My Lamentable Drawing Venture

There I was in Spring Studios. Not nude. Not posing. Not on the stage. Rather, I was sitting among the artists, with paper and a charcoal set. That’s right. Last Friday afternoon I was not the model at Spring Studios (for a change) but instead, just another New Yorker who had come to draw.

Minerva Durham, the director of Spring Studios, is kind and supportive toward her models. Among her many generosities, Minerva gives all of us our own drawing card so we can come and draw whenever we want, free of charge. My card had been tucked away in my wallet for months, untouched and unpunched. I figured it was about time I put that baby to use. So I chose the Friday afternoon session for two reasons; it’s short poses, which I wanted, and it’s monitored by my friend David Silverman. Plus, I heard that the model booked for that particular day was very good, which she was indeed. Outstanding, really. Her name was Stephanie.

So you might be wondering, how did I do? Well, let’s see, how should I describe my drawings? Hmmm . . . um . . . OK . . . I think the best adjective to describe them is ABYSMAL. PITIFUL works too. And ATROCIOUS. And APPALLING. Basically I’m saying that I sucked. I can’t put down a pretty line. I’m awful. I’m a disgrace! 😥 Believe me, I didn’t go in there with delusions of grandeur. But I did, however, think I’d produce somewhat better drawings than I actually created. My reasoning was this: after years of being an art model, I’ve heard everything in the way of art instruction. I’ve seen and absorbed (or so I thought!) the measuring technique for proportions, lessons in human anatomy (for which I’ve been the “demo figure” countless times), the observation of shadow shapes and perspective and foreshortening, the whole shebang. So I KNOW what goes into a drawing. I just can’t DO it. Not yet, anyway.

Then again, my mental approach and attitude was less than focused that afternoon. I wasn’t exactly the picture of diligence and patience. I knew something was wrong when I found myself erasing more than drawing. That’s really what I did for three hours: ERASE. Rub, rub, rub, blow erasing residue off paper. Ok. Now. Wait. Fiddle with iPod. Find the right song . . . some Beatles. Abbey Road. Good. Now, DRAW. Hold on! Straigthen drawing board. Adjust chairs and get more comfortable. Put feet up. Ok, draw! Hold on, where are my sesame sticks? Ah, found them. Munch, munch. NOW I’m ready to draw. Go! Good . . . good . . . not bad . . . looking decent . . . ugh! What’s that???? It’s ruined! Start over. Erase!!! Rub . . . rub . . . rub . . . blow off residue . . . play with kneaded eraser . . . stretch it out. Fun! Just like Silly-Putty. Then roll it into a ball. Neat! Ok, draw. Ooops. There goes the timer. Pose is over. “Five minute break”, David announces. Alright, time to go across the street and get coffee. When I get back, THEN I’ll be in the groove.

So as you can see, I wasn’t exactly the paragon of concentration.

IF I could draw – and I can’t emphasize the word “if” enough here – I’d aspire to draw in the style of this exquisite ink sketch by Robert Henri. I love these lines:

My friends, I can’t draw like that, and It’s highly unlikely I ever will. But I can POSE like that. Hey, that model has my shoulders! After the session, I sat with Minerva as she gave me my bookings for the summer. She asked me how I did with the drawing, and I moped. “Minerva, I suck!”, I told her. She asked to see my sketchbook and I refused. But she reassured me that figure drawing is, without question, very, very difficult to do. To master it, “takes years”, in her words.

I have always had nothing but admiration for artists who draw, paint, and sculpt the figure. I’ve said it repeatedly, both on this blog and to artists personally. Now my respect and admiration is multiplied by, say, 50. I didn’t think it was possible for it to increase any more. But it has. You guys are amazing.

I will draw again. I want to and I have the opportunity to. But I understand that my true place is up on that platform. That’s home. That’s where I belong. For now, I can’t draw a fluid, elegant line. But I can create one with my figure, and the energy, joy, and passion with which I pose. So I’ll do the modeling, and you guys do the drawing. Sound like a deal?

6 thoughts on “My Lamentable Drawing Venture

  1. Jeff says:

    Ah, hell, it’s the process that counts. I can’t draw fer crap either, but it’s fun, and there’s only one way to get better. It’s not magic, people aren’t born with it. It can be learned, but you have to keep doing it. I do it mostly to learn to sculpt better, but I’d honesly like to be able to draw well someday.

    I think you should post some of our drawings. Seriously. I posted a few of mine a while back after only a few weeks of going to open figure drawing, and trust me, they were not good. It was painful to do it, but it was good for me. I think it actually does help to see your drawings scanned into the computer – it somehow makes it a more objective experience, takes you a little further away from them. Of course, I usually find my drawings suck more when I scan them in than they looked to the naked eye… hmm… probably shouldn’t have mentioned that, huh?

    Oh, well… look at it this way – you’ve seen both sides of the modeling stand now. How many artists have you met who have tried the other side? So, if anyone says anything about your drawing, you tell them to take their damn clothes and hop up on the platform. 🙂

  2. artmodel says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for your great comments! Figure drawing sure is hard – harder than I even thought. But you are right that’s it’s all about practice, practice, practice. It’s an ongoing process that demands a lot of concentration (not my strong suit).

    I have artist friends who are well-established, have successful careers, have studied everywhere under prominent instructors, and most of them STILL attend figure drawing groups whenever they have the time. Or they make time. Like you said, it’s the kind of thing you just have to keep doing, constantly. An artist/instructor once said to me that, regardless of training, schooling, and credentials, when it comes to drawing the figure “everyone is a student”.

    If I create a figure drawing that is not utterly embarassing, I may very well post it here on the blog. In fact, I’d be very happy to share it with everyone. But I certainly won’t hold my breath!

    Thanks for your supportive words. Always nice to hear from you.

    Claudia

  3. I cant draw for shit either, and I dont think I would have the patience to sit and pose while some one else draws me. So i give you so much credit for that. You know it takes two people to make a drawing like that, so to be a part of the process is just as integral.

  4. artmodel says:

    Historianlover,

    I’m so glad you said that! It sure does take two people to make a drawing. Right on, my friend!

    In fact, I do recognize that my role is integral. Every model should. If they don’t, then they are not “invested” in the process, and because of that attitude, they miss out on a great feeling of reward and appreciation.

    Thanks for your comment!

    Claudia

  5. Chris Miller says:

    Would you pick up a violin for the first time and think you’d sound like Heifitz ?

    The charcoal and paper is no less difficult an instrument.

    Practice practice practice.

  6. Andy says:

    Whatever you do don’t give up, i have been trying to figure draw for ages and i’m still rubbish though i’m less rubbish than i used to be, give it time it will come, i think a lot of us expect to get at least reasonable results when we first try and it can be really down heartening when we look at our drawings and think pffffttt. You should never feel ashamed of your drawings everyone has to start somewhere and getting feedback about them can be really helpfull. Treat your next drawing session as fun, expect nothing in the way of results and you will find you are more relaxed and draw better, don’t know if i could cope listening to music on an ipod as i draw but i guess thats different strokes for different folks.

    good luck and do keep on trying, after all it’s more about the enjoyment you get from drawing than what someone gets from viewing it.

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