Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Pastel Studies - Seriously!

As mentioned in an earlier blog post, I am really enjoying a change of medium at the moment and am exploring pastels seriously. I always thought they were such a messy medium and they can be but I have decided that the mess is worth it. I am giving myself time and space to really experiment. I have been feeling for a while that although oil is such a beautiful and seductive medium so much has already been said with it. I am discovering the versatility of pastel. The soft dreamy blurring effects that have given pastel such a bad name have meant that the medium has been unfairly dismissed, by me as much as anyone. I am becoming its new advocate!

 I am continuing with my anatomy and life studies, but if the pose is long enough (an hour or more) I whip out the pastels and do a portrait. This one was from a two and a half  hour pose.

This model I have drawn before from a different angle. Again it is about two and a half hours of drawing.
I have been preparing my own paper with acrylic paint and pastel primer as I really dislike the mechanical nature of the dots in tradition pastel papers. I prefer to have complete control and the dots are so distracting to the viewer that they interfere.

As always I turn to books to glean any information I can about the medium I am using. I found quite an array of pastel books in the Brisbane Municipal Library and also the Royal Queensland Art Society library. Here is a selection below.

These two books were probably the oldest but the best, with lots of insights into techniques. Reading technical information can save you a lot of time in the long run.

Even the books that seem extremely basic will often have some little nugget of information that can help your own methods. It also helps to be aware of possible pitfalls.

Don't laugh but I found the "Dummies" one very informative. I read the entire text. It is tempting to just read the images and their captions but this just gives a dumbed down version. You have to work your way through the text to really get it.

The centre book here shows pastels from  the Metropolitan in New York. The beautiful work of Mary Cassatt and a surprising Georgia O'Keeffe.

Here is a quote from Georgia.

" It was in the fall of 1915 that I first had the idea that what I had been taught was of little value to me except for the use of my materials as a language - charcoal, pencil, pen, and ink, watercolour, pastel and oil. I had become fluent with them when I was so young that they were simply another language that I handled easily. But what to say with them?... I began with charcoal and paper and decided not to use any colour until it was impossible to do what I wanted to do in black and white. I believe it was June 1916 before I needed blue."

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Plans for 2013

I thought I would share in this blog post my plans for my art practice in 2013.

I decided towards the end of 2012 after my show in September that I would give myself a "study" year and not plan to exhibit new work again until 2014. I wanted to spend the year drawing, learning anatomy in a systematic fashion, getting to explore with new media, and sharpen up some skills that I wanted to employ in new work. I have big ideas for my next show and big plans for my gallery but without giving too much away ( keeping a "circle of safety" as new agers would say) I can share my immediate plans.

As seen in my last blog, I am drawing ,drawing, drawing. Going to at least four life sessions a week. Also reconnecting with my drawing teacher/ mentor David Paulson for some inspirational life sessions.

Basically if you don't push yourself out of your comfort zone you risk the possibility of your work becoming stale and you can stagnate. You never stop learning. I am also enjoying talking to all the artists I am meeting at these sessions, some of whom are as driven as I am. One artist said to me that if he felt his drawings were getting too "nice" he changed media to something more challenging.

I think it is important to embrace some sort of drawing philosophy. Turning the 3 dimensions of the world into the 2 dimensions of your drawing  is good for the brain.
Michelangelo said "make your eyes your compass".
Drawing from observation is critical. This is something I discussed in my last blog so I don't want to repeat myself here.

It helps to be reminded to simplify things. - big shapes first, work from general to specific, details last if at all.

I have been getting reacquainted with my pastels. I can't believe I have neglected this wonderful medium for a while.

This portrait drawing in pastel is from Friday's session at Royal Queensland Art Society. Three hour pose.

This drawing is just black, sepia and white. The Trois couleurs technique. A friend kindly modelled for me.

A couple of five minute poses where I did manage to just concentrate on shape.

My quarter finished ecorche figure showing musculature. I am making a proper study of anatomy at the Atelier studios. This is something I knew was missing from my art education. Each set of muscles is modelled in a different coloured  plasticine. I am just making one side at the moment but there are ribs and shoulder blades etc underneath!

I am so excited about putting it all together, the new media, the sharper drawing skills and my new ideas that I lie awake thinking about. The other thing I should mention is of course my reading. It is art, art, art at the moment. I am currently reading a book called "Girl in a Green Gown - The history and mystery of the Arnolfini Portrait" by Carola Hicks, 2011. I will keep you posted.

The gallery is going to be a rental art space until the end of 2013 to give me time to pursue these new directions.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Life Drawing Resurgence in Brisbane

This year I have returned to life drawing with a vengeance and it seems I am not the only one. There appear to be groups of artists all over Brisbane who are also returning to the source, as it were, of basic drawing skills and anatomy.

I have been asking myself why this is happening right now. In my own case it is an enduring love of the old masters and a wish to emulate those red chalk drawings of musculature, curves and angles and a wish to improve my observation skills while finding some reality as strong source material.

Fitting one's life into computer-screen-sized segments takes its toll and for an artist it is very confining.  Your whole life and relationships must be filed and fitted into these little black rectangles. They are black holes more like...

For other artists I can only surmise that their motivation is similar to mine. I have talked to so many at these different groups and the general consensus is that people are over conceptual, video, and abstract art are wanting return to some basic skills.

As artists we use every resource available to us and we need to. Ultimately there must be a devotion to truth in one's work and we need to cultivate a kind of emotional honesty even if the work is just for ourselves alone. (And it usually isn't) There is a truth in a drawing of the human body and artists through history have returned again and again to the human form. I guess the "human condition" generally is our ultimate subject matter.

The acquisition of skills is of course another reason we keep going back to drawing the figure. Skill was such a dirty work in curatorial and art college circles for such a long time but now hopefully the pendulum is swinging back a little.

Another thing is that life drawing is addictive. Getting into that semi-meditative right-brain state is a truly great feeling. The world exists in that eye-brain-hand connection and for that moment that is all there is. Working from photographs as source material does not provide this connection, not to mention the flattening and distortion that photos engender.

Having said all that I intended this blog to be a bit of a run down about what is currently available in Brisbane.

Firstly a few random drawings.

Almost all sessions start with quick one minute poses to warm up.

Another sheet of random one minute poses.

Then five or ten minute poses.

Sometimes longer poses generally up to about 20 minutes.

Sessions currently available in Brisbane that I have personally checked out. 

All are untutored -   (There are also plenty of groups around with a teacher but I have no personal experience of them.)

Monday -    6.30-  9.30 pm at the Brisbane Institute of Art. Windsor . This untutored session run by Alan is very well organised, runs on time, even breaks are timed. Well set up, friendly group full of old hands. No music (which can be a good thing as personal tastes vary) Bring your iPod.  $15

Tuesday  - There are several groups in private homes that I know of so if you know me I can give you details.

Wednesday   7-9 pm at the Art Factory, South Brisbane. This is a very large group run efficiently by Dr Manny from the Art Shed. There are three separate large classrooms (Brisbane State High School Art Dept.)  with three different models who rotate rooms so you get to draw all three over the session. Untutored. Music is generally a pretty mellow mix of Greek and World music. Tea, coffee and a biscuit provided during the break. $10

Thursday     6.30 - 9.30 pm at Sculptor's Queensland Shed in the grounds of the Old Museum on Gregory Tce. This is my favourite. Very friendly group and everyone takes wine or snacks to share. Run by Val. Punctual and organised. As this is a sculpture shed this is probably the one where you could make most mess. All the sessions are pretty much drawing so therefore not terribly messy but at this one you definitely could use a bit of clay or paint without any problem. The lighting in the studio is quite dramatic and as a painter I love the strong cast shadows. Music is ABC Classic fm radio which I love.  $15,  $12 if you join the society.

Friday    10.30 am - 1.30 pm. Royal Queensland Art Society's new premises on Petrie Tce.  This one is one long pose for the entire session. One week nude model, next week clothed for portrait/costume study.
Run by Glen and Peter. Friendly group. Music is CD's people put on so it can vary.  $15,  $12 for members.

Saturday     10.30 -4 pm  Atelier studio in Salisbury. Very professional outfit. There is tutoring at this one but you can just do your own thing if you wish. One long pose for the whole session. In fact the same pose is held for five weeks so you can do a detailed study. No other group offers this possibility. Large range of people and skills at this one, from beginners to very experienced and some old hands too. $6 per hour untutored.

I must just finally mention the holy grail of life drawing in at the BIA on Wednesday mornings. David Paulson, who enjoys something of a cult following, is teaching again at this one. Many of us have benefited from watching his amazing facility with the pencil when he demonstrates. Three generations of my own family have in fact done so, - my mother artist Joan Bauer (now dec.) myself and my daughter bridal couturier Sarah Alice Andrews.
But you now have to enrol for the term for this tutored one.