The first review I did of this was for a magazine and I was limited to 150 words. You have to be pithy in that length and the challenge now, when I can write as much as I like, is to capture the joyful simplicity of this delightful film while at the same time taking the opportunity to tell you a bit more about its content.
I was captivated in the first ten minutes. In that short time, Joseph demonstrates how to capture figures from stationary to full exertion in just a few brush strokes. He also shows the importance of structure and proportion – how the rest of the body is always seven and a half times the height of the head and how you should be able to achieve that without measuring. It just looks right. Change it and you either have a Martian or a child. It’s engaging as well as a forehead-slapping moment – “Of course!”
The body of the film is shot on location and Joseph paints and sketches a variety of figurative compositions – at a market, roadworks, a harbour and a café as well as grape-pickers in a vineyard. In the course of these, he explains how to identify your subject, then to assemble the figures that will go in it and, finally, to simplify. He also has valuable advice on the structure of the whole work – “Foreground takes you in, middle ground’s the stage with your figures and the background’s just a pattern. Don’t over-work it.”
The important thing throughout is that these are not portraits, they’re figures that are there to do (and are doing) a job and they need to fit, both in terms of action and proportion, into the scene as a whole.
It’s a hugely informative film, but done with such a light touch, both artistically and in terms of presentation, that you’ll hardly notice you’re learning.
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