The Figure is Beautiful

August 19, 2010 in Figure Drawing by joanvienot

There is something about the figure as an art subject that fascinates me.  Most North-Americans are raised with the view that nudes are  naked and nasty, instead of beautiful and natural.  Like everyone in our mass-marketed-to-death culture, I have been indoctrinated with the mindset that thin, idealized proportions are beautiful, and fat and wrinkles less beautiful.  Since I have achieved middle-age, and I have acquired a few wrinkles myself, and an extra pound here or there, I am looking at people differently.  Certain wrinkles show a time of loss and grief, others show laughter, some show a lot of hours working in the sun.   Wrinkles lend visual character, a sag shows maturity, a little fat here or a paunch there has probably been earned.  But the beauty I am most interested in, is the play of light across the subject, any subject.  It’s just that the figure happens to be a difficult subject, one which challenges me every single time I attempt to draw it, so it becomes a game to me, to achieve a reasonable resemblance as well as to find the light.  The folds and shadows of fabric, while challenging, are very forgiving, in that the untrained eye might never notice if you’ve drawn a clothed figure “wrong”.  The nude figure on the other hand, is unforgiving — if I draw something in the wrong place, it looks wrong, and anyone looking at it can tell it is wrong.  That is the construct of realism that I like to work within, and that is one of my joys in nude figure drawing.  Another is the sheer immediacy, in that a model can only hold a pose for just so long.  And finally, I love the camaraderie and the energy of the other artists, and I am always inspired by seeing the way they tackled the problems they found in the same pose I was drawing, but from another point of view.  I guess I can even be a little philosophical about it, in that multiple points of view are all true, and there can be no arguing.  Maybe political leaders should take figure drawing classes!

Below are drawings done at Studio b. at the weekly figure drawing session.