Tuesday, September 25, 2018

In the Zone

9/21/18 Shannon (2.5-hour pose)

So far, I’ve been using the graphite technique I learned from Eduardo Bajzek mainly for buildings and street scenes. Wanting to try other types of subjects with the method, I decided to go to a long-pose life drawing session at Gage last week. Normally I prefer short poses because I want to practice fast gestures that will help me most when I’m sketching people in the real world, but this graphite technique takes a long period. While short-pose sessions are a series of one-minute to 20-minute poses, the long-pose session is the same pose for the entire three hours. Allowing for model breaks, the actual drawing time is about two-and-a-half hours.

Let me just say that using this reductive technique with a building is easier than with a human form! The technique is especially conducive to street scenes because the negative space around the straight sides of buildings or rooflines is easy to erase out. After I toned the paper, I realized I hardly had anything to erase out – just some parts of the model’s face and torso and a few highlights. But since one of the key benefits of graphite is the beautiful graduated tonal shading it can impart, I kept going.

Eventually I found myself deeply in “the zone” – something I rarely feel when I’m drawing. I spent the full time on this one drawing – also something rare for me. I don’t understand much about the mental state called “the zone,” but I lost all sense of time. When the moderator’s timer went off every 20 minutes for the break, I was surprised – it seemed like only a few minutes had gone by. My mind didn’t wander to thoughts outside the drawing – it was just me and the pencil.

Around the last 15 minutes or so of the session, I switched into critical mode, and I noticed proportion problems (and I thought I had measured so carefully, too), and the drawing looked overworked. Even so, I enjoyed making this drawing immensely.

I wish I understood more about the zone so that I could put myself there more often, but when I recall the other few times it has happened (a recent example was when I was drawing a stand of poplars in class), it seems related to spending a significant length of time on a single sketch. Maybe it just takes a while to get there, and the shorter sketches I usually make don’t allow enough time. I don’t (and can’t) necessarily spend a couple of hours on a sketch just to get into the zone, but maybe there’s a way to get there faster.

Technical note: I made this drawing with a Blackwing (ungraded but softer than HB) and a Mitsubishi pencil in 4B on Canson Bristol smooth paper.


  1. This is a very graceful drawing! The tones are beautiful, and you captured the light on her in a lovely way!

    1. Thanks so much, Cathy! I really enjoy using graphite at life drawing, and this long pose allowed me the time to do that. I guess graphite is as close to charcoal as I can get without the mess. ;-)

  2. I like how the technique you applied brings the light to the model's skin tone. I get in the zone all the time because that's what watercolour does to me, especially when in life drawing.

    1. It's wonderful that your medium puts you in your happy place!


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