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.

Friday, October 25, 2013


In any complex endeavor learning something new opens more doors than it closes. Each time I feel I've learned something working from the figure, more questions arise than are answered. About two years ago, frustrated by a lack of progress with my figurative painting, I decided to return to drawing. My intent was to simplify the process and hopefully re-establish a positive learning curve. I ended up drawing almost exclusively for thirteen months. Taking this step "back" has proven to be very helpful.

For me the most basic elements to be considered when working on a drawing are: Composition, line and value. "Simple like that" as an old colleague used to say.

Reclining Nude, oil pastel, 8 1/2" X 13", 2012

When you add color things get very complicated very quickly. Now you start dealing with hue, color "temperature", saturation, texture and and and. These variables can so complicate things it's easy to lose sight of the basics. Composition, line and value are the armature on which to build a painting. If these are weak, the whole painting will collapse.

Nude Study, oil on canvas, 8" X 10",  2013

Sunday, October 20, 2013


I was a distance runner in high school and did some cross country bicycling after college. I am very aware of the need to find an appropriate pace to attain a long term goal. Working from the live figure has forced me to change my decades long approach to painting. How often one works and at what level of intensity are important. Five, six, sometimes seven days in a row no longer works. In addition to physical and mental hurdles the figure poses logistic and financial obstacles I hadn't encountered doing still life or cityscape paintings.

Figure Study, oil pastel, 6 1/2" X 9 1/2",  2013

Figure Study, oil pastel, 12" X 8 1/2",  2013

Figure Study, oil pastel, 11" X 8",  2013

These drawings are just a fraction of what I did in a recent one week stretch. By the last session I was fried. Mentally and physically my edge was gone. I was aware in real time of overreaching but was incapable or unwilling to put on the brakes. Working from the live figure is providing a more than ample supply of new and complex challenges. That's a big part of what makes it so compelling.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Pose Kill

No one wants to hear an old painter wine about things that annoy him. So here goes... I work frequently in group settings. They are an overwhelmingly positive environment. But in my experience there is no bigger pose kill than democratic selection. Given the opportunity the group will collectively almost always choose an uninteresting pose. Many times I've watched a veteran model take a dynamic pose only to be thwarted by multiple requests. The leg, the arm, the tilt of the head. Gradually the models personal vision succumbs to group think and becomes rigid and lifeless.

A little stiff - lots of group input

New models often need guidance. Not so good models definitely need help posing. But good engaged models need the freedom to find the right pose. If it works for them the odds are good it will work for the artists.

Model inspired pose, Nude Study, oil on canvas, 9" X 12", 2010

I could extrapolate this phenomena into many collective human endeavors but that would be opening a whole new can of worms. Working from the figure is wormy enough.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sweet Reality

Carving out blocks of time to do my art has always been a struggle. Life has a habit of intruding. The world was not designed for Bruce Day to draw pictures. If what one does doesn't conform to societies rules regarding lifestyle and money making you are in for a battle. I know this struggle is part of the deal but I'm becoming aware that it may actually be essential to creating anything worthwhile.

Drapery Study with Seated Nude, oil on linen, 20" X 16", 2006-2012

Left to my own devices I will draw or paint every day. This always leads to burnout. I've been there many times.  By never stopping you interfere with some natural cycle. Enter sweet reality.  A sons band competition, a daughters field hockey game, a sudden illness, something will distract. I used to feel frustrated and often angry at these distractions. Is it possible that the spirit in a successful work is there not in spite of the hardships but because of them?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Warm Ups

Nearly all model sessions I attend do some warm up or gesture poses. I would define these as any pose under five minutes but probably 30 seconds to two minuets are true gestures. I do a version of these in private sessions. They are intended to loosen up your arm and get you mentally engaged. At a recent group session the model requested gesture poses as a means of getting into the session. A good model doesn't just walk in, take their clothes off, strike a pose and hold it. They, as much as the artists, need to "get into it" to do good work.

One minute gesture

Five minute poses

Ones and fives

At a recent open session when gesture poses were announced I heard an artist mumble "I hate gestures". Viewing his work a couple of hours later I would say it was a bit stiff. I like long poses but am very aware of the necessity of warm ups. One shouldn't run a race without some stretching. At the risk of overgeneralizing I think all my best drawings and paintings have started as gestures. If you capture an energy early it can form the essence of a successful work.  It's virtually impossible to inject that energy later.

15 minute oil pastel

I start all drawings like this. Even drawings I spend hours or days on started this way. Often I like these quicker studies better than the "finished" product. Luckily time ran out on this pose. I really like it just like this! (Especially the tucked top foot).