I had always assumed that we draw nude figures because that is most demanding, the most rigorous activity, the conquering of which automatically leads to proficiency with other subject matter. Logically, it shouldn’t matter what you practice on as long as it has various angles and curves requiring you to measure and fit together. To reproduce an abstract puzzle piece would be just as demanding. Imagine trying to counterfeit a Jackson Pollock. But, and there is a big BUT . . . our brain lies to us when it sees something familiar. Continuing along the line of last week’s discussion, I believe painting and drawing nudes as an exercise (not discussing right now what we paint or draw just because we love it) is more demanding than copying abstract shapes and angles because of our precocious brains. Reproducing abstract shapes would be helpful in gaining the skills necessary to draw the nude figure, but would not prepare you for the lying brain effect.
What about the not so nude figure? A new insight was imparted to me this week–the hard way. First, the background: Our models wrap themselves in a robe or something similar during their breaks. Grace wraps around herself in particularly beautiful lengths of fabric, so, with the permission of the other artists, I asked her to cover herself in her drape while modeling.
In some ways it was easier to paint folds of fabric instead of belly and breasts, which is what I expected. What I did not expect was to find out that the drape would throw me off so much when it came to proportioning body parts. You know what Grace looks like by now, so you can probably identify as well as Grace did herself, the problem: I made her too tall.
Even though I measured angles and lengths exactly as I always do, somehow the torso became elongated. I blame the “clothing” for that. Something else for me to be on guard against. This mistake didn’t ruin the painting per se, but if the principal reason for painting nudes is to teach oneself accurate observation, I have to give myself a failing grade.
I should remark on the fuzzy edges. The edges were sharp originally, but I wanted to de-emphasize the ottoman she was sitting on, so I fuzzed them up, and then one thing led to another, until I pretty much fuzzed up her entire body, except the face. So the interior spaces, which includes the face and the drape, appear clearly, which the outside edges fade into the background. I think the effect is interesting.
I fared better with last Tuesday’s session. For our first time this summer, we had a male model, and it was lovely to have him.
The long stick that he uses as a prop, literally, becomes, for the artist, a measuring rod. I build the body against the angle of that stick. You may note the introduction of a new piece of furniture in both of the paintings today–an ovoid wooden ottoman.
You might have noticed a bit more oomph in my colors this week. If so, I would like to give credit to Michael Harding. Michael Harding makes a line of oil paint bearing his name, and I met him a few weeks ago in an event organized by our plein air leader, Sharon Allen. Michael demonstrated his paints and handed out a sample tube to each of us, and I promptly went online to Dick Blick ordered four more tubes. Since I was already pretty well stocked in my primary colors, I bought an orange, magenta, terra verte (green) and red umber. The green is transparent, to be used as a tint for other colors. The others are fierce and I have especially fallen for the red umber.
Aline Lotter is currently exhibiting:
at the Hatfield Gallery in Manchester; at the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett; at the Red Jacket Inn in North Conway; at the Epsom Public Library in Epsom; at the Bedford Public Library, in Bedford; at the law offices at 41 Brook St in Manchester; and at her studio by appointment.
The colours in the first composition are gorgeous Aline. I can see why you got carried away! The male figure is done really well – a sort of all-over evenness without a major impact from the figure but really well done. The background colours are lovely too with the warmth of the drapery echoing some of the skin tones. I enjoy reading your honest thoughts too. Thanks, Philippa
Dear Philippa, You are so supportive–I look forward to your comments every week.