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.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Always From Life (III)

It would be hard for me to overstate how exhilarating it is to work from the live nude. I'm always nervous and maybe even a bit scared when starting a figure session. Fear of failure is probably the source. Whatever the reason it's a very strong emotional state. All your senses are heightened. This heightened state can lead you to free expressive work or freeze you into being tight and timid. I've been both places.

Reclining Nude, oil pastel, 6 3/4" X 11 3/8",  2012

I confess to having become an absolutist regarding working from life. Using a photographic image removes you from the subject and and makes it nearly impossible to connect in any meaningful way. For me even a minor reliance on photos can pollute and take the life out of an entire work. Ultimately the benefits of working from life don't just outweigh the negatives they trump them.

Being an absolutist on any subject is probably not a good idea but it's where I am right now.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Always from Life (II)

When I started using oil paints some twenty years ago I had grown tired of leaning over a drawing board working from photographs and low relief objects. I wanted to expand my horizons - to paint from life in real time. This is how I worked for the next two decades.

Then a few years back, frustrated by a lack of progress with my figurative work, I tried a couple of photo derived paintings.

Amy, oil on linen, 17" X 19",  2009

I'll call this a "hybrid". The mug, hand and cigarette pack were painted from life and the rest using a photo. It doesn't look half bad in this format. The problem for me was that working from a photograph I wasn't painting the person at all. I was painting a photograph of a person. I can't really verbalize the disconnect I feel toward these photo derived works. I can only say there was just no joy in approaching a painting this way.

This brief detour served to verify and strengthen my decision to work exclusively from life.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Always from Life (I)

In the heading of this blog I state that all posted drawings and paintings were done from live models. I'm going to break that rule the next couple of posts. I want to explore my progression from using photos as source material to working exclusively from life.

In the 1970's I often used photographs as an integral part of my work. I used old family snapshots and pictures I had taken to do a series of graphite drawings and watercolor paintings. These works had trompe l'oeil elements and depicted a flat or very narrow picture plane. Looking back I now refer to this as my "obsessive phase".

Grandma & Grandpa, graphite on paper, 9" X 7", 1975

Bobbie With Parrots, watercolor, 5 3/8" X 6 7/8", 1978

Working from photographs can be alluring and addicting. It vastly expands your potential subject material while simplifying the process of making a picture. Composition, value and hue are all established to some degree. Your goal becomes to "copy" or interpret the photo in some compelling way.

In my estimation many of the drawings and paintings from this period were successful. They transcend the photograph and take on an inner life of their own.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Wink and Nod

I often get a nervous wink and nod when people learn I work from the live nude. Having never been exposed to a life model situation people make assumptions about what happens there. At the very least it must be a bit "naughty". But the gap between what most people think happens at a nude session and the reality is wide. In my experience the overwhelming majority of artists are there to improve their drawing or painting skills. No other setting comes close in this regard. When the model goes into pose your work becomes the focus.

Nude Studies, oil pastel, 8 1/2" X 11",  2012 (Dupont Figure Group)

A nude model session is a world unto itself. It is one of my favorite environments. I've worked plenty of clothed sessions but there is a certain "edge" missing from the room. Nudity has a disarming affect. You have to leave your shyness or ego at the door. The model is revealing their exterior self while the artists are making public their inner selves and abilities.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Working in group sessions I often change locations in search of interesting angles. As a result I frequently find myself "stuck" behind the model. All the prime working locations in front are taken. Being stuck isn't necessarily bad. To find the essence in a back pose you really have to look. Looking is good.

Nude Study, oil pastel 6 1/4" X 9", 2011

Back study, oil pastel, 9" X 7", 2013

Nude Study, oil pastel, 5 1/2" X 5 1/4",  2010 

At first glance there isn't as much going on in the back as there is in the front. If there is good raking light and you really look there is actually a lot going on.

Friday, November 1, 2013

"Oh You're an Artist"

In theory society revers artists and puts them on a pedestal of sorts. In the real world artists are looked at with a good deal of suspicion and often not without cause. You are somehow the "other". I never refer to myself as an artist. When asked what I do I simply respond I'm a painter. Then I have to clarify that I paint pictures not houses which usually elicits the response "oh you're an artist".

Seated Figure, oil on linen, 7 3/4" x6 1/2", 2007

The title "artist" is used much too freely. There are lots of artists who don't make pictures at all. You could be a cook or a bricklayer and take your work to the level of artist. I'm a painter. I aspire to be an artist.