Friday Figures- A Model’s Moods

Nude flings herself onto the couch in a Victorian faint, and keeps this position for three heroic hours as artists scramble for smelling salts and fragrant tussy-mussies.
A nude falls backward onto the couch in this classic Victorian faint, as artists scramble for smelling salts and turpentine. Oil wash over graphite on Arches oil-primed paper, 13″ x 10″. 3 hour pose.

I hardly ever start painting right off the bat. A three hour work session broken into 20 to 25 minute blocks allows time to figure out composition and shadows, to slow down and see. The first time block, for me, is always devoted to pencil thumbnails. Block two is for putting the figure on oil paper (or canvas or panel or whatever), checking proportions, correcting. Then I’ll actually brush on some paint from there onward.

There's a different character to this sketch, a different expression. More angst, which disappeared in the painting. Here, she looks nearly anguished. In the oil sketch she is a lot calmer, self-possessed. By the end of three hours, her eyes were shut.
There’s a whole different character to this sketch- an expression that didn’t make it as far as the painting stage. Here she looks troubled, fearful, anguished. That lasted exactly 20 minutes. By the end of the three hour session, her big bright eyes were entirely closed. Can anyone really maintain wide-eyed anxiety for three whole hours? Please don’t answer that. 6B pencil in Stillman & Birn Epsilon Series sketchbook, 8 1/2″ x 11″.

One thing you can’t control for is the model’s inner life, and how it expresses outwardly over the course of the figure session. If an interesting look lights up her face, it soon vanishes, like a bird on a lovely flower. If you dare, ask the model what she was thinking about right at that moment. Maybe, if you’re lucky, you’ll see it again. Or, maybe you’ll see an even more interesting expression. Now, draw quickly. Very, very quickly.

Happy Friday.

3 thoughts on “Friday Figures- A Model’s Moods

  1. chataboutart says:

    That’s a really lovely sketch and a great painting. It’s hard to carry the character from one to another but this works. It’s interesting that you use such a soft pencil yet keep it so clean. Will look out for more !

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