Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Summer Slump?

contour drawing with watercolor in a sketchbook

Last summer I took an evening figure drawing class at UW Madison, and was very excited and engaged in working from direct observation, something I do fairly infrequently.  The only difficulty for me was that Madison is 40 miles away, which requires almost an hour driving each way.  The class got over at 10:00 PM, which is late for me, and there was lots of road construction which added to my frustration.  So, I thought I had the problems solved when I enrolled in a class called "Figurative Painting" on Sunday mornings this summer.

The timing is fine, and I like being able to drive during the day, but this class also has a couple frustrations for me.  For one thing, most people are painting in oil, a medium that I am just learning.  I did use oil one week, and liked the results well enough.  It's just that I don't want oil paintings of people reclining in chairs.  What do I DO with the darn things later?  Also, instead of there being a series of poses, this is a three hour session with one pose.  Every week someone reclines in the overstuffed chair, and sits there for the entire time.  I understand that the model needs to be comfortable, but they also look bored, and I hate to admit it, but I am too.  

ink and watercolor in my sketchbook

The way I have been trying to deal with this is by doing series of quick draws, some on paper in a medium-sized sketchbook, some on Tyvek, some on Arches watercolor paper.  This time I even moved around a little to get a different vantage point, but the studio is rather crowded, and I don't want to disturb other people who are slaving over one painting.

charcoal and watercolor on Tyvek

Of these three, the last one is the one I worked longest on, and I like it least.  It seems stiff, and perhaps a little long in the torso.  My color choices weren't too exciting either.  Looking at my efforts from Sunday and seeing what I've written makes me think I just need an attitude adjustment.  Maybe I should just go out and pull crabgrass for a while.


JoAnn said...

Or maybe you do not really like figure drawing/painting?

I think your attitude is great! But don't force yourself to do something you do not like. Life is too short!

Charlene Brown said...

I found myself in a similarly structured class some years ago, when what I really wanted to learn was how to include individuals or groups in larger landscape or streetscape paintings... If I'd been able to 'imply' people as you have done, I think very successfully, in your first painting, it wouldn't have seemed like such a complete waste of time.

laura said...

I applaud you making the effort, and trying oils!
I have had the same problems: I don't like a 3-hour pose (which is what the group down here does)--what if you get a bad angle? I suppose you could do 3 1-hour paintings, but then there's the boredom factor!
I prefer starting with 2-minute poses and gradually increasing to 20- or 30-minutes--I guess because, esp. w/watercolor, I like more spontaneity.
And yes, what does one do with all these stilted pictures of naked people! Just once I'd like to have a model climbing into a bathtub, a la Bonnard!
Of these, I have to say I find the first most intriguing!

Carolyn Pappas said...

It's too bad that the class isn't set up in a good way for you. I have also been frustrated with some of the classes I took this summer, and I wish there were a way to do more research before signing up. If I were you, I'd just continue to do the short poses as best you can. Next time I take a class, I think I am going to email the instructor/facilitator and ask questions before paying for it. Also, I am going to be very wary of signing up with instructors who don't have websites.