Thursday, March 5, 2009

Life Drawing Session 5

Tonight at life drawing was like everything else I've put my hand to for the last week. Trust me, all of these look better small and on the PC than they do in real life, but I'm going to post them all anyway. I've now had four sessions of painting where I've needed to paint over everything. Work has been two steps forward three steps back every day since Wednesday a week ago. I've been toying with the idea of NOT going into the office and NOT answering e-mail and phone calls because every hour I work seems to put me two hours further behind. I worked all weekend, Monday (when I was planning to be off, but the weather had other ideas) and then 15 hours yesterday.

Tonight in the life drawing studio everything seemed off. I couldn't draw feet. I couldn't get legs the right size. I couldn't get proportions to work. Everything felt like trying to do precision work with a blunt instrument, like I was trying to draw with a log. The model was a sweet young lady, and it was her first time to model - but she didn't inspire me at all. Partly it was her too smooth, too healthy, too perfect body, I think. I could not see bones. The lines and shadows were not interesting enough for me. But I also think she had paler skin than most of the models we've had so far, and that meant the light just bleached her out.

The paper I used for the three long poses (last three images here) seemed to fight me for every line or shadow. I couldn't figure out what to do with the white chalk. Her hair was more interesting than the rest of her, especially her part (or lack thereof) which I found fascinating.

And I have a new problem area - no longer the back or the upper torso, which I can still improve a great deal, but at least I'm beginning to "get" those. No, now it's breasts. Not the ones in profile - those have some reference, some way to know where to place them and where the shadows go. It's the breast in the middle of things - surrounded by background - that seems to have no point of reference. I know I need to look for the lines of muscle and skin that suspend the breast - but I swear the last week it just seems like they have no correct place in the middle of everything. I can't get them right. And I handle the shadows too heavily.

So I guess I will be looking carefully at breasts (what an odd thing to write) and at how other artists have handled them (an even odder thing to write).

So now I'm listening to Dropping Daylight's album Brace Yourself (title cut is great played too loud) and wishing I could get out of this ditch. I will probably switch to Van Halen shortly.

Oddly, where before this kind of doldrum would have made me drop the whole artistic thing and walk away, I just feel more determined than ever to push through and bang my head up against the wall. I daydream about drawing or painting. I itch to do it. I know the left brain is far too strong right now, possibly because of all the work, which has led to thousands and thousands of words of e-mail and documents and hours of phone calls (and some of you know how much I like to be on the phone) - and when the left brain is ascendant the shadow cast over the right brain is like a curse. But I just want to keep trying, to keep throwing the paint around. I'm getting more and more insistent, more intent.

I am also angry, though, at so many things. I am fearful of the economy and where that's going (I have firmly clamped down on any exposure to news - I get none none none - if I see or hear something newsy my eyes roll up, my head spins, and I throw up soup). I am disappointed with several projects I'm pushing. I'm frustrated with my loudmouthed left brain. I'm finding everything pretty tasteless and uninteresting. I'm bored and tired. I feel like I'm constantly putting on the brakes, holding back or going slow because people are IN MY WAY. I wish everyone would just get the f**k out of my way!!!

I just want to eat and sleep.

I'm plainly depressed. I've got all the usual signs. I will get over it - spring will help. Work will not stay like this for more than a few more weeks.

So I'm going to go look at some breasts, while that problem is on my mind. Renoir and Rubens would be a good place to start. They plainly understood and adored breasts and nipples, and they must have learned a thing or two about how to paint and shade them. Then I'm going to go eat a dozen sandwiches and go to bed for a week.


L'Adelaide said...

steve ~ whack whack, come out right brain, come out! what a stubborn right brain some people have! I am sorry, I know you are having a hard time but it seems every other sentence was your frustration with breasts! have such problems! well anyway..I only read this once and I need to read it again at least once more, firstly, it's hysterical and secondly, because then maybe I can leave something wise kitchen is open now btw, lol, have a few dozen ICE CREAM sandwiches!
~~~~~~~~10 minutes later~~~~~
well, I read this again and I have absolutely no constructive help for you other than antidepressants and chocolate and maybe some art books with lots of nudes so you can see lots of breasts! btw, I think these are very good, as always, but you're right, I don't see any bones either and bones are so intriguing to draw , otherwise it's just skin and fat...bones are nice and angular, give dimension and are not soft and squishy, yes, I do get that...I liked your skinny model drawings so far, the best...interesting that breasts are all fat and that is what you are having problems with....maybe you just don't like fatty things? like breasts? oh forget it, I don't know what I'm talking about and should delete all this but it's just going to have to do....


Steve Emery said...

Linda - I must admit that outside of art and drawing I do think breasts one of the most beautiful sights on earth - but they are a problem in my drawings... I've tried to figure out why they appeal to me so much (and to most straight males) and the more I think about it objectively the less sense it makes, really - but it's real. They're just shapes, but they're those shapes and somehow that makes a difference.

I'll keep going with drawing and painting and wait for the weather to change...

Thalia said...

Maybe it's because you don't have them. I know I have a much easier time drawing women than men. Because that's what's in the mirror, you know?

MLight said...

I could feel intimidated by this study of breasts, until I realize that two in the hands are worth...

(oh, forget it)

Regina said...

Don't beat yourself up so much. Even with less than perfect proportions, I think you have beautiful drawings. There is something about your lines that I find very appealing.
I'm having trouble getting what's in my head to come out in my painting right now. And I'm just pushing forward anyway and making lemonade. I'm trying to learn something, too.
Hoping for some better days for you.

Unknown said...


(For a moment, i actually contemplated leaving this comment at that, but I don't think the inflection comes across properly in print so I'll fill it in a little bit.)

Sisyphus syndrome sucks. (And now I'm alliterating...) Hope you get the time you need to unwind this weekend. OTOH, there are less pleasant ways to spend your time than studying breasts.

susan said...

I find it entirely refreshing to hear you're irritated, annoyed, furious, incensed, indignant, inflamed, infuriated, irate, mad, outraged, rabid, riled, steaming, wrathful, stormy, bristling, burning, cross, huffy, livid, seething, antagonistic, piqued, rancorous, resentful, aggravated, annoyed, choleric, crabby, cranky, exasperated, grouchy, grumpy, irascible, irritable, peevish and pissed off. Not only did it give me an opportunity to exercise my vocabulary but your temporary loss of public composure shows the intensity with which you approach your life and artwork.

Be well. Peace out.

Genie Sea said...

I read your post.

I read the comments.

These are uber cool peeps.

My thoughts?



kenju said...

No matter what your reservations may be, the drawings are really lovely.

lisahgolden said...

I have stories that try to claw their way out. Words and essays that must be written (I have no choice) and some days it seems that childbirth was easier. Scribble, scribble, erase, erase. Arrrrrggggh!

I find it an oddly pleasant experience to read your frustrated words while viewing the drawings. I laughed when you just so plainly said you were going to go look at breasts.

And MLight's comment was the best.

I hope that the shifts back into some kind equilibrium come soon. I know I need it and it seems like that's what you're seeking.

Anonymous said...

"I just want to eat and sleep" - okay, or possibly you're pregnant (I'm not being facetious) in an artistic manner of speaking. Something is gestating and taking its own sweet time when you're ready to be done with the waiting part and be at the finished part: perfect breast shadows and all. Do some breathing exercises. I'm willing to bet something new is ready to come through (in its own sweet time of course).

Anonymous said...

Depression seems often to be about gestation, doesn't it? Or maybe that's just my hopeful way of considering it, while I wait to birth whatever has been lurking for so long . . .

Thalia said...

Oh and I see Genie Sea has already passed on the I Love Your Art Blog award. Well, I didn't realize that, so you got another, over at my blog. :)

Thalia said...

Also, if you're going to look at what other artists have done with breasts, avoid Michelangelo. Basically he just stuck a couple of water balloons (did they have those in the Renaissance?) on a slightly curvy male body.

Though, maybe, it will make you feel better about your own ability to render them. Sometimes it works that way!

Unknown said...

Funny that I'm feeling so very much the same way. I feel lifeless and lazy and bored and on the brink of depression...a place I know well...

I wrote a post about it and I haven't the will to post it.

Anonymous said...

I'm right there with ya on the depression thing Steve....and I'm in the financial business, so I'll see your sadness, dispair and any/everything else and raise ya ... And I can't draw, so the breast exploration won't help me a bit!! (I'll work on my quilting...will post pics eventually....)

This too shall pass? (That's what I keep tellin' myself and my clients......)

So, I can't can't draw, but your drawings, at least to this eye, are fabulous!!!!!

Steve Emery said...

Thalia Took - Interesting thought. Might help explain the Michelangelo reference you make later (I laughed, and so did MLight, reading that about the water balloons!) I am looking forward to seeing if (when we finally get a male model) it's easier to draw male anatomy because I've been carrying my own around for 48 years. And thanks for the award!

Dearest - I'm glad you posted that comment. It cracked me up when you told it to me, and I hoped everyone else would get to share it.

Regina - Thanks - showing up at the page is the important thing... glad you're able to do it, too - and hoping you also break through soon.

Alex - Dude! (Hearing our sons saying that out in the yard makes me grin - I have to make sure they don't see me). You said it. And these four little paintings are starting to feel like boulders up a hill... coat of paint 6 on most of them just now - waiting to dry and see what is. Rolling a lot of snake eyes when I thrown 'em again.

Susan - I'd say the other evening I was somewhere between furious and resentful, with the latter being one of those more passive emotions I hate. As a teen I read Cyrano de Bergerac and found me - so many parts of me. I may seem "composed" (a brilliant word choice on your part, on many levels) but "seething" works most of the time in some way, too. Manners keep it from showing.

Genie - Yes they are!!!

Kenju - Thanks! They are a little better than a poke in the eye - the problem is I know what they could have been. That's the hard part.

Lisa - Birth and gestation - I can't really know what that's like for women, of course, but it often does feel like something large is growing and it ain't gonna come out that small opening without pain. I know what you mean about the stories. Can't translate them to words - they're stuck in there with no expression. Images do it, too, oddly. Sometimes they're in the most incredible colors - but they're emotional colors and they have no translation into the ones we see. That's why I long for MORE COLORS. Unreal, superhuman colors.

Tammy Vitale - More about birth and gestation! Yes, I hope that's what this is - not a barren stretch, but a pregnant stretch.

Karen A - ibid! And I see you reference hope vs. wishful thinking again, a theme we've talked about before. We hate to fool ourselves, we fear maybe we are, but we need it. We need to look on the bright side of the gloom.

Pagan - I'm sorry you're also caught up in this flat colorless place, listless and directionless. Maybe this is normal animal prep for the spring? An imposed rest before the surge.

Giggles - Thanks! You definitely have me beat on the gloom side... my work is in Healthcare IT - a good place to be right now. My frustrations have been more immediate and urgent at work - but I'd rather have that than no job, or a job in a shrinking or imploded industry.

It shall pass. Time rolls on and carries us with it to somewhere else. Sometimes I hate that, wanting to linger, but this time I'm glad for it.

susan said...

I'm glad to read you're feeling better. I got a bit concerned after the fact that I might have offended you and I'd never want to do that. Your demeanor up here is refreshingly mannerly.

Anonymous said...


Steve Emery said...

Susan - no offense - I smiled as I read your post.

Gypsy - Always nice to see your avatar and words (even when there are no words).