The Van Gogh Rule

"Young Man with a Pipe" by Vincent VanGogh

For the last couple of years I’ve been working on figure drawing. You haven’t seen any examples because my progress has been very slow. My first figure drawing class was back in college. Last year I took a class with Marty Kelly, who is a fabulous children’s book illustrator. He’s great fun and I learned a great deal from him, I also learned that you must go very slowly, which is quite contrary to my nature. For me, figure drawing is the Algebra 2 of art. I was frequently told  “your process was good but you got the wrong answer” in that class. I know what my problem is though, it’s a lack of practice. I must practice everyday and eventually I’ll get there. So I’ve enlisted what I call the Van Gogh Rule. In reading a biography about Van Gogh, “Lust for Life” by  Irving Stone, I read that he spent years drawing before he painted because he didn’t believe he was worthy of the expense of paints. So,  I am calling it the Van Gogh Rule, that is, everyday that I go into the studio to paint I must first spend time working on my figure drawing.

I have set up a drawing area in my studio to eliminate that potential excuse. I have also bought several books on drawing the figure. Every two weeks I attend a class with a model. Again I am learning much but I need to practice for it all to set in and become a natural part of my thinking instead of “oh yea, I see that now”. I have developed a library of books from which to copy figures. Everything from how to draw the human figure to a large beautiful book on Michelangelo that I got at a great price at the going out of business sale at Borders. Drawing his sculptures will be great practice, when I get there. I know it will be very good practice but it’s very intimidating.

Beethoven is going to help me out, I know it.

What I’ve also learned is that people in art schools work from casts, that is plaster casts of heads and feet and hands, etc. Those are quite expensive so I decided to look around the house and see what I had to work from besides pictures in books. That’s when Mr. Beethoven grabbed my eye. When we were first married we attended an auction which included many items that were related to music. I saw the Mozart and Beethoven bookends and I just had to have them. Now they have a new purpose beyond holding up my antique books.

So now, I’ve put it out there and hopefully I will progress sufficiently to post something I’ve done. I wouldn’t put any money on it just yet but if determination (or being stubborn) counts for anything it may happen. It’s why our son thought I would do better than my husband on our backpacking adventure into the Tetons many years ago. “Yea, Dad’s stronger than you but your so stubborn….”

 If you will tell me why the fen appears impassable, I then will tell you why I think that I can cross it if I try.   – Marianne Moore


Leave a Reply