Sketching the human form, quickly

One of the most striking things about the new exhibition, Life Drawing, at the Arts Centre in Sechelt is the variety of styles that can come out of such a classically simple art practice.

That practice involves a live, naked model assuming a variety of poses for a group of artists, who take from a few minutes up to 30 minutes to complete a sketch on paper or digital touch-screen. It’s a delight to see the range of what can be accomplished in such a short time.

“When artists work from direct observation, they give their full and undivided attention to capturing as many fine details or as much dynamic character in the given time as they can in their own unique style and medium,” the Sunshine Coast Arts Council noted in a release about the exhibition. The challenge of life-drawing, it said, creates “a spontaneity, freshness and immediacy ordinarily not seen in art exhibitions where the usual criteria include polish and composition.”

Many artists here have laid down just a few lines capturing the human form in charcoal or pencil, with shapes and contours added in artful shadings or smudges, all in the classic, black-and-white, life-drawing style. Bruce Edwards’s works have been executed that way. Some, like Claude Perrault, have added flesh-tone pastels. Others, like Paula O’Brien, have embedded line-drawings in washes of bright colour.

O’Brien, who does a lot of work in oils, said in her artist’s statement that she’s been doing fast life-drawing since 2007 and has seen it become “a valuable underpinning of all my artwork.” For the past 10 years, O’Brien has been using an iPad, which she likens to a portable studio, with “an assortment of colours, textures, brushes,” which she can access “at rapid speed.”

There are more than 250 sketches in this exhibit, produced since 2018 by 22 artists, from professionals to novices. It’s a group exercise that has been a weekly tradition from September to April every year at the Arts Centre since 1985. The pandemic has prevented the group gathering so far this year, however, and no sessions are anticipated until May at the earliest. Anyone interested can learn more about the group and sign onto a mailing list on the Facebook page, Sunshine Coast Life Drawing & Painting.

The Life Drawing exhibition runs until March 14.

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