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Old 01-26-2003, 04:13 PM   #1
John Zeissig John Zeissig is offline
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First Line First




For the last few weeks I've immersed myself in Lon Haverly's book, "You Can Draw", and I've got to say it's been a real eye opener for me. I don't mean this post to be a book review, so I'm not going to say too much about that aspect of it. Like a lot of us I've been following Lon's posts, so I had an inkling of his methods, but the book goes into a lot more detail (As well as Lon's unique views on art in general and other topics. A good read, aside from the drawing instruction.).

The drawing I'm posting here is the first one that I have managed to do in the pure "Line First" method: every line stays as it goes down, no erasures. I've had an incredibly hard time doing this; not because the instructions are unclear, but because it's so radically different than the way I've always done things. This drawing is a "copy" of one of Lon's drawings in the book, a charcoal I believe. I propped up the book about 4' away from me and drew it as though I had a live subject in front of me, except that I tried to follow the line schema in the source drawing. I used a Dixon Ticonderoga1388-2 Soft pencil, with the wood cut back to leave 5/8" of lead exposed and sanded to a chisel point. The size of the drawing is about 7 1/2" high by 5"wide. The drawing in the book is about 6 1/2" x 4".

Whereas Lon does these things from a live model in about 6 min., it took me about 3 1/2 times that to do this one. Every time I started a line I felt like a pro golfer lining up a long putt in the U.S. Open! Every time I stopped I realized I'd missed the cup! Well, I obviously bogied the hole, but the experience is strangely liberating and I find myself getting hooked on this method. So I thought I'd post this one to find out what others think, and if anyone else is trying "Line First". Maybe this should be posted under "Old Master Copies"?
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Old 01-26-2003, 04:19 PM   #2
John Zeissig John Zeissig is offline
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Scanned from "You Can Draw"

I'm afraid this is a poor scan of Lon"s drawing. A better example may be on his website.
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Old 01-26-2003, 04:53 PM   #3
Enzie Shahmiri Enzie Shahmiri is offline
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John,

I love your humor (signed-not Haverly)- it made me chuckle. Good for you to try something different. Your drawing has a softer feel than Lon's, although Lon's has that mature, calculated touch.

I like it when painters infuse their own personalities in copies. Isn't it always amazing how the same subject can look so different when rendered through by different artists?
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Old 01-26-2003, 05:59 PM   #4
John Zeissig John Zeissig is offline
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Hi Enzie,

The print of Lon's drawing that I scanned from the book really is a lot softer than it appears here. I just couldn't get a lower contrast scan without losing too much of the shading. But you're right about the assurance of Lon's strokes. I drew hundreds of practice lines without being able to duplicate his style, so I've given up trying.

I think, though, that this drawing method forces individuality into the work even when you try to make a slavish copy. Lon talks about this in his book, where he draws parallels between drawing and handwriting/signatures.

Altogether I'm very excited about this method. I need a lot more practice, but I'm going to start going out in public soon to try to see what I can get down. So, if you see a headline that I've been arrested for outraging the public decency you'll know what was behind it! Just another crackpot artist!
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Old 01-26-2003, 07:48 PM   #5
Steven Sweeney Steven Sweeney is offline
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That must be one great book, John, which, coupled with the obvious talent, discipline and enthusiasm you brought to it, produced results that have to be pretty exciting for you. Well done.
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Old 01-28-2003, 08:24 PM   #6
John Zeissig John Zeissig is offline
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Steven, I really appreciate the encouragement. As you've discerned, I've been seduced by Lon's drawing methods. Yes, I highly recommend "You Can Draw". If you read Lon's posts and look at his work you'll know what to expect. His writing and drawing styles share many similarities.

I got interested in Lon's techniques at least partly because I thought it would be a great method of doing lots of quick studies for paintings, and I still think it's going to be invaluable for that purpose. What I didn't anticipate was getting hooked on the aesthetic of the little drawings. It's one of those seemingly constrained art forms like haiku, or sonnets, or Chinese brush and ink paintings: it looks simple and it is simple, but there's a infinitude of nuance and variation contained therein.

The good aspect of the constraint is that it forces you to consider only three things: line quality, shadow mass, and value. Then everything proceeds from upper left to lower right, or the reverse for lefties. How you will start and proceed is predetermined; no thinking necessary. Leave the eraser in another room, you won't be needing it. Concentrate on every stroke because it's going to be final. When the last stroke is done re-sand a chisel point on your lead., practice the strokes that gave you trouble, and get ready for the next one.

I don't play golf, but up to a point my earlier golf analogy is a good one. The big difference is that in golf the primary consideration is whether the ball wound up in the cup or not. In Lon's "Primary Method" the trajectory of the stroke is as important as where it winds up.

It's obvious from the two scans above that I missed many strokes, both in trajectory and final destination. Furthermore the quality of line needs a lot of work. That's all a matter of practice. What's interesting here is that in spite of my having missed a great deal, there is still a considerable resemblance between the two drawings; such that I think I could accept that they were of the same "person", even if I hadn't been involved in the process. I've trimmed the two drawings so that only the eyes, noses and mouths remain and posted the result below. The re-scaling of my drawing isn't perfect, but it can be seen that the pupils, nostrils and basic mouth line would very nearly coincide were the two images overlaid. I think this is an important component of what makes us see a "likeness". Other details contribute, but these features dominate. Based on this and other drawings I've just done, my gut feeling is that "Primary Method" is helping me locate these cardinal features without actively thinking about it (And despite errors in other aspects of the face, provided they're not too egregious). This is a contrast to my "old ways", where I did a lot of thinking about it.

I don't know if this works for everyone or if it will continue to work for me. My next task is to do a bunch of drawings from life to see how things fare under those circumstances. I'm hoping I'll improve in line quality and speed and not backslide on the cardinal feature location. I have a hunch that it's going to work, hence my current enthusiasm!
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Old 01-28-2003, 08:30 PM   #7
John Zeissig John Zeissig is offline
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Feature Creatures

Eye, Nose and Throat?
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Old 01-29-2003, 02:24 AM   #8
Lon Haverly Lon Haverly is offline
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John, I am delighted that you are enjoying the book and the tips. These are such basic things, and they are fundamental. But the fundamentals are what make things easy.

But give yourself time, and be patient. This method does require time to settle in and work for you. I am still improving.

Thank you for the glowing review. It made my day!

You don't have to wait until you draw perfectly to get out and draw in public. It is the volume that sharpens you. Go for it, John!
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Old 01-29-2003, 03:40 AM   #9
Steven Sweeney Steven Sweeney is offline
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Lon, I'm in a whirlwind right now, changing coutries of residence again, but based on John's experience, I have to have your book. Are you still in preproduction, or is there somewhere else from which I should order? Feel free to respond in the "Books and Videos" area, so that other members get the benefit of your information.
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Old 01-29-2003, 04:01 AM   #10
Lon Haverly Lon Haverly is offline
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OK! I will respond in the books and videos section.
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