Tag Archives: sedona center for the arts

A Time-Honored Tradition

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The words of my mentor, teacher and friend Bob Burridge continued to resonate in my mind long after they were spoken in my figurative art course today.

“What a luxury you have today, painting from a live model,” he told the class. “This is a time-honored tradition; it goes back to cave paintings.”

ImageHis description got me thinking about what a time-honored tradition it is indeed. Some people collect coins or baseball cards; I collect art books, poring over the works and stories of those who went before me who shared my passion for making art.

Think of your own favorite artists from the past …now Google them. They all work from live models at some point, both drawings and paintings — further proof of the undraped model’s relevance in art’s foundations and evolution.

ImageThis art history buff gets giddy just thinking about visiting the paths of my art heroes. Rembrandt, Picasso, Goya — they are all masters of the figure in art. So today, pondering Bob’s words, I felt a kinship with my teachers from the past and yet an owning of my own tradition, a journey that takes me deeper into my own artistic voice while nodding to the greats of art history.

Here’s the thing about life drawing or painting: It teaches you to see. The human figure is not easy to re-create; you really have to look, find proportions, study the shapes and spaces around the figure or negative shape. It’s a challenge that stretches you as an artist, makes you better by forcing you to look, and then demands that you have seen with each mark you make.

ImageThe figure, a human element in art, is not just exciting to me because of the nod to the past and the exceptional way it teaches you to master your skills. It’s about humanity. Mastering the figure is a way to enter a painting from your own point of view. By this, I mean: We are all human, so it puts the “us” factor in the art. As I continue my week of study, this will be my goal, to honor the life in all of us, the connectedness we have as humans. Here’s to being alive!

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The Controversy over the Nude in Art

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I’m traveling to the Sedona Center for the Arts this week to take a “Figurative Painting from the Undraped Model” class with my mentor, Bob Burridge. In college, I enjoyed classes that used an undraped model, as this technique taught me more than any other. This time-tested method teaches many important considerations, including perspective, shading, foreshortening, lighting, line and design, all in one class.

The topic of nudity also arose in the art history classes that had me on the edge of my seat, hanging on every word. It’s there that I learned that the nude was present in art from the beginning. Today, it is still an important part of any art education.

Titian's Venus of Urbino (1538)

Titian’s “Venus of Urbino” (1538)

Manet's "Olympia" (1863)

Manet’s “Olympia” (1863)

Perhaps it’s due to studying the historical, cultural and technical relevance that I never considered nudity in art improper in the least, and felt completely at ease exploring it through my own artistic pursuits. Nevertheless, I felt shocked and dismayed when I once heard someone comment on my figurative art as “inappropriate.”

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My travels have led me to believe that this seems to be predominately an American issue. All the nudes on display in the worlds’ museums, and a general ease with the body found globally, set the stage for an acceptance of the unclothed human figure in art. What are your thoughts on the nude in art? I invite you to join me this week in my studies and explore this subject with me.