The practice of life drawing immediately places one in what is perhaps humanities oldest unbroken cultural line. From the Chauvet and Lascaux caves to the present time, the creation of the human form has occurred, mark by mark, with burnt sticks.
The nude is a very unique and timeless genre in Western Art. Almost completely suppressed by modernism, the nude has barely managed to hang onto the concept that there can be an empathetic basis for art. Even after fending off notions of Desire, Didactic, Subservience, Narrative, and the Art Historical-isms, the Nude can still express the human milieu best.
A life drawing does not pretend to substitute itself for the act of looking, as a painting can with its full range of tone and hue. Paint can become flesh. Frequently, as a painting’s increasing accuracy substitutes itself for the model, it becomes increasingly difficult to suspend our sense of disbelief, and we search for flaws in the image.
A life drawing carries a much lower burden of proof, giving it the qualities so loved—its directness, gestural spontaneity, and the joy of expression. It is very difficult for a model to “lie” through pose, gesture, and expression. It is also very difficult for an artist to “lie” through gestural drawing and spontaneity. An inherent truth is self evident in life drawing when artist and model collaborate within these natural limits.
Observation and response…At some point while making a life drawing, the response shifts from the model to the unfinished drawing. The object has become the subject. Aesthetics and imagination are now interfacing with observation and form. This edge is where art begins to occur. Often a drawing is infused with great energy because of the time constraint of the pose. This energy has the ability to astonish with a brief, but mute line that, even though you’ve made it, you’ve never seen before. This physical effort, at the near impossible task to create meaning, is a sort of gallantry realized in only seven minutes of life drawing.
A successful drawing arouses feelings around the edges of observation and, hopefully, an ineffable fascination occurs. You’re in there some place. Later at the studio some of the drawings get reworked a little. It’s a delicate balance between the initial drawing’s energy and spontaneity and a more measured reworking. I have always felt that the aesthetic experience occurs at the boundaries, the edges of recognition and chaos, feeling, and form.
I respect each one of these life drawings, and I love many of them. I hope you will find a connection to some of these drawings as well.
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