Thursday, November 05, 2009

Life Painting Workshop

The long awaited Life Painting Workshop with Wellington artist Rosemary Stokell took place last weekend. I was a bit worried that I wouldn't be able to cope physically with such a full on couple of days so took it easy on the Friday before, only making sure that I had gathered the list of materials I was meant to take prepared and ready in a box.

Saturday morning Glenys and I headed to Otane early but even so we arrived after most of the others in the group. Our art room had been turned into a temporary gallery with examples of the nude painted in a variety of styles by the masters. We were going to be working with two models who usually come along to pose for us on our Friday mornings except this time they had brought along their camper van and were staying nearby.

Rosemary began with a series of two minute poses in graphite to warm us up. We then moved on to charcoal for the longer poses. While we were working she walked about and offered advice and comments on foreshortening etc. Before we knew it morning tea time had arrived. Then more drawing for ninety minutes (including some hilarious "blind drawing" exercises which turned the models into Picasso wannabees) before a shared lunch and then two and a half more hours concentrating on turning a pose into an abstract work in charcoal. This was my first experience working with a blending stump as I usually muddle through with my fingers making a happy mess. However I was really impressed with how sharply you could blend with it and will definitely use it from now on. Then we began working in colour, drawing a pose with both models before selecting two complementary colours and applying and blending these on the paper. This was a toughie for me as the acrylics were drying so quickly there was a strong line between the shades rather than a soft graduation. For once I longed to work with watercolours.

The next day (Sunday) I woke up tied in knots but sat with wheat packs on the sorest muscles before we returned to Otane. Our day's first task was to trace the abstract charcoal we began on Saturday onto a longish canvas before painting each section with a graduating tone of a single colour. I had a hell of a job getting the acrylics to blend again but Rosemary showed me how to use two brushes and work with water in order to achieve the desired effect. I still have a long way to go with this but it is definitely an avenue I want to explore.

After an hour spent on this exercise we had smoko before having a very fun time trying to draw with ink dipped sticks on paper on the floor. The monstrous effects were extremely fresh and spontaneous with even the more experienced artists having a bit of a struggle. We hung our drawings on the wall and admired each others attempts, having a giggle before grabbing a plate of food and sitting outside in the sun for some time out.

Rosemary had brought along a selection of her paintings which she lined up along the hallway explaining how she painted them and what had inspired her. For me though the most mind blowing things she showed us were her visual diaries. I have kept a couple over the last two years but they were nothing compared to what she showed us. Books filled with amazing ink drawings done on site in European churches interspersed with postcards, exhibition fliers and other sentimental keepsakes. My resolution became to find a smaller diary and keep it in my purse so I can draw when I'm out and about.

That afternoon we began working on projects we wanted to develop. A few of us wanted to learn how to paint flesh colours so Rosemary demonstrated before posing the models so we could paint from life. I had prepared a MDF board with gesso and began painting in the colours, firstly tentatively, but later more painterly with Rosemary's encouragement. Before I knew it the workshop was over and it was time to pack up and go home but before we left we each showed our best work and talked about what we'd each taken away from the weekend.

I came away totally inspired from the workshop, especially from seeing Rosemary's work. It made me realise how much I'd missed out on with having such useless art teachers at school. It has also made me long for yet another workshop with Rosemary pushing me out of my comfort zone and I know I'm not the only one to feel this way. Nude painting rocks!

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