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  #1  
Old 02-22-2006, 09:16 AM
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oddist oddist is offline
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Man is a difficult beast to draw:

I recently came across a paper titled "A Man Is a Difficult Beast to Draw: The Neglected Determinant in Rock Art." ( http://www.archaeometry.org/papers/swa2.pdf )

The abstract is as follows:

This paper offers a perceptual psychologist's explanation of the predominance of portrayals of certain views of animals in rock art and of special problems associated with depiction of human figures and, as a consequence, of the special place these figures occupy in iconographic development.

The argument is a refinement of the arguments presented by the author in his earlier paper (Rock Art Research, 1995), and rests upon the notion of the 'typical contour', a perceptual feature of most objects, used by artists in a variety of cultures, sometimes with rather surprising results. It is argued that human beings are inherently more difficult to portray than bovines, equines and similar animals, and that this explains the rather late appearance of depictions of human figures.


I found the reasoning of the paper viable and am trying to relate it to the 'sculptural represention' of the human form.

This morning it struck me that the contorted figures of Rodin may have been a subconcious attempt to overcome the shortcomings of portraying the human form even in sculpture. For instance, The Eternal Idol, Crouching Woman, Fallen Caryatid, and Iris-Messenger of the Gods... ( http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/fnart/rodin/rodin.html )
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  #2  
Old 02-22-2006, 11:56 AM
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Re: Man is a difficult beast to draw:

[quote]
Quote:
Originally Posted by oddist
..."A Man Is a Difficult Beast to Draw: The Neglected Determinant in Rock Art." ...
. It is argued that human beings are inherently more difficult to portray than bovines, equines and similar animals, and that this explains the rather late appearance of depictions of human figures

I found the reasoning of the paper viable and am trying to relate it to the 'sculptural represention' of the human form.
THEN AGAIN
Leave us not to ignore the Dolni Vistonici bust
20--od thousand years ago and dead on realistic

difficult--yes
but
therein lies the value

whither hence?

rod
sculptor
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  #3  
Old 02-23-2006, 02:55 AM
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Re: Man is a difficult beast to draw:

The skin of a human being is not covered except the top of the head by fur, and the human face, the fingers as well as the whole body can be very expressive. Perhaps these are the reasons why it is easier to make good drawings of animals.

Covering the body with clothing can make it more difficult to draw or sculpt.

But as 'sculptor' says, here lies the challenge. And this is why we admire artists who can represent it very well.
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Old 02-23-2006, 05:47 PM
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Re: Man is a difficult beast to draw:

Here's a great reference on Sculptor's "Dolni Vestonice" figures I found via Google:
http://donsmaps.com/dolnivenus.html

Turns out there are sculptures of several females and also males at this site, all of very high quality. The site and sculptures are dated about 26,000 years ago, according to the web site. I find the whole report amazing, but I haven't yet studied it thoroughly. The Venus fertility figures are quite widespread, but these pieces are far more individualized. In fact, I'd almost suspect fakery, but the report seems professional.

On Oddist's initial report, my first thought is that Rodin's contorted figures aren't directly related to this issue, but to some personal compulsion. However, the whole issue is thought-provoking, and I hope I have time to check further in coming days.
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  #5  
Old 02-24-2006, 09:21 AM
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Re: Man is a difficult beast to draw:

From the paper sited in the lead to this thread I draw your attention to the author's reference to "salient curvature" which is a contour that is clearly pronounced when it lies in a plane and is easily detectable.

An example of this is the top view of a turtle with its head, legs, and tail extended verses one with its head, legs, and tail drawn in. Another, the profile of a bovine is quite familiar --while the single horn in its side view not as recognizable as front view displaying two horns.

As for man, the outline of a hand on a cave wall is no doubt more recognizable than the markings that may have been left by the pounding of the surface by a fist dipped in red ochre.

The profile of the human head is more salient than the front or back views --the side view of the foot easier to decipher than the front. Egyptian wall paintings show the head in profile, the torso and arms head on, and the legs and feet sideways. The orientation of all these features is most detectable.

The author refers to "twisted" images resulting from the attempt to represent the most "salient" features -- for instance, the top view of a crocodile's body with the side view of its head. Also, the profile view of a bovine (body and head) with two horns showing.

As for the Dolni Vistonici pieces -- These are depiction of "details." Details that can be viewed individually, close up and personal, from a single vantage point. This single viewing angle is also common in many sculptures, figurative and abstract. After all, the Lincoln memorial would look quite strange if the figure were sitting facing the back wall...

But consider the complete figure -- how does one sculpt a figure that is recognizable when viewed through all angles?

Although, as Fritchie points out, Rodin's contorted figures may have been connected to some personal compulsion, my contention is, that although subconscious, his TWISTED imagery was an attempt to represent the most "salient curvature" of the human form when viewed from all angles.

It also may be of importance to note that the female figure, being more curvaceous than the males, is most sculpted due to that fact...that when viewed from any angle there are features most easily recognized. And, although these features are not viewed at the same time, they are continuous enough in the visual memory to construct in ones mind a satisfactorily recognizable image.

As for me, my struggle is the sculpting of the most expressive figures as possible..with no particular vantage point being more important than another.
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Old 02-24-2006, 08:43 PM
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Re: Man is a difficult beast to draw:

What a strange creature is man.
We are hardwired to think that we are better than our parents, forebears, ancestors.
We enter a period wherein we must denigrate that which has come before.
As we near the age where the last memories of our parents were formed, most of us grow out of that. But the prejudice remains, and many feel the need to belittle the primitive as somehow being less than ourselves.
Some people just can’t feel good about themselves without feeling superior to someone else.
Meanwhile:
Our hard wiring has not changed significantly for at least 50 thousand years.
And:
Note also that Paul Bahn writing in 'Journey through the Ice Age', says that the head may be a fake. His main argument seems to be lack of provenance (meaning that it was not found by a recognised and trusted archeologist, or with reliable witnesses to the discovery) and that the style is too modern.

Jeez Paul, grow up.

I submit that the most natural inclination for art is representational.
I submit that the archaeological record is an extremely small sample of a very large set.
I submit that our ancestors were no less talented or capable than ourselves.
I submit that credentialization is no clear indicator of trustworthiness.

There is nothing inherently modern in the Bruger head.
(thanks for the link posting fritchie)

If I were to imagine the artistic endeavors of my distant ancestors, I would lean toward expecting representational works. I would not expect what is currently referred to as “modern art”.

As/re: "salient curvature"
There are myriad incidences of accurate depiction of the human form in rock and cave paintings—one cave in Sicily comes to mind, as does a rock shelter in South Africa.
Both show bowmen and groupings of men and women in natural silhouette form.
If I see further it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants (not ignorant dwarfs).

Whither hence?

rod

Last edited by sculptor : 02-24-2006 at 11:56 PM. Reason: epimetheus
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  #7  
Old 02-25-2006, 06:01 PM
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Re: Man is a difficult beast to draw:

[quote=sculptor]What a strange creature is man.
We are hardwired to think that we are better than our parents, forebears, ancestors.
We enter a period wherein we must denigrate that which has come before.
As we near the age where the last memories of our parents were formed, most of us grow out of that. But the prejudice remains, and many feel the need to belittle the primitive as somehow being less than ourselves.
Some people just can’t feel good about themselves without feeling superior to someone else.[quote=sculptor]

------------
What was this supposed to mean?

Does it have anything to do with the thread?
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Old 02-25-2006, 09:12 PM
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Re: Man is a difficult beast to draw:

[quote=oddist][quote=sculptor]What a strange creature is man.
We are hardwired to think that we are better than our parents, forebears, ancestors. ...
.
Quote:
Originally Posted by sculptor

------------
What was this supposed to mean?

Does it have anything to do with the thread?
hey oddist:

'twas more a reflection of the attitude bespoken by/of Paul Bahn(see fritchie's link), but seemed (in part and to a lesser degree) apropos to the arguement promulgated by Deregowski in "The Neglected Determinant in Rock Art."

It seemed to me that the arguement was enhanced by selectively ignoring certain elements of the archaeological record. While that may be excellent rhetoric, it falls short of the highest goals in discussion of the science.

Though, having studied the available paleo art I'll grant that the predominance of that which we have to examine is indeed of animals rather than people.---a stroll through a curio or tourist shop will show a simular imbalance.
This doesn't mean that the ancients were constrained as were the egyptians in showing contorted sillouhettes, which I suspect was more a stylistic decision than a lack of ability. The "Bruger head" or vestonici bust is, i believe a good example of the ability from 26000years b.p. and supported by the 10-12000 y.b.p. art in the sicilian cave.---again, perhaps this represents <10% of the known paleo art.
The strongest arguement for the venus figurines representing a mother goddess(perhaps a unifying cultural icon) is the constant lack of an identifyable face on any of them which I've seen. In this veign, lies the arguement that much of the cave art was representational of clan affiliations following the belief that the pre patronymic clan identifications were animalistic in nature and practice(a position with which I am not wholly comfortable). Also there is no way of knowing if the available written record of the cave art has been censored, as were the ithiphalic depictions of Osiris.
I wish I had a bottom line for this, but sadly, it remains a mystery to me.

To his credit the comparative analisys of frequency of human to feline reflects the foregoing uncertainty in the study of the works.
Which brings us to the difficulty portion of his arguement with which I heartily concure.

While studying art with the art students in the basement of the art building after hours, I joined a life drawing group. We took turns posing while the rest drew---our leader liked to tie himself into intricate contortionist knots to try'n force us to see differently---his poses were so difficult that the normal sketch by any and all of us would only show portions of his folded and contorted body with interwoven arms and legs. If man is driven to seek that which provides the greatest pleasure for the least pain, then shunning the difficult is a natural choice.

I think the difficulty arises from the familiarity we have with our mental images of humans, which makes mistakes more obvious, though in landseer's comment about the dogs, we see that the same applies to anything for which someone has developed a practiced eye.

cool?
whither hence?
rod
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  #9  
Old 02-26-2006, 01:57 AM
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Re: Man is a difficult beast to draw:

Dear Mr. Sculptor,

I must apologize here...When I first opened Fritchie's link I did not page down far enough to find the text with the reference to Paul Bahn...Only after you refered back to the link did I find it...Being a visual thinker I tend to look at pictures more than words anyway and very often have to read things over to fully comprehend the writers intent...

As for your first hand experience at trying to draw the 'intricate contortionist knots' of a model..I to can relate..I did not recall, until you mentioned it, that I too had taken a short class in figure drawing and found I just could not get the hang of it--even without the knots..however..when able to walk around a peice of sculpture and view all angles, I can more easily put together a convincing representation...although not always to the degree of satisfaction I desire.

So goes the struggle..and we are all still 'cave men' in the eyes of time.
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  #10  
Old 03-21-2006, 02:22 PM
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Re: Man is a difficult beast to draw:

The majority of the "Dolni Vestonice" figures seem to follow the form conventions of prehistorical art. The simplified and disproportionate forms of the face and bodies are typical. The Brugar bust possesses some more recent sculptural conventions (look at the eyes and mouth) and I would not be suprised if it was a forgery or at least dated wildly before its time. Could it not be a real carving from that time? There is always a possibility. If it is a real example of that time we should find more. all artistic achievement has been worked out in stages by more than one artist. This cummulative progression is reflected in every civilization's artistic record. Then again a random artistic genius might of their own accord make that huge evolutionary leap.

Even the artwork of much later periods, Sumerian for example, showed the struggle of trying to conventualize the human form into an understandable renderable format. Look at Cycladic art, the forerunner of classical Greek sculpture bears the mark of that struggle. Certainly the complexity of the human form makes it a much harder subject than the more simple shapes of most fauna. The ease with which you can flatten the contour of most animals and still show movement is not true of humans. Movement is what brought art from the frontalization of Egyptian sculpture and early Greek Kouros figures into having to deal with the body as a real object and not just a symbol.
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Old 04-08-2006, 09:42 AM
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Re: Man is a difficult beast to draw:

I still haven't found time to pad through the original reference, but from descriptions here, I think he may be onto something, and I also find comments by practicing sculptors here quite illuminating on the whole issue.

What I suspect may be a real insight is oddist's description of the "telling contour", a technique which attempts to bring the greatest bit of 3D information into two dimensions. This idea seems to explain very well the commonly contorted Egyption figures, and it also explains the common animal silhouettes.

Where I principally disagree is the inherent difficulty of drawing humans. I think the real problm is that we find humans of greater interest and thus insist on higher accuracy. Besides animal specialists, what member of the public cares about details of a dog's, cat's, or horse's bone, muscle or hair styling? If the depiction is of a human, though, and it is deficient, most people would describe the work as childish or simply incompetent.

I also have to say, with oddist, that I consider myself a 3D thinker, and I try to choose poses that have something of interest from every viewpoint.
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Old 04-17-2006, 05:51 AM
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Re: Man is a difficult beast to draw:

I think that man is an original creature( sometimes called beast ) with many interesting and various appearances. Hard to say if a man is a difficult beast to draw. Some nice examples of "beasts" you can find here www.human-anatomy-for-artist.com
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