Artist Masterclass: Taking Direction
SB: Well, this week I finalized the details of the photo shoot. It will be this week, and I have three models coming in. I’ve been mainly thinking about how to get the most out of my time with the models I’ve hired. I have two hours, which I think should be sufficient.
CL: I think 2 hours will be plenty. Any concerns about how to direct the shoot?
SB: Yes, when you hire models, how do you make them feel comfortable?
CL: Making your models comfortable is really important actually, if they’re at all uncomfortable they’ll be less likely to do what you ask them to do. Just be polite, gracious and very respectful. Treat them the way you would want to be treated if you were in the same situation. Unfortunately often times many artist models are not treated very well, so they will notice and appreciate when someone is being professional and kind. Did you ever take note of how I treated the models in my classes at RISD?
SB: You always let them know in advance if you’re going to do something.
CL: Yes, it’s a good idea to sit down at the beginning and walk the models through everything that you’ll be asking them to do. That way, there are no surprises and they will know exactly what to expect.
SB: When you have models coming in, how do you plan what poses you’ll be asking them to take? As in, do you draw out the poses you want in advance, or do you ever improvise based on something the model spontaneously does?
CL: Drawing out the poses in advance is good so that you and the model have something to start with, however, I do find that I like to let the model improvise quite a bit and follow their lead. If you try to “pose” them, you’ll get poses that look very stiff and artificial. Don’t ever say things like ”Turn your neck to the left, arch your back 50 degrees, move your right arm to your left.” You’re laughing, but I had a professor in graduate school who literally did that. I’m sure the models hated him, and the poses always looked awful. Can you believe how complicated this gets?
SB: My fingers have been itching all week. It seriously feels like there are one thousand things to think about.
CL: I think you’re going to love every minute of the photo shoot. You should be very excited, you are taking your work to a whole new level. This photo shoot is something you would never have considered doing in school.
SB: I’m extremely excited to have the chance to make now, whereas before in art school it was just expected of me. I’m looking forward to every opportunity I have to draw or plan in a way that I actually didn’t as much sometimes in school. I took the time for granted.
CL: It’s nice to work on one body of work, instead of making work for three studio classes at the same time. There’s a level of focus there that you just can’t have in school.
SB: You’re right, without my attention being divided between three studios, I feel more certain about what I want to do, instead of feeling like I have to develop in three different directions at once. The only other thing I’ve been thinking about is the importance of drawing from direct observation regularly. It’s like a muscle. A couple weeks ago, I realized that if I don’t keep myself sharp, by the time the actual drawings roll around I won’t actually be able to execute them. And I hadn’t been drawing that much this summer, honestly.
CL: You don’t think drawing from direct observation is like learning to ride a bike?
SB: Out of pure terror I have been snatching time to do drawing from direct observation more often.
CL: I don’t think you have to worry about “losing” it. I haven’t drawn from direct observation for years.
SB: I actually wouldn’t have expected that.
CL: I just don’t have the time anymore. I have periods where I don’t draw for a week or two so to get myself back into shape I’ll do some “warm up” drawings before I work on the real piece. That usually kicks my ass back into shape pretty quickly.
Artist Masterclass: Preparations
In this post, I arrange for nice people to take their clothes off in my house.
Artist Masterclass is a series of conversations between myself and visual artist Sara Bloem.
SB: I’ve gotten a lot of the logistical side worked out. Last week we talked about getting references. In my case, generating references involves two things: model(s), and a camera-neither of which I had last week. This week, I contacted the a local art school and they were kind enough to forward me their model roster. I emailed every female model on there, and I’ve gotten quite a few good responses.
CL: In your sketchbook pages you wrote that you felt frustrated.
SB: Yes, I have a couple questions: by using models who aren’t me to talk about my issues, is the content lost? If the figures aren’t from those cultures – I mean, I’m not screening my models by ethnic background – does it just become random pictures of women putting on clothes? I thought about fixing the problem by compositing other faces into the references later.
CL: From your sketches it looks like the faces aren’t really going to be that prominent in your compositions. It seems like the clothing and the gesture of the figure is the larger concern.
SB: I was wondering: how do you make your drawings transcend your reference?
CL: You have to use the reference photographs loosely; don’t be too faithful to them. I used to put my reference photos into Photoshop and intentionally make the resolution very low, so that the images were blurry. That way, I would resist the temptation to copy the references too accurately. I also think exaggeration of gesture and form is huge. I used to also up the contrast in Photoshop, so that the image was starker; I did that with my project Wading. I would play around with your reference photographs in Photoshop before you start drawing from them, you can get all sorts of interesting effects.
SB: That’s a great suggestion, especially because I was using Photoshop to collage photos before (see image below).
CL: Is there a chance the Photoshop collage process you used before might make an appearance again? I think that was a really great technique that you figured out for those final 6 portraits that you did in your independent study with me in your final semester at RISD.
SB: I feel like it really helped me get away from the strictly literal last semester.
CL: You might want to use it again, explore it in greater depth this time now that you’ve done it once before. I’m a big fan of sketching in Photoshop.
SB: I think that might help push me away from just copying my reference too.
CL: That way you’re processing the reference photos and manipulating them before you even get to the drawing stage. I think you’ll feel better once you’ve done the reference photo shoot, then you’ll have something really concrete to work with. I think you’re in really great shape, why are you worried?
SB: I think just because I didn’t draw for a few days. It’s hard not to beat myself up about that a little. I’m taking it as a learning experience and moving on.
CL: You can’t beat yourself up, there’s always going to be something!