Wednesday, December 13, 2006

More on the figure

Today is Wednesday, the day the figure drawing group meets. I need to go, since my drawing is a little rusty. If I don't draw often, my skills are definitely not as sharp. I think I did mention this in my last post. It's NOT like riding a bike!! Maybe the reason fewer artists persue figure drawing now is because you must practice relentlessly. All of the great masters of art from history were masters of the figure in a way that would humble most artists of today. They could draw the human body as beautifully from memory as they could from life. That is a goal of mine.

In some ways, it does seem rather pointless to persist with figure drawing as a modern artist. Most buyers of art do not buy figurative art, unless it is highly stylized. I have never been much of a fan of stylized figurative art. Maybe because honesty is so important to me when it comes to the human figure. I am not interested, nor am I particularly impressed by the common practice of this kind of figurative art. I know you have seen it. If the figure is rendered with the least amount of realism, the body is a "perfect" nude, what common culture dictates for us as beauty. The face of the figure is hidden, or partially obscured by hair or a hat, or even a carefully placed shadow. The breasts are perky and round, the stomach flat, the arms and legs carefully muscled, but not to the point of weight lifter standards. I think it is repulsive. Have these artists even LOOKED at a real human body recently? Or should I say have they looked at a body that was over 20 years old??!!! I can see "perfect" airbrushed versions of the human form in magazines any day I want. In art, I prefer to see the REAL. The slightly rounded belly, the slightly or very drooping breasts, the not so muscular arms and legs. I want to see who this person IS. Do they look right at me? Do they look off to the side, as if they have something to hide? I suppose this is the reason I am so obsessed with drawing from life, with the person right there in front of me. If you faithfully draw what you see, rather than what you KNOW, discoveries are made. Things that do go beyond an idealized, stylized version of the world.

Many people may not realize this, but the main difference between Van Gogh and Gauguin is that Van Gogh believed it was better, more honest, to work directly from life. In contrast, Gauguin believed in working from the imagination. It was one of the things they argued about, causing the rift between them. I have to say, one of the reasons I am such an admirer of Van Gogh is that I agree with him. I think it is more honest to work from life.

Yes, I realize I am an abstract artist. I suppose that is why when I DO paint or draw something recognizable, I work from the source. If I am not working from something directly in front of me, it is the reason why I no longer want it to refer to something recognizable. If I want reference to the visable world in my abstract work, it is only symbolically, as metaphor. So there is a split in my work. The figure seems to command my most honest attention, whereas the abstract work remains my poetry: Symbolism and metaphor, where interpretation is essential.

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