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Figure Drawing with Props: Fear of Rejection

Sometimes a model will bring props, which can imbue something completely different in the drawing.  The model in my drawings shown here brought cuffs and a collar, which introduces a sexual component to the poses.  For me, the image in my mind’s eye changed from nude to naked, and the atmosphere felt a little dangerous, and I wondered whether I should be asking what the “safe” word was, just in case!

Then I got busy and started drawing.  I drew the seated pose on the left using Stabilo water-soluble pencils, putting just a touch of red in her hair and on her nipples to increase the sensationalism.  For the same reason, I chose to use red paper for the drawing on the right, which was made with white Nupastel and graphite.  The color red can heighten the viewer’s emotional or subconscious reaction.

These poses were made sexual by the props, and while drawing them I realized realized how very conservative I am with my art.  Art history was one of my areas of emphasis for my degree, so I have seen plenty of art.  I have seen outright obvious sexuality in art, both in classical work and contemporary.  I always considered myself to be fairly accepting and open-minded towards other artists’ work, but when it came to me myself drawing a subject a little bit outside the boundaries of my own vanilla experience, I had to face my fear of rejection.  After all, Victorian propriety is ingrained in our culture.

While some artists intend to offend, I mean no offense with my drawings.   But I know that figure drawing as a genre does not have universal appeal.   Some segments of our society are very sensitive about the human figure.  Some cultures are averse to making representational images of people, feeling that it steals the soul.  Others may view the human body as something shameful, instead of a thing of beauty.  I have worked around swimming pools my entire life, so I am fairly comfortable being around people with very little clothing on, or none.  The human form interests me as nothing else does.  I would never be able to spend this much time drawing tree after tree after tree, for example — I would die of boredom.  The figure remains ever interesting to me.

But I remember when I was a young adult, proudly showing off one of my drawings that was accepted into a juried art show at the university I was attending, and having a family member remark that it was “obscene, that I should be ashamed.”  I was first of all aghast at the bad manners, but secondly, I felt pity for my critic, because that particular drawing had no gender or sexuality at all, and the figure was neither clothed nor unclothed.  My teacher told me it was selected by the juror because of  the sheer force of expression, and not for any technical merit.   Nevertheless, for that family member, it evoked shame.

One of my friends often says “Observe and detach”, and I think that’s good advice when seeing something that is outside of our immediate construct, when our tendency is to judge it for being different, or to judge ourselves for paying any attention to it.

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Dueling Pencils, Figure Drawing at Studio b.

Last Wednesday evening was “open studio” at Studio b., which is to say that we did not have a scheduled instructor.  The tentative plan is to schedule guest artists on the third Wednesday of every month, and open studio if a guest isn’t scheduled.  One of the regular figure drawing artists, Steve Wagner, was asked if he would share his approach to the figure with the group, and he said he would and he asked me to also.  I laughingly referred to our session as Dueling Pencils, since we were presenting together.

Each week the artists warm up with a number of 30-second gesture drawings, progressing to one-minute, then two-minute, and perhaps 5-minute or 10 -minute drawings before we move on to longer poses.  By doing these quick poses, we “wake up”, improving our hand-eye coordination, learning what the model looks like, and trying to remember how to draw.

Steve and I each talked for a minute and then we each demonstrated a 30-second gesture.  Steve’s gestures actually map out the landmarks and the masses of the figure, whereas my 30-second warm-up drawings are little more than a vague scribble, usually way out of proportion and perhaps only suggesting the angles of the body and limbs and the general directional line of the figure.

When we advanced to the 2-minute gestures, Steve and I each showed and talked about our gestures, and everyone turned their papers outward towards the center and showed their efforts.   It is interesting to see how the other artists approach the figure — that’s one of the values of practicing in a group.  Sometimes I am lucky, turning out a gesture that might have a sense of completion without further development.  I felt like that happened with my first 2-minute gesture, shown above left.

Our model had ballet experience, and it showed in her poses, especially with the positions of her hands and feet, and her attitude, in the tilt of her head.  We were channeling a little Degas, I think.

The two works I have posted below are 30-minute drawings from later in the session.  The last one is drawn with watercolor pencils which I finished later in my studio at home.

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Figure Drawing on Colored Paper

This week we again had a new model for figure drawing at Studio b. The young woman had a number of interesting tattoos, but tattoos are one of those things that you see right at the beginning, and then while you are drawing, you forget about them, and then maybe you will see them again at the end.   I’ve had this happen with with whole body parts before.  All of a sudden I realize there’s another leg  — how many legs does this model have?  So I missed drawing most of her interesting tattoos.

A few months ago I bought an assortment of colored Canson Mi-Teintes papers, and I had not used the brighter colors, so I brought them to figure drawing to try out this week.

I had fun even though the bright colors were a bit outside of my comfort zone.  I particularly enjoyed working on the red paper.  I used Nupastel, letting the red show through for some of the middle values.  I opted not to do anything with the background, leaving the figure floating, unanchored.

At left is one of my warm-up gestures.  Our instructor, Heather Clements, gave a very good demonstration about gesture drawing, and setting up the figure on the paper.  This example is nothing like what she taught us, but I just thought it was interesting.

The studio was a-buzz with creativity, with all the drawing upstairs while Colleen Duffley worked downstairs, uploading the New Years camera-phone competition.  Earlier this week Studio b. hosted a presentation by one of the Escape to Create artists, Judith Levy.

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A Pregnant Pause at Studio b.

The Wow! factor at our figure drawing session at Studio b. was incredible this week, with a model 8 months pregnant.  I had never before had the opportunity to draw an obviously pregnant model.  I think the other artists at Studio b. were as excited about the prospect as I was — the gallery was packed, standing-room only.  We warmed up with the usual very short poses, and then for the longer poses, we used a floodlight to give extra emphasis to the shape of her belly and her swollen breasts and radiant face.   Some of the artists even got to see the baby kick!  By the end of the session, I suspect we all, and for sure I know that I, completely adored this woman who was willing to share this intimate experience with us.  Following are a few of my drawings from this evening.  Our instructor, Heather Clements, also did some great drawings and posted them on Heather Clements’ Blog.

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