Figure Drawings

The drawings in this section were all done from life either while I was teaching at The School of Visual Arts or when I was drawing at my studio in Sag Harbor or New York. In my SVA drawing classes I limited the materials the students could use to 4B pencils and ledger bond pads in order to keep the emphasis on how they saw and understood the model and to discourage the students from making the class a style exercise with ingenious use of other materials. Besides focusing their attention on the observational issues of drawing these limited materials also contributed to good morale in the classes by giving the students the sense they were all playing by the same rules. They accepted they were learning foundational skills that would serve them well where, later, they would move out to experiments with medium and different drawing tools or to drawing on the computer.

For a decade I drew along with my students in 4B pencils on ledger bond paper, but at a certain point I needed to challenge and interest myself with another medium. I chose a limited palette of gouache paint and bristle brushes. What I discovered, besides my delight in experimenting with this new medium, is that in using color unnaturalistically to emphasize my responses to the movement and psychology of the model I was dramatizing the issues of rhythm, tension and the body’s cooperative forces for my students in a new way.

I invited my students to join me in drawing with gouache but most of them were content to keep drawing and heightening their focus in pencil. Because using the gouache color in a basically unnaturalistic way released a heightened intuitive response in me it made drawing from the model feel more imaginative and more open to the reactions I had to the person I was studying. I have continued to draw in this way ever since.

2023 © James McMullan