Fall 2008 HPAC Studies

John Jacobsen
Friday, November 21, 2008

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Earlier post YABP (Yet Another Blog Platform) southpole

Later post Gouache, and a new system for conquering the world art

This Fall I signed up for the Open Figure Studio at the Hyde Park Art Center. Unlike many figure drawing groups, in these sessions one can use any medium one wants. So, I’ve started painting directly from the model for the first time since the early 1990s.

I have enjoyed the sessions quite a bit. The work dovetails with my renewed interest in painting (as opposed to photography, drawing, comics, 3d-modeling, …).

One thing that’s nice is to work hard on a painting for two and a half hours and then put it aside, rather than working on it for days, years, decades…. Paradoxically, it’s also fun to be able to fail and just let it go (the abject failures aren’t shown here).

It’s also fun to be working with other people around.

Of course, there are always ‘drawing group politics,’ which usually center around lighting. I like to actually be able to see my paintings when I’m working on them. I also don’t particularly care for the spotlight on the model. The following passage from Robert Beverly Hale, ‘Master Class in Figure Drawing,’ explains why:

“… Naturally there are certain conditions of light under which an object will give the clearest presentation of its shape. Skilled artists can create these light conditions even though they do not exist. An accomplished artist is able to create his own light source or sources, disregarding, if he wishes, those which do exist.”

The gist of his argument is that in order to communicate most effectively, you have to light the objects in your work such that it shows the forms in a way which satisfies your intention. For that reason, I prefer to have enough light on the model to see the forms clearly, and then practice varying the light in my drawing subtly or drastically to serve some sort of expressive end. This is more difficult to do with spotlit models, because you have to remove cast shadows, highlights, etc. which are in the wrong place (again, to satisfy your expressive intent).

Others disagree. In some groups, I’ve seen tempers flare. Of late in this group, we have put it to a vote, and we light-lovers have lost.

Another thing I find funny is when people discover that the model has moved (!) slightly and ask him or her to correct it. This is basically impossible for the model to do better than approximately. He or she just winds up moving something else which someone else finds objectionable, etc. The fact is that the model, a human being, moves and your painting doesn’t. What you see at any given time presents information which you use in your work. This is why studying anatomy and drawing from imagination are so important: they teach you how to use the information which the model makes abundant… and dynamic.

The session is still a good time, and good practice, and I’m grateful for it.

Earlier post YABP (Yet Another Blog Platform) southpole

Later post Gouache, and a new system for conquering the world art

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