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, January 31, 2015

Success

I once read of a painting teacher telling his students "Never try to repeat a success". Say what? In what other facet of life would you even entertain such a suggestion? In virtually all endeavors common sense tells us to repeat our successes. However, when I first read this advice I knew exactly what the teacher meant. Repetition can be deadly in ones art. Searching for a path to success is the goal but you stop growing by simply replicating a successful formula .

Staying on topic there are a several of my early nudes and four self portraits reflected in the still life below.

Still Life, oil on linen, 19" X  23", 2006

I am not capable of endlessly repeating paintings I find "successful". I get bored when not experimenting. I have a loose "rule of three". If I hit on a subject that I enjoy exploring and produce an image that "works" I'll try a couple more.  One to see if the first was merely an accident and another to confirm my conclusion. The still life above was the third, and my favorite, of four paintings that prominently featured reflective surfaces.

Over the years I have broken this rule many times notably with peaches and magnolia blossoms.  Due to a high level of difficulty and complexity I think the figure demands a new rule. Perhaps a rule of 300.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Foreshortening

I have previously mentioned how much I enjoy foreshortened angles. In group settings most models position their poses to appeal to the main working center of the room. For me a full reclining pose often feels too elongated and spread out. So, I tend to seek out head or foot views. I like the inherent compactness and difficulty level these angles offer.

Reclining Nude, oil pastel on toned paper, 7 1/2" X 11 1/2", 2012

When confronted with a foreshortened pose beginning art students often elongate the figure. They are working from their preconceptions of what the figure looks like. You have to suspend these notions and trust what the pose actually offers you. My mantra has long been draw what is actually there, draw what you see.

Reclining Nude, oil pastel, 7" X 10", 2013

I have seen elaborate mechanical setups designed to aid artists in rendering the foreshortened figure. They often involve a grid superimposed over the model to orient body parts in their proper places. Such methods can be useful learning tools but ultimately there is a lot of intuition involved. You have to exaggerate the foreground and diminish the figure as it recedes in space. I don't have any hard rules regarding foreshortening, when it works it just "feels" right.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Zero to Sixty

After a six week break from painting the figure I made the trek to Alexandria, VA to attend a five hour session at the Art League. I had my pallet mixed and ready to go at the10:00 starting time. The model was forty minutes late, snow issues or something. Often in these cases someone from the group will step up and pose for some warmups. No one seemed inclined so we mulled around chatting waiting for the model. Her arrival involved a quick entrance and getting right into pose. No warmups, no adjusting the setup or lights, just right into pose.

Seated Nude, oil on canvas, 16" X 12". 2015

When a model gets set I usually take a couple of minutes to assess my approach. But the late start gripped me with a sense of urgency. I had to get up to speed fast. The first hour and a half were quite nerve-racking. I didn't calm down and feel in sync until after the lunch break.

It felt good to be facing a model with a brush in my hand instead of a pencil. The first moments approaching a blank canvas are always fraught with anticipation, excitement and often a dash of fear. This session was a shock re-entry and didn't disappoint.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Painter/Teacher

With a couple of brief exceptions I have avoided teaching art. Being a good teacher involves a great deal of selflessness. A students interests have to come first. I have a very difficult time not focusing on my own work. Also, how can I possibly teach something I am still in the process of learning?

Figure Study, oil pastel, 9 1/4" X 8 1/4", 2012

Too often students want a teacher to be an authority figure. Someone to "tell" them how to draw or paint. The best I can do is show others how I approach a blank page or canvas. But I don't think the way I draw or paint is the way anyone else should. My working methods and style have developed over many years and are unique to me.

I'm not for a moment trying to minimize the value of a good teacher. I did after all have a college professor show me how to see, no small thing. I had teachers who's passion for art conveyed directly to me. I learned the vocabulary of art in school. Ultimately, however, the only way to learn how to draw or paint is by drawing and painting. Discovering ones exceptionalness and developing a personal style is the challenge and where fulfillment lies.