Previously, I wrote a short blog about visiting the Rochester Arts Center for a reception of artists who participated in the Art After Hours series to engage in life drawing (i.e., drawing or painting a human model.) Janet and I decided to give it a try this past week.
Janet has plenty of painting experience, although less drawing experience, and my exploits at family Pictionary sessions pretty well sums up my background with drawing. We showed up with some rudimentary supplies of our own, but, in fact, the Art Center provides everything you need. We arrived a little after 6pm, and the group was just gathering. One of the other participants helped us set up our stations (I chose to stand at an easel, while Janet chose to sit on a “horse“.) We greeted a few of the other people, and the model even came around and introduced himself. Before, long, Chad Allen, interim manager of the Art Center, called us to order and explained how the evening would go.
We started with the model striking a pose, and Chad giving us two minutes (yes, that’s all!) to develop a quick sketch. For someone like me without any knowledge of drawing techniques, this was a real challenge. I barely got a few curves on the paper and time was already up. The model would change poses, Chad started the clock, and we’d get another two minutes. We did this five times. The room is strikingly quiet as everybody is focused. In the background, instrumental music played (by Chris Thile, I think.) I’ll admit to being frustrated by not getting very far, but I missed the point, probably. The purpose is less to produce a finished piece, but more to “loosen up” almost like you would if you were going to start an exercise routine. I’ll take a different attitude about the two-minute sketches next time I participate.
Next, we had five minutes to develop a sketch. It’s amazing how long five minutes feels after having only had two minutes. I got much of the body outlined, but didn’t get started on the head and face, so I just left the image without a head. We paused after this session to give the model a rest, and to socialize with the others. Socializing is a big part of the experience, so plan to be friendly! I opened some of our homemade wine that I brought to share (drinking wine is invited but certainly not required). Coming up was a twenty minute session. Before we started, I chatted with one of the others about my frustrations with the quick sketches. She gave me a nice tip: use a light pencil to very roughly sketch in the outline of your image, then go ahead and fill in with the charcoal (I had been using charcoal alone previously.)
I tried this, knowing I had twenty minutes, so I budgeted 5-7 minutes to use a pencil, and then the rest of my time to go through with chalk. This worked pretty well for me. It’s still very challenging to get everything just the way you want, but I enjoyed having the longer time frame.
Our final sketch was a one-hour sketch, broken up into to two 30-minute sessions, so that the model can have a break. I used the entire first 30 minutes drawing only with a pencil, and the final 30 minutes using charcoal.
Afterward, those who could stay participated in a friendly critique. It was fun to see how each person interpreted their work, and to see the variety of artistic styles. There were a few of us who were first-timers, but we were made to feel like we fit in with the experienced folks.
Now, because I cannot leave well enough alone, I played around with my two-minute sketches at home. I took photos of them, then used some of my photo processing techniques on them. So, below are some examples of what I get when I take one of those sparse images and rotate them and stack the layers.
All in all, we enjoyed the experience. You meet cool people who make cool art, like Chad Allen, or Amarama Lynn, or Simon Huelsbeck, whose work you should check out. Art After Hours takes place each Thursday from 6-9pm at the Rochester Art Center. Hope to see you there!