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Kelly Borsheim's Art of the Human Form - Charcoal Figure Drawing

Memories of Venice

68 x 49 cm (27" x 19.5")
charcoal drawing
Umbria-brand paper
© 2008-2009
Kelly Borsheim


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This drawing was part of the exhibit
Luce dall'oscurità (Light from Darkness)
in Florence, Italy 2009

[art drawing of nude female figure in Venice, Italy]

[gondola art drawing of nude female figure in Venice, Italy] [art drawing of nude female figure in Venice, Italy]

Memories of Venice - Original Charcoal Figurative Drawing

I have drawn the Italian model Valentina many times and I must say, that never gets old. Her face is a bit exotic and her heart is warm. She is also fun to go dancing with! However, many of my artist friends laughed at me during the course of the creation of this figurative charcoal drawing "Memories of Venice."

Somehow that derision, however kindly expressed, only spurred me to finish this drawing that I loved. I learned a lot creating this artwork. I could not actually see Valentina's face from my easel position. I tend to choose backlighting and the light was more important to me than the pose, although obviously not so important that I later decided to include some face. So, during the pose, I would walk behind the artist drawing next to me to have some sort of reference from reality, and then try to change the perspective I saw in the model to match the figure I was working on.

We arrive at "realism" through abstraction. So, when I designed the shadow shape, I began to see it as a wave. One of the things I wanted to learn when I went to Italia was how to place a figure in an environment. The wave shape suggested a water theme. When in Italy, Venice is an obvious connection with water. My favorite memory of Venice was when it rained there in the summer, sending tourists and pigeons away. The light in the dusk was soft. It was romantic. An idea began to form in my brain. In truth, the model was resting her right arm on a slanted easel. I changed this to a vertical support for stability and as a contrast to the figure's curves. It was when I added the stripes so often seen in Venice that the snickers and outright laughter of others began.

[detail of figurative art drawing]

I included several close-up images of the drawing so that you may see some of the subtleties in tone that have been drawn (there is no white on this drawing -- the lightest light is the color of the paper). I also wanted to share with you the texture of this Umbria paper, bought in Florence, Italy, where this drawing was created.

[detail of figurative art drawing]

One of the many composition ideas I tried in Photoshop.
Frustrated a bit, I asked Angel Academy art instructor Jered Woznicki for his opinion. At first he refrained with the excuse that he did not want to be rude. But I told him that I respect his opinion and I am tough enough to handle the delivery if I can get the information I need. He is a good teacher and thoughtful. The next day I asked him again and that time he asked me what my response would be to a drawing of a man holding a shovel. So, I learned that day that one item does not a story make. I am not sure what he would have done if given my drawing and asked to do something himself to improve it. But I took his observation to mean that I needed to add more elements to remove the mystery of the lone candy cane, barber shop pole, or other associations being made about "The Pole" as it became known among the laughing.

The image to the left is one of the "sketches" I did in Photoshop. I did not want to experiment with my composition ideas on the actual paper because Umbria strikes me as a fragile paper, although lovely. Also, I love the drawing of Valentina and did not want to ruin the entire drawing with too much erasing while I was exploring options in composition. I could have done this with collage as well.

Nothing I tried really looked good to me, but with each attempt, I was able to clarify my thoughts or at least eliminate certain shapes in various sizes in places. What I finally honed in on was a spiral composition. I do not know if anyone else will see it, but if you start in the lower left corner and allow your eye to follow the line of the gondolas over to and up the church dome on the right, you have a good start. Then from the top of the church, seek out the light on the right hand, then the face. Allow your eyes to fall along the line of light along the left arm, bending in towards the hand and ending in the center of the drawing. Do you see it?

In this last image, I fell in love all over again with charcoal. Generally as I am applying the material to the paper, I am actually exploring the looks of various methods of application. And I loved this dripping look, a lot like watercolor. For a while I wanted to leave it there, but on further inspection, I decided that I needed a more misty look that did not detract from the real subject of the drawing.

[detail of Venice art drawing]

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Most recent revision: 3 January 2010