This past weekend I attended a figure drawing/painting workshop with one of the Pastel Artists Canada repeat award winners, Glenn Bernabe. Glenn, a resident of Markham, Ontario, usually depicts single female figures in urban settings (laundromats, coffee shops etc.) and his work has a polished, while rather melancholy atmosphere. Without doubt, his mastery of the human figure is superb, so I looked forward to learning a lot, and was not disappointed. Glenn began each of the two days with a brief lecture and then a demo on proportions, first on the human head, and then the human figure. These lessons, vaguely remembered from my one term in art school at age 17, made immediate sense and were extremely useful, and I eagerly applied them to the afternoon drawing/painting sessions with live models.
Glenn's materials list had specified Canson Mi-Teintes paper and, though I usually work on sanded surfaces, I brought some along and was pleasantly surprised at the results. When painting figures, perhaps I have a lighter touch, as I found this paper's surface quite toothy enough for my work this weekend. It's certainly a LOT cheaper than sanded, and comes in larger sheets, so I may just keep using it for figure work. I especially liked the "felt grey" colour Glenn recommended, as it provided a good middle tone from which I could strike out for lights and darks.
As the new Pastel Artists Canada President, I had brought along my camera to document the workshop for our newsletter and website. I was careful to ask Glenn's permission before photographing him at work, but I confess that I didn't think to ask the model's permission! Our Saturday model was a striking redhead, and she made a point of commenting to the class that one must ask the model, too, for permission to take her/his photographic image, whether nude or clothed. Upon reflection, I realized that this made sense, especially for one who is making a living from his or her visage. I apologized and did get her permission--and then promptly forgot to ask it of our Sunday model (who was quick to remind me!). Clearly this is an issue that requires a courteous and thoughtful approach, and I vow to try harder to remember in future. Here are a few shots from the workshop--you can see that Glenn is an animated and energetic instructor!
I've had cause to think about this issue of photographing people recently, as I have been going out and about my neighbourhood, camera in hand, in search of "everyday people doing everyday work" for the series I am working on. Most people, when asked, are happy to permit themselves to be photographed, but a few have refused (which, of course, I honoured). I carry my artist cards in my pocket to give out, and urge my subjects to check my website so they know I am legitimate. Besides, the extra publicity can't hurt!
Here's a recent figure painting, of my lovely colleague Michelle, who graciously dressed in period clothes and allowed herself to be photographed. I like the cool, gentle window light effect, and feel I captured this woman's sweet nature and calm demeanour well.