Out of the Classroom

In the Hall
Ball Point Pen on Paper, 8.5×5.5″
I took my life drawing class out of the classroom last week to work more on completing the pictorial space and observe the quality of the light.  This hallway has a wall of windows that looks out on an enclosed sculpture garden. You can see a portion of a larger than life sized female nude just to the left of our model. I thought the contrast was a bit amusing. We can have nude sculpture but if I put a nude model in the hall I’d probably cause a riot and be fired. My next post will have a second effort with a much better likeness of our model.
I had been hoping the weather would be warm enough to go outside but it has been raining incessantly. We have had one of the rainiest Aprils on record. I thought it was time to start building an ark. Today, at long last, the sun has broken out to warm the day to 56ºF. It seems a little warmer just because of the sunshine. It is nearly May and it doesn’t seem like spring. It has been that cold. Normal temperatures for this time of year are usually about 10ºF warmer. I’m going to the garden shop this afternoon to buy my plants for my deck garden this summer. I can’t wait for some warmth and I want to be ready when the weather turns around.

T F m
April 29, 2011

Another Restaurant Scene

Guys Out for Dinner
Ball Point Pen on Paper, 5.5×8.5″
I met some family for dinner a few weeks ago and, as usual, I got there ahead of them. So I took out my sketch book and proceeded to make this drawing.  It’s not complete in any way but I think it captures the ambiance of a bunch of guys out for dinner at a local restaurant serving Greek cuisine. If you are ever in the northern suburbs of Chicago, look up Periyali’s Greek Taverna on Milwaukee Ave in Niles. This is one our favorite family dining places. The food is good and reasonably priced with excellent service. The garden in the summer is beautiful. It’s decorated with an abundance of blooming potted plants and well shaded tables. This is an unsolicited testimonial too.

T F m
April 29, 2011

Background Inspiration

Drawing Session
Ball Point Pen on Paper, 8/5×9.5″
This is another drawing in the no hovering series. Our model has her feet on a basketball mounted to a flower pot. It’s an object used for our still life set-ups. Some students turned it into an earth globe and placed her among the stars. Invention then becomes a real part of the drawing process especially if you need to consider the space in which the model exists. Our drawing/painting room is multi-purpose making it difficult to dress the model stand for something other than a blank white wall. I used the pattern on the fabric draping the table to the left as my background but in a large scale.  
It doesn’t matter how well it works in the end. It’s the inventive play that’s the point of it. It’s hard to convey that importance in a classroom situation that requires a grade. No one is willing to take a chance at failure in that situation.  The real failure is in not taking the chance. There is growth in taking the chance. There is no learning without failure.

T F m
April 28, 2011

In Class

Drawing from a Still Life
Graphite on Paper, 8.5×5.5″
I found this buried in my sketchbook. I don’t know why I hadn’t seen it. The pages weren’t stuck together. It’s one of my students from last semester drawing from a still life set up.  It’s probably from one of the first projects of the semester. They get to hate that still life. We use it a lot. It’s such an elemental activity. All the old 19th and 20th painters went to the still life to work out new ideas. Think of Cezanne, Picasso, and Matisse. Cezanne worked out his color ideas with still life which led to Picasso’s cubism. Picasso worked out cubism with still life and Matisse worked his brilliant color with still life also. They never excluded subject matter and they never eliminated the figure in their works.
Skills based art and easel painting keep getting declared dead but it keeps going on in spite of the declarations. I think human beings are too narcissistic to give up on representing themselves and their surroundings to totally abandon self imagery. We’ve been doing it for at least 40,000 years. Why should we stop now?  The beat goes on.

T F m
April 26, 2011

More No Hovering

Watercolor on Rag Paper, 4.25×9.5″
My life drawing class is at a stage in which each student needs to be more self-directed. The model takes a pose for the entirety of the session. It is up to each student to select media and materials for the goals each has in mind. My goal for them is to produce a finished piece that extends to the full surface of the field and has a complete pictorial space. How they arrive at that state is their business. I have draw-ers, oil painters, and watercolorists. While I mind the timer, I work too. The model knows she is to take care of herself as we are so focused we’ll let her suffer.
This my small watercolor for the session.

T F m
April 21, 2011

No Hovering, Again

In Profile
Ballpoint Pen on Paper, 8.5×5.5″
This is another installment in the No Hovering series. These are on-going. I will do them as long as students need to be drawing in class and as long as I need to keep busy so I can stay out of their way. I keep a timer running so I don’t get lost in the drawing and forget my responsibilities as teacher. I am teaching two extra days this week so I am going to be pooped by the end of the week. Posts will be fewer and farther in between. There may be a backlog of drawings posted later next week..

T F m
April 19, 2011

A Gorgeous Day

Green Print Drape
Oil on Linen Panel, 20×16″
Today, is the first day, in about six months, the temperature will reach 80º or higher. It ‘s now 80.7º I have already gone out for a walk and when I am done posting this will go into the yard and see to what needs doing for the spring. I am planning my deck garden pots for outdoor painting this summer. I am keeping the mini-Giverny theme going for another year.
This is my most recent painting from the Saturday group. I think the green of the drape goes with this fabulous spring day. My honeysuckle bushes are already putting out tiny green leaves. The forsythia bushes are getting ready to bloom. Unfortunately this temperature will not last for long as there is a 30º drop in temperature predicted for tomorrow. So I will savor the day as a portent of things to come. I am so ready for spring weather!

T F m
April 10, 2011

Variety is Spice

Black Leather Corset
Oil on Panel, 20×16″
This young woman is in a relationship with this young man. He works on a tall sailing ship for tourists sailing from Chicago’s Navy Pier. He dresses all year round like a pirate for that job which goes away during the winter months. This woman’s striped stockings and leather corset are answers to the pirate clothes of her significant other. She has something of the look of the stereotypical spinster librarian which is accentuated by the glasses. Looks can be so deceiving.

T F m
April 9, 2011

No Hovering

Clothed Model
Ballpoint Pen on Paper, 8.5×5.5″
Clothed Model
Ballpoint Pen on Paper, 8.5×5.5″
This is how I keep from hovering over students during life drawing class. For a life drawing class, I usually have more experienced students who can really sustain an effort in the studio. With rank beginners I have more hand-holding to do dealing with their neediness in their never before having a formal drawing class.  I am much busier demonstrating, making rounds, and offering suggestions or encouragement. With my more experienced life drawers, I have to keep myself from doing too much of that. There is a fine line between being helpful and just being a pain in the ass. So I draw with them when they are busy observing and drawing the model they have before them.
On this occasion I had the model remain clothed so they could start to deal with the clothed human form. There is such a long history of figure study that it becomes difficult to move from study into the realm of art with a standard, posed studio nude figure. After all, we generally don’t encounter people as we move about our everyday existence who just happen to be naked. So knowing how to draw the clothed figure in a real life context is a way to widen the possibilities for art.
This was in preparation for the following session in which we went out into the college lunch room with our clothed model and drew her in the lunch room surroundings which included the other people who were constantly moving about. It was a great exercise that produced some of the best work this semester.

T F m
April 8, 2011

Unwitting Subject

Wi-Fi in the Coffee Shop
Ballpoint Pen on Paper, 8.5×5.5″
The last morning before our flight home my friend had a four hour sculpture workshop to attend for which I had no interest. So, I went out onto the street to seek other subject matter.  I really needed a cup of coffee, so I went into the local coffee shop and found this man working on his computer using the shop’s free wi-fi. He was remarkably still for this drawing. The big move he made was to take his hand off his knee under the table and place it one the table where it is is now in the drawing. You can see some indication of its original position under the pattern of his shorts. It was early on enough in the drawing process to make the change.
I had a conversation with him after I was done and he had had an inkling that I was drawing him but went on with his work just the same. One of the things he liked about Florida was the fact that he could get all his work done in his shorts and flip-flops.
Once I had done this drawing I went outside with my watercolor field kit and did a watercolor outside on the street. Then back to my friend’s house for some last minute packing for the flight home. It was a very productive morning.

T F m
April 1, 2011