Figure drawing sessions are back on at Figureworks after the late summer hiatus. Randall Harris books great models in his home-like gallery space. Each session has eighteen poses ranging from two minutes to twenty minutes, an ideal range for me to try out different approaches in my ongoing core practice of studying nature, energy, and expression through the human body and the act of seeing and drawing. Our models for the first two sessions of the season were Colin and Susannah, both of them tall and strong, with long limbs and elegantly curved bones and muscles. All drawings in this post are from those two sessions at Figureworks Gallery.
I think of drawing as closer to sculpture than to painting. The eyes are the organs of touch at a distance. With light and shadow I feel the form, and my markings are the strikes of the chisel and the strokes of the rasp, carving a form out of the block of paper.
The sculptor’s model and work are on rotating platforms, to check from all sides. Of course I don’t do that in a 20-minute pose, but the light striking the subject from different angles has different colors and qualities. By differentiating these various lights and by observing how they fall across the contours of the figure, the form emerges in apparent depth.
A ten minute pose is just enough time to “rough in” the form of the body, its major curves and its relation to the airy space surrounding it.
The major curves are cut with swoops and swerves, the subtler undulations suggested with scrubbing scribbles.
Form is energy, and it is the movement of the drawing hand that captures this energy. There is a pattern of energy that causes matter to grow into the intricate form of a living body, to animate it with tides of breath and streams of blood and electricity of sense and impulse.
The body contains the fire of creation, the dust of stars, the salt of the ocean, and all the memories of life’s evolution.
A living being is a bubble that rises from the sea of potentiality, floats free for a moment or a century, then falls to merge again into that sea.
Earth is our cradle and our crucible. We grow out of it, walk upon it, and return into it. We make our Eden or our Hell of it.
The body is a tube, and what passes through that tube is transformed into animal life. The consciousness is also a tube, and what passes through it becomes a person.
The mind goes on these philosophical journeys while drawing a ten or twenty-minute pose. Through the human body I contemplate the nobility and the fragility of being human.
These are just sketches on paper, ephemera of an artist’s practice, but while making them I think of them as towering monuments, heroic statues to tell the beings of the future: we were here, this we saw, this we made.
The drawings on gray paper are 18″ x 24″. The ones on white paper are from an 11″ x 14″ sketchbook. Drawings are made with watercolor and gouache, aquarelle crayons, or a combination of those media. All images in this post made September, 2012, in open figure drawing sessions at Figureworks Gallery, Brooklyn, New York.