Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Artist's Models, Inspiration, Meditation, Reps
Looking at Gary, you can wonder, “how long did he have to sit for this painting?” Ann Gale spends a great deal of time around her subjects even before “official” painting sessions begin. Once she starts with a model, she may have several sessions for a small painting or sketch. If the interaction between her and the subject coalesces, then three hour periods of painting, twice a week for anywhere from four months to three years begin.
That’s a long time to be sitting in one place and in Gary’s case, with no clothes. What makes a person agree to pose for three hours with only a short stretch break every half hour or so? Most of Ann Gale’s models are her friends or family, but others are professional models. One motivator can be money, but over and above that, some say that it’s the desire to be part of the creation of art, the artist’s inspiration.
During a painting session, the artist is busy, drawing or painting. What is the model doing other than holding still, holding a pose? Mostly they’re concentrating on what’s going on in the room, the sound of the pencil on paper or brushes on the canvas. Much like people who meditate, they watch their breathing and in many cases they’re monitoring their bodies, the muscles that may be cramping, the itch here, the chill there. Since Ann Gale’s portraits take years to complete in some cases, we the viewers are able to see changes in their moods and bodies. What we look like now is not what we’ll look like three years from now. Gale captures that transition in time, both in the portrayal of the subjects and the space around them.
Modeling is definitely hard work. Gary Stuart, one model, is quoted as saying “By the end of three hours I fell like I need traction.” Robert Treat, another model, says “For me, it is like reps. It is more of an athletic experience. That’s what the artists are doing as well, with their paintings and drawings: sketch, after sketch, after sketch.”
All of this discussion of modeling reminds me of the brief period five years ago when I posed for a group of artists in Santa Rosa. I was asked to wear different outfits of my choice for three separate sessions. Each session was broken into the classic minute, two minute, five minute, fifteen minute, half hour sketch periods. Since I had not done any posing before, the people participating were pleased with how well I could hold the poses. And yes, I did watch my breath and did become very attuned to what was happening in that room. One artist gave me this sketch to thank me for spending my time with them. She especially liked my choice of colorful biking clothes even though she did her sketch in black pencil.