The last of the people I needed to work out for the Mysterious Thing on my drawing desk is Captain Scott. I've drawn him quite a few times before, and been happy with the results, but it always makes an enormous difference to approach things methodically and get really comfortable with drawing someone, so it was worth it to sit down for a couple of days and hash out a proper procedure for him.
As with Cherry (and everyone, really), I will need to do more than this quick study before I sit down to do things For Real, but this is sufficient for moving ahead with the current thing and buys me a head start on further development.
It was also good to reacquaint myself with the phenomenon of Drawing While French – I drew half the heads above, and these poses, while listening to Radio-Canada podcasts in one of my intermittent attempts at immersion, and I'm pretty sure the latter two of these poses wouldn't have turned out nearly so stylish if I'd been listening to English. I don't know why this happens but it's pretty reliable, so maybe I need to commit to this immersion thing and see what it does to my drawing long-term ...
My collection of reference photos is fairly large, and I'm on first-name terms with most of them, but it's still surprising what you notice when you draw off something rather than merely study it. This is a frame from 90° South
, in which Ponting had this group (coincidentally four of the five members of the Polar Party) recreate camping routine for the cinematograph – an absolutely invaluable reference source, though none of them would have thought so at the time. I knew it had Scott laughing, but I had never appreciated just how much he's cracking up until deconstructing his face.
"Scott was a subtle character, full of lights and shades," Cherry wrote, and in my collection of photos some aspect of this comes across physically – in some he's a dashing matinée idol (a former housemate, seeing this image
on one of my books, asked why Russell Crowe was on the cover of a Scott biography), while in others he looks decidedly impish. He divided opinion, both amongst those who knew him and those who encountered him through his and others' writing later; the only thing everyone seems to agree on is that he was a complicated man. I started out just on the negative side of ambivalence towards him, but as I've got to know him over these last eight years, I have become very fond of him, despite (or because of?) all his faults. He's going to be a tricky character to portray, and to some extent I can't stop people seeing what they want to see, but I hope I can inspire some to give him the benefit of the doubt as I did, and see the man on his own terms rather than through the lens of hindsight.
One last thing: People make a big deal over observation and life experience, but rarely provide tangible examples of why it's important. Well, in deconstructing Scott's design, I noticed his ears were the same shape as these little tiny clam shells I used to collect by the handful when I lived in San Diego, which I can recall so clearly I could draw them as you see above. Somehow I'd never bothered to find out what they were called; now I know they are Donax variabilis
. So a random factor of my childhood has influenced my understanding of a long-dead head, and the story of that long-dead head has led to a better understanding of a random factor in my childhood, and life is 0.001% more stitched up.