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The Challenge to Draw Fast

Different participants in the figure drawing sessions at Studio b. may have different expectations.  Some are drawing in preparation for a painting, some for technical skill and craftsmanship, some to stretch their creativity, some to improve their ability to see, and some are attempting to complete a finished drawing.

I don’t think there is anything that challenges me as much as working from a live model.  I work towards amost all of the above goals, except that I am never preparing to paint.  A completed drawing is my highest hope and my favorite art form.  That does not mean that every last detail is drawn, but rather that the essential expressive nature of the pose has been captured.

That essential nature of the pose might be expressed in a 30-second gesture.  The drawing at right happens to be from a 30-minute pose.  The model was kneeling, but what most interested me was her upturned face and her hands behind her back.  I’m happy that the pose was long enough for me to make a good effort at also capturing her likeness.  Of course there are always corrections that can be made, and those are usually noticed the next day after a session.  I’ve been meaning to take a camera so that I would have a reference for a correction here or there, but somehow I have never used a camera for this purpose.  Maybe I’m a snooty purist, thinking that by using a photo, no longer would I be working from a live model.  As a result, I have the occasional uncorrected boo-boo in my work.

It is always a temptation to begin a drawing with too much detail.  The initial layout and the basic shapes need to be laid in fairly quickly.  If I start with detail right off the bat, invariably I will get proportions wrong.  So drawing fast is an imperative.  Most of our poses at Studio b. are between 15 minutes and 45 minutes long.  I remember the studio sessions when I was studying art in college, many moons ago, when we might have had the same pose for the majority of a 3-hour class.  It was always a bit of an ordeal, putting the model in exactly the same position after the breaks, and frankly, the spontaneity disappeared for me.  But back then, the goal was technical accuracy and craftsmanship.

At Studio b. we are fortunate to have models who are invested in our work, who ask what sort of pose we would like, who try very hard to hold difficult poses.  It is an intimate experience, to be working from a model who cares about your success.  I think that can lend an energy to drawing from live models that is absent when I practice from photographs.  The challenge though, is that I have to draw fast, and sometimes that makes me huff and puff and sweat a little!

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

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Props and Themes in Figure Drawing

Our model for Figure Drawing at Studio b. this week brought a black hat that I just loved.  She used it in almost all of the warm-up poses, but then for the longer poses,  she switched to a sequence without the hat.  Fist she posed just standing in the pool, then wetting her hair under one of the pool fountains, and then she posed seated and fixing her hair.

After our break, a few raindrops speckled the courtyard so we moved indoors to one of the galleries for the final poses.

I asked the model to put the hat on for one of the last poses.  It is more interesting to me if there is an element of the drawing that contrasts with the figure.  That element might be an added compositional effect such as the actual setting or environment, or just background shapes, but it could simply be the texture of the model’s hair, or a shadow pattern, or a necklace, or a hairband, or some other inconsequential accessory.  In this case, the hat the model brought was solid black, with a shiny band, and it became a dominant force, giving the pose some pizzazz.

It’s always interesting to see who shows up at Studio b.’s figure drawing sessions.  This week, model and designer India Hicks drew with us.

Studio b. owner Colleen Duffley regularly schedules interesting people to discuss and show their work to the community, and that is how India happened to be in town and to come to figure drawing.  She fussed at her drawings just like the rest of us did, but  I am always amazed at people like her who say they haven’t done any figure drawing in 20 years, and then proceed to whip off some drawings like they never stopped!

I’m going to keep an eye out for her son’s art too.  Though still in junior high, his drawings show great promise.

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

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Drawing a Clothed Model

Figure drawing artists usually work exclusively from nude models.  But this week at Studio b., I had the good fortune of being the only artist.  So I had my choice.  Interestingly, the model had brought tennis gear, and was planning to use it in during the warm-up drawings — he thought we might like the added purposeful action.  So I asked him to wear the tennis clothes and keep the racket nearby for the entire session.

It’s so much easier drawing a clothed model.  I can draw the clothing with an extra wrinkle here or there and no one is the wiser.  You can’t do that with a nude figure without it becoming grotesque.

The model sat for me for 30 minutes for the drawing at left, and we took a short break, and then he sat for me for another 15 minutes.  I like this drawing.  I drew the white with Nupastel and the dark values with graphite, on gray Stonehenge.

The drawings below are two of the warm-up gestures, the second one obviously a longer pose than the first, and the third is the top part of the last drawing of the evening.

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