine. This is the crux of the matter. I am considering entering a portrait competition later on this year, and I did this sketch from a photo as a “warming up” exercise yesterday. It’s okay. The pose is obviously a photo pose: straight on, none of the contrapposto favoured by Big M. I could open shop at a tourist attraction, creating instant – “hey this looks like you!”, portraits of people who don’t know the difference. But I would hate to produce that kind of stuff.

I realise I am missing the confidence of line that one only gets from drawing from life and  drawing every single day. This portrait, is, in a word: constipated. And the only way to flush out my system is to go back to the drawing board and challenge myself. I will never be Michelangelo’s equal, but I know I can do better than this.

Bring on the scary stuff!




Drawing from experience
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