I think I’m finally getting the hang of figure painting. I am by no means an expert, but for the first time, this week, I was pleased with every sing pose I painted from 1 minutes to 20 minutes.
I started figures in January at The Art Students League. My teacher, Naomi Campbell, was hosting a watercolor workshop on models in surreal environments. I had never painted figures before, but I was curious. It was odd. It was exhausting. And I was hooked. Every Monday since I’ve taken the Q to Manhattan to learn and paint with Naomi. I take two back to back sessions of this class so I am painting from 4:50-6:50pm and 7-10:15pm. Each session moves does a series of 1 min, 2 min, 5 min, 10 min, and 20 min poses. Even with model breaks, five hours of painting is exhausting. Not every class goes as smoothly as this week did. Naomi is a kind teacher, but I wouldn’t call her gentle and my face frequently leaks with frustration.
I’ve learned many things in this class – proportions, body over clothing, lighting, brush positioning – but the thing I struggle with the most is the desire to make my sketches pretty. It’s common, but painting prettily gets in the way of painting things accurately.
Longer poses are excellent for practicing accuracy. If your model isn’t going to move for 20 minutes you have time to think and argue with yourself about where to place your brush. Less so when you only have 60 seconds to get paint on your brush, your brush on the page and somehow end up with an understandable figure on your page. 60 seconds to paint an entire person. No pressure. And after 60 seconds your model moves and you start all over again.
With practice comes progress and in the last few weeks I’ve managed to finally fit all the pieces together for the 1 minute poses. The second set of sketches are much smoother, but when I look at all of the sketches I can clearly see the model and how she was holding her body. Maybe you can, maybe you can’t, that’s fine, I can. It helps of course, that I was there. Whatever, I am pleased. Pleased and motivated to continue painting and learning. There has been much research done about the various art schools in the city and I am planning. But mostly painting.
Most of my sketches from class are below. I can’t find the notebook with the second session 1 min sketches which is SUUUUUUUPER annoying. I’ll keep digging.