Figure Painting Workshop

A couple of blog posts ago, I wrote about the 2-week figure drawing workshop I attended at the Florence Academy of Art in Jersey City. Here is a progression of images from the follow-up 2-week workshop at the same school – Figure Painting. 
I have omitted most of the preparatory drawing phase and started the images with the finished preparatory drawing. As with the drawing workshop, the goal was accurate representation; however, the instructor emphasized integrating understanding of form. What I mean is this: Let’s say I am painting a head by first drawing an accurate outline of the form and then putting down paint to match the patterns of light and dark as they appear on the head. In this scenario, I do not need to know that what I am painting is a head in order to paint this way. I do not even need to know that what I am drawing is a form in space. All I am doing is copying an outline and areas of light and dark. This is the was I operated in the first workshop, and this way of working is all fine and good, but this method has limitations. For one thing, as my instructor of the painting workshop stated, the product of this method tends to be stiff and lifeless and less believable. (what I understood her to be saying but in my own words.) 
So, what she taught us was to also understand the form of what we are drawing and use that information as well. Here is what I mean by that: Let’s say again that I am drawing a head. I know that the head is more or less spherical, so I can draw the general outline of a circle. And for values (the light and dark), I know there will be a shadow line running up the head where the side of the sphere turns completely away from the light. All this information I know from my understanding of the 3-dimensional form in space. 
Trying to combine both of these methods pretty much made my head explode. But, I think that means the workshop was a success, because I did go there to learn something. 
Plus, there was the whole “handling paint” thing. Yeah. I’m a sculptor, thank you very much. (Well, most of my formal training is in sculpture.) And color? Whatever. Once we got into the different values and hues of flesh tones and how those related to turning form and location on the body (legs are a different color than shoulders, for instance). The last four days of the workshop pretty much consisted of me mixing paint the entire time. 
Which is why I’m going back in the fall for the full-time drawing and painting program =). 
But, no, in all seriousness, it was a great workshop. It made me see so much that I never would have been able to see on my own and I am so ready to dive into more. It was frustrating, but it was also fascinating. 
More to come…

Bethany Lee
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