Monday, September 17, 2007

Life Sketches

Heard of Verrocchio? No, it's not another Starbucks invention, he was Leonardo's teacher. Oh yes, the Master also had a teacher!

I guess everyone should have a teacher. Someone to guide but not to control the mind. It's like drawing, I needed someone to guide me (even teachers in form of books) but not someone to tell me how and what to draw while he held my hand.

Life Drawing is teacher; not a teaching aid. It often reveals beauty and magical qualities of a human being; and feelings that come with it. Plenty of opportunities for me to record these thoughts through drawing.

Now pencil is "teacher", not a teaching aid. It reveals its qualities and limitations as I let it skid freely on the sketchpad. Pencils create linear footprints and so it should not pretend to be a charcoal stick which can cover areas quickly with a mere smudging of a finger. Hence a pencil shall cover areas by massing up repetitive lines until desired tone is achieved. It's tricky and that's why drawing is fun.

But there are hidden principles behind drawing which took me time to discover and learned firsthand. Thus, I always remind myself: Respect the pencil at all times. (Permit me to use the pencil to represent all medium of drawing and painting just for analogy). Never ignore a broken pencil. Sharpened pencils shall always inspire one to draw. Get the habit of buying small sketch pads and nice HB and 2B pencils and draw someone you love..just to start engines running.

Treasure your drawings like photographs you want to keep. Treat every drawing as a learning experience, never as a masterpiece (this will urge one to do better next time:) When elated, draw! When melancholic, draw! One shall have a clearer mind and feel a sense of well-being after a sketching session. Let's draw! Back to our childhood, innocent and free! One can easily recapture that wonderful feeling but this time forget crayolas and walls:-)

"Control the medium!" How many times have we heard this? "Don't let the medium control you!" Why are we afraid to use an airbrush, or a sablebrush, or a pen, or a stylus? The great fear of the unknown? Because they are intimidating, some will say. I disagree. What more could be intimidating than a blank canvas or paper waiting for the artist?

And so I tell friends, family and kids...grab some pencils and practise drawing. It's a form of meditation, like I discovered long ago. It will entertain the brain. One goes inside a painting one creates, or even a doodle; and if I may wax becomes the pencil point, a tiny speck of light that represents one's spirit; a speck of charcoal or lead that etches the footprints of your soul on earth.

It's also like going to war, lifedrawing. Get ammos ready, down to the humble rubber eraser. Prepare to crawl or squat on the floor if all easels are taken. Take plenty of liquid before the session, never food (it will slow you down for the digestive system needs energy. Starving is good sometimes;-)

Last Saturday we had a good model for lifedrawing at Blacktown Arts Centre. Great venue, spacious and was clearly designed to admit natural light. (Thanks to Monir Rowshan (Cultural Planning Coordinator of Blktn) for letting me know of this lifedrawing event. Also to the selfless effort of Sophia Kouyoumdjian, most dedicated arts warrior of Blacktown. Wonderful models! Hey Sophia where do you get all of them? Gee my list of models dates back to Banjo Patterson and their contact numbers simply went out of existence).

The model's skin glowed like porcelain behind a silky mesh. She was dainty but firm and strong.
There are times my sketch pad seems to throb in anticipation of impulsive pencils lines and carefully placed soft pastel highlights. Drawing is like fishing. They say half of the excitement is in the waiting. Soon as you catch your fish the adrenaline shoots downhill. After finishing a sketch I pine for another one until the boat is full. Old sketches entertain like photos. They can bring back the smell and taste of sensations long gone. That's why they're never treated more special than a good photograph.

It's all for sketch practice, drafts and studies anyway but I do acknowledge that I've invested time and energy in it; plus thoughts and feelings while I was doing it.

Now why not frame an old sketch no matter how people think about it? Isn't it what matter most are the circumstances that eternally revolve around the old sketch? Just a thought.

No wonder a good sketch is just a starting point of a good painting. Sketches that didn't evolve into paintings shall remain studies or mere reference points. But sketches are a teacher, too; reminding me I was prone to doing this line, that colour, etc. at that point of time. Some sketches bring me back to places, nearer again with people and rekindling friendship that were drawn in mind as real sketches of life. One place that stood out is Kirribilli Neighbourhood Centre where we did our early lifedrawing sessions (early 80's).

I believe a good lifedrawing sketch is not all about good draftsmanship. Likewise a written poem is quite different from a sharply-written doco of a new V-6 engine. Nonetheless accurate drawings develop naturally after a string of lifedrawing sessions. One need not draw to please anyone, just draw for oneself. I impulsive enough to angrily crumple a disliked drawing (I used to but now I recycle them:-) but still courageous enough to start on a new one. Ne'er give up on life!;-)

There were about a dozen artists that surrounded "Jackie" who posed like a ballerina frozen in time (in fact she is a ballet dancer). I had timer in hand and sort of "conducted" the lifedrawing session to spare model from asking us if we're done yet, etc., and also to run the session smoothly with agreed time segments beforehand.

I assisted Sophia who had to be in ten places at one time around BAC. Such a busy place on Saturdays. It's just a stone's throw away from Westpoint shopping centre where I should meet my family after life drawing.

"Three minutes remaining, thank you.." I often alerted artists before model assumed another pose. I was much impressed with Jackie's weight-shifting poses and there was one which brought all blood down to her head. She was definitely a glowing Carrara marble sculpture for at least 5 minutes in Da Vinci's time.

It's good to have at least six initial 5-minute poses to warm us up while last 2 hours subdivided into 15-min. to 20-min. poses.

The other Saturday we had a male model who gave us some good poses, too. With the group to my surprise is a Filipino who also did lifedrawing for fun. His name is Clem and he sent us pictures he took during session breaks. He used to be art curator in Manila and worked for the Thomas Jefferson Museum. And yes we plan to organise a life drawing session pretty soon. So Clem, take care of those models' contact numbers, mate;-)
Read my previous blog entry on Life/Figure Drawing

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At Monday, September 17, 2007 at 8:59:00 PM GMT+10 , Blogger Jim said...

Those sketches were great! I love them.


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