OK, so some days you walk into a life drawing session, maybe relaxed, maybe full of fire, sit down to draw and…”who the f*ck is noodlin’ on my sketchbook?” Even within the course of 3 hours, either Misters Jeckel or Hyde could wrestle away your crayon and push you off your bench.
In the first entry above, first row first column, the model, C, is full figured, very pale and somewhat like alabaster in that she seems to absorb light and seldom has very dark shadows. To make matters trickier, at the Palette and Chisel, the primary venue where I go to draw from the figure, there are scads of fluorescent lights which kill any dramatic chiarscuro. So with C I usually have 2 concerns. (I concede on trying to catch a facial likeness, as portraiture has never seemed to be my bag.) First, try to convey her sculptural, solid form while maintaining her feminine characteristics. Second, avoid overwhelming a translucent presence with tones that are too deep or harsh. Many times I draw her interior contours in grey to keep a tonal delicacy. If she has dark fabrics as a backdrop she becomes a fleshy lightbulb. On this occasion I did a countour drawing of her first with a bold-point, gel pen, some pentimenti, otherwise content with initial lines and proportions. All fine and good so far, then skin tones swept in with a light warm grey Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Brush Pen, used a cool grey PAP on the fabric between her feet and a medium grey for the draped crate she sits on to contrast with her thigh. Twenty five minutes, again, I don’t know if you’d recognize the drawing as C were she to pass you on the street but I can live with the effort. Glance to the right of this drawing, first row second column, or the one underneath that, second row second column, or below that, third row second column and you see things going haywire.
I also attend an open life drawing session elsewhere in Chicago where the model begins with gobs of 20 second and 40 second and 60 second poses. On and on this goes for the first 2 hours until the poses start slowing down to 15-20 minutes. I usually skulk into that joint with a sense of dread of facing my comeuppance. Yea, yea I know, it’s good exercise, good for the craft. Hey I draw on the bus and in public on a regular basis but I psych myself out for some reason at this place. And I’ve had some ego-bruising moments that reminded me of bad matches in high school wrestling where some muthafugga was filing my nose off on the mat. So the drawing at the top of the second column is a page where I’ve reworked a pair of 60 second poses that irked the daylights outta me. You can see a quick study of one of the artists in the group (whose drawings were kickin’ my ass) cause I needed a pause from all that tricky flesh. Later, when I was reviewing the days’ work I obliterated or reworked that and other pages by adding anatomy or wigs or tattooes or high heels or beards or text or just about anything that would make light of the carcrashes that had taken place during the sessions. The standing figure in the second row second column is five timid minutes worth of reworking areas for God knows what reason and stacking a torso on some stumpy little legs. I can’t seem to box in basic shapes or just allow the line to run freely. To the right of that drawing are a couple of 3 minute gesturals that I returned to play with during the model’s breaks, adding a barrel and bone studies to hide my misery.
But it’s the drawing at the bottom of the second column that really shows that at times, two minds are at work on the same page. I’m watching my tones there, I remember moving at a fair clip, quickly notching in some details, torso’s o.k., hands fine, fan and heater good, no fussing around but who stuck the shrunken head on while I went to the bathroom. And how about her left knee? I seem to remember thinking while I was drawing “no…that’s not quite right.” Things seem to be cool, then you’re going off the rails. I mean, it’s why we love drawing from life, no? Decision making with the clock ticking.
At some point, I’ll post a cluster of drawings I’ve done over the years while in transit. Till then, bon chance with yer doodles. Don.