We had a new model last night and any residue of complacency quickly dissolved, suddenly here was a new set of shapes and angles we hadn't confronted before, things didn't quite meet up in the way we expected and so a new challenge was borne. I'm embarking on a journey of my own but more of that later, everyone else in their separate ways took on this new challenge and on the whole rose to it admirably. Let's pick a couple of drawings that took on the whole figure, Ben and Roger S for example. From a rather unpromising viewpoint, Ben has created a very convincing and accurate drawing. He's used his pencil almost like an engraving tool carving into the white of the paper pulling out the form by both emphasising the outline - often a surefire method to flatten the form, but not in this case- and describing the flow and volume of the body by using directional marks. There is real subtlety in this small drawing as Ben has had the discipline to control the scale of the marks, not easy when confronted by a large detailed subject. The temptation is to make grand statements, large marks, big gestures but here we see the slow methodical accumulation of tones building up to one large cohesive whole.
Steven was at one time the master of this but I think his drawings are now even stronger (and in my opinion they have always been good), because we're seeing a slightly looser, maybe more confident method being employed. Lines drift off, forms are questioned, edges suggested, nothing is entirely implicit, the act of drawing itself is being acknowledged and I think enjoyed. What we're seeing is both a faithful depiction of the model and also a record of the artist making the drawing, it's an interesting conceit not dissimilar to the knowing wink of the actor who for a moment steps out of character and says in one small gesture. 'You know I'm an actor, I know I'm an actor', but together we can enjoy this fiction so long as we all play our part.
Roger S I think has also been indulging in a similar self referencing exercise where we now have the 'typical' Roger watercolour. The paint flows in a Roger kind of way, the colours especially that blue are just so Roger (sorry moneysupermarket) and the blank(ish) areas have become signature Roger and we love them. But and this is an important but, there comes a point where excellence shades into parody, I'll quickly qualify this by saying in my opinion nobody is at that point yet, but it is the 'tipping point' and it is out there. Some artists court that form of recognition often called style and some sustain it magnificently finding all kinds of new things within a very small orbit of concerns but others degenerate into self parody where the knowing wink doesn't work anymore. It's an interesting issue for the artist, one fraught with danger and uncertainty.
I had a style once and then I changed it and found another one, now I don't seem to have one anymore and I don't mind as I can now think of making art as an endless journey of exploration with many twists and turns. The painting made in this session represents a clumsy uncertain start on a journey which I hope will make me approach life drawing less as an exercise in confronting the model and more as an opportunity to take the bits I want, invent new bits and then surprise myself with what's left over, in other words a Voyage into Abstraction...(cue eerie music and wobbly picture). So don't look too careful and don't ask me what it is because in all honesty I won't know until weeks afterwards and then no doubt some random collection of words will appear with a tenuous link to plausibility - I bet you can't wait to read them (knowing wink).
A couple of other mentions are the two very good portraits by Roger H and Russell. The expression is very different in each but there is something accurate in both of them and they both realise the volume and monumentality of the head we confronted. I thought Mike our excellent model would make a wonderful portrait model and he's certainly someone I hope we get to work with again, both Roger and Russell have taken full advantage of such a great opportunity. I think Russell has cast Mike as 'The Dissolute Cardinal' whilst Roger has him as the focused barrister with incisive stare, both very convincing roles.
Paintings and drawings by Barry, Ben, Chris, David, Haydn, Ian, Ivan, Patrick, Roger H, RogerS, Russell, Sandra, Sue DY, Sue, Tom, Tony and featured artist Steven.