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.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Nuance

This figure study has avoided my discard pile multiple times. I like the strong shadow. But it is the bent finger of the upper hand that keeps it in my collection. I had a long comfortable working relationship with the model. She was a professional. Starting the drawing I could be confident of her being aware of and holding this subtle nuance.


Nude Withe Shadow, oil pastel on toned paper, 9" X 9", 2012



Saturday, July 1, 2017

Influences

Other than one assignment in a beginning painting class in college I haven't copied other artists work. As a learning tool I can see the value of copying. There is a market for "copy artists" doing reproductions of famous paintings. But duplicating others work for knowledge or profit has never appealed to me.

Still Life, oil on linen, 14" X 11", 2001

Just because I don't copy other artists doesn't mean I'm not influenced by them. Sometime after completing the above painting I started affectionately calling it "my Chardin" in reference to the eighteenth century French painter. There is no tangible basis for making this connection. I wasn't referencing or thinking of Chardin while painting it. For me there is just some mystical link. Over the years I have sensed the subconscious influences of many artist in my work.

Jean-Baptiste-Simon Chardin
Goblet,Apples,Pear and Two Bottles, 1750


Friday, June 23, 2017

Wasted Time

I made three separate starts at this figure study. The first failed attempt involved poor paper selection. The second try had page placement issues and fell to the eraser. It would be easy to call forty minutes of false starts wasted time. But any drawing or painting is ultimately the sum of the entire process that led to its creation. This drawing would not exist without the early miscues.

Standing Male Nude, oil pastel, 14" X 9", 2017


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Drawing

Like almost everyone I started drawing as a young child. By second grade I was aware of an ability and have been at it ever since (see December 10th, 2013 post). Too many artists abandon drawing as they graduate to painting or other art forms. I have found keeping a drawing regimen and even focusing exclusively on the discipline periodically to be very helpful and rewarding.

Female Nude Study, oil pastel on toned paper
10 1/2"  X 7 1/2", 2017


Saturday, June 3, 2017

Arrogance

In order to produce solid figurative drawings it is important to work with confidence. Timid hesitant lines don't play well. Problems can arise when a confident working method leads to arrogance regarding ones broader artistic abilities. At various times in my life I have entertained the idea that I'm pretty good at this art thing. Drawing from the live figure has always let me know that there is ample room for improvement.

Female Nude, oil pastel, 9" X 5", 2014


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Old Enough

I have long expected that my best female nudes will happen when I reach an age where the inherent sexuality of the female form ceases to be a bother. I'm still waiting.


Standing Nude, oil pastel, 13" X 8", 2017


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Portraits

While an art student in college I was approached by a gentleman with an offer of a summer job drawing tourist portraits at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. He must have been scouting art programs and seen something in my figurative work that would be suitable to that task. My recollection of the exchange is fuzzy but without much thought I turned him down. Should I have regrets regarding that hasty decision?

Livia, oil pastel, 13" X 11", 2017

I certainly passed up a life broadening experience and a fun resume entry. Doing scores of quick studies would have left me with an efficient working method regarding portraiture. Therein lies the problem - to this day I shun formulaic approaches to art. Somehow, I am quite content stumbling and feeling my way through each new drawing.


Monday, May 1, 2017

The Pinup Nude

Having focused on the figure for a number of years I feel comfortable calling myself a student of the art nude. The broad category encompasses a multitude of subjects and intents. One category, however, dominates the genre. I will generalize and call it the "pinup nude". These pictures always depict an idealized female model posed seductively with the intent of eliciting a sexual response in a male viewer.

Seated Nude, oil on linen, 20" X 16", 2012

I have no objection to pinup nudes. Many excellent artist/illustrators have specialized in them. From a feminist perspective a legitimate argument can be made that they objectify and unrealistically portray the female form.

Viewing my body of figurative work it is clear that I am not drawn to this style of nude. My personal favorites include a variety of body types of both sexes. What I'm striving for when approaching a nude (or any painting for that matter) is simple honesty.


Friday, April 21, 2017

Hobby Artist Revisited

Awhile back I revealed that I had begun referring to myself as a "hobby" artist as opposed to a "professional" artist (see October 6th and 16th, 2016 posts). The main reason for doing so was to simplify the tax paperwork involved in the enterprise of keeping a studio and selling art. My main takeaway was that labels were of little importance. But now I have decided on a more fitting designation.

Seated Nude, oil pastel, 8 1/2" X 8", 2011

Henceforth I shall answer to "student" artist. More than any title this captures my true circumstances both past and present. The Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in drawing and painting I earned in 1976 was the beginning, not the end of my studies.



Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Long Pose

For me there has always been a certain level of anxiety associated with working from the live figure. This unease has always primarily been performance based. The fear being that a drawing or painting won't be up to par. This insecurity never entirely goes away but now my main apprehension is time based - specifically that there won't be enough of it.

Portrait Study, oil pastel, 9" X 7", 2017

Nude Study, oil pastel on toned paper, 12" X 9", 2017

I did these two drawings last week at the Art League in Alexandria, Virginia. The five hour session features a single pose. It would be hard to overstate the calming effect of having an adequate block of time with which to work.



Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Invisible

I once read an article by a man who was well into his 90's. He was a writer and had led, in fact was still leading, an interesting and full life. The tone of his article wasn't angry or bitter he was simply relating his situation as an nonagenarian. Most individuals and indeed society as a whole had ceased paying any attention to him. In his daily life, at parties or with his writing he had become invisible.

Seated Nude, oil pastel on toned paper, 7" X 7", 2012

This eventuality is all too familiar to a visual artist. For most of us being ignored isn't something new. In lock step with our broader culture the art world skews toward youth. Persevering in the face of this truth can be a challenge.


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sincerity

Back when money was tight I developed the habit of buying paintings in thrift stores solely for their stretchers. Usually a complete stretcher frame could be had for less than the price of just one side in an art supply store. To this day I continue the practice because the wood of older stretchers is superior to that of newly milled versions.

Thrift Store Painting, (signed B. Embrey?), 14" X 18", date unknown

Thrift Store Painting, (signed Francena),
24" X 28", date unknown

Removing a canvas from its support is easy but sometimes disposing of the artwork is not. Every so often there is a sincerity to the artist's effort that connects with me as a painter. Throwing these honest attempts away just doesn't seem right. So I now have a growing art collection stapled to the walls in a back room of my studio. In the long run it will probably prove more valuable than my combined efforts.


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Nothing to Prove?

Age? Maturity? Cynicism?  For whatever reason I have ceased to care how others judge my work. Outside recognition or approval was always at best a secondary consideration but now it barely registers. That's not to say I don't value people's opinions but I simply no longer feel the need to publicly prove anything with my art.

Portrait Study, oil pastel on toned paper, 9 1/2" X 7 1/2", 2017

With external judgments off the table something more fundamental comes into play. To the extent that art is a manifestation of ones emotions I still have something to prove - if only to myself.


Friday, February 24, 2017

Approaches

Booking a model for a private session last month I discovered that May of 2016 was the last time I had painted from the live figure. I had drawn from the nude frequently but hadn't mixed a flesh pallet and put it to canvas in nearly eight months. Some serious brushing up was in order.

Female Nude, oil on linen, 5 3/8" X 5 3/8", 2017

There are certain rules and protocols that apply to all painting. However, in my experience different subject groups require different approaches. Still life, cityscape or nude all require different pallet and mental preparations. Returning to the figure after this break it took me a couple of tries to get my bearings.


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Flurries

Shopping at the supermarket recently I ran into the husband of a local painter I haven't seen for awhile. After exchanging pleasantries I enquired about how she is doing. He said she was painting up a storm probably like I was. After a pregnant pause I explained that I wasn't painting up a storm at all. An occasional flurry perhaps but in no way could my current painting activity be called a storm.

Female Nude, oil pastel on toned paper
9 1/2" X 6", 2012

Right now I'm painting in small bursts. Perhaps at some point in the future these little squalls will form into a category four hurricane. But for now I will have to be content with a calmer weather pattern.


Thursday, February 2, 2017

As Good As It Gets

In the 1990's the BBC produced an art history series featuring a Roman Catholic nun named Sister Wendy Beckett. Standing in front of iconic works of art she would make insightful and often unconventional observations. In one episode Sister Wendy descended into a cave to discuss some of the earliest known paintings. I recall her saying that the art of humankind never got any better than those Paleolithic age paintings - just different. What a broad bold statement considering the masterpieces created through the ages. Instinctively I knew what she meant.

Male Profile, oil pastel on toned paper, 7 1/2" X 5 1/2", 2012

The urge to improve has always been a powerful motivating force in my art. When starting a new drawing or painting my hope and intention has always been that it will be better than any previous attempts. But now, closer to the end of my career than the beginning, it is clear that I will never "better" certain early works. The best I can hope for is that my new work will simply be different.


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Double Trouble

One of our veteran models arranged for a second model to be present at a recent Fredericksburg Figure Drawing session. For most of the attending artists it was their first time drawing multiple figures. Impressively no one appeared to be the least bit intimidated. The majority did solid drawings that included both figures.

Two Models, oil pastel on toned paper, 12" X 14", 2016

I have only vague memories of my early attempts at two models but clearly recall they did not go well. For the longest time I was convinced that one figure at a time was quite enough. It took the jolt of three models to shake me from this complacancy (see September 28, 2013 post).

On the technical side having two bodies occupying the stage is a good exercise in spacial relationships. When it is one of each sex there is the added interest of the soft curves of the female form contrasting with the more angular shapes of the male figure. All this before we even address the social and psychological ramifications multiple figures present. Oh my goodness.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Creative Spirit

I would say that all the art and inventions of humankind are products of a creative spirit. As a painter I have long been aware of this powerful force and have discussed it multiple times in this blog. A creative fever recently caught me in a realm unrelated to painting or drawing. It came on unexpectedly and involved sticks - lots and lots of sticks.

Abstract, Mulberry branches and sisal twine, 79" X 107" X 52", 2016

Trimming trees this fall in my small urban back yard I found myself in possession of a plethora of branches and twigs. In the past I have constructed small wattle accent fences with this harvest but somehow this years abundance called for more. What transpired was an enjoyable two week period that resulted in three sculptures. The airy abstract above was the first and my favorite of the group. The urge to work with sticks passed as quickly as it had come. Now it is up to mother nature to reclaim my inventions.


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Painters High

Runners high - that feeling of euphoria long distance runners get during and after a run. The jury is still out regarding its actual cause but as a former runner I can attest to its existence. With the winter blues stalking me I have become acutely aware that painting and drawing produce a similar effect. Lets call it a "painters high" (drawers high doesn't sound right). Furthermore, working from the live figure produces the most potent and longest lasting high.

Female Nude, oil on linen, 6" X 6", 2017

I have long referred to drawing and painting as "my therapy". I'm not imagining things. There is an entire field of medicine devoted to art as a healing tool. One can obtain a masters degree in art therapy. There is even an American Art Therapy Association. The simple act of putting pencil to paper or paint to canvas is unquestionably good for ones body and soul.