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.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Missing Parts

In quite a few of my figurative drawings the models are missing body parts. Not the models but the drawings. The reason for this is almost always lack of time. I vividly remember doing the seated nude below. There were just 15 minutes left in the session and I hadn't finished drawing the models braid. It was to be a main element in the drawing. She was going to cut her hair the next day. I hadn't resolved her face but there wash't time to do both. The result is a mouthless figure.

Seated Nude, oil pastel, 15 1/2" X 10 1/2", 2012

One could reasonably ask why not finish at a later time. I do work multiple session drawings but when time runs out it's over. The moment is past. Trying to recreate a setup is nearly impossible and often, as in this case, the model isn't available. Even if you could the mood is lost. The spirit in a drawing exists in its moment of execution. Past attempts to finish or rework live session drawings haven't gone well.

I began the drawing below working on the torso and knee. As the session neared the end I started drawing her mouth hoping to finish her face. Time ran out so I have what appears to be a model with blindfold.
Female Nude Study, oil pastel, 8 1/2" X 8 1/2", 2014

 Let's end with a cyclops nude!

Female Nude Study, oil pastel, 7" X 6 1/2", 2013

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Moving Target

I once read about a student complaining to a teacher during a figure painting class that upon returning form a break the model had moved. The teacher advised the student to "change your painting". While the finished product is stationary the process of working from life in any extended pose involves a moving target. This state of flux is a large part of what makes live sessions so compelling.

In my experience good models can hold really still for about thirty minutes - sometimes longer if the pose isn't too stressful. At some point models and artists need to take breaks. Frequent breaks are best so body parts don't get stressed. Returning to pose things are almost never the same. This is particularly pronounced in multi-day sittings. During a live session you have to be willing to make adjustments in real time.

Nude Study, (day one), oil on canvas, 11" X 10", 2013

Day two

For the above painting I was setting up my pallet when the model got in pose for a second sitting. She captured the original pose but it was obvious her head and top hand were different. She looked very natural and comfortable so rather than try to recreate the original pose I decided to paint it the new way. I can't really say the second pose is better but I like the natural slump of her chin on her hand.

Usually pose shifts aren't so dramatic but sometimes even subtle differences can necessitate making significant changes.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Self-Portraits (Part Two)

One of my favorite figurative paintings happened when I was facing a conundrum. In 2008 I had been working intermittently from the live model for about four years but felt my progress had stopped and was even moving backwards. I decided to do a repeat of a self-portrait I did in 2001. (See January 26th post) I could compare the two and perhaps get an idea what direction I was headed. I decided not to reference the first painting when setting up.

Self-Portrait, oil on linen,  18" X 15",  2008

My conclusion was that I was not being purposeful with my choices. I had been starting paintings without a destination in mind or plans to get there. I was simply going down random blind alleys. This self-portrait cleared away the clutter and put me on a clearer path.

I have said that working from the figure is an indulgence. If this is true then doing a self-portrait is a pure indulgence. Unless one is famous self-portraits have absolutely no commercial value and my guess is very few people have any interest in viewing them. I am, however, becoming acutely aware of how useful they are as a learning tool.

Friday, April 4, 2014


Years ago a friend got his pilots license and took me on a plane ride. Before taking off he went through a detailed check list. People who fly know human beings are fallible. We are capable of overlooking even the most basic and obvious things. You may have flown thousands of hours but you always go through the list.

After a lengthy hiatus I recently returned to The Art League in Alexandria, Virginia. On Wednesdays they host an uninstructed five hour session. When the model was settled in her pose I selected a piece of paper that fit my mood and expectations. I made deliberate decisions regarding page placement of the figure. I started at the top and worked my way down. When I got to the feet later in the session I realized I was out of room. The bottom foot just fit but with no border. OK, so I miscalculated the scale - it's not the first time and won't be the last - no big deal.

Female Nude, oil pastel, 10" X 11 1/2",  2014

It wasn't until I got back to my studio and taped the drawing on the wall that I realized my oversight. The piece of paper I had chosen was a rectangle. I placed it on my drawing board horizontally. The pose obviously called for a vertical composition. Had I simply rotated the paper 90 degrees there would have been plenty of room. (Thinking back I felt "off" the entire session. I suspect my wrong way paper contributed to this sense of unease).

So now at the age of 62 I'm starting a preflight checklist. My list will consist of a series of questions: #1. What direction does the paper go?