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Figure Drawing: Going Into the Quiet

“Everything that’s created comes out of silence.  …All creativity requires some stillness.  Going into the quiet and listening will heal and inspire you.” ~Dr. Wayne Dyer

My art comes out of the quiet.  I require stillness.  It doesn’t usually bother me if someone makes a single statement while I am “in the zone,” but if they expect an answer from me, they might have a long wait, because the creative part of my brain, the visual  side, doesn’t communicate with words.  Early in the drawing session, thoughts may come in bits and pieces, feelings and memories or colors and echoes rather than words, and they gradually settle like leaves falling from a tree, leaving my mind empty and clear and clean.  This is when I can best achieve what I am trying to do, when what I see goes through the filter of Joan Vienot and manifests on paper.  That doesn’t mean it is a perfect representation of what everyone else would see, but rather a representation of my studies, my struggles, and my “me”.

Figure drawing is immediate, constrained by the short duration of the pose.  The hurried pace requires me to be wholly focused.  The “creative zone” is a very different state of mind.  I lose track of time and place.  The other artists cease to exist.  The model rapidly becomes a pattern of lines, shapes, textures and shadows, pure beautiful human form, no longer an individual, no longer a “naked person”.  I get lost in a silence of my own making.  There have been times I have looked up and seen someone’s mouth moving but not heard the sound.  It is always a rude awakening when the instructor or moderator announces the end of the pose.

Tonight Studio b. had a new model, a very fit woman.  Her health and vitality were inspiring.  Nevertheless, it is difficult “learning” how to draw a new model.  Graphic novelist Will Davis led us in a number of warm-up drawings and we concluded with a few longer poses and finally with a 35 minute pose.  I used white and garnet Nupastel on Canson Mi-Teintes paper (oyster) for this final pose.

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Figure Drawing: Arms and Legs

Our instructor, Heather Clements, suggested that we focus on arms and legs at our regular figure drawing session at Studio b. this week.  No matter what she gives us as a focus, I feel my overall awareness increasing.

I’ve been blogging about the process of drawing and the making of my art for close to a year now.  Warren Tape, my webmaster, is making some improvements in the design of my website, and in reviewing the changes so far, I went back and looked at some of my postings throughout the year.

I was a little surprised at the volume of work.  And I was pleased with the progression.  I had made a commitment to myself to go to figure drawing every Wednesday, and I’m glad I did.  I can’t say that figure drawing is ever easy — in fact it pretty much is always a challenge, and that’s what keeps it fresh and exciting to me.

Following are a few of the warm-up drawings from this week, and then a couple of drawings done later in the evening.  The drawing at the top of this post was also done later in the evening.  The sketches showing only the model’s head or arm are from the actual focus period in the middle of the session.

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Figure Drawing with Graphite Wash

Preliminary drawing using water-soluble graphite, prior to washing

Water-soluble graphite drawing after washing (Click for larger detailed image)
Both the process and the product of drawing are immensely appealing to me.  One of the reasons it is always a challenge is because there are so many variables between the nature of the drawing surface and the drawing implement itself.  I have started learning to use a water soluble graphite pencil, which makes marks that look the same as a regular soft graphite pencil, but will bleed and run when it is wet with plain water.  Above is a new drawing on the left, that I made this week, and on the right is how it looks after it has been brushed with a wet paintbrush.  I have allowed the grainy texture of many of the pencil strokes to show through, so that it still retains some of the quality of a drawing instead becoming a monochromatic painting.  (Ignore the blue tint in the drawing on the left — that’s just my impatience with my camera.)

Below are some other drawings I made at the regular weekly figure drawing session at Studio b. this week.  The first one is one of my favorites from this year.  I wish I could draw like this all the time.  I think I was inspired by the difficulty of the pose.  Our model was amazing.

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Strong Light in Figure Drawing

Sometimes things go easily in figure drawing.  Sometimes my hand-eye coordination is better, I am more focused, my mind is unstressed, and the drawings seem to just flow.  This week the figure drawing session at Studio b. was like that.

Sessions like this, coupled with last Saturday’s super-fun encaustic workshop, make me think maybe I should follow my bliss, take the leap, and start producing art fulltime.  I’m not prepared to sell anything from my website yet.  But a woman found my website through a standard search for figure drawings, and she purchased and framed two of my gesture drawings for her dining room.  She sent me a photograph of the decor — it looks great, and I am so pleased that she found!  My webmaster, Warren Tape, is going to set up a store for me on this website, to make it easy to purchase my art.  I will have to start producing “more-finished” pieces.  I know that landscapes are more likely to sell — not everyone is comfortable with nudes or partial nudes.

This week instructor Heather Clements set up a strong light source, which gave us deep shadows and brightly lit areas.  The model wore a bright purple bathing suit bottom, and a bright red top.  It was the perfect excuse to use some pure color in my drawings.  I used washable graphite and watercolor pencil for my final 3 drawings, from 15-minute and 20-minute poses.

But I had fun with the warm-up drawings too.  The immediacy of the gesture, the artist’s first impression of the forms or lighting in the figure, sometimes makes a more powerful statement than a finished drawing or painting.  Following are some of my drawings from the first hour of the session.

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Encaustic Workshop at Studio b. with Rae Broyles

I ventured into new territory today, taking a workshop on encaustic painting at Studio b.  The closest I had come to encaustic painting was when I was a child, melting crayons and drizzling the molten wax onto paper.  I don’t remember very much about my childhood experience, but I’m sure that what I loved most about it was playing with the candle.  Today we traded the candle for a blowtorch, which was infinitely more exciting!

First we used a paintbrush to put hot bees’ wax  onto the board to make a background, applying multiple layers, scraping each layer smooth.  Then we added pigment to the wax and brushed  colors on, building up textures, carving into the wax, cutting and scratching into it, stenciling, stamping, embossing, adding collage, and even writing  into the wax to create powerful, colorful 12″ x 12″ encaustic paintings.

Instructor Rae Broyles demonstrated many different ways to work the wax, and then she worked alongside us on a painting of her own.  We were surrounded by some of Rae’s recent work on the walls at Studio b.

With every medium, there is a craftsmanship that must be mastered before one can be freely expressive, but we all had a lot of fun trying, and we were all pretty successful, I think.  Part of it of course was Rae’s excellent instruction, but part too was her relaxed, and even playful, attitude.  After all, creativity often is playfulness.

I pressed a plant into the soft wax and then filled the embossing with colors, layering additional cover layers, so that some parts are in sharp focus and others appear to be further away.  I tried to put a fish in it, and he disappeared, and I decided I didn’t have enough control to put a small scuba diver in the background, which was my other idea for an underwater scene.   So it ended up being a picture of some kind of flowering plant.

For my second piece I wanted to experiment with a figure, and I used the general pose that we had at figure drawing last week, dividing the background with simple geometric shapes.  I tried making lines with a hot drawing tool, but that didn’t work very well, so I carved lines using a clay sculpting tool, and then filled the lines in with black wax, scraping off the excess.

Will I do more encaustic work?  Maybe so.  It’s fun, it forces me to accept looser, less-controlled expression, and all I would need to buy, that I don’t already have,  is an electric flat grill-pan to heat the wax in aluminum bread-tins.  (Oh, and I would need that neat trigger starter for the blowtorch, that was pretty cool.)

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Figure Drawing with Pencil Wash

Watercolor Pencil Wash, 5 x 7

I rarely use color to show “local color”, that is, the actual color of the model’s skin and hair.  I have more fun when I draw light and shadow.  But this week the model at Studio b. wore a red slip that caught the light in exquisite ways.  Red just demands to be noticed.

I warmed up with nupastel and conte, switching to watercolor pencils and washable graphite on hot press watercolor paper.  Hot press is very smooth paper.  Wet color pushes around on it very easily, since there is no texture to catch onto the pigment.

It was a fun night, with a new model.  She gave us many challenging poses, especially when we were warming up.  Usually our models are fully nude, because only by drawing the nude do you get practice in seeing how the whole figure is put together.  I think all my practice has made drawing a clothed model easier.  It was easier to “see” the form beneath the clothes.

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Seeing in Black and White

This week in Figure Drawing at Studio b., Heather Clements instructed us to focus on light patterns and shadow patterns.  We worked with strong lighting, toning only the darks, all the same value, and leaving the paper untoned to show the lighted areas.  This high contrast lighting is very powerful, with much of the drawing reading as a silhouette.  Heather directed us to add intermediate values in our later drawings.  She kept a strong light on the model throughout the session.

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Exhibition of Italian Baroque Paintings Coming to Tallahassee

The Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, will be bringing 50 Italian Baroque paintings to Tallahassee, Florida, next spring.  Last night, Studio b. hosted the “b+b@b” event to celebrate the upcoming exhibition and to introduce the community to the Brogan Museum.  Several staff members were there from the Brogan Museum, including Chucha Barber, CEO of the Brogan.  Also attending, and sharing a film, was Paul Cohen, independent motion picture executive and Director of the Torchlight Program at Florida State University.  Prints of the Baroque masterpieces that are currently being restored were available for viewing, awaiting “adoption” by patrons.  Colleen Duffley presided over the event, offering delectable fare and cocktails to guests while they visited and perused installations by several new artists at Studio b.

It being some 30 years since my art history studies, I was unable to identify the Italian Baroque artists, but the lighting and drama of the Baroque period were unmistakable in the prints the Brogan Museum had on display.  It’s a thrill that our community is the beneficiary of this exposure to the masters, thanks to Studio b.  I’m looking forward to the February event and the exhibition.

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Open Studio Figure Drawing at Studio b.

Top half of standing pose pictured below

This week we had a new model and open studio figure drawing.  Creativity was a-buzzing!

There are many decisions to be made when starting a new drawing, and having a new unfamiliar model adds to the mix.  After looking at the model and deciding whether the pose is good for me or whether I need to move to a different vantage point, then I have to decide what medium I am going to use, which then helps me decide what paper to use for that medium.  I take a big art-box with me to the drawing sessions, and a board with several different papers clipped to it, and sometimes I bring a watercolor pad as well.  I don’t necessarily have a favorite medium that I work with all the time.  Most certainly, I prefer graphite , but it’s fun to use different media.  My art-box also contains black and brown permanent pens, water soluble blue and black pens, charcoal, tinted charcoal, washable graphtint (tinted graphite) pencils, conte, wax crayons, watercolor pencils, and nupastels.

After I pick my media, next I face the choice of approach.  Here’s where I usually just jump in and start working the gesture, without thought for whether my initial marks are going to contribute to or detract from the end result.  Since every pose is timed, the immediacy of working from a live model requires some quick decision-making and the guts to just go for it, not worrying too much about whether I am going to turn out a masterpiece or not.  In the end, there is usually something about every drawing that I like, even if there are proportional inaccuracies or places where I got something completely wrong.  That is why I keep coming back to Studio b. for Wednesday night Figure Drawing.

Some of our group’s drawings will be on display at Studio b. this-coming Thursday, November 4, 2010, for the b+b@b event to announce  Studio b.’s partnering with the Brogan Museum of Art and Science to celebrate the exhibition of 50 Baroque Italian masterpieces, which will be debuting in Tallahassee in March of 2011.

Some of our group’s drawings will be on display at Studio b. for the b+b@b event this-coming Thursday, November 4, 2010, for the celebration of Studio b.’s partnering with the Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science promoting Food, Art, Film, and Fashion.
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Practicing with Horizontal Contours to Show Bulk

This week the instructor of Studio b.‘s figure drawing session, Heather Clements, drew horizontal contours around the model’s arms, legs, and waist, to help us see the the bulk of those parts of the figure.  We had some fun making drawings a la Sergio Poddighe, with portions of the figure sliced out and missing.  Then we did some longer poses, and I very much enjoyed drawing contours of the figure without a lot of shading, letting my lines express the volumes instead of light and shadow.  The practice with contours earlier in the session helped me to see the shapes better.

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