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.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Learning to See

When riding a bicycle I practice an important survival technique - ride like you are invisible. Drivers can look right at you and not see you. Looking at something and seeing it are two different things.

The most valuable lesson I took from art school was learning to see. To get into the art program at California State University, Long Beach students were required to pass a portfolio review. I had been drawing since childhood so my portfolio consisted of a collection of what I thought were my best drawings. They got me into the program but it wasn't until a beginning drawing class that I realized I had been drawing without really seeing.

Male Nude Study, oil pastel, 9" X 8 1/2", 2014

The class was working from different still life setups around the room. I was dutifully drawing from one when the teacher sat down next to me with his drawing pad. I watched as he began a simple line drawing focusing on a small section of my setup. He was carefully observing shapes and angles and reproducing them on his paper. I had been doing a version of this but only an approximation. In that brief lesson a lightbulb came on for me that permanently changed the way I see things.

The teachers name was Orval Dillingham. I'm sure he is long gone. I never properly thanked him. Wish I had.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Are We Having Fun Yet?

So I'm heading out the door for a figure painting session and my wife says "have fun". I realize this is just a happy send-off but it got me thinking on the walk to the studio. With occasional exceptions I can't honestly describe painting from the live figure as being "fun". The process is just too complex and difficult, harder than any other subject I've tried. I'm afraid that in striving to produce quality figurative work a seriousness has pervaded my art.

Nooo, oil on canvas, 10" X 8", 2009
Collection of Patrick O'Conner

Painting still lifes has always been a joyful experience. Except when working from flowers or perishable items, any problems can be dealt with over relaxed extended time frames. It wouldn't be a stretch to call painting cityscapes outdoors fun. Weather and shifting light are the biggest hurdles but the work environment is open and exhilarating.

The figure is an entirely different animal. I'm humbled by what I don't know. Technical matters have always dominated my learning process. But I am slowly coming to the realization that ones working attitude also matters. The question is can I do the figurative paintings I aspire to with a lighter mood? My hunch is that I can and in fact it would be a big plus. So I'm making a conscious effort to relax and focus on the inherent joy in the process - within limits of course.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Self-Portraits (Part Three)

Re-reading a book after a number of years can be very illuminating. You bring your current perspective on life to a familiar story. This has proven to be the case with my latest self-portrait. Six years have passed since my last attempt. I am literally and figuratively in a very different place. This was the project I chose to christen my new studio. The painting looks passable reproduced here but has some serious problems in the flesh (no pun intended). I will credit this painting with giving me new insights into my current figurative work and sharply steepening my learning curve.

Self Portrait, oil on canvas, 28" X 22 3/4", 2014

I have been hiring private models for 10 years. Until starting this painting I hadn't fully realized how much pressure I feel in those sessions. Most of it stems from issues of time and money. There is always a finite amount of both. In addition work schedules have to accommodate a models availability. Using oneself as a subject alleviates all these issues. Pose selection is limited but the timing and length of sessions is totally in your control. The only cost is time and perhaps a deflated ego.

Holding still and staring at oneself in a mirror for hours gets tiring. I'm fairly certain I won't need to read this book again for quite some time.