A few more people-y pix and then I will be on to the other good stuff… dogs and pumpkins and posies and stuff. I really should get myself a Flickr account, but if we sit around here waiting for me to get myself together enough to do that, it will be all January and stuff and you’ll be looking at my photos going “man, that’s so 2007. Get over it already. yeesh.” So… here is the three of us, the girls looking gawgeous and me offering living proof why you should never get your haircut three days before journeying to meet people you have never met before where styling time (and showers) will be severely limited and yesterday’s make up is gonna have to suffice ‘cuz baby, we’ve got places to go, things to do and all of New England at our feet!
It may have started with Disney’s animated version of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, you know the one… with the gawky Ichabod Crane atop his loping horse, all beaky nose and jutting adam’s apple being chased though covered bridges and haunted woods by the relentless Headless Horseman whilst owls hooted and bullrushes tattooed a spooky beat on hollowed logs.
Or maybe in my childhood, I somehow confused the UK’s England with the newer model established by the pilgrims long ago at Plymouth Rock. Maybe I was one of those pilgrims in a past life or something (I do have a strange affection for big buckled black shoes after all). I’m not sure. But whatever the case, I have harbored a life long love of all things New England even though I have never been there. Never. Not once. Not unless you count NYC as New England (which I was informed this weekend it is most definitely not).
I love lobster and apples and autumn and pumpkins and clapboard. N.C. Wyeth is my ultimate illustration hero. I love ships and sailboats and things which come in wooden kegs. I love seashells and sea worn stones and fishing nets and moose and wild turkeys and the Gilmore Girls. I love schrimshaw work and Shaker style everything, picket fences and Emily Dickenson. I love pane glass windows and red barns and cranberries and Newhart, maple syrup and inns. I love Whistler’s Mother and John Singer Sargent and Nathaniel Hawthorne not to mention that whole prep school/Ivy League thang. I love tricorn hats and Benjamin Franklin and quilts and clam chowder and witches and acorns. I love The Pixies, John Updike, and lighthouses. Chances are, if I love it, you will find it somewhere in New England, it came from New England or it ultimately wound up in New England (like Martha Stewart). Or it is done better in New England than anywhere else (like Halloween).
But, I repeat, I had never ever been there before.
But this past weekend? This past weekend I flew to Boston to meet two of the most magical women on the face of this planet and found myself royally ensconced in the heart of New Hampshire, looking out over the most incredible vistas, entranced by the wonder that is Soliden, charmed and beguiled by everything and everybody I laid my eyes on.
New England is all that I dreamed it would be and so, so, SO much more, I don’t even know how to express it. I have so much more to say, but mostly I just want to thank the two darling darling creatures, two of the best friends I never met (until this past weekend!) who made it possible for me to spend a couple of days in my personal version of paradise (and also the Handsome Guy for encouraging me to go in the first place and for taking such good care of my furry black heart, Finny J. while I was gone).
Elizabeth, my dearest most luminous BluePoppy, no lighthouse in the world could eclipse the light and inspiration you have shone on me. You are my shining beacon. And damn sexy besides! Thank you for your undying devotion to beauty and truth and for letting me luxuriate for a moment in the loveliness that is your life.
Paige, you dazzling, drawling, enchanting little indigo-eyed Otter, you are a tenderhearted pixie who radiates piercing intelligence and charm (and killer fashion sense) in everything you do, in every way that is possible to radiate charm and intelligence. It was such a pleasure to share the wonder of New England with you, to watch you sparkle and beam, catching the light like a prism. I could not possibly have chosen a better partner to geek out with over all things New England, over stuffed crows and pumpkins and butter coloured doggities. You are my joy! And the cheekiest monkey around.
And New England? LOVE. Just bottom-of-my-heart, speak-it-plain love.
Magical, magical weekend. Life changing even. I want to say that I don’t even have the words, but I do. I have thousands of words, trillions of words and pictures too. But I’m still processing the wonder, the magic. I feel like every fiber of my being is humming and alive, like these vibrant petals… orange and pink and green. And I am filled with every shade of gratitude, full to the brim with love and dreams and joy. I have found my place in the sun. And it turns out? It’s in New Hampshire. Who knew?
ha. you totally thought this was gonna be a nude didn’t you? C’mon, admit it. Well, nope. It’s a tree hurling itself thru space. And I drew it (in ink) a couple of weeks ago when I was looking at the full moon and suddenly thought ‘what if once a month, during a full moon, all the trees in the forest voluntarily uproot themselves and spring into the sky trying to catch the moon?’ a romantic thought, no? But alas, probably not a very realistic one. You would think that if all the trees in the world spontaneously uprooted themselves and flung themselves into the sky once a month, we would have heard about it by now. Scientists, lumberjacks, fairytale trolls… someone would have copped on to that by now and spilled the beans. ‘Cuz think about it…it would be a pretty noisy affair. All that ripping of roots and kerthumping of earth and swish of branches. Imagine the collective crash they would make when they came to earth again. Yeah… LOUD! Ad think about all the angry woodland creatures… squirrels and owls and turkey vultures and raccoons ( one c or two? I can never remember.) That would be a right rude awakening, wouldn’t it? Imagine your house tearing itself from its foundation and shuttling into the sky once a month. Though, probably after centuries of this kind of activity, the woodland critters would have hatched some kinda contingeny plan. Involving parachutes and bungee cords, I’m sure. And maybe little padded astronaut suits. But instead of NASA patches sewn over the breast or sleeve, they would have little acorn emblems or something. You’d see the little woodland creatures suiting up, pulling their suits over their little furry bods, stuffing their tails out special vents and you’d know… oh yeah. Full moon coming up. Looks like the trees are getting ready for their monthly howler. yeah, I know. I’m a little strange. But good strange. Friendly strange. Completely non-serial killer strange. I swear!
Anyway, it’s kind of a cool image. I likes it.
And whoa! Get a load of me! Posting three times in one week!!! will wonders never cease? well, what can I say? I’m a feast or famine kinda girl.
oh boo. I called and the life drawing session is filled already. I knew I left it too late. I looked into finding a similar session at Sheridan College (they have an incredible animation program there), but as far as I can tell, they don’t offer a similar open studio life drawing class for non-students… lots of more structured academic courses, but that’s not what I’m looking for right now. I’d probably be too late to register for the fall there anyway. And anywhere else I can think of would be too far to drive on a week night (too big a pain in the arse is what I mean).
So I signed up for a class called “multi-imagery” in acrylics which focuses on different techniques with acrylic (like photo transfer, mixed media and stuff) instead and will make sure to sign up early for the life drawing studio when the new season begins in January.
The acrylic class will be good too. Acrylic is my preferred medium, but you know… I’ve never taken a formal class in acrylic painting techniques. Isn’t that weird? That strikes me as weird. Especially for someone with a degree in Visual Communication (Illustration and Design major) plus the year I spent in Fine Art while at University. I mean, yes, I used acrylic the whole time (most of us did), but we were never formally instructed in painting (except watercolor… we had a couple of watercolor workshops). Our assignments were often limited in terms of the palette (monochromatic color schemes, analogous color schemes, two color… whatever) but the choice of media was left up to us. Like I said, most of us painted our illustrations with acrylics, put some worked pencil color, ink, pastel or watercolour. Of course, assignments for computer illustration were done digitally. I’ve been throughly instructed in color and (to a lesser degree) compostition and perspective and all that, but never in actual painting technique. I’ve tried just about every medium going, but acrylic has always been my preference. Aside from good old graphite that is. Watercolor is too wishy washy for me – not meaty enough, color pencil takes too long for someone as impatient as me, pastel is fun but too delicate for me (chalk pastel especially). I like ink but have had too many accidents involving white sofas and permanently imbedded stains in carpeting to make that a regular choice and I love oils but they’re too toxic to work with a lot and take forEVER to dry (cure). I would love to try egg tempera one of these days.
So while it would be inaccurate to say I’m entirely self-taught in acrylic (I do remember discussions about drybrush and various glazing mediums etc.) most of what I know about painting is as a result of experiment and playing around with the stuff, reading about it. So this will be good. Not AS good mind you, but good nonetheless.
Really, the whole point of me taking an art class is not for the education so much as just getting out and meeting some people with similar interests and sort of… I dunno… formalizing my approach to art if you know what I mean, keep me from getting complacent. While I firmly believe you are never done learning and I’m certain that I can always learn something new, I’m taking courses through a small local art center, not a university program or something and I will likely be as skilled if not more so than the instructor (Gah! that sounds so conceited, but you know what I mean). That’s okay. I don’t need to be taught HOW to draw, how to paint, how to illustrate… I’ve been doing that just fine. I know HOW already. What I’m really looking for is motivation to keep growing, keep stretching and hopefully, the opportunity to actually meet people with a similar bent. Three dimensionally, I mean. I have terrific internet friends and I adore each of you and you inspire me so much and I could not function without you… but I realized recently that I don’t have one single friend in this province that I could just go for coffee with and talk about art/illustration. Since we left Alberta six years ago, I haven’t met a single illustrator. O, I know creative people… but most of them work in television. That kind of creativity counts of course, but it’s different. Long and short of it is, it’s about time I investigated the local art scene and start making an effort to be a part of my community in that sense.
But I am still interested in the whole life drawing discussion and whether there would be any objection to me posting nude figure drawings. So far, it would seem that no one objects. And some people are very encouraging. So maybe I’ll dig out some of my old figure drawings and scan them in to tie you over until I can get into a formal session.
Note: After I posted the post below (Lisa Rinna’s prom dress) I remembered that I had written about the subject of life drawing a couple of times before and went back and found this old archived post from my first blog on Diaryland. I thought I would post it again here for your enlightenment and entertainment.
From the vaults 03/03/2004:
This morning, I checked in on Danny Gregory’s Everyday Matters as has become my daily practice and discovered his topic today is life drawing. This is a wee bit coincidental because I’ve been thinking about writing on just that subject for a couple of weeks now, ever since borrowing five library books on the subject (primarily for their segments on foreshortening).
Last Monday, I was leafing through one which has a lot of photographs of models in various poses, and Johnny Handsome walked in and peeked over my shoulder.
“Whoa, naked people!” he exclaimed, all titillated as people generally are when they spy pictures of naked people. He playfully plucked my book from my hands and began flipping through the pages with a look of bemusement. And then he handed it back to me.
“All done?” I said.
“Yeah. I thought it would be much more sexy. But it’s not really sexy at all.”
And that’s the thing that struck me. It isn’t sexy drawing naked people. You would think it would be, but no.
I’ve had lots of experience drawing naked people. It’s an art school thang. I always kind of assume everyone has sat in on a life drawing class and it always surprises me a bit when I realize that not everyone has, that not even most people have.
And I think the common assumption would be that drawing nudes would be a hot and sweaty endeavor, fraught with sexual urgings and such at the site of unveiled nipples and thigh muscles and pubic regions and long stretches of flesh. I think people might even think it a wee bit naughty or scandalous.
I know my Granny Ford certainly didn’t think it appropriate for a nineteen year old me to be drawing nude people sprawled across sagging old art studio couches of questionable origin and vintage… especially nude and sprawling MEN with all their manly bits hanging out for all the world to see. I think she thought it akin to pornography.
“What?!” I remember her expression clearly, bread crumbs tumbling from her lips, her hand gripping the butter knife as she prepared to slather a luncheon roll with butter, goggling in horror when i casually mentioned that i had to get back to school soon because we had a life drawing session and it was particularly important that I not miss them, as models were expensive and more exotic and infrequent than the usual dry still life set-ups of boxes and cones and tinfoil. “They’re naked? Completely? Completely naked? And they are sometimes men?!”
It was clear this was a horror too profound for her, one that made her feel a little faint and nauseated. The butter knife, still hovering in mid-air, trembled a little with building outrage as I tried to brush it off with a casual roll off my eyes and a shrug.
“Believe me, Gran, it’s no big deal. It’s not much different than drawing a tree or a chair, really.” (Although in fact, it is. It’s much different.)
“And the university…the university…they endorse this? This is a part of your class? Your education? These…these…these naked people? You can’t draw them with their clothes on?”
“O, Gran. It’s just human anatomy. You have to see the musculature, the way the arms connect to the shoulders, the way the legs connect to the torso and the way the knee bend and all that.”
“but why can’t they just wear shorts or something?” she looked almost tearful. I don’t know. Maybe she thought this damned me to hell. maybe she thought the site of naked people would permanently pervert me, bend my moral compass in some unalterable way. Maybe she was imagining my smoldering remains, her granddaughter singed to cinders whilst some cloven hooved demon pranced and paraded (no doubt wagging his hind ones in a provocative and unseemly way).
“O, Gran. It’s just ART! Art, you know? Artists have been doing nudes for centuries. Monet drew naked people, Picasso drew naked people, Da Vinci drew naked people… in fact he drew cadavers stolen from the gallows. He actually peeled back their skin to look at the muscles. He drew some of the first medical textbooks. ”
Her mouth tightened into a thin ridge of disapproval. Although I had not convinced her, I’m sure, she let the subject drop with the resigned, mournful air of someone who had done all they could, but you know, sigh… there was just no saving some people.
The first life drawing class I took was anti-climatic indeed. My last year of high school (in Denver, Colorado), I was among a group of promising art students selected from area high schools to participate in a special series of professional artist’s workshops and among the events was to be a life drawing session with real live and naked models. I was bursting with anticipation as I set up my easel and impatiently clipped newsprint to it, charcoal at the ready. Patiently I waited for something… an instructor to appear, a glorious alabaster body in a traditional greek pose to be suddenly unveiled…something.
I waited, and waited. Minutes ticked by.
My curious peers stirred and began whispering. A spiky hair guy in nothing but a paisley robe padded through, looking confused. A couple of middle aged adults with serious expressions muttered in the doorway, looking at us, a shiny faced mob of about fourteen high schoolers then disappeared.
More minutes. Stretching now to nearly an hour. It was all becoming very mysterious. I stared blankly around the studio at my puzzled classmates, at the sheet draped platform around which photographer’s lamps and drawing easels were uniformly arranged. the air was filled with a low buzz of anticipation….and nothing.
And then suddenly a large, bespectacled women gripping a clipboard appeared at my elbow, asking for my vitals. What was my name, what school was I from, and what was my birth date.
“So, that makes you what,” she said with a frown, ” sixteen? You can’t be in here. Collect your things and come with me.”
What? Huh? It turns out that one of the student’s mothers had clicked into the fact that life drawing meant drawing people in their …gasp! All-togethers and had complained, had in fact, thrown a major wobbly, leading to the quick and decisive mandate that no one under the age of eighteen be allowed to participate in life drawing sessions. Instead we were herded into the lobby to draw a hastily erected still life of apples and wicker baskets. Eventually they allowed us to do some quick sketches of some shirtless guy in jeans belted with one of those big buckled cowboy belts while concerned capital M Mothers flapped behind us in tight, clucking clusters. In furious protest, I glared narrowly at the Mothers and drew black boxes over the model’s eyes, elbows and general boy zone. No one seemed particularly impressed by my political statement, however.
Needless to say, I was sorely disappointed. And not because I was sixteen and therefore all hopped up on adolescent hormones (although I surely was), and not because despite my share of teenage fumbling, I hadn’t yet seen a completely naked man in the flesh (my little brother, raucous midnight skinny dipping incidents and accidental, mortifying, deeply suppressed flashes of my dad in the bathroom aside).
But because life drawing from real live nude models seemed like the pinnacle of artistic education… like graduating. Finally, the gawky apprentice is allowed some real responsibility, allowed to hang with the big boys. Make the mop swab and swing and fetch the water by itself.
Being all resilient and sixteen and stuff, I recovered. But the allure of life drawing was duly enhanced by this incident.
Round ’bout my second year of university, I switched my major for the third time to Fine Arts (I would go on to switch majors again and again…but my academic history is epic and not the topic here.) As far as I could tell, Fine Art was mostly about looking artfully tousled and nonchalant and developing deeply pretentious, carelessly vague justifications for use during class critiques. And every one hated drawing class. Everyone except me. It was undoubtedly my favourite class.
For the first two months we did endless perspective exercises, drew innumerable still-lifes (still lives?!), practiced draping and shadows and finessing our line work. We did a massive self-portrait series. We drew glass jars on tin foil, studying the texture and lively reflection. We drew endless boxes and even sheets of paper lying flat on the floor.
And then finally, the first of our nude models showed up. And o… I felt like this was an honour I had earned. The joy of drawing something real and full of breath, skin and bones and weighty flesh. Something with a face and a personality, something that moved. Danny Gregory describes it all masterfully and I really encourage you to read his entry about it.
But the point of all this is, once I got past the initial embarrassment of staring openly at an unrobed person, once I got past the “oh, man… i wonder what she/he is thinking… I wonder if she’s cold” … all the preconceived ideas about what it would be like to draw someone in the nude fell to the wayside. It felt natural and easy. And challenging. There really is nothing more challenging to my mind.
And this is the thing….there was nothing remotely sexual about it. If anything, it’s almost clinical. And I guess i can’t speak for others, but I held a kind of reverence for the models. I manufactured their life stories as I drew them. Once, while standing in an endless queue waiting to register, I realized with a start that I’d been standing directly behind one of our regular models (Rosemarie) for at least 45 minutes. I didn’t recognize her with her clothes on. I mean, really… it can not be easy to disrobe in front of a room full of strangers and stand there clad only in goosebumps while they peer at you intently and study your every nook and cranny from every angle, with little regard for creating a flattering portrait. Unlike when you’re drawing someone you know, with life drawing your goal is not to please the sitter. It’s to capture life… a gesture… a moment, volume and mass and try to make the human image root itself as solidly on paper as it is in front of you. And it’s hard.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the lessons I learned in various life drawing classes i’ve taken since. I’m drawing dinosaurs once again and the thing about drawing dinosaurs is there is no photographic reference available. I’m working from photos of skulls and fossil casts and other illustrated interpretations of their skeletons and musculature. And while I’m doing cartoons and they are far from being photographic, I think it’s important to try to imbue them with life and character and mass.
And I’ve been thinking, it’s high time I brushed up on my life drawing skills. I need to hunt down a class as soon as I get through this most recent round o’ work. It will be good for me.
another recent sketch. For some whacked reason, the women I’ve been drawing lately keep coming out lookng like Lisa Rinna, but moderately less botoxed/collagen injected. Not sure what’s up with that since all I know about Lisa Rinna is that she is married to Harry Hamlin and it’s not like I’ve ever been a fan of either of them. But whatevs.
Okay… so I have an urgent question to pose to you readers (all three of you!) I’ve decided to do a weekly life drawing session at the community art center starting the third week of this month (supposing I haven’t missed the registration deadline! I keep forgetting to call. Note to self:First thing tomorrow! ) There’s no instructor. I don’t really need an instructor at this point (though i could always learn something I’m sure), just more practice. And I was thinking I would post some of the results here. But I’m not sure how you would feel about that. ‘Cuz life drawing… that means nude models you know. And I’m not sure if some of you would be offended by that or not and have avoided posting any life drawing of the nude sort in the past for that reason .
I don’t think I have any kids (under 18s) looking at this blog, but I don’t know for sure. Do I?! If you are a kid, speak up now or forever hold your peace. (or is it piece?! Both make sense to me) Now, I personally have no problem with nudity in art and if I had a kid, I would have no problem with them viewing artful nudity. But that’s me. Others may feel differently and I know some parents are more concerned about that kind of thing. Though personally, I think Britney Spears and Paris Hilton and Bratz dolls are more of an affront to childhood innocence than say Degas’s bathers or the Venus de Milo or whatever. Not that I’m putting my work on the same level, mind you. I’m just saying!
And though I am working to move my portfolio and art in a more grown-up editorial/fine art direction, I am aware that most of the work you know me by is for the children’s market. So there’s a bit of a fine line there.
So please… if you have something to contribute on the possibility of me posting artful (tasteful) nudity on this blog, please speak up. That doesn’t mean I won’t still post it, but I will look into a way to post it more discretely. Maybe it’s not even an issue of underage viewers. Maybe it’s a matter of being work appropriate (although I imagine that if you are viewing this site at work, you are viewing it covertly anyway. Or else it’s already been blocked by the powers that be!)
So anyway, please let me know what you think. It’s an interesting issue all around I think.
okay, wow. Who knew cabbage would prove so popular?! Well, it ain’t cabbage and it ain’t a photo, but I hope you like it anyway… here’s a doodle from my sketchbook. I was just goofing around, absent mindedly, and off the end of my pencil came this mournful lass. I’ve decided her name is Valentine McMurphy and she’s awaiting her sailor sweetheart’s return from sea.