Saturday, June 5, 2010

To Find a Muse

What would figure painters be without their models?  For four decades I painted landscapes because living in tiny remote communities (and living on the wrong side of the poverty line) made access to models impossible. On a handful of rare occasions I took advantage of group sketching sessions offered by artist-run studios when I travelled to major centres. Landscape was a consuming passion and I will probably return to that genre again.  But in the meantime I have discovered the amazing generosity of models.

Circumstances led me to work in Victoria, BC and while there I started attending drop-in sessions at X-changes Gallery ("") working from male and female models. Those sessions re-ignited a passion for the challenge of depicting the human form, and I discovered that I was better at it than I deserved to be - having had such little practice over the years. Group sessions are great because they are affordable, but they limit an artist's control over the pose, drawing location,  and lighting - what you see is what you get. Working one-on-one is a necessity... but who can afford to pay a model when your art is not bringing in an income?

Luckily there was a solution - Model Mayhem - a networking site for models, photographers, and other creative professionals ("") . I discovered MM last year and as soon as I posted my sketches from X-changes (and Basic Inquiry Gallery in Vancouver - "" ) I began to get e-mails from models wanting to be drawn. What surprised me was no one asked to be paid - all were eager to work for just a copy of the sketch. Since I am just after the practice I am happy to offer them the original if they like it.

Scheduling is always a challenge when the models typically have fulltime jobs - and a life - but I have worked with dozens of lovely women in the past year. I am always honoured that they are willing to share their time - and beauty - with me. There is no guarantee the works will ever be shown, but that never seems to be an issue. The models are delighted to just be part of making art.

Paola was the first MM model I worked with and she has been an inspiration ever since. Our work together is by far the most arrived. There is a chemistry working there that just seems to lead to greater creativity. The glass or two of wine she pours us during our sketch sessions probably helps the mix. But she is simply a consummate professional, finding interesting poses quickly, holding them, and returning to them easily after breaks, and she is totally relaxed in her lovely skin. Thank you Paola.

An accomplished figure painter from Victoria - Louis Merino - explained to me recently, "It is easy to find beautiful women who are eager to pose for you... the challenge is to find a muse." Paola has been my first muse. I know there will be others, and that's what makes meeting and working with new models such a pleasure. Who knows which one of them will trigger an avalanche of creativity...  and each becomes another friend in art. I am truly grateful for being allowed to draw every one of them.

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