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Figure Painting

Last week I took a workshop at the Artist Student League: The Surreal Environment and the Model. It was amazing. It was physically exhausting. It was brilliantly challenging and I really can’t wait to go back.


The workshop was at the ASL at 57th and 7th which is one of my favorite parts of Manhattan. It’s a mix of old brick and stone and a hint of not-entirely-boxy glass. It’s been a while since I’ve needed to be in Manhattan this early in the morning, and I wasn’t thrilled about my adjusted wake up time at first, but the view from the train on the way in was entirely worth it.


This workshop was intimidating for a number of reasons. I’m used to painting in a public setting. This workshop was a closed door class, dude to a nude model being used, but painting in front of other people is just…weird. This class also called for materials much larger than I usually useΒ – the minimum size paper (11″x14″) was the largest size I’d ever used up until last week. The smallest notebook I used was 11″18″ and I’ve included a picture with a legal pad for size reference with the other books I used. The biggest challenge, though, was that I’d never done any sort of figure painting before. I’d taken a figure drawing class at the ASL in March of 2016, but it didn’t occur to me that there would be much a difference . I knew this would be a directional change for me – most of my stuff is space or castles, but until 10 minutes before the class I didn’t think “hey, maybe you should take an intro class first…”

The class was vaguely structured as 10 1-minute poses with a short water change break. 5 Β 2-minute poses with a water change break. 2 5-minute poses with a medium break. 1 10-minute post with a water change break. 1 20-minute pose followed by a long break. 1 hour long pose with water and stretch breaks every 20 minutes. We had two models during the workshop – M. on Tuesday and Wednesday and T. on Thursday and Friday. Both models were EXCELLENT. M focused more on fluidity in her poses, while T was more powerful. They were both stunning and I hope to work with them again in the future.

The first day was mostly spent working on seeing things less literally and loosening up my painting style. I was reminded that the goal was not a pretty picture, but an understandable rendering of the movement of figure and the relationship between the figure and the setting. I also was nudged into using more paint, which lead to a blocky way of painting that I *really* enjoy. I just about fell over when I got home. I’d grabbed a water and a juice during the long break after an urging to keep hydrated and it helped, but I was still exhausted and sore after two hours in the bath.

The second day I felt that I actually got the hang of the human body as a figure. I was pushed to use bigger brushes and fewer brush strokes which helped me loosen up even more. Β The next challenge for me was to widen my perspective of the scene and not see a body first, inside of a scene. This may have involved a few tears of frustration on my end. Worth it, tears, though. My second attempt at the long pose ended up being one of my favorite pieces of the week. I also discovered how to get paint in ones ear.

The third day I started by buying bigger brushes. The three of them were $90. I may have also cried a little bit then. They took a little while to get used to, getting the correct paint to water ratio was painful and took both days, but were very worth it.Β I was pleased by the fluidity of my short poses, and the boldness of the long pose. By Thursday Eowyn had started to get used to the idea of me soaking *every* day for this amount of time, but she still had concerns.

The fourth day included both painting, reviews of our bodies of work, and a small celebration for our instructor’s birthday. I brought Will cookies, because Will cookies are the best. We did fewer poses, and I found myself frustrated with the longer pose, I focused too much on the power of T’s pose. It was frustrating to end on that note, but it was followed by an excellent review session – not just from the instructor but from the entire class. Getting home and photographing/organizing the work made me realize just how much painting I had done. That, and going through three different notebooks. On Friday, Eowyn also realized that if she wiggled into the opening of my robe a certain way, I’d carry her around with me. Bonus picture of the cat enjoying our heating pad cuddle time.


My favorites:



This class was way beyond my comfort zone, but I’m looking forward to more of this painting style and to how this will change my usual style.