Friday, November 25, 2016

The Model Room

Students spend 3 hours in the model room every day of class. The model room is a large space with concrete floors, neutral colored walls, and natural light from north-facing windows. We work in silence with breaks every 20 minutes for the model. 
Each of the images below represent the work of one day. These drawings were preparatory drawings for a long (5 week) drawing in charcoal. 
Day 1: Day 2: Day 3:

These drawings show the development of visual understanding of the pose. The first drawing is stiffer and more general in comparison with the third which is more expressive and specific. Each day of drawing is a kind of visual exploration. 
I enjoy this kind of work because it helps me to see more, and that process of seeing more is by nature contemplative. By contemplative, I mean receptive of what is present. Period. In one sense, art is about making things - transforming existing materials into new things. It is an active activity. In another sense, art is about receiving what is present without trying to change it. It is about going deeper, going beneath the surface of things, or going beyond the first impression. 
Most people have two arms and two legs, a head, and a torso. These are ordinary, horribly ordinary things. But, I once heard a teacher refer to the "drama" of a particular intersection in the body, and when she said it, I could see it. Light and dark and tension and resolution and harmony and unity - all the things that make up drama. And this, all this, is usually hidden under our clothes. Seriously, what a metaphor! If we could see for real all the time, it would blow our minds. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Arm of Moses as Seen by My Little Girl

Don't tell my classmates, but I kind of like Bargues (copying exercises). Back to animal shapes: I wrote about this a few weeks ago, but I've got more to say. So, one way of breaking down an image and understanding it visually is to find shapes within it - kind of like finding shapes in clouds. "This one looks like an elephant... that one looks like a baby..." This week, I was working on my new Bargue drawing, Mose's Arm from Michelango's famous Moses on Julius II's tomb. I was working my way down the arm, blocking things in using the "seeing shapes" technique. Actually, I was seeing animals. And, I had a flashback. I remembered the downstairs bathroom floor in my childhood home. When I was a little girl, I used to sit there and look and the linoleum and see shapes and creatures and animals. They all had stories. There was the guy with the club. There was Our Lady. I couldn't look at that floor without seeing all kinds of things in it. I thought that was pretty cool - connecting with young part of me and being able to bring it into this new process that I'm learning as an adult. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Copy of a Copy of a Copy. But, why?

This past week, I finished my first Bargue. A Bargue drawing is an exercise that involves making an as-exact-as-possible pencil copy of one of a series of drawings by a guy named Charles Bargue who lived back in the 1800's. Bargue did a series of drawings of casts of parts of famous sculptures. So, right now, I am working on a Bargue of Mose's arm from Michelangelo's Moses. My recently completed Bargue is of a hand holding a whetstone, but I can't figure out what the original sculpture was.
So, what is the point of this copy of copy of a copy? (Original, cast, Bargue copy, my copy). You've heard the saying, "Its not about the destination, it's about the journey."? Well, it is. It's about the journey. There is a whole process to making the copy that is designed to help an artist learn to see. And see what? Contour lines, shapes of shadows, form turning in space, shapes of half-tones (the grey areas), overlaps, relationships between all of the above, and the list goes on. All of the things I learn while making the Bargue, I then take with me into the model room where I apply them to human figure drawing. And, human figure drawing is also a didactic exercise, the lessons from which I can then apply to future artwork.
Lots of exercises. It's all preparation. Funny thing is that it is easy to get lost in the exercise - and not in a bad way. Even if the main purpose of the copying exercise is to teach me to draw, that does not mean that the product is not also beautiful in a particular way. I have a great affection for my Bargue. I could sculpt the form in space of the 2-dimensional image I drew, and I would know every curve. I have to say that I am much more at peace now than I used to be about things being both exercise and end in themselves. I remember my mother saying that in college she thought that a person gets an education to do something and then they finish the education and then they go off and do it. End of story. But, now she knows that the learning part really goes on forever. (Something like that. Sorry, Mom, if I messed up your words.) So, one of the things that I've learned from doing my first Bargue is that I *really like* representational drawing. It's fascinating and challenging and fun. So, that tells me something about the direction I might want to go, and since fleshing out that direction is part of the point of this blog, I'd say that's a good thing.
Signing off for another week. Thanks for reading. Go out there and see Beauty today.
Hand with Whetstone, Copy of a Cast Drawing by Charles Bargue

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Mucking Around with Watercolors

Week five of the first trimester at the Florence Academy of Art is done, and I'm tired. This is a lot of drawing. So, Thursday night, I cut loose a bit and took advantage of the fact that full-time students are allowed to attend part-time figure class and pretty much do whatever we want.
So, here's my recreation: watercolor sketches. It's my attempt to bring some of my own heart in to the stuff I've been learning. In this case, my "heart" is pretty much represented by the fact that I enjoy watercolor. Heck, I enjoy color, period. Down with pencils!
OK, rant done. Bring on week six.