Today I took some of my drawings to June Holm Art and Frame Atelier to be matted and framed. June is a talented and accomplished pastel artist and instructor, as well as a framer, in my home area of Santa Rosa Beach, FL. I will choose three of the framed drawings to put in the Cultural Arts Association Member Tent at the nationally-recognized annual ArtsQuest Fine Arts Festival which this year will be in Seaside, FL, on May 8 and 9. All but one of the drawings I’m framing have been posted in previous blogs.
The application fee to have work shown in the Member Tent includes a commitment to volunteer 5 hours at the festival. I have volunteered at the festival a few times before, the first couple of years back in the ’80’s when it was called the Grayton Beach Fine Arts Festival, and also when it was held at Eden State Gardens, and one year I had the privilege of serving as one of the jurors for the submitted art.
It was after seeing some of my art on the Figure Drawing Wall at Studio b. that I decided to put some drawings in the Member Tent. I had a hard time choosing the three that I will show, so I took several extra drawings to June to be framed. I think it will be easier to choose 3 when I see them professionally presented. I find assessing my own work much more difficult than assessing someone else’s, because my judgment of my own work is colored by how much I value the process and the learning that happened in the production of the piece. Since Heather Clements, our figure drawing instructor at Studio b., has offered so many interesting exercises taking us “outside of our comfort zone,” I have produced a number of drawings that I find very interesting and very different, but I’m not sure how other people will see them. So I’ll choose between those and the other pieces drawn from a more classical approach, being conflicted about whether to show some pieces I find more interesting, or to show work that might get compliments.
This week Heather reviewed what to look for in the model’s pose, how the angles of the hips, knees, and shoulders help indicate the model’s balance and center of gravity. She pointed out how the knee and hip of the weight-bearing leg will be higher in the picture plane than the knee and hip of the other leg, in ordinary perspective. And usually the shoulders are contrapposto to the hips. We had an excellent model for this exercise.
The drawing at the right is an extreme example, with the angle of the hips and knees contrapposto to the angle of the shoulders, helping to indicate the vertical center of gravity on the inside of the weight-bearing left leg.
And at left, the model’s right knee is higher in the picture plane than the left, and her right breast is lower than the left, indicating the weight is on the model’s right leg, with the vertical center of gravity toward her right leg.
A common mistake made by accomplished figure artists as well as novices, is thinking they know how a line or shape should go and failing to look at the subject to see that indeed it might not go that way at all. Heather Clements, the instructor for Studio b’s figure drawing sessions, is always saying, “Draw what you see, not what you know!” The artist may know that an arm is a fairly long part of the human anatomy, but when the arm is receding away or coming towards the viewer, it has to be drawn much shorter, because that is how we see it.
This week we practiced drawing the contours of the model without looking at our paper, an exercise called blind contour drawing. The purpose is to improve hand-eye coordination and also to help us become better at really seeing the subject, instead of just looking at our paper and drawing how we think the subject looks. Blind contour drawings usually turn out pretty weird. Because there is so much detail in hands, feet, and the face, those parts of the drawing often become huge and distorted, like the face I drew in Female Reclining on Elbows.
Later in the session we first drew a blind contour, and then drew another line drawing over it, the second drawing not “blind”. We repeated the angles and shapes from the blind contour that worked well, and corrected the ones that didn’t. I drew with a different color in the overlay, so I could see the two different drawings. It was fun.
Foreshortening forces me to draw what I see, and not what I know. In Female Seated, the model’s elbow came straight towards me so I had to draw the arm almost straight even though I knew it was bent. Similarly, in Female Gesture Reclining, the model’s right knee came directly towards me, foreshortened — the thigh could not be drawn the length that I knew it actually was. Blind contour drawing helped me to see how I needed to draw it, unhampered by “what I knew.” Female Gesture Reclining was probably my favorite piece for the session.
Figure drawing with a live model requires me to be in the moment. There is an immediacy, an urgency, a compulsion. Nothing else exists but the model, my paper, and expression. Time stops. I lose awareness of tired feet or hunger. Sometimes feelings remain, but it goes better if I empty my mind. That is when I am most likely to turn out a piece that interests me, one that I might even be surprised by. The final result may not be beautiful in the classic sense, it may not be polished, it may not follow the rules, whatever the rules are, but I will have a joy afterward. And if I show the piece to others, then my hope is that it will at least be interesting to them.
It is such a luxury to work from a live model. I enjoy drawing, and a live model forces me to draw quickly, trusting my judgment. Poses are usually short, and the model, even the best of models, might move during the pose, adding to the challenge and the sense of urgency. Sometimes it takes most of the length of the pose just to get the angles and proportions drawn, and the last few minutes are spent rushing to develop the drawing. Hurried shading is coarse and textured.
Usually Studio b’s instructor, Heather Clements, directs us toward a particular emphasis, but this week we just drew. We drew very quickly — our longest poses were only 15 minutes.