CAPTURING MOVEMENT by Russell Lumb
For the second Saturday session of 2013, black model Justin had drawn a big crowd, keen to return the complement. I had missed both previous visits by Justin but, despite rumours that he presented something of a moving target, I was excited to have the opportunity to consider a different palette, and had sought out examples of other artists’ portrayals of black subjects. In fact, although I did use colours which I do not normally employ, realistic colour rendering is not one of my prime concerns and that aspect of the painting was no different to other, recent efforts. Instead, I was quickly caught up in my current obsession with making an image where the figure is only a part of the whole and the paint is allowed to direct events. Chris and David are on the same journey, although much greater experience has lead them both to a more concentrated technique and a scale perhaps more appropriate to the time available.
My 7.30 start to the day was not encouraging, leaving the East coast in a blizzard, trusting the forecasters’ promise of a swift thaw, and arriving at Redbrick only just in time to secure a front rank location. The first benefit of the journey was the company of friends not encountered for several weeks. The two Annes, Teresa, Emma, Joanne and Steven raised the numbers and the standards, and also highlighted the differing effects of Justin’s mobility, for he is not hewn from the same static material as Sue or Roger.
Steven is renowned for his methodical and careful measurement of the sitter, facilitating his creation of a world of perfect miniature people; everyone else makes scale drawings of the life size model, but Steven makes drawings of little characters who are clearly that size and might jump out of the drawing at any moment. In common with Tony and Ivan, Steven must have been exasperated by Justin’s constant adjustments, no matter how small, but he is far too well- mannered to have let it show, and produced another solid citizen. Similarly, Tony’s lunchtime gripe does not show in his beautiful, still portrait either, but the process must have been made more difficult.
Emma put aside her brushes and rested her enviable painting skills to render Justin in 3D cardboard and textiles and appeared to be content with the correct number of limbs, rather than worrying about the degree of flexure of the right index finger. Teresa’s moody mixed media work, although featuring her trademark fine line, is not so reliant on accuracy and I imagine that she was not overly concerned with Justin’s movement.
And then there were the expressionistas; paint-splattered, opium-crazed extroverts, whipped to a frenzy of pigment gluttony by the Heston of Hornsea. But Tom has such experience and control of his paint that one could imagine the sitter adopting the precise positioning of his body parts established by Tom’s deft brushstrokes. On his right, Dick had made a portrait, equally well-observed, but suffering as it must by comparison, from fear of the paint and the ensuing lack of authority. This is not telling Dick anything that he doesn’t already know; neither I nor Dick have the time to catch Tom in terms of experience, so we must look for short cuts and this means trusting Tom’s advice to take risks. At lunchtime, I advised myself to take a risk, to avoid incipient mediocrity, and, although lacking in some directions, the painting now has promise and may be further improved to achieve genuine progress. This little detour is to illustrate the irrelevance of Justin’s pose-holding to someone struggling with wider issues; I quite liked his modest movements. Not having met him previously, I found the occasional yawning, facial stretching and hand movements to be informative. You may suggest that my painting of face and hands disproves my theory, but I was not trying for accuracy and did not spend long on either. If anything I now think that less definition would be a good thing. I would certainly vote for another chance to paint Justin and would rise early to bag a good pitch.
Over all, the gallery shows plenty of colour, befitting the six hour Saturday session, and the work is varied and always interesting. My particular favourites are Sandra’s letterbox, back three quarter view, with her busy rendering of the figure set off by a strong, flat background , and Liz’s weighty but loose pastel, although she did ignore my advice about the forehead highlight. I don’t know if she was bothered by Justin’s movement, but I think not.