Monday, April 10, 2006

The Figure Part 2





A Tree at the Bend, 2005, Oil on Panel, 6x6








An artist whose work I have been admiring recently is Jordan Wolfson. He is represented by DFN Gallery in NYC and I periodically go through their website as I like many of the artists they represent. When I was in the city last month, I visited DFN and saw several of his paintings and they were beautiful, so much nicer to see in person. His figurative work particularly interests me as well as his drawings which are really intense. I like how his figures have areas of softness, almost abstraction, but then there are just enough edges to the forms to create space and movement. I think the quality of light is intriguing and I also like his palette. But most of all I like how expressive his images are. So when I saw that he was teaching a weekly figure drawing and painting class down in Woodstock, I thought it would be a great opportunity to work with and get some guidance from an artist whose work makes me consider what I want to say in mine. It seems totally ridiculous to actually drive two hours (four round trip) to take a class for 3 hours, but really, there aren't any other options like that in my immediate area. Besides, Doug and I have resigned ourselves to the fact that in order to go anywhere fun or interesting it is at least a 2 hour drive and we do it all of the time.

So after waiting a few months for the winter weather to subside (I shouldn't have bothered, I still ended up driving home in a blinding snow shower), I started the class last week. I didn't feel brave enough to paint so I thought I'd just draw for the first class. Which began the awkwardness of me taking a drawing class. I can draw. I have a long history of drawing the figure. I still have a lot to learn and I still need and want feedback and direction. However, I don't go into the class and announce that I already know how to draw, so of course the instructor doesn't know and is anxious to show me how to get started. So for the first hour or so there is a bit of dancing around. I am working quickly to show that I have at least some understanding of drawing the figure and the instructor is genuinely trying to help me. This happened in the last workshops I took, it happened on Wednesday and it is awkward all around. After I finally did a pretty good sketch, Jordan asked me why I was taking this class, because clearly I could already draw. I fumbled around (I was embarrassed, my face turned red and the others in the class could hear our discussion) and eventually managed to tell him that I had little opportunity to work from a model, that I liked his work and wanted to take his class. Later, we talked more and I told him that I wanted to pursue figure painting, but that I wanted my figurative work to have the same qualities as my landscape work and that I hadn't had much luck with that yet.

What I didn't tell him is this: I yearn to paint the figure. I think of myself as a figure painter (even though I am not) and what I really want to do is paint the figure in the same manner that I paint the landscapes. I love my process. I can't even begin to express how much I love doing the underpainting. Or how much I love working with glazes and pure color. Oh yeah, and I didn't mention to him that not being able to make this work with the figure is driving me nuts.

So I look forward to getting some help from an artist whose work I can connect with. I think it will help me. Jordan, poor guy, will probably get migraines having to put up with an opinionated, know it all, stubborn, former art student who is used to being in charge. Good luck.

The painting above is a piece that was in a show last fall at the Main Street Gallery in Groton NY. Someone at the opening said they saw it as a figure, the back of a man's head and shoulders, looking out over the landscape. I didn't paint it with that in mind, but now of course, when I look at the image that's exactly what I see. Perhaps that's direction I could go, except that I was completely unaware of what I was doing......

Anyway, these are two drawings that I did in the class. The first is a 12 minute sketch and the second took me about an hour or so. I am a bit rusty, since I have been to just two drawing sessions in the last 7 months and I am particularly rusty at drawing the male figure, having only drawn from one in the last five years or so. But, overall, I am fairly pleased with these.



11 comments:

Martha said...

I so know what you mean when you say attracted to the figure-- they keep showing up in what I'm working on whether I like it or not. And I think taking classes with someone whose work you respect is a great idea. You can get a little push, or focus, that can really move you along. I worked with a painter named Phillip Buller, who was a wonderful teacher, and who I credit with giving me the sense that I could in fact do paintings for myself. I didn't believe that before. I also really, really like his work. Here's the address:

http://www.philipbuller.com/index.html

I like some of his earlier work a bit better than the latest series, but it's also nice to see someone moving forward, feeling their way along. I will be interested to see where you go with this.

Tracy said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Martha. I am interested in seeing where I will go too!! Also, I checked out the link and I love his work. It's great that you were able to work with him. His work may help me along too, I think.

arthur said...

With some effort, people can see the figure (and faces too) in just about anything, including paint spilled accidentaly on the floor. Landscapes or painting of landscapes are obviously no exception. For what its worth, "Tree at the Bend" reminds me a little of "The Three Sphinxes of Bikini", a painting by Dali. Of course, he is deliberatly making a visual analogy between heads and trees, which probably isn't your interest.

Tracy said...

Good comparison! I hadn't seen that painting before-a little creepy with the hair looking like a brain and all. And you are definitely right-it's common for people to look for and find the figure in anything, Jesus or Mary being the most popular it seems.

arthur said...

What about people from other religions? Would it be blasphemous if someone found Muhammed? And could an artist be held liable for something like this?

Tracy said...

I wish I knew the answers to those questions, but alas, I am a lowly artist, with no religious affiliations.

SHANNON & AARON TUCKER said...

Tracy, Why don't you go ahead and paint the figure? I am sure it would turnout great. If it turns out bad, thats ok. I do bad work all the time, and bad chairs and bad stuffed dolls etc. etc. I think that if I were an art teacher I would require my students to make two bad paintings for any one good piece.

Tracy said...

You are right. I know that I am overthinking all of this right now and that I just need to jump in and start painting. That's what I did when I started with the landscapes and I sure did a lot of crappy paintings at first, well and still do, though not as many. Ok, that's it-I'm going in! Next week!

SHANNON & AARON TUCKER said...

Great you should, and please post a picture because I want to know how this drama unfolds. I've bookmarked your post right between Amazon.com and Yahoo.

Tracy said...

I think you are making fun of me now!! Otherwise my blog would be your home page.

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