The next step

I have worked from the live nude periodically since the early 1970's. This blog started 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, May 30, 2014

Big Game Hunting

Surfing the internet I came across a photographers portfolio that contained dozens of black and white studio interiors taken in New York City in the 1950's. All are of male artists posed "working" from their nude female models. The men are all middle aged and the women are all relatively young and attractive. Before photography male artists often painted studio interiors of themselves with their naked models. This genre is still common. I think these pictures document some sort of male conquest.

One could argue that all nude images of women done by men are spoils for the male ego. But putting oneself in the picture takes it to another level. While I understand the motivation I'm not comfortable with the idea of the "trophy" studio picture. For me it invades a privacy I value in an artist/model relationship.

Reclining Nude, oil pastel, 7 1/4" X 10 3/4",  2011

Years ago in a thrift shop I came across a turn of the 20th century photo. I still kick myself for not buying it. It featured a young women standing naked in front of a large group of young men all dressed in suits and ties. The room interior made it obvious this was a figure model surrounded by art students. I was struck by her smile. It was confident and contemporary. The tables were turned - model standing triumphant.

Maybe someday I'll want a big game hunter shot of myself with a model. In the meantime I'm satisfied to stay behind the easel.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

High Tech/No Tech

I took the Amtrak train home after a recent Art League figure session. Walking down the isle of my car I was struck by the number of people using some sort of high tech device. Well over half of the passengers, both children and adults, were off in some technology enabled world. Most were just passing time on a long train ride but I think too much of our modern lives are removed from real life. I spent the time looking out the window and working on a crossword.

Seated Nude, oil pastel, 9" X 11", 2014

I got to talking with the model in the above drawing during a break. In addition to figure modeling she is an actress and was rehearsing for two plays as part of a local theater company. What a wonderful reality based life she has. I have had the good fortune of attending several plays in recent months. At live theater there is a direct bond between actors and audience. Same goes for figure drawing. It is gratifying that both these disciplines are surviving in the midst of our increasingly technological age.

I am convinced that "real life" experiences are becoming more important not less as technology advances. Film didn't kill live theater. Photography didn't kill drawing or painting. They survive as necessary reminders of what it means to be human.



Monday, May 12, 2014

Healing

I have long been aware of the healing power of art. I often refer to my drawing and painting as therapy. Therapy for what I'm sometimes not sure but intuitively I know it helps keep me grounded.  When doing art you go into a zone - a place in your brain that responds to exercise just like your muscles. Getting to that place is often difficult but the residual effect is usually a sense of well-being.

Our weekly drawing group recently suffered a tragedy. A members spouse died unexpectedly. We can only imagine the grief she and her family are going through but all the Monday night model draw regulars feel the loss. The hurt and sense of helplessness can seem unbearable. I've been feeling numb and disoriented. You try to keep busy but the pain keeps coming back.

Searching for some relief I turned my attention to the self portrait I have been working on for some time. I mixed my pallet and set to work. Hours later with fading light and aching legs I came back to reality. I was aware of having been completely focused the entire session and remember crying during a break. I don't know if the painting was any good but the therapy was.

Sun Flowers, oil on linen, 16" X 14", 2007

Of course there is no simple or quick resolution to loss. Only the passage of time and human interaction can bring any lasting healing. In the meantime art can be a good place to find some solace.


Monday, May 5, 2014

Perfection

Looking back at my early watercolor and drawing days I now see that I was striving for perfection. A slow buildup of layers culminating with a "perfect" image. I was never successful in this quest. No matter how long or hard I worked the finished product always came up short. When I started painting in oils and later focusing on the figure this mindset vanished. Now I would much rather a painting be dynamic and confidently executed than perfect.

Male Nude Study, oil on canvas, 8" X 10", 2008

Imperfections are of little importance in quick drawings or oil studies. The two paintings depicted here were completed during single sessions. I'm sure I could come up with a list of things wrong but I have no desire to. Both paintings possess a directness I value.

Seated Nude, oil on canvas 12" X 10", 2013

In spite of my best efforts all of my longer term paintings have flaws, sometime glaring ones. I have reached a point where I almost relish the imperfections - they add a certain level of interest. Often the energy in a work can vanish when I find myself fussing over small details.