Figure Drawing; the beauty of the human form, and loosening one's hand

Friday through Sunday I enjoyed the Joanne Ruggles workshop in Arroyo Grande,  inside a wonderful barn, built expressly for the purpose of self-expression, shared with us by a generous fellow artist, Leslie. I got together with a friend who was also going, a few weeks before. We pondered the supply list, checked on what we each had and could share and what we were missing. That was part of the fun; just like packing for a weekend trip. Then there was the supply shopping safari, with a cup of coffee somewhere in there, where while we were at Blackhorse Coffee, enjoying our java, we both exclaimed as if we'd just awakened, "I never do this." Almost a metaphor for what many of us have done for years, put a project, a labor of love, or a talent on the back burner and left it to be crammed into a few stolen moments, from the "day job." Also true, perhaps we were always meaning to have lunch, or share a cup of coffee and catch up, but didn't take the time. Now it was time. 

A week and a half ago, we decided to go to the Life Drawing drop in class at SLOMA, to loosen up the drawing, before we really loosened up at the Ruggles workshop, and there was Ruggles and several others who would be attending. Now I can actually match names, faces, and actual paintings with their owners. I probably went through 1/2 of a sketch book before I got something that remotely resembled the pose of the model, or the model herself. Didn't matter. I was there to learn, and to practice. I liken it to riding horses. Lots of wet saddle blankets.  In this case lots of newsprint no one else might ever see. As Malcomb Gladwell wrote about in "Outliers", it may look easy to the onlooker but when one observes what appears to be effortless grace in performing a task, whether it is painting a work of art, playing in a symphony, flying a 747, or getting a hole in one on a golf course, it's that 10,000 hours of practice, that prepares one for moments of excellence.  Much like flying a plane, there are constant corrections to stay on course, Joanne reminded us that there a constantly flaws on the page, and that is all part of the process. 

We couldn't have had more light, warmth or better weather. The workshop was fun, Joanne was funny and has a metaphorical vocabulary and manner of speaking that hooks one emotionally and creates pictures in the mind. Out with the supplies, introductions, and soon we were at it; drawing the model in charcoal, or graphite, and later on large pieces of paper, dipping long broken dowels in black ink, virtually scribbling the figures, many to a page, from those quick moving poses, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes and at the end of the day, 2-25 minutes. 

Karen Krahl painting with a long broken dowel and black ink.

Karen Krahl painting with a long broken dowel and black ink.

With a different model each day, different styles of posing, and with ever broadening use of tools, from the dowels and ink, to paint brushes, graphite sticks, vine charcoal, and gesso worked in to edge a figure of highlight high spots, challenges abounded. Working on red resin paper which Joanne brought in rolls for us to share, from Home Depot, proved to be less "toothy" than newsprint, coverstock, or vellum, but was an excellent ground to scribble on with a piece of charcoal taped to a yardstick.

It was easy to sense that on some level for each of us there, was a spiritual context within which the art would unfold. Once we felt that and talked about it, although we still had frustrations, they mattered less. 

An entire classroom yawned before us.

An entire classroom yawned before us.

The "crit" board was an interesting place to hang pieces of what we were working on. They looked different after we went on to other things, and the valuable breaks where Joanne pointed out things going on in each rendering, that many of us could not see ourselves. Very encouraging. Above you see our "blank slates" beginning the second morning.

Here we are sharing insights about each piece of work on the crit wall.

Here we are sharing insights about each piece of work on the crit wall.

Onlookers.

Onlookers.

Crit wall close up.

Crit wall close up.

And now I get to unload my 'masterpieces' and take them out to look at in my studio which I may cobble into something else, elaborate on, paint over, weave collage objects, onto or over, and organize my supplies for the next art gathering.