The next step

I have worked from the live nude periodically since the early 1970's. This blog started August 9th, 2012 in my second year of working almost exclusively from the figure.

In the fall of 2015 I reintroduced still lifes and an occasional cityscape into my painting repertoire. Rather than abandon this figure blog or start a new one I decided to add them to the conservation.

All drawings and paintings posted on this blog were done entirely from live models or on location.

Thursday, August 29, 2013


Working from the live female nude I have been confronted with a pose like this many times.  I am drawn to foreshortened angles.  They almost always offer a high level of complexity and difficulty.   Head first or feet first, I like foreshortened poses.   A problem with feet first poses is they can become too "explicit".  Meaning they can feature the vagina prominently.  With the exception of a few drawings, I routinely reject these poses and choose something more modest.

A recent evening I scheduled a two hour session with a long time model.  My aim was to do a small (9" X 11") oil sketch.  I try to do these regularly to keep fresh and to experiment with my palette.  Often the model and I spend a great deal of time and effort finding a good challenging pose.  This evening, however, the model "fell" into this pose right away. She was comfortable and I was in a very confident and relaxed mood. The only issue I could see beyond the difficulty factor was the vagina.

I decided to go for it.  After a failed first attempt I adjusted my angle a bit and settled into painting.  Here is the result.  Is it shocking or inappropriate?  I honestly don't have a clue. I very much enjoyed doing the painting.

Reclining Nude, oil on canvas, 9" X 11", 2013

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Group

A surprise figure drawing session this week.  August was supposed to be an off month for the group.  Vacation schedules and other summer obligations made it difficult to gather a quorum.  A small core, however, apparently had withdrawal issues and Susan Ishii graciously called a "private" session.  What a delight!  I was only able to stay the first hour or so but the environment was wonderful.  Model, lighting and setting all worked and from what I saw during a hasty exit so did the drawing.

After some five minute warm ups here is my thirty minute oil pastel effort.

Reclining Nude, oil pastel, 6 1/2" X 7"

Monday, August 19, 2013

In the Moment

I'm in the process of doing a fairly detailed cataloguing of my work. The earliest figure drawing I have dates back to my first or second figure class in college. It is of a seated male nude lit from below. It's not the best drawing. I was in the early stages of my studio exposure. What still resonates for me is how in the moment I was doing the drawing. It has taken me nearly 40 years to internalize this lesson. A successful work of art requires being in the moment and connecting with the subject. When you achieve this state you are not guaranteed success but without it you are guaranteed failure.

Male Nude Study, colored pencil  1974

Friday, August 16, 2013

Best I Could Do Under the Circumstances

Being self critical is essential to improving in any endeavor. If you can't cast a critical eye on your own work you won't improve. Flaws in concept and technique will take root and become hard to recognize let alone correct. You can of course take this too far and only see your flaws. This can become destructive so a balanced examination of your work is best. Recognize your flaws and try to correct them but don't forget to realize your strengths and build on them.

Good gracious, just four posts in and I'm already spouting trite clich├ęs.

In recent years I've divided my work into three main categories: Success, miss and failure. The success and failure categories are fairly set. The miss category has subsets: So close, miss and not a absolute failure.

Failed Nude, oil on linen, 2013
Let's just call this a miss. Mostly due to the dull uninspired pose (my choice not the models) and boring third rate composition. What was I thinking!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


For nearly three years I have been attending a weekly figure drawing session. Anywhere from five to twelve artists show up to work from the live nude. These sessions have helped my work immeasurably. Not just the figurative work but my still life and cityscape painting have benefited. Drawing from the live model regularly keeps you sharp and loose.

This lesson came home dramatically this week. The drawing group is taking a well deserved August recess.  I've worked several painting sessions in the last two weeks but drawing is somehow different. Instinctively I set up a private session with a long time model. I knew I would be rusty but I wasn't prepared for how rusty. My hand felt tight and timid on the page. There was an obvious disconnect between model and paper. It wasn't until well into the second hour things began to connect and flow.

Nude With Robe, oil pastel, 9" X 9 1/2",  40 minuets

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Flesh, Failure and Burnt Sienna

Apparently I have to relearn painting every time I paint the figure.  I Started this oil a week and a half ago.  The premise was a painting where you would "feel" the flesh.  I had a 22" X 28" coarse linen canvas and the perfect model.
Day one with model

The first session went well.  The lines had energy and I thought the tight cropped composition would work .... maybe not.

Working day two without the model on the background and filling in empty spaces the painting washed out and went dead.  The canvas drank paint and the composition turned problematic.  Is it possible to feature breasts too prominently?

The second session with the model I tried adding a little burnt sienna to saturate the tan flesh.  It infected the entire palette and now I have a dull brown mess.

Second model session

I have faced this predicament many times over the years.  Continue working a problematic painting or jump ship and start fresh.  There is no clear answer.  I've worked paintings over months even years.   Some result in "successes" and others just consume paint, time and life force.  I suspect this painting is the latter.  I'll give it one or two more sessions to see what if anything can be learned. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Next Step

In October of 2012 I started a handwritten journal dedicated exclusively to my figurative work. The hope was that by putting my thoughts down on paper I would learn something. A more deliberate approach to working from the live nude - pausing periodically to write and reflect.  It has been a revelation.

This incarnation brings me into the digital age. I still view this primarily as a personal educational tool. In the unlikely event anyone reading this blog finds it useful - wonderful!

 30 minute oil pastel study from a few weeks back, 7 1/2 " X 7"