Figures, Faces & Folds: Women's Form and Dress for Artists, Students and Designers

Figures, Faces & Folds: Women's Form and Dress for Artists, Students and Designers

by Adolphe Armand Braun


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780486815923
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 04/19/2017
Pages: 160
Product dimensions: 8.20(w) x 10.90(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Adolphe Armand Braun (1869–1938) was the founder and original editor of Drawing and Design, an illustrated art magazine of the 1920s. He also wrote six drawing books between 1919 and 1928.

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Figures, Faces & folds

Women's Form and Dress for Artists, Students and Designers

By Adolphe Armand Braun

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2017 Adolphe Armand Braun
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-82105-4



MANY artists draw the figure regularly in the course of their duties, and also during the whole of their career.

Their object may be one of practice, in the same way as the musician practises his scales; or they may wish to use the figure in their compositions or designs; or their studies may aim at being pictures and studies at the same time.

It is curious that fashion artists and dress designers whose work is founded on the figure should mostly draw from imagination, sometimes using the glass and drawing from their own image to correct details, or else use photographs and design their figures from these.

To this majority the photographs reproduced in this book will be welcome.

But it seems a pity that drawing from life should not be more generally in use, especially among fashion artists. To be able to pose a good figure just as required, for a definite purpose and with the idea fresh in mind and filled with the enthusiasm of creation, is not only fascinating but the simplest way of doing justice to a difficult task.

Artists who always draw from imagination must stagnate. They are like people with a good vocabulary but who are not in touch with life; they can string words together and say a large number of things, but what they say lacks imagination. It is dull and uninteresting. People who live, on the other hand, who partake of the joys and sorrows of existence, who possess the spirit of adventure, and who take their share of human affairs, are usually attractive talkers, and shine by their mode of expression and by their individuality.

In the same way, working from the undraped model imparts the necessary inspiration, enlarges the understanding, and gives vitality to the work.

To draw well from a model is nevertheless a difficult performance. There is so much that passes through the mind of the artist while he draws, so much of interest that can be transferred to his drawing, that a narrowing down of his interest is advisable.

By thinking out the design beforehand a great deal of concentration of thought becomes possible, and better results are attained.

A dress parade, a show, a window, a magazine, any incentive might be the primary source of inspiration, but the fact that a design has been thought out enables the artist to look for definite things while he draws from his model, and perhaps by exaggerating these points ever so slightly, to give more force to his design.

It may be the curve of a shoulder which becomes more marked, or the line of a leg which is made more abrupt, or some shifting of one or several features which the seeing eye of the designer will be able to visualize in a position that would be naturalistically correct.

In fashion as well as in fine art, design has taken the place of naturalistic representation. The renewed interest in design does not seem to be a passing phase of art, but a logical development on lines diametrically opposite to those of science.

In science we cannot be exact enough, and realism is necessary. But the realism of science has killed the realism of art, and too many of the things which we can represent truly are due entirely to the machine. This fact alone should be enough to divorce the artist from absolute realism, and to make him incline to convention.

There are, however, many artists who will not take any notice, and who consider the exact imitation of nature as the most wonderful accomplishment of art. Among these are some very eminent artists and at least one fashion artist, who can claim to be right at the top of the profession.

But these people are so filled with the love of nature that they do not reflect whether there is or is not any scientific competition with their art; they do that which pleases them, and do not trouble about consequences. Sometimes the consequences are in their favour. The fact of their love of nature expresses itself somehow, and their work abounds with the individuality of their outlook and reflects their feelings.

But only the talented or the pertinacious can afford this fanaticism and independence of action; the others must fall into line with the leaders of the day.

Whether he aims for realism or convention, the artist should seize every opportunity of working from the living model, and connect his design, this term being taken in its most complete sense, with the figure in front of him.

Accidents of fight and shade, colour, the setting, the material with which he works — everything, in fact, which establishes a five contact between the artist and his work — flashes intelligence to his mind and helps him to attain his ultimate goal.

Besides the artistic there is the practical aspect of figure drawing from the dress designer's and fashion artist's point of view.

How is the human body shaped, where are its widest and narrowest measurements, to what extent can the limbs be considered as tubular? The slope of the shoulders and the width of the hips have a great deal to do with dress. How certain poses lend themselves to a fine display of drapery, what are the proportions of the various parts of the figure in relation to one another, these and many other questions must occur to the practical man who uses the living model, and their solution can only have a beneficial effect on his production.

The finest foundation to a costume drawing is a well thought out and well executed figure.

Many masters have clothed and are still clothing their figures on the solid rock of the undraped form. The conscientious fashion artist and the aspiring dress designer cannot do less than the master, for they also must aim at becoming masters in their own particular fine.

The fashion artist, and particularly the dress designer, ought to change their models as often as possible, and each new model should be as different as possible from the old one in build and countenance.

He must study his model with his eyes, and with his imagination alert, draw her as she appears to be, and also make idealized drawings of her — make improvements which his experience or task might suggest.

In a book entitled The Human Form in Art I have concluded my reflections on drawing the figure by discussing the time factor. I believe that a drawing, to be five and interesting, should be done rapidly. Otherwise it lacks spirit, looks tame, laboured, and unconvincing.

"The Oriental draughtsman has solved the problem by delaying the drawing until he has given it ample preliminary consideration. The draughtsman as we know him gives little thought to his object beforehand, but tries to rivet his attention while he draws it. But apart from precedence of thought over action, rapidity of execution depends on quick reactions, on concentration, and on a certain feverish excitement. These conditions induce an exalted state of mind which helps creation, enlivens our work with the spark of emotion and with flashes of inventiveness. By practising three-minute poses we train ourselves to unhesitating action, to immediate decision. We learn to waste no time on trifles, while we strain every nerve to express all we perceive.

"To counteract any undue haste to which we might become accustomed, we ought to alternate these short-time exercises with others lasting for hours.

"During these long sittings, we should pay the greatest attention to measurement, the foundation of all good draughtsmanship ; to composition, as being essential in a work of art; to fight and shade, as revealing tri-dimensional form; to linear and aerial perspective, as stressing the illusion of reality; to the underlying structure, for helping our understanding of flesh and bone.

"The notions which these mature exercises will have bred in us will gradually become part and parcel of our artistic equipment and, sinking into our subconscious mind, acquire the power to express themselves automatically.

"We shall then be ready to impart to our rapid work the energies accumulated in the pursuit of truth and excellence, and to shine by our knowledge and spirited execution."

Assuming that they draw only from models, very few artists, except with constant practice, are able to concentrate their minds so completely that they can make everything they know about the figure enter into their work, and at the same time pay attention to such important points as essential action, beauty, grace, which are not always perfectly expressed by the model holding the pose.

The artist's personal feeling and imagination coming into play, his art will fill the gap between reality and ideal.

Where there is action — and without it a work of art is dull — the action which the artist is to reproduce should re-echo in him. Every nerve within himself must vibrate in unison with those of the model, and while he draws he must be mentally espousing the same attitude as that he wishes to depict. If he can do this he will have achieved something much more vital than a mere display of knowledge, for he will have put his own individuality into his work. When his understanding transcends that of mere learning, his drawing, instead of being a cold record of facts, acquires the warmth and animation of real intelligence and life.

Beauty and grace are ubiquitous, but do not necessarily lie on thesurface of every human form. It is the nobility of the artist's mind which makes them rise to the surface and appear in his work.

The craftsman who can see the goddess in the human figure that stands before him betrays his admiration ; his thoughts and feelings are reflected in his craft.

Does this mean that the artist should neglect the study of anatomy, light and shade, perspective, and let feeling and imagination take the reins ? Not at all, because his competence depends on his knowledge and technical skill more than anything else. But he must draw with all his heart and soul as well as with his head if he wants to shine.

To make their drawings look smart and attractive, especially to a public whose interest in Art does not go beyond outward appearances, artists need devote a great deal of attention to the faces they depict. Then, again, it is advisable that they should be thorough and not content with some banal, insipid, doll-like head.

It may be going too far to wish that every fashion head should be a striking and smart portrait, full of the character and charm of real personality; but a near approach to it would be an achievement within the powers of the gifted.

The artist who has a bent for psychology will need no encouragement, and knows the world of difference which exists between one face and another.

And yet how much there is that all faces have in common ! Their structure is the same; one skull resembles another. A standard skull should be sought out and learnt by heart. It is of the greatest importance that the artist should know every detail concerning the skull, how the frontal bone curves towards the eye-sockets and upwards and backwards, how the eye-sockets are shaped, how the jaw-bone is connected with the temporal bone, the exact position of the nose in relation to the eyes, and everything else concerning the skull.

It is not sufficient to draw from the skull to know all about it. One must measure the component parts with a pair of compasses and note the various distances. The planes of the skull and their position in relation to one another should be well understood.

After the skull come the various features. A standard face of a man, woman, and child could be selected among the numerous casts which can be purchased from the museums or shops. In the same way as with the skull the faces adopted should be learnt by heart, each feature being attentively examined and drawn with the utmost care and understanding! Simplicity of interpretation should go hand in hand with close observation of form.

Drawings of the standard heads shown in the illustrations and every one of their features should be made from many different positions, always paying attention to the altered perspective.

The heads should be arranged to stand successively level, slanting, high, low, far and near, and always drawn to life size. It is wasting precious time to make studies of faces and features on a small scale.

A little exaggeration and sharpness of treatment in making the various planes diverge from each other is desirable. On the other hand, the planes that merge into each other or that are wedged together should be clearly constructed.

Your standard skull and standard faces well fixed in your mind, you are now ready to draw from the model, and able to represent all the similarities and all the differences between the standard face and that of the model.

The thorough knowledge which you have gained from your standard skull enables you to detect and to connect salient parts and depressions in the model's face with the skull you have in mind, and thus to construct your face with a good deal of power.

The features will differ more or less, in most cases very considerably from those of your standard face, but if you have learnt to draw those of your standard face with desirable precision and profoundness, you will find it comparatively easy to represent those of your model with the same verisimilitude.

To get your likeness, remember that your first object should be to reproduce the proportions and the character of the face.

Measurement of the various planes and distances and due regard to perspective will give you the right proportions, and you will arrive at a satisfactory likeness. So that the likeness be complete, you must also catch the character of your model. This is more subtle and complex.

Character may lie in the whole of the face or be dominantly expressed by one particular or various features.

It is the discovery and correct rendering of the one or several features which results in a striking likeness. The successful caricaturist has the faculty of finding out the dominating character of a person, only his medium is exaggeration.

In the same way the expert portraitist can seize upon the character of a face and give emphasis to it in his work, only in his case without the comic or aggressive touch. Sometimes by elongating an eye, bending a nose, curving a lip a little forcibly, but not violently or jerkily, the character of the person depicted is revealed or emphasized.

Apart from character, expression enters into the composition of the face, but the truthful reproduction of expression it is not given to every artist to perform. Fully exhibited emotions, such as laughter, terror, hatred, surprise, are not within the compass of this dissertation; they do not interest the commercial or fashion artist, and the portraitist himself fights shy of them.

But subtle emotions which animate the expression almost imperceptibly impart just that degree of vitality which one looks for in a work of art.

Even now, with the innumerable records which the camera is providing, the enigmatic smile of Da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" impresses us by its elusiveness and mystery.

The commercial artist need not, of course, emulate the achievements of the old masters, but many fine shades of sentiment are within his range, and the pleased, polite, dignified, attentive, happy, vain look are part of his stock-in-trade. He should be able to provoke and detect and render these expressions very adequately.

To draw faces well requires a specialized apprenticeship, and the trouble the artist takes in studying the subject should be commensurate with the responsibility of moulding the mentality and taste of the people.

Individual features are not really so different as may appear at first sight, and in drawing them their proportion should be paramount. It is by a nice balancing of one feature against another that he evolves types that win approval. But whatever he does he must not neglect reality, and his faces must remain true to life.

The best method by which to impart beauty, character, and individuality to the drawing of a face is to draw from one which nature has endowed with similar perfection. Lucky the artist who possesses such a face, and to whom a mirror or two are all the help required. In the majority of cases the artist has to invent the beauty which he shows in his work or to improve that of his models.


Excerpted from Figures, Faces & folds by Adolphe Armand Braun. Copyright © 2017 Adolphe Armand Braun. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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