Lost and Found Edges

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Looking up from sweeping, there on the wall, was the most impressive drawing of the human figure I have ever seen. Working for Welna Gallery as a gopher I got to see some amazing art by living artists. It was important to me to study living artists, to be able to ask questions of them was such a great help. Looking up at this drawing more answers were coming to me than questions. Most drawings of the human figure are full of highlights, little dots of pure white. This drawing, by Richard Schmid, had not one highlight, making the figure look so real. Richard had captured the look of skin with conte' alone. The other thing that struck me was how he rendered the penis. For me, and many artists, how one deals with the genitals is a major problem, genitals are right there in the center of the body, limiting the poses most artists feel comfortable with. Some artists never return to the nude once out of art school. 

Studying Richard's drawing that afternoon I learned more about drawing and art than I did in a year at school; not that they hadn't taught us the things I was understanding studying Richard's drawing. Looking at that piece so many things about drawing became clear. Lost and found edges, where darks are important and where to use lines and/or smudges. That night at home I went through my collection of Saturday Evening Post covers and found some of the same little nuances in Norman Rockwell paintings. It was very clear. Rockwell's knowledge of the human figure and how to capture it gave him great story telling ability with his art.  

I carry all I learn from drawing and painting the human figure with me when I am out painting. Some of the best plein air workshops are actually taught in life drawing classes. What one learns in one workshop can be applied to other forms of art.  

Asking About Their Grandmothers

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A question I have been asked many times is why do I teach drawing from the nude. I give an honest answer, which is "because I like looking at beautiful nude women." The question I do not hear is "how do I define beautiful?" - which is so important. Every one who studies art knows studying from the nude is important because the human figure is the most difficult subject to tackle. For hundreds of years all artists had to know how to paint or sculpt the human figure.     

Today being an artist is a bit different, many great landscape artist cannot paint or draw the human figure. Then there are the abstract artists, some who are quite adept at drawing the human figure while others... well, lets just say not all artists need to know how to paint or draw the human figure. 

Me? I found the nude inspiring, challenging, and rewarding. Drawing from the nude, teaching from the nude, has opened my mind to seeing how the line can do so much more than simply sit on paper.  To have a beautiful lady posing nude in my study is an honor, a privilege and blessing. A blessing because I can express my respect for the gift - the privilege each model gives me to explore such things as the line. That respect and honor I have for my models runs both ways, which creates the beauty I see in each model.

Sexy models don't always come across as beautiful. Many times, to me, they aren't even sexy. And yes painting or drawing the nude is sexual to me. The sexual feeling is as important to me as the respect flowing in the studio. When I lift the paint brush from the Number 10 coffee can and load it with paint the sexual disappears for a while as I concentrate on the gesture of the pose and the other aspects of the scene before me.  I want to convey both the sexuality and the respect that is ever present in the studio. 

Models become friends in my studio. Close friends, but only friends. I've met families of many of my models, had great steak dinners with their families, and thanked dads for the great daughters they have raised. I've even done portraits of these great dads and given them as gifts to my models. Mothers, as well, have sat for me. Sons and daughters of models have visited my studio. I'm at the age now where a few grandkids have visited me asking about their grandmothers. Models are special to me and I thank all of them.