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Thinking about Composition in Figure Drawing

Having spent nearly two years improving my skills at figure drawing, I think I would like to spend more time thinking about how the figure is presented on the paper, which begins to determine whether the piece can stand alone as a composition.  When I look back at the bulk of my work, the pieces that appeal the most to me have an unfinished quality, in that perhaps I did not try to capture the figure in its entirety.  I’d like to preserve that quality.

This week at Studio b.’s figure drawing session, we had an exquisitely beautiful model, and I found that I still need a lot of work on portraiture, as I think I failed miserably to get a likeness let alone to show how pretty she is.  However, I like the pieces I turned out, since they have just a little more “atmosphere” than much of my previous work.  Something seemed different about this night at Studio b., perhaps the bad weather, it being the night of the terrible Tuscaloosa tornado.

At left I also am posting the drawing, now more developed, that I had started on the last day of the portrait workshop that I was taking from Charlotte Arnold last month.  When I last posted it, it was primarily a head study.  I used a photograph of that model and her pose,  for reference.

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

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Figure Drawing with a Live Model

To a figure drawing artist, the title of this post is redundant, but the non-artist may not know that we use live models in figure drawing.  To this point, I have been a bit of a fanatic about it, allowing errors and inaccuracies to be a part of the final drawing.

But I am thinking that I would like to take a photograph for reference for correcting and finishing a live-model drawing outside of the studio, away from the live model.  My hesitancy to use a camera comes from my concern that I may lose some of the immediacy of expression if I work on my drawings very much outside of the studio.  But I would like the accomplishnent of a more complete, or perhaps I should say, more technically accurate drawing, which can more easily be done, I think, with a less hurried pose or with a photograph for reference.

Next week I’m bringing a camera to the Wednesday night figure drawing session at Studio b., if the model doesn’t mind me taking a photo.

Following are a few warm-up gestures from this week’s session, followed by a drawing from a longer pose.

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More Fun with Encaustic Painting at Studio b.

I took an Encaustic Painting workshop from Rae Broyles at Studio b. last fall and I had a lot of fun, so I signed up for another workshop by Rae a few weeks ago, again at Studio b.  Rae demonstrated a number of techniques, and I tried a few.  I used stamps and stencils on the first piece, above left.  In the second piece, center, I built up texture by accretion, and in the third painting, I put the hot pigmented wax on top of the background to make the foreground stand out in relief.  At the end, I used gold leaf on the seahorses to give them a little sparkle.

I enjoy doing something like this, every once in a while, just “playing”.  It’s entirely different from my usual art.  It’s great fun, and maybe a little dangerous too, playing with hot wax and blowtorches!

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The Joy of Drawing

When I am figure drawing, I am an artist without a message.  I’m not trying to tell you anything.  I just draw because I enjoy drawing.  Well, maybe it’s a compulsion, because sometimes I have to admit, it’s a little uncomfortable, frustrating, and at times perhaps even painful.  But for the most part, the challenge of figure drawing is in the mastery, being able to portray what I see, or what I think I see.  By practicing every week, I am becoming more confident.

The drawing I am posting here was difficult because the facial features look very different when a figure is reclining than they do when the figure is upright.  I think that the portrait class I finished taking last week helped me a lot.  I will need to continue to practice heads and faces in different positions and attitudes.  I still feel hesitant with faces, and I still spend a lot of time guessing, but my guesses seem more accurate now.

This drawing was made with a graphite pencil on Stonehenge paper.  I drew it at the regular Wednesday night session of Figure Drawing at Studio b., in Alys Beach, FLHeather Clements is the instructor.

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Figure Drawing: Tension vs. Relaxation

Sometimes I am bone tired when I get to my regular weekly figure drawing session after a full day of work.  Last night was like that.  But it never fails, after the first half hour of drawing, I am energized again.  Is it me?  Is it being in the good company of other like-minded artists, like Betty Cork and Steve Wagner and Heather Clements?  Is it the amazing creative atmosphere of Colleen Duffley‘s  Studio b.?  All of the above, I suppose, plus a model who is invested in the process, who works hard for us, as all of our models do.

After the usual series of warm-up gestures from 30-seconds to a few minutes, figure drawing instructor Heather Clements suggested that we focus on where the figure was showing tension, and where it was showing relaxation, and to draw the two aspects differently, perhaps exaggerating the contrast between the two.  She suggested that the parts of the figure under tension might be drawn with straighter, shorter lines and more angular shapes, with more abrupt changes in quality and direction, while the more relaxed parts would be smoother, with longer lines and less angular shapes.  I can’t say that my drawings actually show that intention, but I was trying to be conscious of it as I drew.  As always when I am learning something new, I will have to sit down and do some practice drawings, thinking about it non-stop, in order for it to become habit.

I have posted some of my gestures and drawings from throughout the evening.  Nupastel and graphite are still my favorite media.  A close floodlight, positioned low, put strong highlights and dark cast-shadows on the model.

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I forgot how to draw.

A couple of months ago at Studio b., we drew a model who was 8½ months pregnant.  If you read my blog post about it, you know that I was thrilled.  I didn’t think anything could top it.  But this week, the young mother brought her baby to model with her.  It was an unbelievable experience, and I forgot how to draw.  The poses were determined by the mother and her sense of the baby’s composure.  Some of the poses were 5 minutes, some were 10, and some were 20 minutes.  Our instructor, Heather Clements, did not forget how to draw, and in fact completed a number of beautiful captures of the mother and child bond, which she posted at the end of her blog last week.  The best one showed the mother sitting cross-legged, holding the baby close.  Heather was on fire.  I think she had that one completed while I was still trying to choose something to draw with.   I am posting a couple of mine, but you can see that I was overwhelmed and didn’t get very far.

The day before that, was the fourth session of the Charlotte Arnold portrait and head studies workshop I have been taking.  Charlotte suggested that we try to draw the portrait life-size or smaller, but mine ended up being sized at 150% again.  I drew and redrew several of the model’s features, and decided that I probably need new eyeglasses.  I re-drew some of the same lines wrong 6 or 7 times.  Many years ago, I taught drawing and painting in a high school in Colorado for 3 years before I moved to Florida.  I would tell my students not to erase the wrong line until after they had drawn it right, or they would draw the wrong line over and over again.  I proved that in this drawing.  Nevertheless, there are parts of it that actually resemble the model, if you don’t count her left eye which looks black-and-blue and swollen.

Today was the last day of the portrait workshop.  I decided the way to make the drawing life-size or smaller, was to plan to put some of the figure in as well.  I didn’t get very far into the figure, but I am pleased with the progress so far.  I expect that the figure will be fairly sketchy so that the focus is entirely on the head.  Maybe the hands should be developed, as long as they don’t compete with the face.

After the portrait class was over, we did a little show-and-tell of our drawings throughout the class.  Everyone showed remarkable improvement.

Charlotte gave us hand-outs at every single class, which demonstrated tips and techniques for proportioning and drawing different parts of the face.  She showed us examples in books that she had found helpful in her own drawing.   I have enough homework to last me another 6 months!  One of the books Charlotte showed us was The Intimate Eye – The Drawings of Burton Silverman. I had not seen Silverman’s work before, but I appreciate his style and have been trying for a long time to learn to draw in that same style.  Burton Silverman is my new favorite artist.

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