Professional Models in Figure Drawing

May 26, 2011 in Figure Drawing by joanvienot

Modeling for figure drawing is a hard job.  Try sitting still in a posed body position for only 5 minutes, and then try it for 25 minutes, and you will see what I mean.  Even seemingly-relaxed poses, even reclining poses, can become torturous.  Our model at Studio b. this week is a an experienced professional.  His poses are rock solid, with no sinking, from beginning to end, from head to foot.  Fresh out of a boot for a repaired Achilles tendon, our model first performed 5 1-minute poses and then we graduated to longer poses and the final drawing was about 45 minutes.

The model challenged us later in the session, by posing with a picture frame as a prop.  Props hugely increase the challenge of figure drawing.  I drew the figure first, and then placed the picture frame.  Ideally, I would have drawn both at the same time, as a whole unit, because there were interesting negative shapes created by the frame.  But I was being cautious, having drawn this same model with this same frame but in a different pose, sometime last year, and having had trouble with the proportions at that time.  My drawing with the frame is more correct this time.

Our instructor, Heather Clements, has often suggested to me that I vary the direction of my pencil strokes to help convey the rounded form of the figure.  I rarely remember to use that technique.  I usually just draw the value patterns of light and shadow to express form, rather than changing  the direction of my pencil strokes.  But on the final drawing of the night, the model stood with one knee advancing towards me.  I varied the direction of my pencil strokes to show the rounded form of that thigh and knee, and I think it was successful.  As a result,the sense of mass in his left thigh is much stronger than for example, his upper right arm, which I drew as one mass, with pencil strokes all going the same direction.

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

Two Steps Forward in Figure Drawing

May 19, 2011 in Figure Drawing by joanvienot

Click to see much larger image.

I am a better artist.  I drew more like I want to draw, at the weekly figure drawing session at Studio b. last night.  It’s nice to have a night when drawing comes easily.  Well, it’s still work, I have to remember to breathe.  One of the other artists commented that she could hear me taking big breaths — I hope I am not too distracting to the others!

I am powerful.  I attended I Can Do It – Toronto 2011, last weekend.  The conference featured a number of authors published by HayHouse, including Louise Hay herself, Wayne Dyer, Marianne Williamson, and many others.  As is typical for me when I am going away even if for just a few days, I felt compelled to complete all the tasks I had been putting off for months.  So the morning I flew to Toronto, I had gotten only a couple of hours of sleep the night before, which probably made me particularly susceptible to suggestion.  That, in combination with the charismatic, perhaps even hypnotic speakers, left me supremely empowered upon my return.  I am drawing better, and I am guessing the conference is a factor.

We had uninstructed open studio at Studio b. this week, warming up with a number of 1-minute and 2-minute poses, and then some that were a little longer.  We finished with two 25-minute poses and then our last pose was 15 minutes.  My drawing of the last pose is at lower left.  Click on it to see much larger detail.

My drawings were successful not necessarily because of anatomical correctness or portraiture, but because they are believable, effectively communicating what I feel was the essence of the model in her pose at the time that I was drawing her.  In particular, the pose seated on a folding chair caught the complete relaxation of the figure, especially the slight paunch of relaxed stomach muscles.

In the drawing of the clothed model, the portraiture is not a likeness, but I like the textures of pencil strokes and I also like the play of the darks and lights leading the eye through the picture.

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

Carving the Void: Negative Shapes

May 12, 2011 in Figure Drawing by joanvienot

The model who posed for our figure drawing session at Studio b. last week returned this week.  For the past four months, we’ve had a different model nearly every session.  That has added to the challenge in that every week we have to become familiar with a different body type or different proportions.  Having the same model two weeks in a row was a luxury.

Our instructor, Heather Clements, provided a focus for us, suggesting that we run the drawing off the page, effectively cropping it in order to create negative shapes out of the negative space.  Often in the rush of trying to get the figure drawn as quickly as possible before the timed pose ends, the background, if treated at all, is merely an afterthought.  By drawing the figure so that parts of it intersect with the edge of the page, it no longer floats on the page, but instead becomes anchored.  The negative space, the space surrounding the figure, is then broken up so that it becomes negative shapes instead of just open space.  Negative shapes help the piece to read as a composition.  Art imitating life, carving the larger voids into smaller pieces makes it more manageable.

A good mat and frame can help with cropping, but it is better for the artist to have made those decisions instead of leaving it up to the framer.

The sketches included here are from this week’s session.

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

Working With Other Artists

May 7, 2011 in Figure Drawing by joanvienot

It is different when working in a studio setting with other artists, as opposed to working by myself in my own home studio.  There is no doubt that sometimes being alone is the best way to get work done.  But the comaraderie of being with other artists, all working under the same conditions, provides an energy and inspiration that helps me to go farther and do more in a shorter period of time than I ever would working alone.

That certainly was the case at the figure drawing session at Studio b. this week.  I was struggling, and would have quit halfway through the session if I was drawing alone.  Each pose presented new challenges for me, mostly because the model was standing or sitting on a swing by the pool, requiring each pose to fit within a geometric space bordered by the swing and the ropes.

I think that all of the drawings that I did have potential, but I don’t feel that I did justice to the model’s beauty and fitness.  Yet there is an expressive quality to each that I recognize as true.

I have decided that even though I love the texture, I don’t like charcoal paper because it wrinkles and dents very easily.  So I intend to use my stock of charcoal paper for warm-up drawings and gestures.  The first drawing is on black charcoal paper.  The rest are on Stonehenge paper, which is heavy enough that it can take quite a bit of handling without wrinkling.

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot