A case of inspiration, concentration, and serendipity
Painting From Life: Moire as Muse
By William (Bill) Rogers
Drawing and painting models from life in both oil and watercolor has been a regular part of my practice for around 30 years. During that time there have always been some models who stood above the pack but my latest ‘super model’ started serendipitously.
I have organized the group figure and life drawing sessions at the local StFX University where I teach a course part time for the past 20 years. Recently one of the other fine art instructors mentioned to me that she had a niece Moire who was interested in being added to my model list so I obliged. This is the lucky start/spark that has raised my figure paintings up a notch or two at least.
Moire has turned out to have something extra that seems to work its way into my work. My inspiration rose when I realized she was a natural model who always took interesting poses without much or any direction. Thence followed my pattern of harder work/effort to capture her essence.
During the past few years works done of her have been juried into many national and regional exhibitions including the American Watercolor Society, the Adirondacks Watercolor Society, the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour, the Oil Painters of America, the National Oil and Acrylic Painters Society, the Plein Air Salon, the New York Figurative Art Exhibition at the Salmagundi Club, and the Portrait Society of America Members Show. The work has been the recipient of numerous awards and many of the works sold. Although I have also painted may other subjects the past few years, work of Moire has dominated my efforts.
My working methods involve a lot of sessions drawing and painting from life, both models and plein air. Here, repetition of process sharpens the skill level so it doen’t become the main concern in making art. I feel that this is like an athlete going to training at the gym to sharpen his/her skills and confidence. I really don’t consider the product when I’m working, just the process. In fact I’m in love with the process, something I consider essential to being an artist of any genre – be it visual art, music, writing, dance or any creative endeavor.
I also search for a state of mind when working that is intuitive rather than left brained calculating and measuring. If I do enough work from life I really don’t have to think as much and let my right brain take over and allow something special to emerge. It really is being acutely aware of this state of mind and letting go and recognizing what is happening as good or bad. Judgement can come later after a working session when you can shift into a state of evaluating and allowing your intuition to tell you what is needed for the best finish. Sometimes the efforts are only studies or practice but they add to your collective experience and it is this collective experience that makes you a better artist.
With Moire, I recognized early on that she had something unexplainable above the usual – in French called the ‘je ne sais quois’. I tried to open my mind to what moods and feelings she was expressing and aim to capture it in the work. It then becomes more than a rendering or illustration of a model, it tells a story or adds a sense of mystery – what the sculptor Henry Moore felt was necessary for good art.
I also resonate with Degas and his thoughts about being an artist. To paraphrase, he said that art is a journey and the artist a traveler, and the true traveler never arrives.
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