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Figure Drawing: Commitment to Practice

After warming up with two-minute, 5-minute, and 20 minute drawings, I spent the last hour of the figure drawing session drawing the model clothed, in her blue jeans and her brightly colored shawl.  I had noticed her shawl when she first arrived.  I was the only artist this week, braving the rainy weather, so I had my choice of pose and costume.  I worked with watercolor pencils, which brighten and get runny when wet with clear water spray or brush wash.  I used the watercolor pencils without water while drawing there at Studio b., waiting until I got back to my home studio to do the wet work.

There is a lot to be said for making a commitment.  My commitment, a couple years ago, was to myself, to participate in the weekly sessions at Studio b., making them my highest priority for Wednesday nights.  It has paid off, in that I learn another new aspect of figure drawing every week.  I rarely use color in my figure drawings, so this week when I did, I was very uncomfortable, several times making the decision not to tear it up and start over with my usual white nupastel and graphite, which I very much wanted to do.  I achieved the delicious color-texture of the shawl, and managed to show the slightly worn character of the jeans, but I need to return to her face and try to refine her features.

Below are a few of the warm-up sketches from earlier in the session.

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

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My Livelihood Gets in the Way of My Art

The activities of my life are an extension of who I am right now, and so the amount of time I have available to devote to my art is limited.  Knowing that I have made that choice does not stop me from sometimes resenting it.  I have a full-time job, owning and managing a small service business, and I have a second job, consulting for my retail store, and I have a third occasional job, teaching in the same industry as the other two jobs, all of these providing the necessary income to pay the bills so that I can enjoy the lifestyle I want, and also indulge my artistic efforts.  One day I will be brave enough to throw caution aside, quit my jobs, and become a full-time artist. Until then, I must resign myself to devoting limited energy to my art.

The preceding was a long introduction to explain that I was dog-tired last night at figure drawing at Studio b.  I drew slowly, getting lost in details, and losing track of the time.  I completed a couple of warm-up pieces to my satisfaction, at right, and another at left, but none of the extended poses reached any level of completion.  Nevertheless, I am posting them all on this blog entry, just to show what came out of my efforts.  After all, no effort is a waste of time.   Even when I am not satisfied with my results, I know that I have gained experience.  In retrospect, last night would have been a perfect time to experiment with different media, because then I would have had lower expectations.

Our model provided interesting poses.  In one pose, she was on her back, hugging her knees tightly to her chest.  I was at her head, so her pose was nearly symmetrical from my vantage point.  But at left is an image of the extent that I had completed by the time the 20-minute timer went off.  I hadn’t even gotten half-way into the drawing, getting lost in my own “zone” as I explored the shadows and shapes.

All evening we were tantalized by the heavenly smells of a wonderful dinner for a private party downstairs in the main gallery.  Cheese diva Paula Lambert was preparing all manner of delectables, and Studio b. owner Colleen Duffley kept bringing samples to us artists upstairs.  I can’t imagine a better place to practice figure drawing!

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

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Figure Drawing: The Power of the Group, Chakra Work, Music and Communication

Last week I didn’t draw, except for my practice at home.  Instead I watched and listened to a lot of live music at the 30A Songwriters Festival, which I blogged about in my last post.  And last Friday I attended a yoga presentation on the Root Chakra, the first in a 7-week series, a subject which is all new to me.  Then on Tuesday a friend and I got together and brought each other up to date, all good.  And Wednesday, a whole bunch of artists I hadn’t seen for a while were at figure drawing, at the regular weekly session at Studio b., which was exhilarating.

So whether a positive result of my fledgling efforts to allow more energy to flow through the Root Chakra, or good old-fashioned open communication with a dear friend, or listening to so much good music, I felt very confident in my artistic expression this week.  I found myself very quickly lost in the process of executing each pose.  When I lose myself is when I enjoy it the most and feel the most successful at capturing what to me is the basic emotive and visual essence of the pose, whether I am focused on the light, or mass, or shapes, texture, or line.

Our model struggled with the standing pose at top left.  Supporting herself on one leg with a locked knee, she wasn’t able to hold it for as long as she had intended.  Nevertheless, even with the pose a little shorter than expected, I felt completely comfortable with the end result, leaving portions of the drawing a little sketchy.  In fact I think I am enjoying that more and more, developing only the more important area of each pose, although I need to be careful not to always leave the feet undeveloped, because that might be suspected laziness.  Feet are difficult to draw.

The drawing at upper right is the only drawing I was unsure about, when I was finished, because her right elbow creates a triangular shape above the woman’s throat.  Effective composition  requires the artist to be judicious, to leave out visual description which merely confuses.  So I worked on this drawing when I got home, removing the elbow shape entirely, and then drawing it back in.  Sometimes it is that little quirk of confusion that requires the viewer to puzzle for a moment, and engage a bit more, holding his attention for a bit longer.  And in this day and age of instant communication, holding someone’s attention is like gold to an artist.

Speaking of attention, to those of you who wade through my blogs each week, from the bottom of my heart, thank you!  You don’t even have to say anything, though I love it if you do — I feed off your collective support.  May we all give support to each other for our efforts at creative expression, whatever the avenue!

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

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Surrounded by Painters at Figure Drawing

On this night at Studio b. at the regular weekly figure drawing session, I was the only artist who exclusively draws the figure.  David Orme-Johnson brought his watercolor paints, and Nancy Nichols Williams brought her acrylics.  Steve Wagner also is an accomplished figure painter, although on this night he worked with charcoal and white on brown paper.  As expected of all students majoring in art in any university, I took my share of figure painting classes, but when it comes to the figure, I like making dry marks on paper.

I warmed up with some small sketches using water soluble graphite pencil on watercolor paper, which I added a wash to later when I got home.

I enjoyed the longer poses.  I feel that I am coming closer to my intended effect as I continue to use graphite and white nupastel.  It is always a challenge to draw the female model we had tonight, who is in constant training for triathlons and is now training for an Ironman next year.  Her musculature is supremely developed, but I find myself minimizing her definition, probably because it becomes very detailed and I always feel like I am rushed and must simplify.

The first pose I have posted above was supposed to be for 10 minutes, but we asked the model to hold it a little longer, so it grew to 15.  The pose below was for 45 minutes, with a break after the first half hour.  That longer pose allowed me to spend a little more time on the face.

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

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Figure Drawing the Night Before Thanksgiving

The model couldn’t make it to Studio b. for our figure drawing session this week, so the owner of the Studio, Colleen Duffley, graciously offered us her time, posing clothed for us.  When the artist knows the model, it seems important to try to be accurate in the drawing, for the sake of not offending the model by one’s poor craftsmanship.  I tried to put that additional pressure out of my head as I drew.

Clothed models are much easier to draw than nudes.  Clothing is very forgiving — I can fudge one way or another with a line or a shadow on clothing without it feeling awkward.  Nevertheless, I still wanted more time, even on the 20 and 30-minute poses.  Between the wire-mesh of the model’s chair, and the leather and denim of her clothing, and her extraordinarily beautiful, curly hair, it was frustrating to be faced with such rich textures that I could only hint at because of the duration of the poses.

Below are two warm-up drawings, and two longer poses.  Click on any image for a larger view.

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

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Figure Drawing Media – Small Changes

I have been working on fairly smooth paper, primarily using graphite and nupastel, for the past few weeks.  This week I opted to use graphite on a textured paper for one drawing, and charcoal with nupastel for the second one.  I confess, I prefer nupastel and graphite, but it’s nice to try different media or different surfaces.  Not having as much control over the media because of less practice, shakes things up a little, requiring me to draw more slowly or else to be more forgiving of my efforts if I am a little clumsy.  The textured paper was Canson Mi-Teintes, which I have used before, but not strictly with graphite.  At 19 x 25, the paper is a little larger than I have been working on, but though I intended to, I could not manage to fit the entire figure onto the page, even though she was sitting hugging her knees.   The pose was our usual 30 minutes long, so I had to use some rough cross-hatching to block in the darker values.

My second drawing was on Stonehenge, one of the the smooth papers I’ve been drawing on recently, but charcoal is not as easily handled as graphite.  Combining charcoal with nupastel certainly made  it easier to graduate the toning, than using charcoal alone.

These drawings were made during the regular weekly figure drawing session at Studio b. in Alys Beach, in Northwest Florida.

I am adding in a minimalist sketch of the sweetest cat I have ever known, my cat Sumi, an adoptee from the Humane Society, a big Maine Coon cat.  She didn’t live long, only 6 years, having compensated renal failure, and she didn’t gain the weight many Maine Coons have.  This drawing shows her thinner summer coat, with wisps coming out of her ears and elbows.  I made a sketch of her many years ago, and recently I transferred that sketch to good paper.

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

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The Figure Artist’s Shell

First, some blatant self-promotion — if you will “Like” my facebook page and share one of my posts, it will greatly improve my fan base.  Right now my exposure is a little puny.  It may be because I am practicing figure drawing, which is the subject of this blog post.

Some people are not comfortable with the nude figure.  It is more accepted in some cultures, certainly more so in Europe than in the United States.  In many areas of the world, it is not at all unusual to see bare-breasted or nude people at public locations like the beach.  But in the United States, many people are taught that the body is to be hidden, some even associating it with shame, others merely with privacy.  Many years ago, I remember when one of my drawings was accepted for a juried show when I attended the University of Northern Colorado.  My drawing instructor told me that my wildly expressionistic and colorful drawing was not selected for technical merit, but rather for the sheer expressive quality.  The subject was a dancer, drawn in bold strokes of bright reds and greens, with charcoal contours defining the figure.  I had actually attended some modern dance classes where I was allowed to sketch the dancers, and that drawing was from one of those sessions.  The figure was neither clothed nor unclothed in the drawing — it was simply gestural, to reflect the dynamic movement of the fast-moving dancer.  But I remember when I brought it home, and proudly showed it to my family, one family member told me that I should be ashamed, that it was nasty.  It was not the first time that my art had not been received exactly how I expected, but I had already by that time grown a shell, so while the comment is one I will forever remember, it did not stop me from pursuing my favorite subject, the human figure.

Other areas of the world readily display nude sculpture and paintings.  But here in the U.S., we are a little more prudish, distinguishing “non-offensive” art as “family-friendly”.  Public institutions displaying art might refuse to display nude pieces because they want to be family-friendly, because children seeing nude artwork most certainly will be corrupted.  More likely, they need to keep their more conservative benefactors happy, so they are reluctant to take risks.

In our weekly figure drawing session a couple of months ago, a woman from England brought her talented 13-year-old son to participate.  Clearly he was practiced — this was not his first time drawing a nude model.  Shock of shocks, instead of having some puerile, voyeuristic interest, he behaved just like all the other artists, immediately and matter-of-factly diving into his drawing.

The stigma is so pervasive where I live, in rural Northwest Florida, that it was a long time before there was any nude figure drawing available on a consistent basis.  In the not-so-distant past in fact, the sheriff was called to shut down previous efforts at one gallery.  Even now in my area, even with the sophistication of the people now living in the beach area which has been developed over the past 30 years, out of the 40-some good-sized galleries between Destin and Panama City Beach, Studio b. in Alys Beach stands alone in offering regularly weekly figure drawing sessions with a live nude model.

Working from a human figure is unlike any other subject.  A tree for example, will be very forgiving if you draw a branch coming out of the trunk at a different angle.  The figure on the other hand will look grotesque if you draw an arm coming out of the trunk at the wrong angle.  There are certain articulations that joints can do, and the viewer’s eye will notice if it is incorrect even if they can’t consciously put their finger on it.  If an artist wants to put people in his art, it is essential that he practice figure drawing, if he wants them to be convincing.  There are a number of artists in the area who use figures in their work, who might benefit from more practice.  Just saying…

Not everyone is comfortable with nude figures — I recognize that.  At least now, if someone is uncomfortable with my work, at least to my face they just give a tepid response if any, and not outright condemnation.  To a great extent, I think that people who have been exposed to the nude as an art form, view it as a thing of beauty, and the more they are exposed to it, the sooner they can let go of the nasty or shameful interpretations they may have been taught to associate with nudity.  When we see all things as having beauty or at least a correctness in all stages of their existence, then perhaps we will care for our planet and its life forms with more reverence.  My figure drawings are very simply my personal expression of the beauty and complexity of the human form and my efforts toward mastery of that expression.

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

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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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The Scoop on Studio b.

PODCAST on 30A RADIO: http://www.30aradioshows.org/coastal-art-scene/colleen-duffley-our-coastal-art-scene-with-claire-bannerman/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+30aRadio+(30A+Radio+Podcast)

Above is a podcast of 30A Radio’s “Colleen Duffley – Our Coastal Art Scene with Claire Bannerman”, spotlighting Studio b, where I practice figure drawing every Wednesday.  30A is the coastal highway along eastern Walton County in the panhandle of Florida.  30A Radio is a low-power FM community radio station, a broadcast service of Seaside Neighborhood School in Seaside, Florida.

Claire’s interview of Colleen Duffley focuses on the next event, which will be the Court Yard Hounds, who are coming to Studio b. this-coming Thursday, 10/27/11.  Tickets can be purchased online at http://www.studiobthebeach.com/products-page/event-tickets/court-yard-hounds-are-back/

Below is a photograph of some of the musical instrumentals and equipment that have arrived ahead of the Court Yard Hounds in preparation for their show on Thursday.  In the background is the Light Impressions iPhoneography exhibit on 40 iPads, and on the wall behind are some of the 150+ figure drawings posted for the Figure It Out show presently exhibiting.

Photo used with permission, from Studio b's facebook page

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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.

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

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