On Mondays I attend an art workshop, where, appart from the creativity, there is good conversation to be had, in a congenial atmosphere. Art is soothing, it distracts from the harsher realities of life (i.e. the news).
Lately we have been doing pencil drawing, which is interesting since it obliges you to look closely at the subject, whether live, or taken from a photo or a painting—and notice multiple intriguing details of light, volume and texture.
We started with studies of hands, from Renaissance paintings. It is amazing what beautiful hands these men had—I prefer men’s hands to women’s, because they have more character. Women’s hands in paintings of this era are softer and more bland, I suppose to denote their owners had no need to do manual work.
The study below is from a photo of a 17th century sculpture by Bernini, The rape of Proserpina, which depicts the abduction of Proserpina by the god Pluto . I can never get my mind around the way these sculptors managed, out of a block of marble, to produce something so closely resembling human flesh. Again, his hands are beautiful, at odds with the violence of the scene (he was dragging her to the underworld).
The photo below is different from the one I used, which was black and white and taken from another angle, but it shows the likeness of stone to flesh even better.
We progressed to a human figure, and I chose the Cuban dancer Carlos Acosta, who I’ve had the privilege to watch live, in the magical setting of the ancient Herodotus Atticus theater in Athens, under a rising moon (here). He really could defy gravity, like Nureyev and Baryshnikov.
Then a still life, trying to reproduce volume as well as shape.
Now we are onto portraits, and my first is of the pre-Raphaelite artist Marie Spartali Stillman. She was the daughter of a wealthy Greek merchant who was the Greek Consul-General in London. Her mother was also Greek and she was early on introduced to an artistic milieu. She studied with Ford Maddox Brown but, due to her beauty, also sat for many famous artists, including her mentor and Dante Gabriel Rosetti. She produced an oeuvre of 150 works.
Next on my list are the writer Margaret Atwood and the actor Tilda Swinton. Both have, in my opinion, very interesting faces, which defy mere beauty. Stay tuned.