The moving figure


The British artist Anthony Gormley is primarily known for his sculptures and large installations, but I first came across his drawings while visiting the National Portrait Gallery in London – “Fall”, a series of 9 drawings of a falling body.

Every drawing is a solitary figure  in a void. This is a theme recurring in Gormley’s work- here from the series “the Grid” 2016:


Or from the series “Body and Light” , ink drawings on wet ground:

In stead of placing the figure in recognizable surroundings, Gormley explores the human body in a void- questioning the relationship between the body we occupy and the space around it. All through his career , Anthony Gormley has been exploring this theme of the experience of occupying a human body. He uses his own body for casts for his sculptures.

I feel inspired to experiment with wet paper and human form and also to explore what difference it makes to leave the scribbled figures floating in space versus giving them somewhere to stand or something to hold on to.

Antonygormleycom. 2017. Antonygormleycom. [Online]. [23 January 2017]. Available from:


Richard Hambleton was born in Canada but relocated to New York in the 1970’s. He became known as “the Godfather of street art” with his series of graffitti “Shadows” all over New York in the 1980’s.

Since then his paintings have been presented in galleries and museums with more than man sized shadow figures. I love the energy and spontaneous expression of these figures and can imagine the impressive effect when seeing them larger than man.

I love the way he can express a precise movement and even expression with only a shadow, a blur or dot of black paint. His brushstrokes seem as fast as the moving figures he captures.

I just now discovered that he even paints portraits in the same manner, including colour or gold dust.

There is definitely an “a la Richard Hambleton” experiment coming up in my “Sketchbook section” now.



David Haines is a British contemporary artist making videos and hyper realistic drawings in pencil on paper. I can just marvel at the skill and draughtmanship here. David Haines seems to catch a glimpse of a brief moment, a quick movement and moment in time, but renders it with such precision and detail, that it is a very slow process. I just read in an interview with the artist in the magazine “mimik”, that he spent a whole year on the giant pencil drawing “Radiant bodies” for example.

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David Haines collects various images mainly relating to a street and gay culture , and then reinterprets them in his own specific image language – “the drawings are not protests but they seek to create a new visual vocabulary”.

Sneakers and anatomical hearts appear in many of his works


Fascinating detail and drawing skills, but I feel personally less touched by these hyper realistic drawings than the quick splattered movements by Richard Hambleton.

Mimikmagazinecom. 2017. Mimik Magazine. [Online]. [1 April 2017]. Available from:

Davidhainesorg. 2017. Davidhainesorg. [Online]. [1 April 2017]. Available from:

 EMMA TALBOT b. 1969
I discovered the British artist Emma Talbot in the beautiful book “Drawing people- the human figure in contemporary art” by Roger Malbert. At a first glimpse, I could have turned over the page and seen her watercolour drawings as cartoon like and light, but I found myself drawn to looking at them over and over again.
The drawings can be read as a diary, or as an imaginary diary of the same figure without facial features. They are like glimpses of a short mundane moment-like washing the clothes in a sink, or walking up the stairs.
Some drawings are complex stories interwoven in a intricate pattern
There is an underlying atmosphere of threat and sadness. I find myself a little surprised at how touched I am by these series of drawings.
Malbert, Roger (2016). Drawing people, the human figure in contemporary art. England: Thames & Hudson.
Emmatalbotorguk. 2017. Emmatalbotorguk. [Online]. [1 April 2017]. Available from:



American dancer and artist Heather Hansen presents another perspective on “the figure in movement”- her own movements creating patterns on a huge paper she dances on with charcoal in her hands.

I am particularly attracted to this right now as my own movements are restricted due to medical condition, and I am usually a person with a regular dynamic yoga practice. I can’t wait to be able to move my arms freely again and try this out.

Heatherhansennet. 2017. Heatherhansennet. [Online]. [1 April 2017]. Available from:




The underlying structure of the body

LEONARDO da VINCI (1452-1519)

Leonardo da Vincis’ unsatiable curiosity about how the human body functions and his research into anatomy that he documented with hundreds of pages of precise sketches and descriptions have been an invaluable source of information for art history and science ever since.


He was the first known scientist going as far as to dissect the human body to draw what he discovered inside. I find his anatomical drawings mesmerizing by the passion for knowledge and detail that shines through them.


I came across the American contemporary artist Laura Ferguson through a fellow student’s blog- and am so happy I did! I love the multi-layered drawings combining a dreamlike, emotional drawing of the body in combination with the accuracy of the underlying anatomy – the skeleton or soft tissues drawn in precise detail.

“Art creates a different vision of the inner body: one that is personal  rather than medical (though still anatomically accurate), and more reflective of our experience of the bodies we inhabit.” “Drawing myself, I could work from the inside out. ”

To keep it real, Laura draws in the Lab of the NYU School of Medicine with actual dissections, or from various medical imagery and Xrays of herself.  I find her work fascinating with this very personal emotional expression combined with a scientific approach.

Laurafergusonnet. 2017. Laurafergusonnet. [Online]. [25 March 2017]. Available from:

When searching for more art involving X-Rays , I discovered that there is a whole art movement around this, since the beginning of the 20 th century when X-rays started to be used. Flowers and other botanical specimens seem to have been the main subjects, but some more contemporary artists have explored the human body as well.


Nick Veasey is a Bristish contemporary artist working only with Xrays. For some images he uses the huge Xray machines at  borders to produce pictures of vehicles, then he Xrays his skeleton Frida in various poses to complete the images.

His newest project is about superheroes, and what is under the skin of the superhero.

This is how Nick Veasey describes his art:

“I like to challenge this automatic way that we react to just physical appearance by highlighting the, often surprising, inner beauty.”

“By revealing the inside, the quintessential element of my art speculates upon what the manufactured and natural world really consists of.”

I think it is an interesting query, but do not feel that the images answer it. To me they are too simple in a way, without any added emotion or message. They are often humorous, but then I react to that as to just another physical appearance.

Nickveaseycom. 2017. Nickveaseycom. [Online]. [25 March 2017]. Available from:


Hugh Turvey is a British contemporary artist who has worked with Xrays for over 20 years. He uses many objects, many flowers, and sometimes the human form.

Some of his huge installations of colorful XRays of flower details are beautiful;


And other Xray pictures humorous, like “the Fan” with a football shaped brain.

Although funny and colourful , these art works too lack something more personal or a deeper layer that I found in for example Laura Fergusons work.

Hugh turvey, . 2017. XOGRAM. [Online]. [1 April 2017]. Available from:



The yound Polish artist Ada Dobrzelecka shows many layers of  the human body in her oil paintings. At first glimpse I thought she used Xrays too, that she painted over, but looking more closely, I believe her paintings to be all in oil.

The earlier works are rather nightmarish, with cold colours, scared expressions and the many different layers of the face and body creating a scary image.

Her later works from the series “my Inner Garden” are more poetical, with flowers and softer colours, although the many layers are still visible.

I feel pulled in and intrigued by the many layers of stories happening in these paintings.

I can feel that place of anguish and also curiosity at what is underlying our surface. Also I just tried myself to draw on XRays ( and posted the drawings in the “Sketchbook 4 continued” post) and it all became rather nightmarish and full of anguish as well.

Ada dobrzelecka. 2017. Ada Dobrrzelecka. [Online]. [1 April 2017]. Available from:

Saatchiartcom. 2017. Saatchi Art. [Online]. [1 April 2017]. Available from:



The definition of foreshortening according to the TATE Glossary of Art terms  (Tateorguk, 2017):

“Foreshortening refers to the technique of depicting an object or human body in a picture so as to produce an illusion of projection or extension in space”


(Born in 1970, Cambridge, England)

Jenny Saville is the first artist that comes to mind when thinking of figure drawing and foreshortening. Her large scale paintings of massive human bodies use foreshortening to the extreme. The angles of the models allow her to lead  our gaze from one body part to the other, like here from the penis to the stomach, to the breasts in the transvestite, or around the surgeons marks on the right image.

The formats are massive, and the figures are massive, continuing far over the borders of the canvas.

The human flesh is overwhelmingly dominant and has an almost tactile character. According to an interview with Simon Schama for the Saatchi Gallery, Jenny Saville is looking for “a contemporary architeture of the body” and it is true that I feel like I am looking at monuments or landscape of the human here.

Gagosiancom. 2017. Gagosiancom. [Online]. [29 January 2017]. Available from:

Saatchi gallery. 2017. Saatchigallerycom. [Online]. [29 January 2017]. Available from:

Tateorguk. 2017. Tateorguk. [Online]. [29 January 2017]. Available from:



The figure- emotions

The research for Part 4 – the figure and the head- can be divided into different categories as suggested: The nude, the moving figure, underlying structure of the body, foreshortening and then the face and self-portrait. But I came across a few artists that use the human figure primarily to express different emotions and stories, and who don’t really fit into any of the above categories- so I chose to study them here under a chapter just called “emotions”.


While visiting the Tate Modern, I visited an “artist room” dedicated to the French artist Louise Bourgeois. The room contained several hanging cloth figures and huge series of etchings with various media on paper.

The etchings are in red colours with parts of human figures and snakelike forms, reminiscent of umbilical cords or blood arteries. There is definitely flesh and organs and something disturbingly raw and human here in the juxtaposition of different bits and pieces.

The second series with the hands explores her collaboration with her assistant through their hands.

Louise Bourgeois is exploring primal human emotions, like fear, rage ,sexuality, jealousy   through her work. She looks at dreams and childhood memories, it is a sort of visual psychoanalysis.

I found these illustrations in the beautiful book Drawing People by Roger Malvert


These are watercolours, in the same red. I am really touched by these drawings  – so little detail, so little information and yet so much to be felt and seen.

Above photographs mine from the exhibition, the watercolors from Malvert (no date). Drawing People, the human figure in contemporary art: Thames &Hudson.


TOMOKO KASHIKI (b. 1982 Kyoto, Japan)

The young Japanese artist Tomoko Kashiki is inspired by the traditional Japanese Bijinga paintings, but although that style and Japanese surroundings and patterns are still clearly visible, Tomoko’s paintings bring us into a dreamlike space.

She paints only a solitary woman, or rather a girl-woman with elongated sinous limbs in a crouching, curled up or strangely suspended position. There is a sense of dream, of mystery.

Often water is present, creating a flowing, mirroring, layering atmosphere with the bodies merging or dissolving into the space.

There is something so fragile and beautiful in these paintings. I love the merging of figure and dream, the many layers of stories and realities.

Otafineartscom. 2017. Otafineartscom. [Online]. [23 January 2017]. Available from:

 TRACEY EMIN (b. 1963, UK)

There was a discussion on the OCA Drawing student thread , if Tracey Emin can draw and if she would pass assessment of Drawing 1. This made me very curious to look closer at the work of this controversial artist, who installed her dirty bed as an art work in Tate Britain.


Previously, I have not felt drawn to any of her art and the grand exhibition of Tracey Emins work along side with Egon Schiele’s in the Leopold Museum in Vienna left me feeling slightly irritated, as I really admire Egon Schiele’s work.

Now I watched several Youtube videos ( “What do artists do all day”,” Tracey Emin in Confidence”, and her “Talk at MCA”, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia) and I have come to a whole new understanding and appreciation of her work.

She counters the question if she can draw with – ” I spent 7 years learning how to draw” and repeats “I am an artist” often. Her work is based on her own life experiences , with sexual abuse  and abortions and about being a woman. “My work isn’t about art, its about a life experience, about living.” “If I feel something, I make work about it”.  ” Art mustn’t be fake, you have to feel something” And others will share the same feelings, also the same life experiences, loss, abuse, hurt, anxiety.

“I didn’t have children, I have art. The only children I could have had are the abortions I had. My children hang on the walls of Tate Britain”.


Her art is often referred to as autobiographical , or confessional . But “Drawing is not like a diary, it’s more like a system of thought”.”It’s my language, I invented it, it’s like a scientist or an inventor- you have to crack a code.” This was a crucial moment for me in understanding her work. It is not about pouring out your feelings while smearing media, it is about cracking that very special code you have been given as an artist.

“People often ask me why I don’t draw faces in, and its’ because it’s really not important if it is me, it’s the woman that is important and i am so lucky I have a very good subject matter  (…) I can use myself- I am my first muse and my first model”

“I am sitting in my studio in London feeling depressed, feeling so far from nature and then I realize- I am not! I AM nature. That’s why great artists painted women, men , self portraits, because they were trying to get INTO the nature of themselves and understand what it is to be part of this world, and that is the job of the artist- to be working WITH the world.” Her backgrounds with soft pinks or ochre tones, that could be taken for bodyparts, are elements of nature- volcanoes, mountains, grottoes.

I tried drawing in Traceys Emin’s “code”- which definitely opened up a new level of understanding for her work and I believe really helped me loosening up in figure drawing as well.  The drawings are posted in the Sketchbook 4 section. I feel grateful for all the ideas and insights that came with exploring this artist. I am still not in awe of the work, it is still not a language that speaks to me like for example Egon Schiele’s art, but I feel a new respect and curiosity for it.


Fireley Baez is a young artist from the Dominican Republic who lives and works in New York. I really like the way she includes feathers and patterns, leaves and symbols into her drawings of the figure. For her this is a way to explore stories around ancestry and cultural identity.

I feel very drawn to explore using patterns and the human figure to tell stories too, this is something I would very much like to look in to more in my own drawing.

Gallerywendinorriscom. 2016. Gallery Wendi Norris. [Online]. [16 April 2017]. Available