Monday, September 14, 2009

The faults lie not in ourselves, but in our stars...

Well, the bartender explained that with Mercury retrograde, something like this was bound to happen...
I arrived at our usual location to discover a small-cask beer festival in full swing. The stage where the model usually poses was crowded with casks, and the room crowded with beer aficionados.

"Use the dining room!" the bartender suggested, "We don't start serving dinner till six." With some of you coming all the way from Connecticut and farthest Jersey, I didn't want to cancel the session, so dining room it was, even though it's open on two sides and people have to travel through it to get to the bathroom & the kitchen.

The model was new to NYC, and so, apparently, was the cab driver who brought her, since he thought 43 East 7th ought to be on 43rd street and Seventh ave. So we got started rather late. Nevertheless we soldiered on, the model opting to work nude (I left it to her discretion) despite the open environment, and despite the occasional beer-dazzled ogler leering through the doorway, she posed brilliantly, with poses both graceful and romantic, and despite the celestial wackiness, I think we all went home with drawings that were sure to appease the angry spirits.

Please don't be dissapointed if future sessions aren't anywhere near as complicated..

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Got this amazing link from a friend a la Facebook.

"In 1946 legendary surrealist Salvador Dali formed an unlikely friendship with Walt Disney, and they spent some time collaborating on a short film called Destino..."

Go to:

Monday, June 29, 2009

Dates for July sessions

Hi Folks!

We're on for July 26, Sunday, 3-6pm. The usual place. Additionally, on July 18th, several bars, Jimmy's included, will be hosting Drawing Day as part of Good Beer Month, which will include some fun artist-oriented festivities in addition to some really good beers! More info to follow.

Talk to ya soon!

Friday, April 24, 2009

New dates for the next two months

These are the dates for the upcoming sessions:

(No session 5/3!)


Same time (3-6pm) Same place.
Please refer to the meetup page for more info.
See ya there!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Looking at "lively" art

During our last session, we got to talking about what puts the "life" is a figure sketch. I mean, some drawings might be the loosest, roughest drawings, but they look like they want to leap off the page, and other drawings, though technically perfect, seem somehow flat.

I proposed the feeling of "life" in a drawing is what's often called the "gesture," which is a well defined vector, or line of motion. Take a look at the sports pictures in the back of the newspaper. Whether its football, basketball or baseball, even a horse race, if the picture has a dynamic quality, you can probably trace it back to a clearly defined line of action in the image.

Perhaps you’re seeing a football player slamming against an opponent, a basketball player springing for the hoop, or a baseball player twisting into the follow through of his swing, or that horse rocketing towards the finish, just a nose ahead of the competition. You could even take a pencil, if you wanted to, and go through the paper, drawing arrows where you see a line of action.

Short-poses of 30 seconds to 5 minutes are great for capturing the gesture. One of the pitfalls of longer drawings is that you can get too tied up in the details of each particular area of the drawing, and it comes out “overworked.” What that usually means is that different areas of the picture are directed in different directions, and that it what makes it “flat." If you start your sketch class out with short poses, it warms up your eye & you tend to see the figure in its entirety for the longer poses.

Some of the artists we discussed:

Be aware that the action doesn’t have to be dramatic or intense. Vermeer painted some of the “quietest” paintings ever, loving, placid, candid, moments caught like butterflies, but they are FULL of action. In the famous “Girl with the Pearl Earring,” you might see a simple portrait, but it’s not. It has a quality of life that’s captivating. What’s happening on that canvas? She’s not just posing for her year book, she’s turning to look—at you. The twist in her neck tells you she just noticed you, and the slight rise of her head signals recognition—she’s looking at you and she knows you (and I think she likes you, too).

And look at “The Lacemaker.” Or rather, look at what the lacemaker is looking at. You can see her total focus on her work. If you look at this painting for more than a few minutes, you may even hear the rustle of her clothes against the table, Maybe marvel that she’s so focused on her work that she hasn’t even noticed you watching her.

You may notice that in both examples, it’s the direction of the glance, and by extension, the head, that defines the line of motion. I won’t say much more about that, but do go ahead and experiment with it. Notice it in people around you or in pictures, and try it out in your drawings. (anyone with experience in Judo, Aikido or wrestling knows that the opponent’s body follows whatever direction his head moves, especially if you’re moving it for him).

One other thing worth thinking about, but maybe a little beyond the scope of this article, is that in a truly great image, the composition is arranged to highlight and work with the motion. It’s possible for the line of action to be overwhelmed by other elements in the picture. The masters, from Rembrandt to Weegee, were also master stage-designers, in that the entire canvas and everything in it was designed to highlight the action.

Take a look at the way Alphonse Mucha captures motion in his lines. Notice the way the lines he draws all compliment the motion of the figure—no lines ever cut across the direction of the motion, but rather, all flow with it. You might also be aware of the abstract, yet tombstone-like composition of most of his backgrounds, and how that highlights the dynamism of the figure. Mucha was one of the most famous artist of the Art Noveau period.

Hokusai, the Japanese artist, famous for, amongst other works, “100 views of Mt. Fuji” is equally famous for his “manga” which were printed collections of figure sketches, many of which have an amazing sense of both motion and humor. (for references, I particularly recommend Michner’s “The Hokusai Sketchbooks,” Tuttle, 1958)

His famous quote (taken from Wikipedia):
The next period, beginning in 1834, saw Hokusai working under the name "Gakyō Rōjin Manji" (The Old Man Mad About Art).In the postscript to this work (100 Views of Mt. Fuji), Hokusai writes:[1]
“ From around the age of six, I had the habit of sketching from life. I became an artist, and from fifty on began producing works that won some reputation, but nothing I did before the age of seventy was worthy of attention. At seventy-three, I began to grasp the structures of birds and beasts, insects and fish, and of the way plants grow. If I go on trying, I will surely understand them still better by the time I am eighty-six, so that by ninety I will have penetrated to their essential nature. At one hundred, I may well have a positively divine understanding of them, while at one hundred and thirty, forty, or more I will have reached the stage where every dot and every stroke I paint will be alive. May Heaven, that grants long life, give me the chance to prove that this is no lie.

A useful but somewhat cryptical resource for sketching, from an Asian perspective, is the Chinese classic on drawing “The Mustard Seed Garden.” Through a series of illustrations, the book presents some very useful examples of proportion, composition and line-character. Obviously, it’s a very culturally-specific book, since it’s seen through the lens of Chinese art. It’s also important to be aware that a lot of the book requires much deeper explanation, or a lot of practice and personal exploration. Implicit in the illustrations are lessons about line quality and character.

For a more thorough and straightforward explanation of the Chinese approach, there’s a great series of four books written by I-Hsiung-Ju, one for each of the “four gentlemen” of Chinese painting (The Book of Bamboo, The Book of Orchid, The Book of Chrysanthemum The Book of Plum) published by the Art Farm of Virginia, 1988. Each of the “gentlemen” embodies a particular kind of line character, and a particular kind of aesthetic, and each gentleman teaches skills built on the skills of the previous. For example, the first gentleman, bamboo, teaches how to put develop strength in lines, and composition using straight lines, and how they break up the space. The second gentlemen, Orchid, uses long lines, like bamboo, but they are more fluid and graceful. This builds on the concepts and strength developed from the previous gentleman.

For a modern American approach, check out books by Burne Hogarth, Frank Frazetta, and George Bridgeman. These are easy to find, and fun to look at and learn from.

It’s definitely worth looking at drawings from all sorts of different artists. Don’t be shy about keeping postcards & Xeroxes on file, and definitely draw your own copies. That’s how the masters learned!
©Jeff Sauber 2009

Monday, April 6, 2009

Further advice for models

I get a fair number of emails from people looking for modelling jobs. I wish I had more oportunities to offer, but I do try to keep every model's info on file, and use 'em if I can.
One thing I'd like to point out to anyone who's looking for this kind of work: include a picture!!

I generally use models I've worked with before, but I do consider anyone who's available, particularly in the summer, when some of the models are out of town. But it's uncomfortable to hire someone sight unseen. If nothing else, it helps a lot for us visual people to have a face we can associate to the number.

It's pretty standard for actors & other kinds of models to attach a pic of some sort, and nothing speaks for you like a visual image. It needn't be a professionally shot portrait, or a nude pic, either, just a good looking snapshot to stick in the memory.

The first sessions of this year...

We've had the first two sessions of the year, and I think they went off very well! It's a funny phenomenon of groups that work through that the number of people who RSVP never match the nuber who actually show, and this year has been no exception. We've had a consistent 18+ people RSVP and about a dozen show up. So there's always room for a few more people (if you didn't sign up, but you wanted to, chances are there will be room anyway).

On our first session, the space had been left a little dishevled by the Improv show that was there the night before, everyone showed up half an hour late and the model got a leg cramp during the last pose. Not an auspicious way to start, neccessarily, but it means we got all the germlins out of the way, and I expect the rest of the season to be smooth sailing!

Our second session seems to be supporting that assumption.

In both sessions the models were inspiring and the energy of the group was good & keeps gettign better!

Can't wait to see what the rest of the summer has in store!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Dates for the summer sketch group

The formal schedule will be up in a day or so, but here are the particulars:

The next four sessions will be
March 22
March 29
April 19
April 26

Sundays, from 3pm-6pm in the theater at Jimmy's #43 at 43 East 7th st. Downstairs.
You may use any media and equipment that doesn't do property damage or inconvenience other people in the room (excepting photography, of course).

Poses will range from 30 second to 20 minutes.

The food and beverages at jimmy's are excellent!

I'm just resolving some tiny details, and then I'll send out the invitations via

You're really going to enjoy this group!!


Monday, March 2, 2009

What good is a 30 second pose?!

I occasionally help run sketch classes in a couple of schools around the city. I often end up with the dubious moniker of "30-second man." Despite what some of my ex-intimates may say, I earned that name because, when I run a class, I like to start out with ten 30-second poses. Now, most sketch classes will start out with one minute poses, so why cut that in half? As it stands, a one-minute pose is so fast...

When I was first introduced to 30-second poses, it took me a while to get to like them. I'd already been drawing nudes for a long time, years in fact, and never did anything shorter than a one-minute pose. It was in Nathan Cabot Hale's class at the Art Student's League in the 80s that I was first exposed to the 30-second pose. Hale, a relative of the famous ASL instructor Robert Beverly Hale, was a sculptor and an anatomist with a fierce demeanor and a good sense of humor. He felt 30 second poses were good for you, and since he knew his business, I thought I should give it a try. Besides, some of the other students would just sit out the short poses without even trying, and I didn't want to give up like that. I rarely refuse a challenge. I rapidly learned to love the 30-second because of how quickly my drawing improved. Why? Here's why:

--You just barely have enough time to capture the gesture, the movement & feeling of the pose. You can't get hung up on any of the details. This is more important than it seems at first. One of the problems a lot of people have is that their drawings seem stiff and woody. The drawing doesn't have the spark of life to it. It may even seem overworked. In 30 seconds, if you get much, it will mostly be that spark.

--You just have enough time to draw the whole figure. Which means you just have enough time to see the whole figure. Getting the parts of the figure all in proportion to each other can be a very difficult thing, and the trouble is that as we draw, our attention gets hung up in the details, as whatever part of the body we spend more time on can come out bigger on paper (usually the head or hands). You can even see this happen on drawings by some of the great artists, even Prud'hon.

--You begin to perceive the figure as a whole in your mind, and this lets you work more quickly.

--You begin to remember more with each glance.
--An inspired model can strike short poses that they could never hold for longer.

--After doing a few 30-second poses, the one minute pose seems like its five times as long, and you'll get so much more out of it.

Sounds like they're worth giving a try, now, right? After all, 10 poses in five's a little investment with a big return!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Tips for art models

For the first substantive post to this blog, I expected I'd post information about some upcoming classes, or pontificate about the changing face of the drawing scene, or a nerdly article on pen points.

Saturday night, I got home from one of Michael Alan's looney Draw-a-thons in the wee hours, and chanced to check my email. There was one from a girl who was asking me if I could give her some tips on breaking into nude (art!) modelling. I spilled out my thoughts, and decided this was a sign... And so my fist post ! Mind you, I've never modeled, but I know what inspires me, and I know what I look for when I hire a model. I'd really love input from some models who know the other side of the pencil.


Best way to start, attend a couple of different classes, see how the models do and see how the artists respond. first off, you'll get an idea of what is expected of the models, and you'll also get to see what makes a good model, and what doesn't (as with any other profession, some people do their job better than others).

For artist's models, looks aren't necessarily important. Being able to come up with interesting poses, and being able to hold them, are the top skills.

Holding the pose is really important, since it gets very frustrating when you're 20 minutes into a drawing, and the model is slowly twisting into a different position. Not moving means not moving anything, including your eyes. Of course, your body follows where your eyes go, so if you fix your eyes to one point, you should be ok. Bored, maybe, but OK.

For sketch classes like mine, I don't do a pose longer than 20 minutes, but if you're posing for a painting class or a sculpture class, it can go on for a week or more (boring, I guess, but regular work!). In that case, the pose is typically broken up into 20-25 minute sessions, with a 5 minute break. At the end of the first 20 minutes, the monitor will usually put tape on the places where your feet are to help you find your place again. Being able to hold a pose is a highly regarded skill!

Being able to offer interesting poses will make you a desirable model! The best models have a good sense of motion in their poses, and that makes for exciting drawings. This is where dancers & yoga practitioners have an advantage. If you're familiar with ballet, think Jose Limon over Martha Graham. If that doesn't mean anything to you, one good way to create a sense of motion is to be asymmetrical, or slightly off balance. Or use the poses to act out a story, or express your inner demons.

Having fun will make posing, or any job, more easier.

Just remember that you'll be going for hours, so pace yourself, too.

As far as working conditions, most of the people you'll be working with will be pretty cool. Sketch classes traditionally have been quiet, meditative places, but there are a new breed, like Michael Alan's Sketch-a-thon, and Dr. Sketchy's in Brooklyn. These are more like performance art and/or burlesque, and usually have costumes, themes and music.

Hope that's good for a start!

If you go to the "files" section of the Meetup group, you'll find a PDF I created called "Classes around town." It lists all the classes I know of in the area. That ought to be a good start. Also try colleges with art departments (Hunter, CCNY, NYU, etc).

Good luck!


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Welcome To NY Figure Drawing

Life drawing, ie., drawing the nude figure from a live model

Some of you may already know me! I've been running a life drawing group in the summers here in Manhattan, on and off, for something like ten years. A few years ago, I brought the group to That helped reach a lot of new people, and it helped to streamline the process of scheduling the sessions. The meetup site interface isn't really a great place for interacting, however. there's a lot more I want to share, and a blog seemed like a better place to offer suggestions and to get feedback. I'm going to try to keep this site filled with new and useful content, including information on:

Materials and techniques
Beginner's suggestions
Info on my group and all the others in NYC that I know about
Info on running a sketch group
Info for models and artists
And of course a little blog-worthy pontification
Art (of course)

Is there something else that you would you like to see on this site? Let me know!