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The Figure is Beautiful

There is something about the figure as an art subject that fascinates me.  Most North-Americans are raised with the view that nudes are  naked and nasty, instead of beautiful and natural.  Like everyone in our mass-marketed-to-death culture, I have been indoctrinated with the mindset that thin, idealized proportions are beautiful, and fat and wrinkles less beautiful.  Since I have achieved middle-age, and I have acquired a few wrinkles myself, and an extra pound here or there, I am looking at people differently.  Certain wrinkles show a time of loss and grief, others show laughter, some show a lot of hours working in the sun.   Wrinkles lend visual character, a sag shows maturity, a little fat here or a paunch there has probably been earned.  But the beauty I am most interested in, is the play of light across the subject, any subject.  It’s just that the figure happens to be a difficult subject, one which challenges me every single time I attempt to draw it, so it becomes a game to me, to achieve a reasonable resemblance as well as to find the light.  The folds and shadows of fabric, while challenging, are very forgiving, in that the untrained eye might never notice if you’ve drawn a clothed figure “wrong”.  The nude figure on the other hand, is unforgiving — if I draw something in the wrong place, it looks wrong, and anyone looking at it can tell it is wrong.  That is the construct of realism that I like to work within, and that is one of my joys in nude figure drawing.  Another is the sheer immediacy, in that a model can only hold a pose for just so long.  And finally, I love the camaraderie and the energy of the other artists, and I am always inspired by seeing the way they tackled the problems they found in the same pose I was drawing, but from another point of view.  I guess I can even be a little philosophical about it, in that multiple points of view are all true, and there can be no arguing.  Maybe political leaders should take figure drawing classes!

Below are drawings done at Studio b. at the weekly figure drawing session.

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Studio b. Is Showing Our Drawings!

Way before I ever imagined it happening, some of my figure drawings are hanging in a gallery.  Colleen Duffley has covered one of the walls in Studio b with drawings by the participants in the weekly figure drawing sessions.  The fact that our drawings are being shown at all is pretty exciting, not to mention the good fortune to be shown at Studio b, the premier fine art gallery and venue for creativity.  Italian artist Sergio Poddighe will  be showing his work in the main gallery starting with his opening reception on Saturday,  3/27/2010, from 6 to 8 PM.  Our figure work will be in the back gallery.  Our prices will be nominal, because our drawings are not matted or framed.

Male on One Elbow, With Sheet--conte and charcoal on   gray--18" x 22"This week instructor Heather Clements had us draw the folds and gathers of fabric partially covering the model.  A plain light-colored sheet gave us plenty to work with.  The drawing sessions have been well-attended the last few weeks, with 10 or 12 artists there.  As always, the energy was very high this week.

Each session becomes an experience:  the scratching sound of chalk and charcoal on paper, the instructor’s soft encouragement and tutoring of the  individual artists;  one of the artists singing a parody of a mournful selection in the background music, with everyone laughing afterwards.  And spoken aloud, the questions all artists struggle with (but usually don’t verbalize)… “How do you make a foot look like a foot?  Why does mine look like a flipper?”  And the groans of protest when the timer goes off, ending a particularly good pose.  And then the hurried removal of drawings from drawing boards and the setting up for a new drawing, quick, hurry, we’re starting another 8-minute pose…

None of my drawings were “keepers”, but I’m posting a few anyway.  I experimented, even using some color.  I rarely use color for color’s sake, preferring instead to draw monotone value studies using only one color or a neutral.  I may not turn out any masterpieces when I experiment, but I learn a lot, so I never count the effort a waste.

Male Standing, With Sheet--conte on manilla--18" x 24"

Male on Stool, With Sheet Male Leaning Back on Hands, With Sheet