All Original Written and Photographic content is Copyright MEL BIRNKRANT
When we moved to the country, I assumed my Life Drawing days were over. And I was right, essentially, but not altogether. I soon discovered that there were life drawing sessions available, here in Dutchess County, although, they were few and far between. One took place every Sunday afternoon, in a sort of tavern cafe, called The Town Crier, in Beekman, an hour away. I went there several times. More conveniently located, was the Garrison Art Center. I attended several sessions there, but found them rather irritating. The class of, mostly, all beginners, insisted on filling the first of hour with quick poses. To me, this was a waste of time and paper. The models were usually male, “not that there’s anything wrong with that.” Nonetheless, before the year was over the challenge of turning this old schoolhouse into a home, and working by long distance with Colorforms, not to mention my growing passion for collecting, consumed every minute of my time. So, I set my life drawing supplies aside, never to be picked up again. And that was that!
There are still hundreds more drawings, hidden haphazardly around this house, wherever I stored them when we moved here. These three pages will contain most of those that I can stand to look at of what I’ve come across, so far. This third page will display the drawings that remain of those I discovered the other day. Some, of which were done in New York City, as well as others that I did up here, in our first year in Dutchess County.
This drawing is an anomaly. The image is not only inordinately up-close and large, but, for a change, I managed to get the entire figure on the page.
I almost never attempted to draw hair. And I also rarely indulged in applying local color. I restricted all my attempts at shading to those that revealed forms. But in this case, there was no avoiding it. Apart from the models excitingly extended hand and feet, I loved foreshortening, the pose was all about her hair. The end result was uncharacteristically clean and neat, and the pose, unusually discreet!
This gal had a fascinating face. Her nose was dramatically elongated. At times she could look quite beautiful as in the drawing below, which I ran out of time to finish. Here she resembles a painting by Modigliani.
In real life, she most likely looked like this. She always inspired me to draw her with precise outlines.
At other times, she appeared quite ordinary. I would include her face, only if I found that I had extra time.
Here is another drawing that I find rather pleasant, if conventional.
But in this one, with a little exaggeration, she becomes wolf-like and slightly diabolical.
The Garrison Art Center had one male model who was quite macho. I remember doing the following five drawings in a single day. Drawing his muscular anatomy was a new experience for me.
By the time we got to this final pose, I was just starting to catch on.
Nonetheless, when the class met, the following week, I was pleased to see this curvaceous young lady. This, for me was far more familiar territory.
I rarely looked at my drawings after a session was over, I just added them to the stack, and never saw them again. But on the rare times that I did glance at them, I was often reminded of what my life drawing instructor at Pratt, Calvin Albert said to me. Namely, that I draw like a sculptor. Yes, I could see what he meant. Drawings like these, while not necessarily attractive, are extremely sculptural. The forms are tangible....
And sometimes, powerful; I would have no trouble at all, rendering this in clay.
This last drawing is rather lyrical. It has a kind of dynamic flow, that I find rather appealing. It almost looks like I knew what I was doing.
The model here was clearly leaning on something; I cant imagine what it might have been. I never wasted time drawing the furniture. In this case, especially, details like her head and hair didn’t interest me. I found the foreshortening of her legs and knees more challenging.
This drawing was done in NYC. I recognize the the stool that the model is sitting atop so solidly. I brought it back from France with me. These stools, in various heights, were sold in art supply stores there. They were used in congested life drawing class, so many students could fit in a small space. Some came as tall as six feet high, and the rungs were used as ladders to climb up.
This is a rather realistic drawing. It exemplifies a trick I learned at Pratt. When indicating shadows, always let the direction of the shading follow the forms. This works quite effectively in this case, as the shadow of her right arm reveals the volume of her upper thigh.
There are a few remaining drawings in the usual size 18”x24”. They are in no particular order. Then, I will include a final group of drawings that are oversized.
The following drawings are all very large. 26”x 34.” That’s a lot of space to cover with an ordinary pencil! Some of these are rather self-consciously contrived. I couldn’t seem to keep my head from mixing in when I drew in this large size. One exceptions to that rule was this extremely excited attempt to capture the dramatic foreshortening of an elbow, jutting out towards the viewer. I just dove in and tackled it, without planning it out. The drawing is flawed, but an honest attempt, nevertheless.
This one is big and somewhat wild. It reminds me of the first drawings I did when this adventure first began, in the loft above mine, on Lexington and Twenty-Eighth Street.
This drawing is tall and very distorted, with parts that are rendered realistically, and other elements that are stylized. The drawing pad was nearly three feet tall, intended for lecturers; I could not step back far enough to see it all at the same time.
This drawing Is highly stylized. It represents the kind of mannered thinking that I indulged in, in the days when I was painting.
At the Garrison Art Center, there were often ten minute poses. They had an ever changing variety of models. I never saw the same one twice.
Well, that’s all folks! As I finished documenting these, an afterthought occurred to me: These drawings are more than forty-five years old! My God! How the time has flown! Looking back, it’s hard to believe that they were done, over the course of three short years. And I can’t help wondering what my artwork would look like, now, if I had continued to draw for forty-five years more? If I was still doing this, I might have gotten good at it.