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Slowing Down

Sometimes the art of drawing seems very out of place with our high-speed, instant-messaged, texted, digitized, and “shared” world.  After all, since the invention of the camera, and then with the advances of the computer, drawing probably seems archaic to some.

So why do I draw?  The primary reason I draw, is for the exhilaration of the capture of a form, a texture, a light pattern, or even a single line.  It takes time, and time often stops in the process.  The exhilaration can last from the beginning of the drawing to the very end, and then afterwards too, when I look at the work.

The day after the figure drawing session at Studio b. this week, I went to my first group meditation meeting, where again, time stopped.  I found similarities in the two experiences, both bringing me solidly into the present moment, both resulting in a sort of euphoria, and having the effect of energizing me.  There was a difference though, in that the drawing session as usual brought me peace with myself, a very powerful self, but group meditation brought me peace with everyone else in a powerful, unified oneness.  Both resulted in incredible power.

There are other results from the experience of drawing.  I find that I know so much more about something I have drawn, and I have a much richer experience of it.  My memories of most experiences become foggy over time, but when I look at a drawing I made, even some from college days, snippets of details of my life or the experience come to mind that I would never recall otherwise.

I think it’s all about slowing down and intensely focusing.  Except there is more to it than that, because slowing down and intensely focusing on a mathematics examination does not give me the same empowerment as drawing or painting.  I guess that’s why we call it Art.

I have posted the final piece I made in figure drawing this week.  I drew it with washable graphite on Stonehenge paper, with the intention of applying a loose wash over it to draw out some subtle tones, and instead I decided I wanted to keep the textures of the lines.  But I may yet apply a wash.  There is still plenty of opportunity to make a mess of it!

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The Bare Bones of Figure Drawing

Heather Clements taught a 4-hour figure drawing workshop at Studio b. Saturday afternoon.  She used slides to show us where the underlying skeletal structure and muscular anatomy were evident in paintings and sculptures by such artists as Rubens, Michelangelo, daVinci, Philip Perlstein, Picasso, Egon Schiele, and others.  She also gave us  a packet of photos and drawings of the skeletal and muscular anatomy to study and use as a reference.

Our initial assignment was to try to imagine the skeleton underneath the model’s pose and to draw that skeletal pose.  It was a hard job.  When I attended the University of Northern Colorado, I studied anatomy, not for my Fine Arts major, but for my other major, Health, Physical Education and Recreation.  But that was many years ago, and I have forgotten most of it.  So I just copied what Heather had shown us, as best I could.  I was impressed with how quickly it began to make sense, and I began to feel very comfortable with it.  Below is the progression of some of my warm-up skeleton gestures, with the last one showing the fleshy form added during in the final 30 seconds of an 8-minute pose, after the imaginary skeleton was already drawn.

This turned out to be an immensely helpful exercise, as I found it much easier to locate the various parts of the figure in relation to each other later on in the session.  But rarely do things ever go quite the way I wish they would when I am developing a new awareness, and I complicated things further by trying out some colored conte that I had been carrying around for about half a year in my box of drawing media.  I’ll probably get up the nerve to try the conte again, but I know for sure that I will be getting out my anatomy books and studying the skeletal structure of various poses.  Below are my two final drawings from today’s workshop.

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Figure Drawing: It’s a Work-Out!

You might not think anyone would work up a sweat while figure drawing, but it gets pretty intense when I am strongly focused.  OK, it’s nothing like a Spin class, but it can be Work!  I draw hurriedly, especially during the “warm-up” phase at the beginning of the session, when drawing is very difficult.  Later in the session, when I can automatically draw a curve, or locate a “landmark”, it becomes more like “play”, but in the beginning it can really be a struggle, with my curves and angles often going completely the wrong way from how they should be drawn.

I try not to worry too much about it, because if I judge my results along the way, I will freeze up.  And I am very selective about the people I will listen to who might criticize my work.  That is why I so appreciate our instructor, Heather Clements.  When she says, “That leg looks broken,” or “That arm looks like it is coming backwards instead of going forwards,”  it really helps.  I usually can’t see that sort of thing myself at the time, until it is pointed out to me.  If I am working in my home/studio, I will look at my art in the mirror, a trick that helps me to see those disproportions or imbalances.  The mirror image looks completely different from what I am used to seeing while working on the piece, so it is easy to see when a leg looks “broken” or an arm looks like it is going the wrong way.  I’ve noticed that before with other things — my old cat, April Alice, had dark fur around one eye, with dark eye liner, and white fur around the other eye, but her face, which I saw everyday, seemed symmetrical to me.  But when I would hold her and look at her in the mirror, she looked like one eye was a lot bigger than the other.  Apparently my mind compensates and “perfects” images as I look at them, hence the value of the mirror image when I am correcting a drawing.

The Wednesday evening figure drawing session at Studio b. this week seemed like more of a work-out than usual, probably because I was very tired.  But maybe I was still keyed up and pouring more energy into everything I was doing.  I was in the middle of teaching a 2½ day course for my day job, a required certification course for people in my profession.  When I teach, I try to do it with high energy and enthusiasm, being educator, entertainer, and expert, all at the same time.  My physical fatigue however meant that my hand cramped up sooner when I was drawing, and my arm got tired.  A couple of times I quit drawing before the end of the pose, which I never do, ordinarily.  But a couple of times I tried to finish the drawing after the pose was over too, taking time away from my drawing of the next pose, so I don’t know what that was about.

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