Tag Archives: art


The group practice of figure drawing and painting has to observe certain courtesies between model and artists so that the creative process can unfold without unnecessary interruptions.  A comfortable temperature in the studio, cleanliness of the posing dais, and adequate privacy from outsiders (and for the model to change) are only the beginnings of good professional manners.  There are some behaviors, too often overlooked, that need to be seriously addressed and definitely changed.  Cavalierly dismissing the impacts of tardiness, mob rule, overt criticism, cell phone use, unwelcome talking, and broken concentration tends to make the drawing session chaotic and unproductive of nearly everything but frustration.

First of all, be ready to start by the time the model is ready to begin–no dragging tables, easels, tabourets, portfolios, drawing boards, paintboxes, or rolling carts around the room in an attempt to set up while not only the model but the punctual artists are trying to work.  If you’re late, wait outside or stand in the back and work in your sketchbook until the break.

Only one member of the group should direct the posing, correct a mis-pose, light and tape the pose, and otherwise interact with the model on behalf of the group; other members should speak to the model through that coordinator.  The break is for chatting if the model permits it, but technical matters relating to the model’s work should be deferred to the coordinator.

No artist should talk about how the model looks during the duration of the session, or within earshot of the model (or anyone else, for that matter).  Keep grumpiness about the pose or the lighting or the costuming to yourself–real artists make the best they can out of the spontaneity of the given moment.  Besides, most sessions are meant to be workouts, chances to practice and build the skills that contribute to more laboriously crafted and carefully finished pictures later on.  In other words, you’re not in the group session to make a masterpiece–you’re there to flex and grow your hand-eye coordination under the stresses of time and chance.

Cell phones are not to be used in the studio.  Models who don’t want to be photographed can’t tell whether or not that’s being done when  a cell phone is waved around, and those models have every right to terminate the session and be fully compensated if they even suspect that photos are being taken without their permission.  In any case, ringtones are vastly annoying; the group has just had its concentration broken by their irritating noise, often unfortunately accompanied by the atonal yacking of a one-sided conversation that overrides the subtle working rhythms of the studio–quiet music, graphite and charcoal scratching gently on paper, and the tapping of brushes on water jars.

Each group has its own dynamic as far as conversation during the session is concerned, so if you speak and no one replies, that’s your cue to speak no more.  Wait for the break.
When its time to change your place on the floor to another perspective, or to go to the bathroom, or get coffee–wait for the break!  Its not only rude to the model who’s concentrating on holding the pose, but rude to the artists still trying to work who must now deal with the shuffle and scrape of someone moving through the studio.  If that person is leaving early, the rest of the group must also endure the dragging of tables, easels, tabourets, portfolios, drawing boards, paintboxes, and rolling carts around the room as well, often right in front of them and their view of the model.  If your picture is perfect, and not another jot or scratch or stroke can enhance its stellar beauty, then work in your sketchbook until the break signals the proper time for you to exit.

A larger group will have more strictures, and a smaller on fewer, but these are pretty basic to most situations in the figure studio.   After all, the model is usually the least physically active but most energetic member of the group, a silent wellspring of inspiration to the receptive spirit of the artist.  Breaking that bond of concentration is rude, selfish, and unforgivable; just a small amount of self-discipline contributes mightily to the harmony of dynamic drawing experience for everyone.


D. Riggs

The Art of Not Giving Up

One of the most notorious creative blocks in a serious artist’s life is the fear of doing bad work.  If we made a close examination of the commonly accepted, contemporary opinions of  “good” work, we would see that the concept of  “good” has no real meaning outside the simplistic market ideology that drives it.  The great contribution of modernism to art has been to emphasize the importance of personal creative seriousness in the artist’s practice, out of which then comes new insights into individual and social values and their subsequent transformations.
Every artist eventually reaches a limit to their technical and inspirational capacity.  The problem then becomes how to break through to the next level.  Taking classes; going back to basics; exploring every subject matter of their own lives (especially the fearful and shameful ones); hanging out with other artists and talking out the work–are all classic ways to try to solve the dilemma.  It turns out that simple hard work is most often the best stick for beating back the adversity of staleness.
At a local venue some years ago, Manuel Neri remarked that eventually, for the serious artist, “good” and “bad” come to have no meaning, and the only important artistic value is simply to go to the studio every day and do the work.  Chuck Close likewise commented, “Inspiration is for amateurs.  The rest of us just show up and get to work.” Eventually, constant practice, absolute honesty, and unending patience are those qualifications of the artist most conducive to producing interesting and relevant art.

Doug Riggs

originally posted 07/31/11

On Framing Art

After all his technical mastery has whipped and cudgeled the demon of inspiration into a worthy picture, the artist is faced with the dismaying proposition of framing it, usually at the last minute–the submission deadline looming with a spectral menace in the haunted house of his slovenly procrastination. However, with just a little advance planning and adherence to a few basic principles, framing is a relatively simple problem to solve. Find a framer whose workmanship and design taste you can trust, KEEP IT SIMPLE, and include the cost of framing in the price you charge for a finished work.

Framing protects a picture from unrelenting environmental pressures, such as air pollution and the ultraviolet spectrum of light, which are usually taken care of by glazing and matting (varnishing is the artist’s–not the framer’s–responsibility). It also presents the picture in a special “sacred” space, commanding the viewer’s shift of focus to a heightened aesthetic awareness, where the frame outlines and isolates that special space from its surroundings. Finally, it makes a picture relatively inaccessible, so that the artist stops working on it, which is the only true definition of “finished”. Once these provisions are satisfied, the artist’s framing responsibilities are done.

It is an entirely foolish exercise in narcissism to agonize over whether one’s drawing or painting is “overwhelmed” by the frame–if that is actually the case, then the picture is certainly a bad one. If someone won’t buy because the frame is unacceptable, the artist should be ready to take the picture from the frame at a (slight) discount. Despite normal aesthetic considerations, the artist’s presentation should be as simple (and inexpensive) as possible, with the bulk of his care going to the protection of the piece, and the buyer’s responsibility is to frame according to their personal decorative taste.


Doug Riggs

originally posted 11/ 07/11