Susan's "subject matter, context and medium...present a coherent artistic vision"
John Torreano, Clinical Professor of Studio Art, NYU

"Great stuff. Love your work."
Seymour Chwast

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Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Shape of Things


Coming of Age, acrylic on linen, 24 x 18 inches




































FIGURE STUDIES  are an important  part of our history of art.  They have been around since  the time of the cave drawings at Lascaux, France, where many depictions of human figures were discovered along with the animals and symbols.

I suspect these figures were drawn by men because in early America at least, women were not even allowed to draw from live models.  Until the 20th century, women were restricted to drawing from plaster casts. The  American painter Mary Cassatt (1844 -1926) had to leave the country and go to Paris to learn to paint. She felt she was not learning anything at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, because she, as a woman, was not allowed to draw from live models. At the time it was thought to be bad and even dangerous for women to do so. I guess that would have been called an artist's lament. 

I am happy academics are more enlightened now because one of the most thrilling work that an artist can do is studies from the live human form. I am very lucky because in my undergraduate days I studied drawing under the late, great Jack Potter, a famous artist in his own right. He relentlessly reminded me and my classmates in life classes that we were not drawing people or anatomy, but rather shapes. In his class we were not even allowed to refer to the anatomical names for body parts. For instance, we could not say, "The model's right elbow is out of line."  We had to refer to the model's  "shape," not her  "elbow." If we did, Mr. Potter would remind us, "The model has no elbow, she has a shape."

That was the major breakthrough in my drawing. If you think about it, a  shape, or in this case an angle, is a lot easier to draw than a "flexed arm." It is far less intimidating when you don't have to consider skin texture, hair,  muscles, tendons, nerves, bones,  joints, fingers and so forth. In addition, by simplifying, one achieves a more spontaneous drawing . Once you have the overall shape, you can go back and put in as many of the visual details as you need to tell your story.


Figure Study, drawn with paint on canvas




I hope you like the shape of things!



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