This post will be an analysis using the Weight/Modeled Drawing chapter/concept from Kimon Nicolades’ book “The Natural Way to Draw” as a springboard to talk about ‘Weight’ in art and in general, how it possibly applies to art and how you can possibly improve from knowing about it.
I say possibly because with every art theory I put out (or anyone puts out for that matter) there’s definitely going to be someone that disproves that theory, I definitely don’t think that everybody who paints or draws well thinks of ‘Weight’ actively as an abstract concept in order to draw well. (whether it can be argued that they think about it but don’t know that they do is another subject)
This will likely be an analysis that needs to be updated with future chapters as I likely miss out on or find out about new information. Or also incorrectly state some information that is not true or wrongly attributed, that I have to correct in updates.
For simplification sake, the intended projected end-goal is to get good at basically representational drawing, not abstract drawing or modern art, but drawing something that exists in its own space in a believable manner. All of my posts on art so far has been in favour of that.
The concept of ‘Weight’ is not only covered in Kimon Nicolades’ book but also mentioned in other art books as a concept in drawing, except Nicolades’ would probably be the only one talking about it in an abstract sense. The general concept is everything has ‘Weight’ to it, they occupy space, and have mass to them. Depicting this well is what makes your art better.
For Nidolades, you must feel the weight of the thing you are drawing as you draw it to best represent it to the viewer, the feeling of the weight of it must come across, if the figure is putting its weight on one foot more than the other it must comes across as such, and not just that, if something is heavy and dense it must have that feeling of it being heavy as well, not only in yourself but conveyed to the viewer as well.
For others, in general, they usually go with knowing the weight and where it is being placed and then representing the weight correctly as good enough, like the figure putting more weight on one side of the body or one foot more than the other, not the whole “heavy object you must feel is heavy as you draw it” concept. Not so much the whole feeling the weight of it like Nicolades puts forward. Following “common sense physics” of how the figure is posed when the weight is on different anchor points. (If the weight is on one leg the body will be tilted towards that, where is the line of action, how far off from the center line of the figure is it, etc.)
The only real exercise for the abstract concept is in Nicolades’ book it involves, starting from the center of the mass and slowly drawing/massing charcoal outwards slowly till you reach the outer edges of the figure/object then filling back in again. Form and weight together.
In this process, you are constantly trying to get the feeling of the core weight as you do so, later on, you try to make the parts that are facing away darker, while the parts facing toward you lighter (like in the post’s photo).
For others, the exercises relating to weight would be to find the center line of the figure, the line of action of the figure, depending on the pose know which is the leg/anchor point that the weight is being put on, how far off from the center line that is, and then with that information draw it believably as such, following “common sense physics”. This would usually involve a lot of drawing and studying from references of dynamic poses till you build your visual library enough to recreate/invite your own poses from imagination.
So, to reiterate, the goal of knowing the concept of ‘Weight’ is to do representational drawing well through the knowledge and application of ‘Weight’.
Nicolades’ goal for artists is towards the ultimate goal to draw naturally, to feel and represent the weight well through the other goal of having the feeling of “touching” the figure or object through drawing or as you are drawing. That’s the natural way to draw for him.
For others, the goal is to usually depict the figure believably in the space it occupies using methods like line of action, center line, etc.
Do I personally feel like I am feeling the figures’/objects’ ‘Weight’ as I do Nicolade’s exercises? Kind of yes, I do. Do I feel like I actively apply that abstract feeling/concept to art I do, outside of those exercises? Not really. Sometimes I remember to think about it but most times its not that much at the forefront of my thinking as I draw/paint.
The less abstract concept of knowing line of action, center line, weight on which anchor point, etc. would be the more useful straightforward one to a lot of people for depicting the figure in a believable way, occupying its own space.
There may be some merit to keeping the more abstract concept in mind, of getting the feeling of the ‘Weight’ of the object across to yourself and hence to the viewer therefore making it more believable/natural, but I am also very sure this abstract concept’s usefulness will vary from person to person, I would say even possibly that it has no merit to some people at all and that doesn’t mean their art isn’t good because of that, their art can still be good without believing in or knowing that abstract concept.
YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary) according to your art and how you feel about it and what you need for it, if you feel like you are unable to get the concept of weight/”weighty-ness” across in your drawings or paintings, maybe the abstract concept exercises of “feeling” out the core weight can help. If you are having trouble drawing a believable pose in its own established space then looking into concepts like center line of the figure, line of action, gesture, weight on which anchor point etc. will be more useful.