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.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Painting with a Purpose

With the exception of a few "recovery" years I have been pursuing my art since college. It has always been something I just did. I think I have purposely avoided over analyzing or intellectualizing the process. Some things like art or humor or sex are best just experienced. I have always thought my strongest work comes from the heart and not the head. I was being willfully ignorant.

Nude Study, oil on canvas, 11" X 13", 2007

Working from the live figure forced me to rethink this approach. Out of a desire to get better I began breaking down the process. Analyzing ones approach and making preparations for a new project doesn't have to interfere or diminish the actual process of drawing or painting. It can in fact be very liberating.

A level of spontaneity is built into any live model session. You can't possibly account for all the fluid variables. But before you start a quick sketch or a months long oil you need to have a goal and a plan to get you there. You may toss the plan out with your first brush stroke or pencil line but at least it gives you a starting point.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Still Life Revisited

I have been concentrating on the figure for the last two plus years and have done only one "stand alone" still life painting in that time. My current project is a relatively large and complex female nude. A wooden wine crate found it's way into the picture as a prop. Its sole purpose was to raise the models leg and make the pose more dynamic. As the painting progressed it became clear the crate provided a perfect little stage on which to mount a still life.

Seated Nude (unfinished detail), oil on canvas, 2014

I began pondering subject possibilities and ended up arranging a group of objects that were already playing a role in the painting. Together they satisfied my craving for a good level of complexity and hence difficulty. Alone and relaxed in the studio I zoned in on the setup - just like old times. At this stage of my career still life is not where I want to be. But in the context of a figurative composition I'll gladly make visits.

Many of my favorite artists have included still lifes in their figurative paintings. Manet's Luncheon on the Grass has a wonderful arrangement of clothes and a scattered picnic basket dominating the lower left corner of the composition. I'm sure the naked woman juxtaposed with clothed men commands most viewers attention but what a knockout still life!
Edouard Manet, The Luncheon on the Grass, 1862-1863


Sunday, September 14, 2014

I Can't Get No Satisfaction

My last post discussed the importance of having a strong desire or hunger to make your next work of art better than the last. This is 99% a good thing. I just finished the largest and most ambitious figurative painting I've ever attempted. Work on this venture spanned an eventful eleven month period. Lo and behold I'm pleased with the result, the painting works for me. (I need a little time but expect to devote at least one future post to the picture.) The fact that I actually have something to show for my efforts is particularly gratifying. Leave it to me to find a worm in the apple.

Male Nude, oil pastel, 8 1/2" X 10 1/2", 2014

Before I had even applied the last brush strokes to the painting I found myself contemplating the next project. This is exactly the mindset that pushes one to improve. But something in me wants to stop and appreciate this apparent success, even if just for a moment. Do I dare? Will I lose my momentum? I'm perfectly capable of reveling in my failures but can I allow myself even a brief period of satisfaction?

With my last few paintings I feel like I have reached a particularly lush and flourishing mountain crest. It has been a long hard climb. I'm taking a day or two to pause and enjoy the view. We will see how it goes.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Hunger

Edgar Degas said "You must have an elevated idea ... not of what you do, but of what you can one day do; without this it is not worth the trouble working." To excel at anything you must have a strong desire or hunger to get better. It's not something you can pretend to have. I lost my hunger for still life around 2009. This happened after more than thirty years working in that genre. I hadn't by any means exhausted the possibilities but the drive to explore them faded.

Reclining Figure, oil on linen, 9" X 11", 2007
Collection of Charles Tate

There is the age old adage of the starving artist. I had a period in my life when I wasn't getting enough to eat due to lack of money. This predicament was self inflicted and in large part caused by my obsession with painting. Physical hunger is destructive and debilitating. On the other hand, a psychological hunger for exploration and learning is an uplifting and empowering force.

I haven't yet done the figurative painting or paintings that can quench my appetite. In all likelihood I won't. In a sense I don't want to - it would probably mean stopping painting altogether. But I have little fear of this happening. The human form simply offers too rich and challenging a feast.