One of the premiere art events in Northwest Florida is ArtsQuest, the fine art and music festival held every Mother’s Day weekend. This year it includes 130 international visual artists of all genres. While the artists sit in their booths, musicians perform in the open-air amphitheater, and demonstration areas give attendees opportunity to see art being produced and perhaps even try their hand at something they may or may not have ever tried before.
I am privileged to sit on the Board of Directors of the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County which produces the festival. The festival requires the assistance of many volunteers, and Directors are not exempt. So I volunteered to demonstrate figure drawing for two hours yesterday afternoon. Two of the other demonstrating artists joined me, plein air painter Lynette Miesen sketching the model, and Sue Carol Knight Woodley painting. Sue Carol had demonstrated and coached people with portrait painting for the previous two hours, and Lynette was actively plein air painting in front of the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters booth. Margaret Rogers demonstrated weaving in the booth across from us, displaying many of her gorgeous completed weavings. We were in the courtyard next to the world-famous Bud and Alley’s Restaurant in Seaside, Florida.
The model, Beth Roth, is a professional model, and I asked her to time us so that I could concentrate on drawing. It makes a difference to me whether I am timing the pose or not, as to my level of concentration. When I am in charge of the timer, I find myself doing a little clock-watching, which inhibits the free-flowing abandon I find most conducive to expression. We were under a white tent, and although there were shadows, there was so much light that when I tried to heighten the contrast with a floodlight, I couldn’t tell the difference when I turned it on, so I gave up on that idea.
I encouraged a few passers-by to try their hand at it. One was a professional artist visiting for the festival, and he said that he goes to figure drawing sessions every month or two, because the practice improves his other work. Another had a lot of fun sketching, and she asked for one of my 10-minute sketches, above left. When I gave it to her, she insisted on paying something, so I asked her to put a tip in the kitty for the model, which she was happy to do.
I had a few pre-game jitters but once we got going, I settled in and was hardly aware of the spectators talking and looking over my shoulder as I drew. I did notice the change in pitch as people explained to their children what was going on, and I was thrilled that kids were there. I think it is important to take children to creative venues and to encourage them to make the arts a part of their everyday life.
I know that I would benefit from more portrait study. Neither of the two drawings below do justice to the model’s beauty and serenity, but distortions and all, I count them as successful.
Most of my images are available for purchase. Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot