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Showcasing Figure Drawings by Steve Wagner

Drawn by Steve Wagner
Drawn by Steve Wagner
Drawn by Steve Wagner
Drawn by Steve Wagner
Drawn by Steve Wagner
Steve Wagner is a fellow figure drawing artist at the regular weekly figure drawing sessions at Studio b. We had an assignment this week.  The owner, Colleen Duffley, said that a woman had come in to view the “Figure It Out” show of figurative works, and then said she would be interested in a series of poses, all reclining, using a male model.  The preferred style was gestural.  Steve and I were the only artists attending this week, so we accepted the challenge.
We warmed up with the usual 1-minute and 5-minutes poses before moving on to some 20- and 30-minute poses.  The model had an easy night.
Steve’s drawings are in the column at left, with two gestures on top, followed by 3 longer poses.
Steve presents his figure drawings as final products, but he also uses his figures as preparatory work for paintings.  Some of his framed works can be seen in the South gallery at Studio b.  He also shows at World Six Gallery.
Below are a the drawings I did, from the same last three poses.  The first pose is cropped.  Click here for the full pose.
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Figure Drawing on the Run

What have I been doing for a month?  Well…. first there was a Saturday figure drawing workshop by Heather Clements at Studio b., followed by the regular Wednesday night figure drawing session, a trip to Chattanooga with two friends to do a 6-mile stand-up paddle race, and then the opening of Studio b.’s “Figure It Out” figurative art show, and this week, helping receive the art for the upcoming figurative show presented by the A+Art Committee of the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County at the South Walton campus of Northwest Florida State College, then another regular Wednesday night figure drawing session, and today, the orientation meeting for my upcoming service on the CAA board, meanwhile trying to maintain my life routines and keep up with my “day job” (my businesses)…  it’s been a little hectic lately.  I’ve tried not to sacrifice anything, until this week when I absolutely had to give up my morning workouts to gain another couple of hours every day.  I managed to get in a little creekside hike with a couple of friends last Saturday, a yoga session at Balance Health Studio and a glass of juice at Raw and Juicy with another friend on Sunday.  I missed my Monday night meditation group meeting because I’m sitting the gallery at Studio b. every evening this week.  So, you see, it’s been crazy-busy lately.  I don’t like to be this busy.  Even during quiet moments at the gallery, I’m catching up on some business work, except tonight when I’m evaluating my life while I blog about it.  But I guess you can tell, figure drawing would be the last thing I would give up.  I think that’s how it is for figurative artists.  As I look at all the drawings and paintings here at Studio b. for this show, I am realizing that all of the artists represented are compelled to draw.  We draw for the sheer pleasure of it.  We pay a small fee to be here, and we pay the model with tips, and we collect our own art — mine is stacked high on a shelf in my house, with only a few pieces framed and hanging.  It actually was a pleasant surprise to me when pieces started selling out of the show.  Below are the drawings that sold on opening night.

18 x 24 14 x 24 14 x 20 18 x 24

Here are a couple of photos from opening night.  The atmosphere was casual and friendly.  In one gallery Colleen Duffley, owner of Studio b., had hired a model and set up easels and supplies for the guests to try their hand at figure drawing, and several did try!

You might notice that I draw in many different styles.  Supposedly an accomplished artist becomes recognizable by their style.  If that is the case, my work might never be recognizably mine, because I like to approach the figure differently almost every time I draw.  Of  course, the usual challenges remain, due to the time constraints of any given pose, so there may be proportional problems, like the drawing at left that I made a couple of weeks ago, where I think I made the head a good bit larger than it really was, in proportion to the rest of the figure.  This week I focused on what may become my style, because I like the quality of the expression — it feels comfortable, it feels like “me”.  The drawings below are from last night’s session, and my favorite is the last drawing.  Click on any of the drawings for a larger view.

“Sitting with One Foot Tucked” is available for purchase! Click the painting for more info.

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

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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

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Figure Drawing with a Live Model

To a figure drawing artist, the title of this post is redundant, but the non-artist may not know that we use live models in figure drawing.  To this point, I have been a bit of a fanatic about it, allowing errors and inaccuracies to be a part of the final drawing.

But I am thinking that I would like to take a photograph for reference for correcting and finishing a live-model drawing outside of the studio, away from the live model.  My hesitancy to use a camera comes from my concern that I may lose some of the immediacy of expression if I work on my drawings very much outside of the studio.  But I would like the accomplishnent of a more complete, or perhaps I should say, more technically accurate drawing, which can more easily be done, I think, with a less hurried pose or with a photograph for reference.

Next week I’m bringing a camera to the Wednesday night figure drawing session at Studio b., if the model doesn’t mind me taking a photo.

Following are a few warm-up gestures from this week’s session, followed by a drawing from a longer pose.

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Portraits: More Practice

One of the points of blogging about my art is to show my struggles, my occasional two-steps-backwards, as well as my one-step-forward.  So I bravely display my struggling efforts towards gaining some competence with portraiture.  I attended an open studio session today, to practice drawing a face.  The model stayed in the same pose throughout the 3-hour session, taking 5-minute breaks every half-hour or so.  I think that drawing “Plane Man” two days ago helped me to see form, highlights, and shadows.  I used the first half-hour to warm-up, using nupastels to make a full-color sketch.

Then I settled in and spent the next 3 segments using a soft graphite on Canson Rives paper that Charlotte gave me to try out.  I’ve used Canson Edition, and I liked Canson Rives even better.  Tooth is a texture in the paper that “grabs” onto the media, and makes it easy to make marks.  The tooth on the Rives paper was excellent, and one side had more texture than the other.  I nearly finished the drawing at left.  There are some obvious problems, places that actually make me wince as I review it, like the white line showing the leading edge of her neck, which grows strangely out of the reflected light under her chin.  I will have to work on that some more.  And I doubt anyone would recognize the model from my drawing, since I made her face, and especially her eyes, too narrow.  But I did do a fair job of suggesting her beautiful dreadlocks.

Unfinished, Nupastel and Graphtint

There was one last 30-minute segment left in the session, and I used that time to start a drawing of her profile, from just a few feet away.  I started with the white highlights, allowing the paper to show through for some of the midtones, and then I used a reddish-brown tinted graphite pencil to create the darker values.  But I didn’t even get to start on her hair before it was time to pack up.  If I finish this drawing, then I will decide whether to darken or wash out the graphtint for effect or to improve the representation.  Graphtint is a fun pencil, not as “washable” as a watercolor pencil, but able to be washed somewhat, to create a more watery effect which can be much softer than the pencil strokes alone.  It brightens the color when wet.  My apologies for the orange tone of the piece — it’s not orange at all, but rather a light brown.

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Making Mistakes Drawing a Clothed Model

We drew a clothed model at figure drawing at Studio b. this week.  It was challenging.  The striped shirt she wore created contours that helped describe her form, so the stripes had to be believable.  We had quick poses, none exceeding 30 minutes, and several were just 15 minutes.  I have posted a few of them.

The pose at left shows what happens when I fail to correctly proportion the figure in the initial gesture.  With the foreshortening I have shown by making the hips so much larger than the shoulders, the lower legs and feet should be positively huge.  Instead, I drew the lower legs and feet as if they belonged to Tinkerbell.  Mistakes in the initial gesture will remain for the entire drawing and ruin the finished piece.

Below are a couple of other drawings done the same night.  I like how they turned out, even though the distortions and inaccuracies are obvious.  The stool gave me some trouble.  I really don’t like stools — they are hard to draw.  I drew it without really looking at it, and the resulting mistakes can especially be seen in the conflicting and incorrect angles of the cross-bars between the stool legs.  So, either I can try to correct the errors, or just leave them and call them “artistic license”, ha ha!

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Figure Drawing without the Model

In the last post I showed the drawing above left, which I was unable to finish during the 30-minute pose.  I worked on it a little this evening, to give the hair, arms, and hands some form.   Without seeing the light on the form, I suppose my effort is passable, but the experience was hollow.  It felt like mere craftsmanship as I worked in my studio, without the power and intimacy of a live figure drawing session.

Unless the artist is there to talk about the work, ordinarily the viewer of a piece of art is far removed from the process — all he or she sees is the product.  But for me as the artist, at least 50% of the value of a figure drawing is in the process, in the capture of light and shadow across the living form.  Otherwise, why attend organized sessions and pay a model?  After all, there are countless photographs of people in every conceivable position, if it were just a matter of transposing a form onto the paper.  My joy is in the moment, with the actual lighting, the model, and the creative energy of the group.

All that said, I wish I had a photo so I could have finished the head and arms with more confidence!

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Open Studio Figure Drawing at Studio b.

Top half of standing pose pictured below

This week we had a new model and open studio figure drawing.  Creativity was a-buzzing!

There are many decisions to be made when starting a new drawing, and having a new unfamiliar model adds to the mix.  After looking at the model and deciding whether the pose is good for me or whether I need to move to a different vantage point, then I have to decide what medium I am going to use, which then helps me decide what paper to use for that medium.  I take a big art-box with me to the drawing sessions, and a board with several different papers clipped to it, and sometimes I bring a watercolor pad as well.  I don’t necessarily have a favorite medium that I work with all the time.  Most certainly, I prefer graphite , but it’s fun to use different media.  My art-box also contains black and brown permanent pens, water soluble blue and black pens, charcoal, tinted charcoal, washable graphtint (tinted graphite) pencils, conte, wax crayons, watercolor pencils, and nupastels.

After I pick my media, next I face the choice of approach.  Here’s where I usually just jump in and start working the gesture, without thought for whether my initial marks are going to contribute to or detract from the end result.  Since every pose is timed, the immediacy of working from a live model requires some quick decision-making and the guts to just go for it, not worrying too much about whether I am going to turn out a masterpiece or not.  In the end, there is usually something about every drawing that I like, even if there are proportional inaccuracies or places where I got something completely wrong.  That is why I keep coming back to Studio b. for Wednesday night Figure Drawing.

Some of our group’s drawings will be on display at Studio b. this-coming Thursday, November 4, 2010, for the b+b@b event to announce  Studio b.’s partnering with the Brogan Museum of Art and Science to celebrate the exhibition of 50 Baroque Italian masterpieces, which will be debuting in Tallahassee in March of 2011.

Some of our group’s drawings will be on display at Studio b. for the b+b@b event this-coming Thursday, November 4, 2010, for the celebration of Studio b.’s partnering with the Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science promoting Food, Art, Film, and Fashion.