Tahlequah Daily Press


February 24, 2011

Figure drawing improves art

TAHLEQUAH — Since the beginning of time, artists have rendered their perceptions of humans, beginning with cave drawings.

Several local artists believe figure drawing improves their skills.

Over the past 20 years, some area artists have gathered to practice figure drawing, and a workshop highlighting the genre is being revived, said Dr. Tom Baker, local optometrist and part-time artist.

“Drawing from a live model allows artists the opportunity to practice drawing skills, understand anatomy a little more, musculature and skeletal structure and the effect of light and shadows,” Baker said, “[This works] towards hand and eye perception and improvement, and coordination of the artist.”

Figure drawing is really difficult, but it’s rewarding, too, said artist Gerald Peterson.

“If you can draw the human figure, you can draw anything,” Peterson said.

Painting from photos is extremely useful, because it captures a defined moment, said artist Jamil Jaser. But with photos, colors don’t change and the information  gleaned from a photo is limited.

“You receive more information from a live model, like skin tones,” Jaser said. “A decent camera captures [images] fairly well, but not as well as the human eye.”

Jaser said he had a general understanding of the human figure from his independent studies.

“That increased tenfold when I took courses from John Newman at the University of Arkansas,” Jaser said.

The Jogali Art Studio, 308 N. Muskogee Ave., is donating space for a figure-drawing workshop, which will be held Wednesday, March 2, from 7- 9 p.m. Cost is $5 per person, which will be donated to the model.

“We’re always looking for people to come and draw, or pose for us,” Baker said. Poses will last up to 20 minutes, starting with 1-minute, 5-minute and 10-minute poses.”

The goal is to develop a drawing over time, with more detail in the 20-minute pose. The workshop is open to all skill levels.

“We’re looking for mature individuals who will approach this in a mature manner,” Baker said. “We really strive to make the model comfortable, as well.”

After 7 p.m., visitors will not be admitted, only participants.

“The windows will be covered. This life-drawing class is a private group of artists getting together for artistic exercise,” Jaser said.

The core of the group is the same four to six people who have been doing this for 20 years, which began started with Terra Coons in the Tin Shop, Baker said.

“She’s one of the originators for the life-drawing workshop and the Tahlequonia Art Show,” he said.

Coons and Janet Stuckey, executive director of the now-defunct Tahlequah Arts Council, are responsible for the independent art that is produced and shown, he said.

“They really encouraged it, and gave people a venue to show it and socialize,” Baker said. “They get credit for keeping the art world alive and functioning for so many years.”

Coons was teaching art at Children’s Meeting House Montessori School, where Baker’s son attended, when he heard a rumor there was going to be life drawing at the Tin Shop. So he stopped in and got acquainted with her.

Though always interested in art, Baker became an optometrist, so he could finance his interest in art.

“[I did it] so I could live as an artist,” he said. “And there’s an art to optometry.”

Some of the artists who have been involved are over the years include Cedar Carrier, Burt Russell, retired NSU professor R.C. Coones, Robert Lewis, Sam Enka, Dena Coleman, Lyle Deiter, Kelly Anquoe and Peterson.

“Gery has hosted this at his studio in the past,” said Baker. “It’s been at my studio, at NSU when Coones was there, and probably other places I’ve forgotten.”

Artists have been drawing the human figure since cave men, Peterson said.

“Throughout history, anybody who has ever drawn, has improved by life-drawing,” said Peterson.

Everywhere he’s lived, he’s done life-drawing, from Mexico to New York to Paris.

“It develops the ability to view something; the image goes in the brain, down the arm, and you depict it as you see it,” Peterson said. “The human figure is not abstract. Everyone knows what it looks like.”

Some people use charcoal, oil, watercolor or pencil during the life-drawing workshop.

“It’s amazing what some people can do,” Peterson said. “I encourage any artist to do it, try it”

For more information, contact Baker at (918) 453-0900.

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