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Life drawing online, 3 February 2022

10 Feb 2022

I’m sure any life model would agree that posing alone in front of a web camera for an online session lacks the energy and engagement of in-person classes. Nevertheless, experience and familiarity will eventually teach one how to maximise what the format can offer. Online portrait modelling, however, is a whole different world of weirdness.

Portrait modelling in-person, for me has never been about energy and engagement. It is much more serene, and I always feel much more closely observed. This closeness of observation is taken to a literal extreme for online portrait posing as one must sit in isolation with a camera just inches from one’s face. Intimidating!

When the camera that’s inches from one’s face is the camera of one’s phone, and its forward-facing screen must remain active throughout, there’s also a definite potential for sore eyes. Many people stare at their phones for long periods, but perhaps not so near or so unblinkingly, and certainly not without variation of gaze or distance.

Such details aside, there are positives. This session for Lewisham College was my first time working with artist Caroline Underwood as tutor. It began with half an hour of review and tuition, looking at students’ work from the previous week along with the work of established artists to inspire their efforts at capturing my likeness.

I always enjoy listening to good tuition – it feels like a bonus on top of my wages. The focus of this session was colour and its use to realise an idea or an effect. We looked at portraits by Mike Brennan, Raoul Dufy, Curtis Holder, Jean-Michel Basquiat; at colours wielded by Lee Krasner, Helen Frankenthaler; plus more besides.

And then I posed. Not the single continuous portrait that I’d presumed, but short work with intervals for review and more tuition after each. I sat for: 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 20 minutes, and finally 5 minutes. There’s limited scope for variations but I shifted my gaze around and even attempted a smile for the finale (not shared here, alas).

Not quite being movie star material, feedback suggested my more ‘characterful’ looks had presented a few challenges. But hey, isn’t the practice of art all about challenging ourselves? Colour was our theme and colour was to the fore with pastels the weapon of choice in wonderful, vibrant, striking combinations. I was happy to be the template.

From → Art

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