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Figure Drawing in a New Venue

It was interesting to draw in a new location last week.  Studio b. has moved to a nearby community, and the room was filled with unsorted moving boxes, furniture, and art.  The ordered disarray appealed to me.  The ambience at the new location is much warmer, with rich woods instead of cold plaster and tile, and with plentiful windows which let in light from every angle.  I was in heaven during the warm-up drawings, the low sun adding warm tones.  The model chose her own poses during the shorter warm-up sets.  Light from the multiple sources put complex highlights and subtle double shadows on the model’s skin.  As usual, most of the short poses were standing poses or twisting poses, perhaps even a little off-balance, which would be too hard to hold for any duration.  The longer poses were as always,  more stable as a matter of compassion for the model.

For the final pose, the model sat on the stairway to the second floor, where the single light source simplified the shadow patterns.  I sat at the base of the stairs where I could see her from that unusual vantage point.  What interested me the most was the exposed underside of her chin and her upturned nose.  The foreshortening had to be kept subtle even though it felt extreme, with her arm being larger because of its proximity to me.

I am happy with the end result in every respect except for one — it doesn’t look very much like the actual model!  Generally speaking, when drawing a portrait I count it a success if the positions of the eyes, nose, and mouth seem parallel.  Maybe if I practiced portraiture more often, I would be able to capture the likeness better.

It’s a challenge to create something someone might want to hang in their home.  It seems like the drawing either needs to wow the viewer with technical craftsmanship or else it needs to be someone they know or to remind them of someone they know.  In the end, I draw for my own pleasure and compulsion, trying to simplify what I see, to capture the essential character of the person or the expression I interpreted without concern for whether someone else will like it.

At left is a photo of me making the drawing posted above.

I am excited to announce that a few pieces of my art will be hanging in the lobby/reception area of the South Walton Center of Northwest Florida State College here in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.  The opening reception will be Friday, April 6, 2012, from 5:00 to 7:00 PM.  Titled “A Passion for Art”, the show spotlights the members of the A+Art Committee which serves under the umbrella of the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County.  The show exhibits works by Charlotte Arnold, Lauren Carvalho, Betty Cork, Miffie Hollyday, Susan Lucas, Mike McCarty, Robin Wiesneth, and me, Joan Vienot.  The show will close May 15, 2012.


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

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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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Figure Drawing: Focus on Light and Shadow

Value Study, Female Reclining, Knee ForwardThis week at the Wednesday night figure drawing session at  Studio b,  instructor Heather Clements gave a demonstration.  I love watching the magic of an artist working.  The transformation of the blank surface is mesmerizing.

Tonight Heather was continuing with last week’s focus on light and shadow, to define shape.  Erased Value Study, Female on One Hip, AwayShe showed examples of high-contrast lighting (Andy Warhol’s self-portrait), where only two or three values with very distinct edges are mapped out, as opposed to tonal development with a full range of values (self-portraits by Edward Hopper and Chuck Close).  She talked about local values, such as dark hair vs. light face, and then she reminded us about various effects to look for:  the lit side of the subject, the unlit side, the midtones, the highlight, reflected light, and the cast shadow, including how a cast shadow is sharply focused close to the object, but less focused further away.

Heather also gave a demonstration on the reverse process, toning the paper overall and then erasing the lighted areas, and perhaps adding some darks at the end.  I was happy with the results of my effort towards this reverse process (at right).