Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Back to Figure Drawing (again)

Heavy Sky, 2007, Oil on Panel, 6x8

One of my new year resolutions last January was to attend the local figure drawing sessions each week. I went exactly once and then life got in the way. Snowstorms, a traveling husband, exhaustion, one thing after another gave me a reason not to go each Monday night. It is beyond difficult for me to leave the house in the evening anymore. I am not sure why, but I suppose it has to do with how full my days are and how much I need down time at the end of them. Or maybe it's age related. Heh.

But finally I decided that this is the time. I need to go. I am going to the Vermont Studio Center in February, where they have figure drawing sessions every day for three hours and I intend to go to every single one of them. The thing is though, my figure drawing skills are very rusty and I don't want to embarrass myself. Well, any more than usual, that is.

All day yesterday I planned to go. Then around late afternoon I started to rationalize. I don't have to go, I can start next week, I have other things that I really need to do, my night driving vision is bad, I am tired, waaaaa. So after dinner, I decided to buck up, quit whining and just go.

And as always, I am so glad I did! (when will I ever learn?) I did have a rocky start though. The model was a male. I don't mind drawing a male model, it's just that I so much prefer to draw the female figure. After seriously considering leaving early, I made some mental readjustments, settled in and got to work. I did some really horrible gestural warm ups and then managed to eke out two not awful drawings from 15 minute poses.

The process, not the results, is what made me feel giddy as I drove home. Which is why I feel comfortable posting them even though they are not my best drawings. I am still feeling the love.


Chris Rywalt said...

What do you have against male models? What is it with this unfair prejudice?

Tracy said...

Ha! Nothing personal against your side of the species. I just like the drawings I can do from a female model. I seem to relate to the female figure better, which I realize could probably qualify me for entry onto the other team:)

Angela Rockett said...

I miss figure drawing sessions! I remember the same giddy feeling over the process, even when the drawings didn't turn out as well as I wanted them to. And even more so when they did!

It's also comforting to hear the same practices in resistance that I experience on a daily basis coming from such a successful artist

Angela Rockett said...

Oh, and I enjoy drawing females more too. Go figure. (really, no pun intended, just happened)

Chris Rywalt said...

Listen, I'm not looking to harangue anybody, but do me a favor and think about this if you can: Why do you prefer to draw women? Really dig deep and see if you can come up with something. I realize "Uh, I just like it" is the most likely answer, but do me a favor and see if you can unearth anything else.

Because I really want to know. I've got some theories myself, but I'm going to hold off on posting them for a bit.

Susan Constanse said...

Hi Tracy,
They look great! Fifteen minutes isn't very long and you got a lot of information down in a very short time.

I like figure drawing. have you read The Undressed Art? It's a charming book that discusses artists and models.

I help with two very different model sessions here in da 'burgh. It's interesting to see what peoples expectations are in these sessions.

Oh, and by the way, I like drawinf men.

Tracy said...

Angela, I love it when you refer to me as a successful artist. Say it again:) Glad to know that I am not the only one with resistance to something I LIKE to do.

And it was a very good pun:)

Chris, Well, "I like drawing the female figure better" pretty much IS the answer. There's more "activity", breasts, curves, great lines, etc. I just connect with all of that more than I do the male's body, even if he has those same attributes. As with most of the art I do, and like, it has more to do with aesthetics rather than some deep meaning.

I am just a simple kind of gal:)

Angela, why do YOU prefer drawing women?

Oh thanks Susan, you are kind to compliment these! And why do YOU prefer drawing men? Let's hear it!:)

I will look for that book, it sounds interesting.

Angela Rockett said...

I prefer drawing women for many of the same reasons you do. More aesthetically pleasing, more interesting (to me) curves and lines to draw. When I've drawn male models, they have to be very dynamic, in pose and figure, to hold my interest.

And... you're a successful artist! :)

Tracy said...

Oooh, thanks Angela, for the repeat:)

drips of paint said...

Ahh I can see you have it ... Not many artist can do life drawing as good as you.... if you said you were rusty, these two are good and next session will be great I am sure.

I love figure drawing session but just did not have time for them for many months now .. may be I'll go this friday.

enjoyed your descrition of your excuses..

Chris Rywalt said...

See, I've heard this line about curves and aesthetics before. Not to say you're not being truthful or anything. I think you do find the female form more aesthetically pleasing.

What I wonder is why that's so. I used to subscribe to the view of Dave Barry, eloquently expressed thusly: "Men's magazines often feature pictures of naked women. Women's magazines also feature pictures of naked women. This is because the female body is a beautiful work of art, while the male body is lumpy and hairy and should not be seen by the light of day. Men are turned on at the sight of a naked woman's body. Most naked men elicit laughter from women."

Since I've been doing a lot of nudes, though -- over the past six years or so -- I've given more thought to this. I don't think there's anything inherently more beautiful about the female form than the male form. Especially when we move from the ideal to the real -- real women are just as scary as real men. Sometimes scarier.

I think some of the artistic attraction to women is cultural. Ancient Greeks were really into young men as the ideal of beauty; 21st century Americans are into young women.

I think some of it is practical, too, from an artistic standpoint: A well-shaped man's body is mostly unaffected by gravity or different poses. A well-shaped woman's body, however, changes more with the pose, and is therefore more interesting.

Finally, I think mostly it's Fear of the Penis. When a woman takes off all her clothes, she's still not really totally naked, because her sex is still hidden. It's possible for a model to pose for hours and never let the artists see her genitals. But when a man takes off his clothes, his sex is all hanging out. You can't miss it, you can't avoid it.

Unless I'm your model, in which case you're like, hey, where's the beef?

Anyway. I just find this subject very interesting.

Kesha Bruce said...

Why do most people prefer to draw women?

Not to be an art theory snob but to paraphrase a bit on Laura Mulvey:

"In considering the way that films are put together, many feminist film critics have pointed to the "male gaze" that predominates in classical Hollywood filmmaking. Laura Mulvey's essay "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" gave one of the most widely influential versions of this argument. This argument holds that through the use of various film techniques, such as the point of view shot, a typical film's viewer becomes aligned with the point of view of its male protagonist. Notably, women function as objects of this gaze far more often than as proxies for the spectator."

So...This is a 40 year old conversation. :)~

p.s. I don't know many women who are afraid of penises. I'm not buyin' that for a second.

Tracy said...

Thanks Tim, for the lovely compliments about my drawing. I am going to try and keep up now, I regret letting those skills slide in the last years.

Chris, Chris, Chris. I don't really know how to respond to your comments and theories. I think they make sense, yet I don't think they always apply. Maybe preferring the female form is cultural or maybe everyone just has different experiences that they bring to drawing the figure and what they prefer. More likely it's a combination of many things.

I do have to add that I am grateful for the penis (insert obvious jokes here, ha), it's something of interest to draw from the male form. Male models that aren't so well defined (which is most of the ones I have ever seen) are a real snooze fest for me and at least the penis has some detail available. The model I had the other night, while not well defined, did have some attributes that were a challenge (pot belly), plus he was real character, which is why I managed to pull a few drawings out of the session. When a woman's body isn't so fit, there is still much interest. IMO, of course.

By the way, I certainly don't hate drawing the male body. It's just not my first choice, not that I usually have one in these situations.

I'd still be interested in hearing the thoughts of others on this topic!

Tracy said...

Kesha, Oh dear, don't get Chris started on the male gaze theory, he got beat up over that one on another blog!

See comment above for MY opinion on the penis:)

Chris Rywalt said...

I don't mean afraid of penises in general. That'd be stupid! I mean artistically afraid. Afraid to deal with them visually.

I think most of America has a problem with penises. Consider what happens when there's full frontal male nudity in a movie: NC-17! Not always, but often enough. I mean, Boogie Nights was entirely about Marky Mark's cock, and we only got to see it in one shot at the end! And it was fake!

And of course men are afraid of other men's penises because they don't want anyone to think they're gay. Gasp!

As far as the "male gaze" goes, Kesha, Tracy's right: Don't get me started. That's a theory in cinema that was picked up and taken wholesale into other arts even though it's complete crap, even in the cinema. The woman who wrote it doesn't even believe it.

The one male model I've worked with was incredibly well-defined. Also startlingly well-hung. But you probably read about that on my blog.

Tracy said...

Chris, after you have drawn from a less than well defined male model, let me know how you liked it, and whether you'd prefer that or drawing from a female, any kind of female:) I'd be interested in hearing your opinion on that.

Chris Rywalt said...

Well, if your argument is that women have more curves, you should check me out.

Kesha Bruce said...

Eeeeeh, whateva. I'm stickin with Mulvey's argument. (Even if she is not. Does it matter anyway?)

Americans aren't afraid of penis, they're afraid of sex in general. They prefer full on violence.

Also,it's a shame we never got to see Marky Mark's cock.

So very tragic actually.

Chris Rywalt said...

Kesha sez:
Does it matter anyway?

Sure it matters. If you believe the "male gaze" is not your projection onto works of art, but rather some sort of externally verifiable phenomenon, it matters quite a bit.

To you, anyway. Not so much to me.