NotePad: Virtual Figure Drawing

By Peggy Roalf   Friday March 27, 2020

Social Distancing, working apart from the workplace, and AI —all features rising to the front of the Covid-19 crisis—will probably alter society in ways that we have yet begun to imagine. As one accustomed to working from my home studio, and understanding its pitfalls as well as its benefits, I have been following these trends as I look for stories to bring to DART readers. Movie-watching and novel-reading have been joined by virtual dance parties as ways to feel closer to friends and colleagues. Without doubt, virtual model drawing is (at least for me) the most interesting possibility that has emerged through social media this week. 

I have been fortunate in being part of both the SVA Alumni Drawing and the New York Academy of Art Open Drawing sessions—which had me model drawing two times a week a good part of the time. With those programs temporarily shut down, I began to look elsewhere for ways to engage while being home alone. And while scrolling through Instagram the other day I found a post from Carol Fabricatore—an artist, illustrator and educator who, through my work on DART—has become a friend in the actual sense. When I reached out to invite her to share her ideas, Carol responded with this:

I decided to participate in an online live figure drawing session this past Tuesday through the “Dynamic Figure Drawing” group. I signed up through “Meetup”, paid the $10.00 session fee and logged in at the start time of 7:00pm, going until 9:00pm. It was a first for me. It wasn’t anything at all like being in a studio with a model that you’re drawing and seeing three dimensionally. The model was a flattened tiny image on the screen of my laptop I had in front of me. It took me a while to take it in and get acclimated to this new situation. 

There were 96 artists who signed up and participated in this session from the city, Brooklyn, Westchester, New Jersey and other locations. At first the organizer had everyone on a full screen grid so you could go through all of the artist’s faces/names to see if you knew anyone and reach out to them quickly. It was a coming together of sorts - Art Group meets a Zoom-like setting. 

The model did 3, 5, 10 minute poses with a few 15 minutes poses at the end of the session. During the poses the organizer muted everyone so it wasn’t disruptive but you could use the “chat” feature to ask questions. 

During the 5-minute model breaks, anyone could hold their drawings up to their camera to show the rest of the participants in the grid and comment. I guess that’s when it felt like we were all sharing an experience together to some small degree. During these breaks and at the end of the session was when it felt more social and connected in the drawing experience we shared. But the breaks went by very fast and then the model was posing again. 

I had to keep telling myself to look deeper, try to see this small image on my screen in a 3-dimensional way, adding volume, trying to unflatten her and make her feel alive for me. It was challenging. I felt like I was working from a photograph and then she would blink, reminding me this was happening live.  

I would say the experience stretched me in a way that I had to use all of my prior life drawing experience to look past the pixels and think about the living breathing person in front of me putting energy and creativity into the poses. A benefit I found was that I could spread out and use whatever materials I had in my studio, unlike some of the small spaces in which I have drawn from life where I had to bring minimal supplies. I realized there wasn’t the usual friendly competition to perform in the company of others in this online way. It was more personal and the pressure only came from within. 

It was a fun experiment and I will try it again. I was able to “meet” a new group of artists and it was nice to see the work they had just finished. I did the online session because I also wanted a way to focus on something else besides COVID-19 and to escape into drawing and since we all have to be socially distanced right now, this was an interesting way to do it. I’m still not completely sure how I feel about it, but it’s always great to draw, even if it’s online.  —Carol Fabricatore  [IG]

So if you are looking for similar opportunities, here are a few that have popped up so far. I will update this [very brief] list in upcoming DART Board posts.

Additionally, the Merce Cunningham Trust has issued links to the programs that marked the 100th anniversary of Cunningham's birth: Night of 100 Solos, which took place in New York City, Los Angeles and London as well as Ratilly Event, a 1970 performance that took place in France. As the regularly scheduled Cunningham Trust Workshops at City Center Studios have been suspended, I plan to draw from these videos until the live performances—which offer a truly extraordinary “model drawing” experience—resume.

Sketchbook page from Merce Cunningham Trust Workshops recital, © Peggy Roalf

Dynamic Figure Drawing @ Invisible Dog  Info

HERE@HOME Wednesday night Watch Parties  Info

Night of 100 Solos  View

Ratilly Event  View

Jesus Benavente Dance Party  Info

SkillShare. free drawing and illustration classes Info

Last and not least, The Rubin Museum of Art offers a virtual Care Package for Navigating Our World, with a focus on meditation and mindfulness, here

By Peggy Roalf   Wednesday March 25, 2020

By Peggy Roalf   Thursday March 19, 2020

By Peggy Roalf   Wednesday March 18, 2020

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