My Art Weekend, Day One

Through no intention of my own this weekend has turned into a weekend full of art and adventure. For a while now Roommate K and I have been discussing the possibility of attending the life drawing sessions at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center in Chelsea. Drawing on the subway and around town is great, and has improved my eye quite a bit in the last couple months, but there's no substitute for nude figure drawing to really get the creative juices bubbling, and your eye retrained. So early this morning K and I set out for the Center, sketchpads and assorted pencils in hand, ready for some drawing. The session is modest, there were about 15 people there, mostly men, sitting in folding chairs around the model stand and sketching with an assortment of tools and a wider assortment of ability levels.

The session rotates through 20 minute segments, with 5 minute breaks, beginning with ten 2-minute poses, then four 5-minute, two 10-minute, etc. culminating in one 40 minute pose. It was a quiet group, not a lot of socializing, though it did seem that most everyone there was familiar with each other.

I decided to work mostly in conte today, leaving my ball-point pens in the bag for once. It's been quite a while since I drew with conte and re-learning the medium was interesting. It was my preferred medium back in art school, and it was quickly apparent why. Conte has a great buttery texture that glides on a page, and is soft enough that you can get a variety of line weight out of it. There was something nostalgic and comforting about having that little square stick between my fingers, and the stain it left on the edge of my middle finger made me very happy for some reason.

Sketching today brought back so many memories of art school. All through the session the voice of my figure drawing teacher Zdzislaw Sikora was ringing in my ears.

"Draw hands, not MITTENS!"

"Any drawing from behind starts at the occipital."

"Any drawing from the front starts at the the sternal notch."

"Draw THROUGH the body to see limbs that are blocked."

I've forgotten, or at least gotten rusty on a lot of my old figure drawing skills. I had trouble maintaining proportion over a drawing, finding that I distorted size as I travelled across the body. I've also gotten rusty with my foreshortening, which this model seemed to fall into poses that highlighted foreshortening quite well. Hopefully I can make this a regular event and rebuild that skill level. Zdzislaw always praised former students (rarely current ones) by saying that they could "Draw like a machine." In my own mind I had acheived something close to that by graduation, but now 8 years later the machine needs a good oiling.

It was a challenging session, much different from what I've been doing lately. Tomorrow is an entirely different kind of drawing. Danny Gregory has announced a Sketchcrawl for NYC sketchers tomorrow at the Natural History Museum. Enrico Casarosa, who originated the term and practice of Sketchcrawling will be in attendance as well. I can't wait, another day of sketching. This time though I think I'll be channeling John Ruggieri who taught me a seminar in art school on sketch journalism, quite a different animal from figure drawing.

To Be Continued...

6 Response to "My Art Weekend, Day One"

  • Terri Says:

    Wow Cully, I think your life-drawing sketches are amazing! I'm very new to life-drawing and so I really admire those of you who do this well. Unfortunately I've only ever had the chance to draw women models. What great poses this model did for you. Very challenging, but you handled them very well. Well done!

  • Nancy Says:

    These are beautifull, especially the second - which I would imagine to have been very difficult. It doesn't looks rusty at all.

  • Zee Says:

    Your sketches are truly beautiful, Cully. I love the second one. It seems to carry emotion.

    I hope to see what you share with us from today's sketchcrawl. Have fun!

  • Linda Says:

    Your figure drawings are really excellent. And I like that you threw in your art teacher's advice! Starting with the occipital from the back feels obvious -- starting from the sternal notch in the front is something that I'm going to have to try, but it makes really good sense! Share MORE of what your instructors have said! :-)

  • Anonymous Says:

    I got to thinking about Professor Sikora and so I googled him and came upon your post. He was my life drawing instructor at SCAD. I was lucky enough to have him for three different classes. He kept all of my work! lol Such a great man, I remember everyone being terrified of him but I adored him and his wacky sense of humor! He taught me a lot and I was hoping to find him to thank him after all of these years. So, I found you and had to smile at 'Draw hands not mittens!' I remember that. :)


  • Anonymous Says:

    Professor Sikora is now the Chair of Fine Arts at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan. He is my boss and a great guy to work with