I tried something new recently at the figure drawing session: being more aggressive about my composition. And I was somewhat pleased with the result:
Usually, I focus on trying to capture the whole figure, like below:
The task of composition is relatively brief here, simply focusing on fitting the figure on the page, and not making the figure too small, so as to avoid leaving a bunch of white space on the paper around the figure. Often I get a little complacent in this regard: it is possible to more or less allow the model to “set the composition” so to speak, for the particular pose, and either it will be more effective composition from my perspective in the room, or it won’t be, but there is always the next pose to move on to, so a badly composed painting doesn’t matter too much.
But with this particular study, I was really interested in capturing her face. On that day, I had a seat way over in the corner, actually I was sitting on the floor, at the very edge of the half circle that the artists sit in around the model. I could just barely see the model’s face. And I really wanted to make sure that edge of her facial profile was in view. I even made a quick ink sketch to get a sense for whether such a view was even possible.
And I didn’t necessarily set up to “crop” the painting so tightly, but I had focused so closely getting the details of the face that that is just how it ended up. As usual this quick, near disasters seem to produce the best results.
I liked how this extreme sense of closure makes the painting seem more dynamic, more intimate. I also liked how the dark blue value between the face and the edge of the page is 1. fairly small and focused and 2. creates a more interesting shape. Sometimes with the whole figure compositions, all that extra background space is a little bit of a chore to figure out what to do with.
Whole figure compositions can always be powerful, of course, but what I learned is that sometimes experimenting with more “cropping” in composition and a focusing on particular areas of the model can also be interesting and instructive as well.