Fellow plein air painter Judy Dewar initiated her new studio by inviting a few artists over to work from a live model. It was a pleasure working beside Judy, Beckie Perrott, and Marian Pacsuto. I initially intended to paint for the whole session, but a repair contractor was supposed to come to my house, so I needed to be ready to leave on short notice. I took drawing supplies, thinking I would draw until the contractor called, meet him and let him in and come back to Judy’s studio to paint for the rest of the session. The contractor had not called by lunchtime, so I never got out my paints. I enjoyed the 2- and 5-minute warm-ups, using charcoal on good manilla newsprint and on gray student-quality paper before moving on to a 20-minute session using my favorite drawing media – graphite and white nupastel. I drew on tan-tinted Mi-Tientes paper, which has a nice squared texture. For my last piece, over the course of two 30-minute sessions, I used some oil pastels which I had never used before. I had a student-quality set of oil pastel crayons that I’d had for years and years, and a dime-store set of oil pencils for the finer work, both of which I brushed with turpentine after laying in the colors. I gave that final drawing to the model. Below are my warm-ups and my two final pieces. By clicking on them you will get a larger view.
Most of my paintings and images are available for purchase. Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot
Last week the model at Studio b. was lit with a close floodlight, heightening the light-dark contrast. I warmed up with red crayon and then changed to charcoal pencil.
I had been on vacation and away from figure drawing for several weeks. It seems like I am always tighter and more controlled, when I haven’t drawn for a while, trying to be more exact, trying to get it “right”. Warming up with crayon and charcoal pencil kept me from being too careful. But I became more controlled in my final drawing, and consequently I didn’t get very much of it finished during the drawing session. I had focused on the near hand while the model was there, and to retain that focus, I silhouetted much of the remainder of the figure when I finished it later.
I have so much appreciation for the models, who often find that after 5 minutes into what they thought was a comfortable pose, the pose becomes distinctly uncomfortable, and then there they are, stuck for another 25 minutes or however long the pose is. When the model was given a break midway through this final pose, his right leg had gone to sleep, and it was a few minutes before he could walk. I can’t imagine what it must be like to sit for a painting, posing for days!
A few weeks ago at our weekly figure drawing session at Studio b, our exercise was to draw with our non-dominant hand. I stayed with the exercise for the entire 2½-hour session.
Although I had attended many figure drawing classes for my undergraduate area of emphasis, I had never before drawn with my left hand. It was grueling. I had no hand-eye coordination. My right hand will usually draw the approximate angle for the intended distance while I am just looking at the model, but when I was drawing with my left hand, I had to watch my hand to see what on earth it was doing.
Having no fine-motor control, I found myself gripping the daylights out of the crayon. In fact I broke every implement I used, by holding it so tightly. But interestingly, even though my line-quality on each finished drawing was jerky, the proportions and masses were basically correct, perhaps even better than when drawing with my dominant hand. No doubt I was forced to a greater degree of observation.
And I found myself reaching for crayons and colors that I rarely use, free to experiment, since I had low expectations.
I was surprised to find a different appeal to the pieces I produced.