Sunday, February 5, 2012

Taking a Figure Workshop

I rarely paint the figure.  Mostly, it's either because of the lack of an open studio (and models) or my busy schedule.  I'd love to paint the figure from life more often.   Good drawing skills are critical, and it's a great way to practice them.  You can get away with so much poor drawing in the landscape and never get any better at it.  Painting the figure forces you to look at proportion and angle and to measure often.

Yesterday, I was able to take a one-day workshop with Gretchen Lopez.  Gretchen, who worked in the fashion and illustration world, is a popular teacher.  I took a workshop with her last year, and I was eager to do so again.  In the morning, we did several quick sketches in charcoal or pastel (one- to three- to fifteen minute poses), and then for the afternoon, we worked in color in the medium of our choice.  Over two hours or so, we worked on a single painting.   Gretchen demonstrated frequently, and we made sure to give our patient model breaks as often as possible.

I sketched in oil on a 9x12 panel.  Gretchen wanted us to keep to brown tones, so I made a variety of browns with cadmium red light, ultramarine blue, white and a little chromatic black (Gamblin) and then some yellow for the highlights.  I wiped out my starting sketch a couple of times before getting the general proportions correct, and then it was a push-and-pull process of painting negative and positive spaces to get the others.

I think the sketch works pretty well - it was good practice.  It's a little tighter than I paint the landscape, but then, I was focussing on drawing, and not on bravura brush work.

What's this got to do with plein air?  Well, it's working from life, which is what plein air is all about.  And painting the figure is also, perhaps most importantly, about drawing.   Painting the figure, I believe, will go a long way in helping you to paint the landscape.

Pasha, 9x12 oil sketch

Pasha, detail


Patrick said...

I agree painting figurs can only help with better drawing skills in the landscape. I'm trying to fine a good Alla prima portrait teacher her in the UK but having difficulty finding one for residential. You have sketched a beautiful pose look forward to seeing more.

Rosalie said...

I've drawn from the figure for many years, and agree that it definitely relates to en plein air painting. Just looking at the gentle curve of an upper body into the arm makes you think of the gentle curves of the landscape, and contemplate about how you can translate that appreciation into a landscape painting.

I just read a quote from Georgia O'keeffe about painting flowers. She said something like "I don't even like flowers, but they are less expensive than models, and they don't move!" What a spunky, honest artist she was!