My favourite subject is probably the human figure. I paint and draw many other things, and love doing them too when the mood takes me, but trying to capture an impression of another life endlessly attracts me.
Perhaps it’s the discipline. Artistic Licence allows you to move trees or buildings around in a landscape painting. You can play around with perspective, rearrange a tree’s branches and add or subtract flowers to suit your scene, but if you’re going to distort the human figure it still has to feel ‘real’ on some level. Modigliani’s elongated women retain a very believable quality. Even Picasso’s extreme distortions carry a real sense of human emotion.
I instantly fell in love with the genre of life drawing at my first experience of it, during my foundation course at Hull Art College in the 1970’s. It is such an honour to have the opportunity to stare at a naked body, studying its smallest details, finding the uniqueness and the beauty in it.
As for the model, it can be incredibly boring unless they are good daydreamers or meditators. It is also very difficult to keep still for any length of time on purpose. Especially when you know that a bunch of people – often strangers – are staring at your body, not you, and noticing all your lumps and bumps. And the pose which you thought you could hold for the required 15 minutes slowly becomes more and more painful as your leg starts to ache and your arm goes to sleep. It’s hardly a time for erotic thoughts, believe me.
All artists should model sometime; it really makes you appreciate what models do for you. When I am teaching life drawing I make students sit or stand in the same pose as the model for a few minutes before they start to draw. They can then feel where the weight of the body is pressing down most, where the balance or imbalance is, where the muscles are tense or relaxed.
When I’m doing this kind of fast work I find myself in a strange place where I am watching my hand making marks but I’m not really ‘there’. The processing, left side of my brain switches off the mind chatter and I simply follow the lines.
I have to get out of my own way so that I can tell exactly how long, or thick, or curved a line needs to be. When you have practiced these methods for as long as I have they become second nature and your hand connects directly to your eye. This never fails to fascinate me. After working in this way it’s like surfacing from a dream. I am surrounded by drying pieces of paper that I only half remember painting. Some work, some don’t – some I try to ‘fix’ and usually ruin, some I throw straight in the bin, but some just have a fresh and lively quality that I like.
Class Update –
Tuesday mornings at Le Meridien in the Kudeta lounge 10am – 12.30pm we explore different techniques and approaches to drawing and painting.
Thursdays 10.30 – 1pm we meet at Ta’Mena in Gozo to draw and paint in the extensive grounds
Fridays 9.30 – 12pm we always have a good time in the gardens of Villa Bologna in Attard!
I am going to start a Saturday morning basic drawing and watercolour class in my studio in Manikata soon - please let me know if you are interested or want any more info.