From the excellent submissions for the Winter Bulletin and Members articles about being in a COVID 19 world, a series of posts will follow the complete articles sent in by several members who had to have abridged versions in the Bulletin.
The first in the Series is by Ev Hales, whose article featured in WATERMARK, April-June 2020. With Thanks to Ev and Brenda Innes for permission to present the following:
“Drawing is the artist’s most direct and spontaneous expression, a species of writing: it reveals, better than does painting his true personality.” Edgar Degas.
Life drawing is the continuous thread that has woven in and out of my five decade long painting life. It has been explored in a variety of media and at the moment includes watercolour painting in anything from five to 20 minute poses. A musician or athlete has a routine for warming up and training and for me the weekly, or more often, session of painting from the model has become essential to my artistic regime. It is the basis of my work and the thing that keeps my eye and hand coordinated. I never tire of drawing the human form as the challenges it poses are never ending.
Why life drawing? The human form is the one we wear everyday. We know it intimately. We know what feels comfortable and what hurts. Exploring the 3D human form on a flat 2D surface is full of challenges that never get easier no matter how often you practice. I love the dare that is thrown to me when confronting each pose as I try to capture the gesture or essence with economy of mark and little detail. I believe that life drawing is the one place an artist cannot hide or pretend. I enjoy the urgency of it and the time restrictions ensure an immediacy and honesty to such works.
Medium and style:
My natural medium is line drawing – this is where I am most comfortable. The human body has no lines and indeed edges are always in flux as the slightest muscle movement will change the contour. This means drawing the model with a pencil or pen in hand is the most abstract of all activities.
Single line drawings appeal and the eternal goal is the fluidity of Matisse. I wish! This kind of work is my most instinctive approach.
Like anything that which comes easily boredom can set in and although I still work this way I have explored almost every medium you can find in my drawings. A trap with life drawing can be mountains of sketches smudging themselves over each other, or else confined to the bin. Several decades ago I started to draw in blank hardcovered books on a shiny paper surface. I found this surface took to pen like a dream. It also embraced pencil and watercolour in quite a different way to regular papers – I was hooked. I managed to order 15 of these volumes and I worked almost exclusively in these for years. This means I have a cohesive record of all my drawings from this period, almost in order. I can no longer buy these books and have tried several others but they are not quite the same. I have 19 hardbound books and these are my most treasured possessions. They hold the essential “Ev” if you like, warts and all. They sit above my desk and I often browse through them, sometimes astounded at the images at other times amazed I got it so wrong. The work here makes me confident to call myself an artist.
What has changed over 5 decades?
A love of line has transformed into a love of the unsaid or understated. I now paint in these sessions more than I draw and rarely are the images taking more than 20 minutes. I have started combining different figures from different sessions into a composite image that encourages a dialogue for the viewer. I sometimes add a tweak after the session just to finetune, but not much.
What do I do with them?
Hoard them, like a miser – they are my secret stash. Although during this confined shut down I have created a book of selected images that I plan to publish, not quite sure how yet, and if it was another time I might crowd fund this project. If you are interested contact me for details as I am considering a pre purchase option and depending on the interest will consider a limited edition run. It is something that has been on the “things to do” list for several years now and the lock down has provided the time.
The book (still in process) is called “Drawn From Life” by Ev Hales. It will be an 80 page full colour book that combines my drawings and paintings with insightful snippets.
In these corona virus times life drawing classes can no longer proceed as usual so I have had to resort to online sessions that are available from my usual venue as well as from places across the world. Some are filmed sessions and others are via zoom live. It has become an important routine in this weird time we are living through. The thought of drawing with a group from Glasgow at midnight or 2 am has certain charms on some sleepless nights. More importantly it has opened up an avenue for life models to continue to work at a time where a physical group cannot gather for drawing. It is not the same as the physical classes but they are not possible now.
“Originality depends only on the character of the drawing and the vision peculiar to each artist” Georges Seurat
Here are some links to a few resources you may care to look at:
- Last Peek Studio for my face to face session and currently their online sessions. (Not tutored sessions.) Cost Face to Face $20 online $10 – $15
- Miss Muse is another Melbourne online class Donation
Google: – Daily Life drawing Sessions – Model Sessions at New Masters Academy and you will find their You Tube sessions with timed poses, all for free.
Glasgow Life drawing and sketching for those who never sleep. Small cost.
Skillshare – figure drawing
and there are many others – just spend a bit of time Google searching.
I am thinking that even after the virus there may well be a place for such online sessions as these personally save me two hours in travel. So am thinking I will mix them up a bit if they continue after this shut down finishes.
Life drawing is the life blood of my arts practice – how about you?