The short long pose

I dropped in on Linda Corbett’s life drawing class last week. I was at the Pacific Art League for a portrait class, but it had been canceled and Linda said, “You’re welcome to stay for my class. We have a ballerina for the model tonight.” And on cue, a beautiful young woman strolled in, a tutu under one arm.

Good teacher. She knows what kind of lure will catch a student.

The drawing I’ve posted above is a “long” pose—two 20-minute sets and two 15s. That’s not much time for me; I’m used to much longer poses at the Atelier. I have clocked in 20 to 30 hours on one pose. I haven’t drawn from short poses much in the last couple years.

It meant I had to manage my time more rigidly so that I could bring the entire drawing up to some small amount of finish by the end of the evening. I allowed myself only the first 20 minutes for the block in, 10 minutes into the second pose to check measurements and make any adjustments, then the remaining time to build up the form with pastel color.

That was an exciting exercise. At the time it felt like drawing like the wind. But now I can see all the flaws in execution. It felt good to draw that way, but I traded emotion for precision.

On the other hand, this sketch above was done in about 2 minutes as the model was tying on her toe shoes. Although the proportions are off, the sketch still has an energy and integrity lacking in the twenty minute sketch. Weird how that works. Sometimes a really fast sketch will capture the model better than a longer pose.

I decided to attend the rest of the class—4 classes in all—and concentrate on pastel portraits. I’m interested to see what happens when I only have one 20-minute pose to catch a likeness.

The long pose in a fast world

Pastel pencils, charcoal, chalk on toned paper

This pose, drawn at the Atelier School of Classical Realism in Oakland, took about 10 hours. I still have a few hours left (without the model) to “finish” the picture.

It’s very difficult to find a long-pose life drawing session that I’m able to attend the Bay Area. Most evening life drawing session poses max out at 20 minutes; a pose that lasts many hours, like the pose I drew here, seems to interest few evening artists. In our hyper-cyberspaced out world, even artists rush around like roadrunners on amphetamines.

And this style of drawing is unpopular these days. In my head I hear an art teacher I know saying, “your drawing is too fussy, too lifeless.” And on some levels I would have to agree with him. But during the course of this long pose I learned so much about color, form, proportion. It gives me a foundation for the next long pose, and hopefully that one will look  more free and less precious, because of the long pose, and not despite it.