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.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Good Vibrations

Vinyl records are making a comeback. According to Harper's Magazine sales have gone up 2,590% since 1993. People are rediscovering the authenticity and complexity of the sound. Sound waves cut into a master disc capture the physical vibrations of a moment. Working from the live model shares something with this old recording technique. In a life situation an artist captures impressions of a moment. There are no separating steps or technologies. You are drawing from the source not copying from one format to another.

Male Nude, oil on linen, 14" X 12", 2015

Analog recording never entirely went away but it survived only as a small subculture within the music industry. The discipline of life drawing and painting has a long history but currently survives as a minor movement in the cacophony of the contemporary art world.

From my narrow vantage point I can't say if live figurative work is experiencing a resurgence. Most large cities have long running live model venues. In my smallish town, over the thirty some years I'm aware of, figure groups have formed and dissolved multiple times. Working from life is a very challenging art form and that, as much as anything, will keep it rarefied. Still, there is nothing like the authenticity and complexity of working from a live model.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Overreach

In a post awhile back I featured a painting that in hindsight I called an "overreach" (see August 27, 2014). Even though the painting was ultimately unsuccessful I don't regret doing it. It is important to venture beyond ones competence zone occasionally. Frustration can set in if you work there too often but only by periodically overreaching can you develop as a painter.

During a visit last summer to The National Gallery in Washington, D.C. I had the good fortune of seeing one of Titians' versions of Danae. The painting emitted an unmistakable power. As a painter I was both humbled and inspired in its presence. I savored my time in front of the picture.

Titian, Danae, oil on canvas, 1544-1545
Capodimonte Museum, Naples

My studio is strewn with unsuccessful paintings. The reasons for failure are varied but I now see that too few failed from aiming too high. Most are minor in scale and intent. Will I ever do a painting that even approaches a Danae? Of course not. But a painting like Danae dangles in front of me like a big sweet carrot on a string. I hope I still have what it takes to keep reaching for it.


Monday, February 16, 2015

Repeating Myself

This post is addressed to the handful of people who visit this blog on any regular basis. Let it serve as a pre-apology and an acknowledgement that at some point I will begin repeating myself (if I haven't already). As I compose these entries I increasingly find myself scrolling through old posts to make sure I'm not saying the same thing just in a different context. Posting roughly once a week for a year and a half I am afraid it is inevitable.

Female Nude, oil pastel on toned paper, 6 1/2" X 9 1/2", 2013

I love working from the live figure and haven't by any means tired of investigating the topic. But there can only be a finite number of distinct areas to explore. As this blog proceeds I see myself dissecting broad issues into smaller and more subtle subsections. So I will try my best to not say exactly the same thing. Forgive me if (when?) I do.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

One of The Coolest Things Ever

If one is exposed to extraordinary circumstances often enough they can start to seem commonplace. Working from the live figure as long as I have it is easy to become desensitized and take time with a model for granted. Every now and then my head clears and I'm reminded how remarkable these moments are.

Seated Nude, oil pastel on toned paper, 10" X 8", 2014

In what other realm can you uninhibitedly stare at a naked person? No guilt, shame or other societal taboos. In fact it is your purpose to stare. Stare as intently as possible and try to capture some relevant essence of the individual baring it all in front of you. The viewer of the resulting image is then afforded the same privilege. Working from the live nude is one of the coolest things ever.