The next step

I have worked from the live nude periodically since the early 1970's. This blog starts 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 just add them to the conservation.

All drawings and paintings posted on this blog were done entirely from the live model.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Doubt

For me the mood of this blog has been generally upbeat. Even the discussions of failure have had an optimistic tone. I'm not faking it. I have been in a good state of mind regarding my art and life since starting this blog. I probably would't have started it had I not been.
                           
Enter doubt. Being critical of ones work is different from doubt. Striving to see your own work objectively and making adjustments is a positive thing. Doubt lives at a deeper and potentially more destructive level. It may simply be Winter setting in - less daylight making it harder to see bright spots in my work. But the feelings are real. Doubt starts you questioning the whole enterprise. Your abilities, your motivations, even your basic premise all become suspect.

Seated Male Nude, oil pastel, 10" X 9", 2013

Note: I don't feel nearly as bad as the model appears to feel in this drawing.

I think some self doubt is helpful. I have known artists who just plunge ahead with little or no reflection or doubt. I can't say it's good for their work.  The challenge is to not let it bog you down or take over.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Simplicity


This drawing works for me. It does everything a female nude needs to do. It took five minutes and cost me half a million dollars. I will explain in a future post.


Figure Study, oil pastel, 9" X 6", 2012

Friday, December 20, 2013

Male Gaze

I recently came across the term "male gaze". It was used in the context of describing mans motivation for depicting the female nude throughout history. At first I thought what a quaint and simple way of explaining a complex phenomenon. But if pressed I don't think I can come up with a better or more concise explanation. Heterosexual men like to look at naked women.

Reclining Nude, oil on linen, 8 5/8" X17 1/2",  2010

For most men, to deny there isn't at least some sexual undercurrent when viewing a nude woman would not be truthful. To do so would be to deny eight million years of human sexual evolution. But we have to separate these instinctual feelings from the process. When confronted with a female (or male) model in pose my brain quickly goes into work mode. Body parts become shapes and shadows. It's almost impossible to view the work any way but critically.

The role of the nude in art, both male and female, has changed throughout history. In todays digital world we are exposed in print and on line to a tidal wave of overtly sexual images. In my opinion most of it manipulates and denigrates us as human beings. I like to think an "innocent" nude drawn or painted from life elevates our humanity. In some small way it can act as a counterbalance and refuge to a shallow and course world.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Private Sessions

The stereotypical artist/model dynamic is of the virile artist seducing his willing but naive female models. Reading art history one would think all the great painters had affairs with their models. I'm sure many did (and still do) but my guess is the myth exceeds the reality. I can't imagine how, even for a moment, women put up with the misplaced male sexual ego. In a working studio environment the idea of "hitting" on a model is ridiculous.

In the spirit of full disclosure I have had one lengthy affair with a model. This dalliance resulted in two pregnancies. (OK - it's my wife. Sounded good though didn't it?). I always refer to this as the first drawing of our daughter.

Nine Months, pencil, 11" X 7", 1991

have worked from quite a few models over the years. In my private sessions I work with just a handful. My studio is small. The environment and nature of the work are intimate. I would describe a healthy artist/model relationship as one built on trust and respect. For me when a model is in pose they are in charge. If the model isn't comfortable I couldn't possibly do any meaningful work.

I hold the profession of figure model in very high regard. Offering oneself so others can pursue fulfillment is nobel. It's a rare drawing or painting that does justice to any model. They suffer countless bad likenesses on paper and canvas - many by my hand. To me there is dignity in a simple nude - a directness and innocence that's rare in this life.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

First Love

I've always thought of drawing as my first love. As far back as I can remember drawing has been a refuge. It might have something to do with its tactile and intimate nature. Your brain isn't engaged so much as your heart.

During the warm months of 2010 and 2011 I painted outside doing a series of cityscape oils. The process was very public and the subjects complex with ever shifting shadows. By the fall of 2011 I found myself craving solitude and simplicity. I withdrew to the studio and spent six weeks working on three silverpoint drapery studies. How often in life do we get to return to our first love?

Drapery Study, silverpoint on prepared paper, 11" X 9",  2011

Doing these drapery studies was a pure joy. Fabric has long been a favorite subject of mine. Looking at art history I'm not alone. Combining a nude with drapery seems logical.

Nude with Drapery, oil pastel, 11" X 8",  2011

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Fear of Failure 101

I think one of the biggest factors keeping artists from progressing in their work is the fear of failure. For the visual artist failure can cut particularly deep. Ones art is an expression of self. If it doesn't live up to expectations it can hurt on some profound level. But we have to keep things in perspective. When a drawing or painting fails what actually is lost - a few lines on a piece of paper or some dabs of paint on a canvas? I mean really - what is there to be afraid of?

Failed Nude, oil pastel,11 1/2" X 9 1/2", 2012

I dug the top image out of my failure stack of drawings. It may not look too bad in this format but it belongs in that stack. I somehow thought working a two hour pose on a piece of cheep sketch paper was a good idea. I fought the paper the entire time, the paper won. Recognizing and accepting defeat late in the session, I used the last ten minutes to do the sketch below. To me it possesses a life totally lacking in the upper image.

Nude, oil pastel, 5 1/2" X 8", 2012

Every time I step up to the easel or sit with a drawing pad I want to do good work. OK, I want to do great work. That's the goal. But success doesn't lie in fixating on that goal. Success can only be found by working in the moment without expectations of success or fear of failure. My sense of self worth is inextricably tied to my art. But it isn't tied to any single drawing or painting. It is tied to the life devoted to making them.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

It Never Gets Easy

Awhile back at the start of a group session someone asked if drawing the figure ever gets easy. My immediate response was no and if it does you're not trying. Then, of course, I had an engaged and smooth drawing session. "Easy" wouldn't describe it but my lines were confident and the drawing flowed. Sessions like this are rare. Usually there is a struggle involved.

Reclining Nude, oil pastel, 9" X 13", 2012

I like to think I'm always trying to raise the bar. When my work becomes too familiar, or I feel in a rut, I try to mix it up. I'll try a new method or material - something to stay fresh and engaged. My approach is fairly scientific. I try to introduce just one new variable at a time. Progress can sometimes feel slow but even small changes can lead to large complexities. I want to explore these in some depth before moving on.

For me easy means routine. I like routine in the morning making coffee. Routine in my art means boring. Drawing and painting have never been easy for me. When that day comes I'll hang it up.