Last night I joined a local figure drawing group. This group met for two hours-- slightly shorter than the usual 2 1/2 to 3 hour sessions I've been to before. The time flew, but I was still there long enough to be reminded again of how out of practice I am! This was my best attempt --a 25 minute pose (one of the longest of the evening).
I really liked the model...she was very dramatic, which made drawing her lots of fun. She was also quite the trooper, lying on what looked to be a very uncomfortable low bench, with her head supported by a wedge-pillow thingy. I felt happy that I at least started to get some of the weight of her pose. But not much else in the way of detail. I think I'll be sticking to charcoal on newsprint paper until I can get myself to a point of more speed and accuracy, which is only going to come with practice and understanding.
To that end, I'm studying proportion and human anatomy as best I can on my own for now, through books. I picked up a book by Andrew Loomis at the library called "Figure Drawing for All It's Worth". The book was originally published in 1943, and is one of a series of books by the author on similar topics. Loomis was a well known illustrator back in the day and is still referenced by a lot of figurative artists today as a good source for basic and accessible information on human proportion and figure drawing in general. Sadly, his books are now out of print, but you can still find some of them online and possibly at your local library.
Loomis makes some interesting opening comments in the book about "Beginner's Work". There are several telltale signs he lists, but I took note of this one, as I definitely see this occurring in my own figure drawing:
"An overabundance of small fuzzy line: Do not "pet" in your line, draw it clearly with a long sweep. Do not shade with a multitude of little "pecky" strokes. "
Ya. So in addition to all of the other stuff on anatomy and proportion, one of the things I want to work on is quality of the contour and line. I think the sketchiness comes in part from a lack of confidence/familiarity with the subject. It's much easier to make sketchy marks as you try to find the right placement and proportion. It's something else altogether to put meaningful, lyrical marks in just the right place!