It’s all about form

A piece by Dave Ellington was included in a group show last June at Picture Alaska.-Photo provided

A piece by Dave Ellington was included in a group show last June at Picture Alaska.-Photo provided

Nearly every Tuesday evening from 6:30-9 p.m., a small group of local artists gather to hone their craft. How? Simply by drawing the human form.  

Life drawing, as it is called, is focused on drawing people from a live model, rather than a picture or form. It dates back hundreds of years and is a foundational practice for many artists. 

“It’s such a skill. It’s a really hard thing to do,” says Jim Buncak, a local portrait-painter who has been part of the group for about 25 years. 

The typical class starts out with a series of short poses by a nude or partially draped model — maybe five different poses lasting one minute each. Next they go to a two-to-five minute pose. Then a ten-to-30 minute one. During the longer poses some artists focus on one drawing the entire time, while others might move around the room and do a number of sketches from various angles. 

By using different lighting, poses and models, the class always has a fresh opportunity to practice their techniques.  Artists use charcoal, conte crayon, pencil, colored pencil, pastel or even watercolor.

So, is it awkward drawing a person without clothes?

Buncak describes life drawing from a model as being similar to a still life, where artists are looking at shadows, line value, shape and composition rather than a nude person.

“You really don’t think about it,” he said. 

Because it’s a small group, artists are able to keep in contact and know if there is a model for the week, or if most people will be able to attend or not attend. 

Currently, the group meets in a classroom at Homer Art and Frame Company, which is owned by Lynda Reed. Reed describes the half dozen or so artists who gather as a loose group of Homer people who enjoy drawing from life. 

Reed said she thinks they started meeting back in the 80s, before she moved to Homer. For a number of years they gathered at Bunnell Street Arts Center, where there have also been shows featuring art from the group.

“It’s a good way to keep active in your drawing,” said Reed, who noted that many communities have life drawing groups similar to this one. 

Michael Murray, a retired school principal and art and education major, is one of the newer members of the group. While visiting Arizona two years ago, the Homer local attended a life drawing class with his 84-year-old sister. When they got back home and laid out all their papers she said, “Don’t they do this in Homer?” When he said yes, she said, “You should be doing that.” Now he is.

During the drawing session, Murray said the room is very focused. They might listen to music, but there is no chattering or interacting with each other. Both Murray and Buncak agree that the class is not one where they critique each other’s work. It’s simply to practice drawing the human form.

“I just find it really rewarding,” said Murray.

People who enjoy drawing, and who have a sincere interest in practicing, are welcome to attend. There is no prerequisite for skill level; anyone from beginner to professional is welcome. The group does not charge a membership fee, but artists do pitch in $15 each to pay for the night’s model. 

The next Homer Life Drawing will be Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Homer Art and Frame Co. For more information stop by the shop, located at 4001 Lake St., or call 435-3999.

Toni Ross is a freelance writer who lives in Homer.

A piece by Michael Murray was included in a group show last June at Picture Alaska.-Photo provided

A piece by Michael Murray was included in a group show last June at Picture Alaska.-Photo provided

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