Figurative Drawing at SU May 15 - 16

"A Sense of Drawing: Figure Drawing Workshops" gathers 12 of the region’s top artists and art educators to lead two days of lessons, workshops, and demonstrations on figurative drawing. May 15 and 16, 9 a.m. to 5:15 PM, Shaffer Art Building, Syracuse University.

Now in its fourth year, the event is produced by Open Figure Drawing, a non-profit drawing group for people of all abilities. Cost: $60 for both days in advance; $35 each day at door. Register at or call 475-3400.

Open Figure Drawing was founded in 1989 to offer people of all abilities a chance to draw from a live model on an inexpensive, drop-in basis. Drawing sessions every Wednesday, 7 – 10 PM, at the Westcott Community Center, corner of Westcott and Euclid Aves.

This year, the group has celebrated its 20th anniversary with a variety of special events, including drawing sessions at the Syracuse University Michelangelo exhibit and at the NY State Fair’s Pan African Village, plus travelling sessions at venues around the community.

Highlights include keynote speaker Jerome Witkin. The Syracuse University painting professor discusses the qualities of drawing. Ithaca portraitist William Benson leads master classes on gesture drawing and proportion. Donalee Peden-Wesley, known for her figurative works of animals, leads a workshop on large-format drawing. Poet and SU painting professor Michael Sickler offers a workshop, “The Archeology of Soul: Digging into the Figure for a Deeper Level of Content.” There are 12 workshops, three presentations, and many chances to draw from live models.

Advance cost for both days is $60, or $35 per day at the door. To register, go to or call 475-3400.

A Sense of Drawing: Figure Drawing Workshops
Workshop Descriptions, 2009

Friday, May 15

(Keynote Presentation)
Qualities of Drawing
Jerome Witkin is considered one of America’s most important living figurative artists for his penetrating psychological portraits and haunting political narratives.

How to Start Your Drawing in 30 Seconds
Iver Johnson, art educator, leader and long-time host at Open Figure Drawing. Johnson will teach participants how to visualize the figure as a series basic forms.

Drawing and Thinking
James Ransome, graduate of Pratt Institute in New York, illustration professor at Syracuse University, and illustrator of over 50 children’s books. “My philosophy is very simple,” says Ransome. “I believe in drawing, strong design, and beautiful colors. At its best a painting should feel handcrafted, but also very simple and fundamental.”

Portraiture from Photos
Mark Topp, of Harrisburg, PA, graphic artist for the City of Syracuse Parks Department, 1987- 2008, and supervisor of the community murals program, 1994-2008. Topp will present the work of portraitist Daniel Greene and graphic novel illustrators Alex Ross and Richard Piers Rayner. Working with a model, he’ll demonstrate lighting and photography techniques and, if time allows, drawing from photographs. Please bring a digital or film camera and drawing materials.

Drawing Hands and Feet
Mark Topp’s second workshop gives an overview of how classic masters focused on the expressive potential of hands and feet. He’ll introduce the basic structures and lead the class in practical exercises, working from a model and from participants own hands and feet.

The Figure: Lighting and Shadow
Johnny Robinson, a founder of Open Figure Drawing, graduate of the Illustration Program at Syracuse University (MA), and film and animation faculty at Rochester Institute of Technology. Robinson will show how to use light to define form on the figure. He’ll discuss coherent light, such as sunlight, versus soft light, and give an overview of form shadows, cast shadows, and core shadows. Suggested materials: cigar-sized vine charcoal, square dense charcoal, white dry pastel, medium toned paper.

History of Caricature
Bob Dacey, professor in SU’s illustration program and well-established illustrator of children’s books, will retrace caricature’s broad history of commenting on political and social personalities and issues, from Thomas Nast in the 1880s to the work of Steve Brodner and other contemporaries.

Saturday, May 16

(Keynote Presentation)
Winslow Homer’s Empire: Houghton Farm and Beyond
David Tatham, professor emeritus, Syracuse University. Tatham will focus on a crucial turning point in Homer’s career when the artist began to achieve stylistic maturity in his work: the years he spent at Houghton Farm in Mountainville, N.Y. The presentation will bring together a number of Homer’s watercolors, drawings, wood engravings, oil paintings and ceramic tiles of the period from galleries, private collections and museums across the country. Some of these works of art will be exhibited at SUArt Galleries, Aug. 18 to Oct. 11.

Facial Structure
Bob Dacey, professor in SU’s illustration program and well-established illustrator of children’s books. Dacey will introduce basic facial structure and demonstrate how to plot out the structures, using vertical and horizontal alignments.

Color Portraiture
Mark Topp’s third workshop will present the color portrait work of his former teacher, Robert Hofmann, a native of Vienna, who practiced in Syracuse. Topp will then give a brief portrait demonstration, working from a model, using toned pastel paper and a limited palette of pastels and pencils (white, red, black, and yellow ochre). During the demonstration, participants are welcome to draw along.

Visual Thinking Strategies
Marlene Roeder, artist and educator, has worked in schools and museums for 25 years. She has facilitated large-scale professional development initiatives in Visual Thinking Strategies. She has spoken nationally and internationally on the importance of community partnerships in the arts.

Archeology of the Soul
Michael Sickler, associate professor in SU’s Studio Arts Department, will team up with an assistant, Carmel Nicoletti, to dig into the notion of figure drawing for a deeper level of content. They'll present an overview of work by Nathan Olivera, Alberto Giacometti, and others. They’ll then lead the group in drawing from a model, working in charcoal and pencil with lots of erasure and re-working.

Large Format Drawing
Donalee Peden Wesley, faculty at SU and Onondaga Community College. Peden-Wesley explores contemporary approaches to drawing. By working large scale, participants will lean how to transform ordinary imagery into something new and original. The workshop will focus on the challenges of using such a format using still life as subject matter. The exercise will begin with small charcoal/pencil sketches, and work up to a large drawing that can incorporate other media including watercolor washes.

(Morning Master Class)
Extended Gesture: Going Beyond the 30-Second Doodle
William Benson, of Ithaca, Cornell University, BFA, and a well-established painter of landscapes and portraits. Benson will lead participants in a series extended gesture drawings from a model. The workshop will emphasize the importance of carrying the essential qualities of gesture drawing—freshness and immediacy—through to the finished drawing. Participants in this session have priority enrollment in Benson’s afternoon master class. More info at

(Afternoon Master Class)
Proportion: Is it Pure Measurement or Correcting by Eye?
William Benson, building on his morning workshop, will address how to achieve effective proportion through a combination of initial measurement and ongoing judgement. Participants will develop an understanding of what works and why.

TAGS: Jerome Witkin, David Tatham, Winslow Homer, Open Figure Drawing
EDITION: The Eagle

Rating: 2.5/5 (12 votes cast)

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