But as pretty much any full time mother can tell you, not having something to call your own - to remind yourself of who you were before having a family - can make you feel crazy. My littlest is now 1, and I've spent the bulk of the last nine years focused on parenting. Obviously, I have many more years to go before my kids are off on their own, but I'm trying to find that balance of being a present and engaged parent, and being an artist.
So there's a fantastic group of artists that meets weekly here in Hampton Roads to draw or paint the nude figure. It's a well-established group with a range of talented artists that keep me inspired. I've attended sporadically over the past 5 years - very rarely - and my skills have suffered. It's disheartening to watch everyone else's skills grow by leaps and bounds while my own were stagnant. People ask if I draw my kids and the answer is hardly ever because kids don't sit still. Yes, I could work from reference photos, but it's not the same as working from life. Anyway...the format for most nights is as follows:
- Warm up with ten 1-minute poses (usually just enough for me to get a fancy stick figure down)
- Two 5-minute poses (some form and shading established)
- 20-minute pose
- 40-minute pose
- 20-minute pose
Last night was the third consecutive week I've been able to attend. Week 1 was okay but going through the motions of drawing from life felt so awkward and foreign I honestly felt like I'd never held a pencil in my life. I slogged through the 2.5 hour session and came away with a couple of decent drawings but nothing I loved. Week 2 was even harder because I already had so many things on my mind it was hard to clear it and focus on what I was doing. When I finally did try to focus, I didn't have a goal for that evening and tried to do too many things: try new charcoal, work small (9x12"), not use my easel, work on my gesture lines, experiment with a different style of shading, etc. In the end I threw all shading out the window in favor of simple contour drawings that turned out well.
Week 3, last night, I walked in with a plan already in hand: I was going to work in a larger format on toned paper in charcoal and white conte with my easel. I was going to make sure I kept my arm loose for my gesture drawings, and I was going to blend with my fingertips when I shaded. I was going to use at least one sitting for a portrait study. This definitely helped. It really is like riding a bike; I could feel the familiarity of the motions coming back to me, and I was able to honor the process and work through any issues.
Take a look at my drawing of Wayne 20 minutes (halfway) into my portrait study:
|Wayne, 20 minutes. ©2016 RFFinn|
|Wayne, portrait study, 40 minutes. ©2016 RFFinn|
I worked on gray toned paper with a Nitram HB charcoal stick. I began by quickly shading over a large portion where his head would be. I erased the highlights with my kneaded eraser and drew in guidelines to establish size, shape, and major features like where his eyes and nose would be. I didn't get a photo of it, but ten minutes in, I was so frustrated I wanted to tear it up and start again, but I took a deep breath and paused.
Looking critically at my start, I decided it was worth pursuing. I don't usually block in a large shaded area to begin with so that was already throwing me off, but I reminded myself charcoal is so easy to alter and it wasn't as bad a start as it felt. Once my twenty minutes were up and it was time for a break, I had at least gotten a respectable likeness. I knew I could take this and keep working it until I was happy with the result, and luckily I was able to reach that result in the 20 minutes I had left once we reconvened. You can see there was extensive reshaping of the lower half of his face. Yay for flexible charcoal!
I'm also happy with my results because I am normally a slow artist. If I had worked in graphite there's no way I'd have gotten so much done, and charcoal can be tricky for getting details as it's such a soft medium, but I do love it.