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.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Forcing It

In the best of worlds "working" a painting involves a positive energy that flows naturally. A quiet confidence dominates the process. Such was the case with the portrait below. That's not to say problems don't materialize but solutions come readily. This is the optimal way to paint and dare I say to go through life. Of course in the real world this state of harmony can not be maintained indefinitely. Working a painting can easily devolve into "forcing" a painting.

Molly, oil on linen, 13" X 11", 2009
Collection of Neva Trenis

Forced energy is negative energy. I've started asking a couple of questions when I feel work on a painting becoming forced: 1. Is the working process satisfying or am I just going through the motions? 2. Am I learning anything new or simply repeating old mistakes in new ways? If I can answer one of these questions positively I'm inclined to continue. If not I need to put the project aside, at least temporarily, and move on.

As the year comes to an end I find myself facing a similar issue with this blog. My path ahead with the figure isn't clear. Hence my focus on these posts has muddled. I'll stay on board as long as the writing is enjoyable and topics continue to flow.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Quality Time

I won't be hiring any models this winter. My studio has some heat issues so any private sessions with the nude will have to wait until spring. Nature has presented me with what is probably a needed break from the figure. To stay occupied and focused I am working on a life sized trompe loeil oil of a shirt. What appears simple at first glance is in fact quite complex.
Shirt, day two

My brush strokes the first couple of painting sessions were confident and energetic. But as the picture progressed I found myself becoming increasingly hesitant and deliberate. Without the urgency of a live model it is easy to settle into an uninspired comfort zone. Painting in this manner can be counterproductive and actually drain energy from a work.

Shirt, week two

The spirit with which one works transfers directly into the work. A short vibrant painting session is preferable to a long half-hearted one. This is an important distinction. At 63 I am keenly aware that the energy available for any given task is finite. I no longer have the perspective or advantage of youth where time is seemingly limitless and expended vigor is readily replenished.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Burning Ember

I know an artist who gets up early every morning, writes in a journal and then works on his art before going to a full time job. He has been doing this for many years without any apparent break. I greatly admire his consistency and dedication. I, on the other hand, have extended periods when I'm "hot" that are inevitably followed by cold spells. My work seems to be inextricably linked to lifes ups and downs.

During these cool periods I can feel detached not just from my art but from life in general. I'm not sure which is the cause and which is the effect. If this goes on too long I try to work on something - anything - to keep at least a faint ember burning.

 Nude study from drawing, oil on canvas, 9" X 8", 2012

Back in 2012 during an extended slump I decided to do some oil studies. I wasn't up to any live model sessions so I used some drawings as source material. I was just trying to stay loose and keep an "edge on", practicing scales you might say. Working in this manner was very liberating. There was no time constraint with a model and absolutely no expectation of "success". Staying engaged in some way can help you be ready when, hopefully, the ember reignites.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Poses involving more than a small amount of muscle tension are hard to hold. As a result, with the exception of quick gestures, most models rarely attempt them. In recent years I have been fortunate to work with some excellent models who have made tension filled poses part of their repertoires. One male model often uses a rope to support his more dynamic efforts.

Figure Study, oil pastel, 11" X 9", 2014

Another has perfected what appear to be very stressful stances. By focusing on not so obvious stress points he can hold poses like the one below for a half hour or longer. Beyond pushing the models physical limits these poses also challenge the comfort zones of the artists trying to capture them.

Figure study, oil pastel on toned paper, 9" X 10 1/2", 2014

Achieving a dynamic pose doesn't have to involve ropes and straining muscles. Just a simple twist or turn can create subtle but effective tension.

Nude Study, oil on canvas, 9" X 12", 2013