figure drawing

Portraits Plus. . .

I left my pencils and paints home this week for the Portrait Party at Sebastopol Center for the Arts and brought Prismacolor felt tip pens and my pocket brush pen. So no mistakes allowed. It’s all good, because you don’t have enough time – with the one to ten minute sketch periods – to make it “right” anyway.

We take turns posing for each other, the hardest part for me since I hate to sit still. By the end I was standing and sketching and moving to the music we could hear from the Peacetime concert band playing next door at Ives Park.


At some point we started doing whole body poses, trying to get some attitude in them and most of us switched to putting more of the body in the  drawings.


I combined a dark liner with a shading pen to get some quick volume.


Loved Cary’s pose, the Rosey the Riveter “attitude”. My paper was too small to get the whole figure on the page, a constant problem for me, regardless of how big the paper is! So many times the feet and the top of the head don’t make it in.

There are two more Portrait Parties scheduled – August 29 and September 26. Put it on your calendar if you would like to join us next time. We meet at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts from 5-8pm. Beginners and pros are all welcome.


Portrait Party Postscript

Can getting people together to draw be a party as well? That was the idea last Thursday evening at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts when the auditorium area behind the gallery was turned into a figure studio and participants arrived in hats and scarves and some even with instruments!

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(If you’ve received this by email and you can’t see the slideshow, click on the title to view it on the blog page!)

(The sketches here are my own. I have no pictures of other artists’ sketches. Next time hopefully!)

As people arrived we started seating groups of six people. Everyone took turns posing, first for one minute poses and building up to ten minute poses, while music played and a deep concentration set in. Non-drawing spouses watched and took pictures. At the break there were refreshments and a few minutes to do another thing we all enjoy, to make new artist friends!

Suddenly it was eight o’clock and the evening was over!  Sketching faces can be so mesmerizing. . .it’s hard to stop.

If you missed out, don’t worry because we’ll do it again soon! The Art Center has been so supportive of this event and the response has been robust. I thought I knew most of the artist community already, but in addition to familiar faces there were many new people to meet.

As soon as we have a definite date for our next Portrait Party I will post it here. Stay tuned!



Model Marathon

While the rest of the world was eating nachos and drinking beer at their Superbowl Parties yesterday I was enjoying the practically deserted freeway which took me to San Francisco for another Urban Sketcher meet-up at Fort Mason, the Bay Area Model Guild Drawing Marathon. I guess a lot of sketchers aren’t Superbowl fans because it was packed with artists and models on stages for poses from 1minute to 10 minute to long poses.

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I brought my acrylic inks and dip pens and dove into the short 1-3min poses in the morning. By afternoon I was ready for the longer 20 min poses, but found that I didn’t do as well with those. Go figure! (Pun there)

The last picture in the slideshow is of my friend Mark Simmons, an illustrator who can draw circles around just about anyone, figuratively speaking. He showed up with a long roll of paper about a yard wide. (I took this pic about 1.5 hours into the morning session!) By the end of the morning alone, as he unrolled the paper, he had filled it with twice as many figures, some in color, that seemed to dance across the paper.

Surprisingly almost all of the models were male, or at least not straight female. But in San Francisco especially one knows to be a bit more fluid in identifying gender or non-conforming gender. The lovely person you see in these sketches is a transexual model Alida, over 6 feet, powerful and exquisitely feminine at the same time, capable of holding strenuous poses and seeming to prefer them.

It’s been a whole week of figure sketching for me – at The Living Room day shelter for women and children, at the Portrait Party at Sebastopol Center for the Arts, and at the Marathon.  Stay tuned for the Portrait party next!

Expressive Figure Drawing With Oliver Hoeller

On May 13 I took one of the 10 X 10 Urban Sketch workshops taught by one of my favorite urban sketch artist/illustrators, Oliver Hoeller.  I originally ran across him through his blog, the Visual Flanuer and have loved his zany depictions of festival life in San Francisco.

We met for the three hour workshop in Dolores Park in the Mission. It was a blustery, cool day and I still had my runny nose and cold left over from the cold week in N. Y. Nevertheless I was determined to learn his secrets for lively sketching of busy city scenes in pen and watercolor.

dolorespark2 After some contour sketch warm ups we moved on to sketching heads of the people in the park, drawing the shadow shapes rather than specific features.


Then we went on to draw shadow shapes on full figures of people sitting relatively still.

Next we sketched parts of people, heads, torsos and legs/feet. When sketching people who are moving you often need to complete your sketch with the parts of another person who steps into your field of vision. So we also practiced putting tops and bottoms of different people together into one!

The next step was to form an opinion of what you’re interested in and then be ready to exaggerate it.


This was more challenging as we switched to people who were moving. It helped me to write down what I was initially interested in so I wouldn’t lose my focus.

Lastly we were to add some detail and context to the picture. (By this point I was too cold, so I took myself off to the Dolores Cafe where I nursed a latte while adding color and waiting for my friends to finish the workshop.)

I definitely think the workshop helped me loosen up and get more playful. Drawing the shadow shape first definitely helps. The white of the paper is always more lively than when you color in shapes with blocks of color.

Thank you Oliver!

Sunday afternoon at the figure drawing marathon



A great way to spend a Sunday afternoon – brush pen in hand and a steady flow of excellent poses with attitude.  The Bay Area Model’s Guild always serves up a feast of figure poses in the marathon day for artists at Merritt Collage in Oakland.  I settled down to do the 5 and 10 minute poses, arriving late in the day with no time to warm up.  I brought my Tombow brush pen, which I’ve been enjoying lately for its bold line and water soluble mark which is good for running a wet brush over and establishing 60 second shadow forms.



The partially clothed model is so much more interesting to me.  The clothing helps to tell a story.


This model (same one – she took off her orange wig!) really knows how to vamp it up!


And the combination of the boots with the cute little 1950’s stewardess style hat really worked. (different model)


Switch to all angles for the masculine  effect.


The posture here tells the story with such utter simplicity.


I pulled out my watercolor palette for this one.  Painted some color shapes to start, then inked in the drawing and put another layer of watercolor on.


A wonderful pose with two girls back to back.  Not enough time to get much detail in.




Maybe I can get a job doing fashion design sketches?!

Model Attitude


pen and w/c graphite on BFK Rives paper

It’s all in the attitude.  And this model has it in such abundance that even the most beginner sketcher got a decent drawing from her 5 and 10 minute poses.


She held up a plastic flower and the pose was so beguiling that she sprouted two noses and a left hand where the right should be, but who’s counting?!


The models at this Bay Area Models Guild Marathon share the stage with two other models.  From where I was situated I could spin my chair and see two other stages with models on them.  So by the time I noticed this dynamic pose, I had two minutes left before it changed – just enough time!


And here the same model in a 20 minute pose, time enough to get out my watercolors and gouache  and put some color in.  What a fabulous hat, even if it does look a bit like an overripe banana on a platter.

Bob had helped me convert a photo tripod into an adjustable easel which worked so well!  I’ll take a picture and post it here in case you want one for yourself.  It involved a quick trip to the hardware store and a bit of drilling and sawing.  Quick and easy for me anyway, since I didn’t have to do it!

Ample Beauty


5 min sketch – pen and w/c graphite

This ample beauty was one of the models at the Bay Area Model’s Guild Marathon in Oakland last weekend.  It’s a quarterly event I try to attend whenever possible.  The pen goes a little wild when presented with fabulous poses, but only for a matter of minutes, and you never really know when those 2 or 5 or 10 or 20 minutes will suddenly be over!  So you just start sketching like mad and hope for the best!  The graphite comes in a cake like watercolor and you activate it with your brush.  I love the silvery sheen (which is lost in the picture here)


Working on hot pressed and Bristol  surfaces all my brush strokes showed.  Something about the graphite contributed greatly to the sense of weightiness of the image.


No apologies for weight here!  This model was the epitome of voluptuousness, not exactly flaunting it, but wearing it with queenly self assurance.  Ample beauty of the sort a figurative artist celebrates!


Figure Marathon Continued

Watercolor and w/c crayon

More quick sketches from the Bay Area Model’s Guild Marathon last weekend.  In these 5-10 minute sketches I painted some watercolor wetly onto the surface to get started, then drew into it with w/c crayons.

Here, a second little swipe of color to define the shorts, but taking care not to overdo. . .which is my tendency.

Watercolor wash, Derwent dark wash pencil

The model is taking her clothes off over her head.  I left the ambiguity there, but had to paint in the red bra, which she was wearing.  She also had black and white striped stockings!

And one last sketch (below), I started with the two slashes of watercolor, with some loose idea about joining the two figures, then sketched them in with my Uni-ball pen. The hot slash of color across the woman could refer to her reaction to him or possibly how he sees her!  Definitely some connection here!

The 1000th Blog Post!

I’ve been blogging here since July 2006.  It all started when we were on family vacation and my husband Bob was reading a book about the latest trend in blogging and told me I should start putting my art on a blog.  Sounded preposterous to me.

I mean I’m not the type of person who likes drawing much attention to herself, and I’m not particularly tech savvy.  My husband has dragged me kicking and screaming for the most part into using all the latest electronic gismos for the last 20 some years.

I remember arguing with him that we didn’t need a stupid cordless phone (this was 22 years ago I think), then loving the convenience of it when we had our first baby.  Mind you, I still haven’t exactly bought into cell phones, preferring to be left alone when I am away from the house, but blogging. . . well, I took to that like a fish to water.

And here I am, 1000 posts later, still sharing almost every piece of art I make, here on the Conversations With the Muse blog. I’ve gone through many phases in my relationship to the blogosphere.

Originally I was afraid to let something personal slip out for fear that I would be exposed, like walking out of the restroom with a piece of toilet paper attached to your pants or something. But after a few months when nothing awful happened and people seemed to enjoy any personal revelations about my life, I realized that my only blog operating rules were to share what is most real to me, to do no harm to others, to try to get my “facts” as accurate as possible, but not obsess about that (it’s not a dissertation after all!). . .and most important to visualize the people who might care to look at my blog musings.  This group started out very small and grew over time as I connected with other inspiring bloggers and students.

It’s still a mysterious process each time I send a post OUT, really to the world of my imagination, of which you have become a part. My conversation with the Muse is in fact, my conversation with you.  And so I want to take the opportunity on the auspicious moment of the 1000th blog post to thank you for keeping the conversation going on your side.

And since I almost never have a words-only post, I want to share some of the sketches from last Sunday at the Bay Area Models Guild Marathon in Oakland, CA.  I sketched from 10am-4pm in a frenzied state, so delighted to be there after a break of about a year when I was unable to gt to the quarterly marathons they run.  The marathon is in an enormous room in the Merritt Collage art building with stages where the models pose for varying length of time, 3 to a stage.  I sat by the 10 and 20 minute pose stages but was so drawn to the 1 and 2 minute poses for their whimsy and athleticism that I did mostly quick sketches.

Uni-ball fine pen on wet w/c paper

This pen was a great discovery because it bleeds just a bit on wetted paper for soft lines, but is waterproof and fade proof.

Notice the wolf mask on the model on the left and the jazzy high heals on the model in the middle, fun touches that these models use to spice up the poses.

Pentel Brush pen in Canson Mix Media sketchbook

To be continued. . .

Sketching the Group Sketching

TNDG figure sketch, nib pen dipped in black and walnut inks on plain sketch paper, 12 X 9″

Haven’t been to figure sketching group for a while, but with all this abstract painting I’ve been doing lately, I needed a drawing fix last Thursday night.  The thing is though, that my preference is sketching people in natural life situations, so that if I don’t want to fall asleep when the model lies down, I move on to the other far more fascinating subjects in the room.

If you recognize yourself, please forgive me for whatever liberties I have taken!  You are far more attractive than I may have inadvertently depicted you here.