Saturday, March 18, 2017

Nude, With Headphones

Spending time drawing people leads to a regular consideration of what it’s like to model: 

The hot lights toasting your shoulders, the concentration it takes to hold still for 20 minutes (or more), the pain you might feel of your bones on a hard surface, just so the artist can have a good visual.

The models I’ve worked with don’t deny these discomforts, but they keep coming back again­ to sit for me.

Headphones provide all of us a way to retreat, to build a wall of sorts. Whatever’s playing (podcast, rockin’ tunes, guided meditation) takes our minds away from the world we are physically in, whether to provide a distraction or an escape, or to just keep people from talking to us.

Models don’t typically wear headphones when they model. In fact they wear absolutely nothing while working for artists. It can be a vulnerable experience, but also, comfortable. Still. Peaceful. Quiet. Intimate, in a way. No need to say anything. No need to be anyone except their physical selves. 

Standing nude in front of people is to take off the headphones, or take down the wall. It’s to be present. It’s to be with yourself, in a quiet space, while also participating in the artistic process. The only noise is what’s rattling around in your head. It is still.

I've learned that once you do it for long enough, this modeling/drawing exercise, it becomes something of a new normal. How very refreshing.

This art piece, by the way, is entitled Nude, With Headphones, 36"x24", acrylic, charcoal, and collage on canvas. My first experiment in trying to meld my old ways with my newfound interest!

If you are interested in learning more about becoming an art model, please contact me (email address to the right, or find Parsley Art Studio on Facebook). As you may know, I am particularly interested in working with men, age 30 or older, any size, any shape. Consider joining me in the artistic process.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Card Swap: Happy 10th Anniversary

I'd never have guessed it back in 2007, but the 6 Degrees of HLM Card Swap has been happening for 10 years now! To celebrate, what better thing to do but swap again!!!!

This year, we'll do things just like we always have:

  • Sign up here to say you'll join in!
  • Make 10 cards of your own--they can be ten unique designs or all the same
  • Attend the Card Swap Work Party if you'd like company while you work
  • Enjoy yourself immensely while you be creative
  • Deliver your cards to me by April 10
  • Receive 10 cards in return to use as you please throughout the year!

This year's themes are:
"ten" (seemed too obvious not to do it!)

Take the themes as literally or figuratively as you'd like, or don't even use them at all. I offer them to provide just a little guidance for your design. 

Here are the dates:

  • Let me know you're participating by Feb 25 (latecomers are welcome, though!)
  • Come to the Work Party on Sunday, April 2, anytime between 1-5pm
  • Postmark or deliver your cards to me by Monday, April 10
  • Sometime in May you get your cards delivered to you!

Click here to see the fabulous cards from last year's swap!

Please forward this invitation to anyone crafty you know! I think there will even be an entire card swap contingent participating in Pennsylvania this year (exciting). We love new folks and returners alike.

Click here to sign up to say you'll do it.

Hope you'll join in!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Obsessed With Figure Drawing

I am going to write about drawing the human figure. Again. Yes, I've been absent from the blog for months, and yes, I’ve already written about it several times. I must admit something to you, fair reader. The truth is, I have become obsessed. With the human form, and the male one at that.
As a last drawing project of the semester in April, we “went big” during our warm-ups and then did a collaborative mural project, drawing our figures from a live male model, only our second male of the semester. 
Here’s a photo of my first ever large-as-life drawing (after 25 minutes) and an in-progress of our mural that resulted from his fine modeling over those three days:
During this short time, I came to realize how much more interesting it is for me to draw people who are not college-aged and, well, “perfect.” In my art explorations over the summer at several art museums (most notably in New York City), I pondered this as I saw painting after painting of these young “perfect” women. 
It’s not fair to say they’re boring, even though that’s the first word that pops into my mind. Their bodies are fine. But where is the nuance? 
When looking at a man, where are the landmarks to help get it right? Where, in the classical art world, are older skin, age lines, and something else besides Mr. Incredible’s V-shaped body type held up to be appreciated, especially of men?
And, I’m just going to say it:
What combination of things in our western culture, over the course of centuries, has made it so that breasts and vaginas are more acceptable to look at than penises? How is it that it is so ingrained in us that one thing is beautiful and the other not? 
On top of that, in the USA in particular, why does nudity have to mean sex? And since we’re going there anyway, why then must we be so ashamed as humans, of being sexual beings?
I’m not saying let’s celebrate the male form as something better or more important than the female form. 
I am saying that we should notice the ordinary, acknowledge inherent beauty and nuance, think of it as enough, and not shy away from our body parts in revulsion or feel shame for even wanting to look.
At the end of that fateful semester, I was contacted by the model, asking if he could have one of my warm-up drawings. When I told him how much cooler it had been to draw him than most of the other models over the semester, it impacted him in a way that moved me. Later, he asked if I might be willing to draw him again, for a commission. Um, well that was a no-brainer.
I wanted to go deeper. To understand what it’s like for a man to stand there in the nude, to make it comfortable for him, to address moments of what I might call human-ness. 

Luckily, my model was willing to go there too. As we arranged logistics and figured out how to set up a figure-drawing space in my studio, we talked about vulnerability and masculinity and body shapes and identity.

To prepare for our art-making sessions—I was getting paid for this after all—I went to the open figure drawing night each week at the uni. Practice practice practice. (Samples, below.) 
I bought several mid-toned papers and new charcoal. I brought more lights into my studio and curtained off a window.
The day the model arrived, we talked about composition. He wanted to be portrayed as open, confident, still, and quiet. Shoulders to knees. I made a suggestion and we practiced it. I put a sign on my front door: “Do not disturb, Thursday, 8-11am.” 

Then we dived right in to modeling and drawing.

Over the course of making this drawing, I came to appreciate the model even more. He didn’t talk so I could concentrate on drawing. He held still, even when his shoulders hurt or he was tired. 
During breaks we’d sit on the platform and chat. We became friends. I wanted to honor him and his willingness to be in a very intimate space with a woman who wasn’t his life partner.
Important note: we talked about this! We intentionally included our spouses in the whole thing, which made for an incredibly trusting and safe environment and allowed us to do the work we wanted to do.
Here’s the picture at the end of day 1 after about 60 minutes. He sat for me for about 4 hours in total.
People always ask me, “What kind of art do you do?”

This is a hard question for me to answer, since I do so many different things. 

Lately, my answer has been, “Well, I’m really into figure drawing right now.”
This is an understatement. When I say that, what I am not saying is how much I loooooove it. It capitalizes on my callings to be in relationship with people and to make art. I am in relationship while in art. To meld these two things in one project is glorious. It is tapping into the best Heather Matthews that I can see exists in this universe.
Figure drawing has also made me ‘art’ like crazy these last couple months. All I want to do is draw in my free time (thus, the blogging has gone by the wayside). I’ve never felt that compulsion for such as steady period of time. 
I’ve already got another male model lined up to draw in December.
I’ve got an idea in mind for a show once I make enough drawings.
I’m trying to build a more permanent platform in my studio for the model.
I’m thinking about buying big paper and wondering where in my studio I’ll put it if it outsizes my easel. 

Considering my interest in fibers (weaving/dying/stitching), now I’m thinking about how I can meld the two, too.
Here is the completed drawing, or at least most of it. (Thanks to The Simpsons for inspiration for this photo.) I want to be sensitive to the world we live in now, the one which sometimes can’t handle the Full Monty.
One of my hetero BFFs, when I showed her the whole enchilada, said, “It’s like getting to really look at a man, like I’ve never been able to before.”
If you want to see the final product, do one of two things:
  • Email me directly (address is in the side bar to the right)
  • Come to the show I’ll have, where there’ll be plenty of male nudes on view, date TBA.
And since I can’t just keep blathering on today, stay tuned for blog posts on these topics in the very near future:
  • Objectifying vs. honoring
  • Intimate art spaces
  • On being a feminist who draws men

Friday, July 1, 2016

A Human Figure in HLM's Work?

The 2016 Fort Collins Studio Tour was last weekend!

Thank you to the more than 70 people to visited my studio. It was my pleasure to have you stop by. :)

Here is me standing next to the piece I made for the gallery show for the Tour. The piece is called "In A Bind" and it is the first time I've ever used the human figure in my art.

Making a figurative piece was not my plan. Late one night I was drawing thumbnails in my sketchbook, and out of many I drew, this one spoke the most to me. I was planning to start abstract, and let the piece get me to where it wanted to be.

Many of you saw me set up this piece on Facebook, but if you didn't, here is the video:


After a day of work, this is where I ended up:

Is it just because I've been drawing the human figure for four months that I saw a torso emerge in this? I had to go there. A few days later, this is how it ended:

Bit by bit, the piece became what it is. Here are some details:

I've been trying to delve deeper into my heart in my art-making, and this piece communicates a lot of things that have been in my heart the last few months. I would be happy to elaborate on this piece to anyone who's curious about its meaning to me--just email me (email address is at right). But I wonder, does it have meaning for you?

Reflections On My Figure Drawing Class

I loved the figure drawing class I took in the spring. Loved with a capital L. Loved like I want to marry it. Loved like I'm in withdrawal now that it's over. 


Here is all we did:

  • Hands and feet studies (you can see my hands drawing here)
  • Self portrait (you can see mine here)
  • Bones and muscles study
  • Animation
  • Still life with model
  • Large scale group collaboration
  • 6-minute class presentations about a figurative artist

Honestly, I could do an entire blog post about each thing. (Indeed, I have about two of them already.) Instead of talking about each thing, I want to talk about my takeaways. 

(FYI--all of these drawings are mine, from these projects, with exception of the very last photo, which is duly credited there. Click on any image for a close-up.)

I've said it before: in our culture, "artist" is not considered a legitimate profession to aspire to once one is of the age to start making some actual career decisions. BrenĂ© Brown once made a joke about how people might say: "Well, you go ahead, dear, with your A-R-T, and I'll get on with my J-O-B!"

Amy Misurelli Sorenson is a visiting artist at Colorado State University. It was recommended to me that I take figure drawing from her. I consider this to have been divine intervention. The way she approaches drawing is as if it is her right hand. 

She told a story of when she was working 60 hour weeks in a gallery and she'd come home exhausted, with no more energy to give and all she'd want to do is sit at her kitchen table and draw. Not go to bed, not watch TV, not veg on the couch. Drawing is in her.

If you view her website, you'll see that she pushes people out of their comfort zones with her drawings, prints, photos, and even performance art. As an instructor, she asked us, even demanded that get out of our comfort zones. She insisted that we draw well from observation. During critique, she was honest, didn't sugar coat, and asked people to push themselves even more beyond what they'd done.

Amy also had us complete assignments that showed us that there is a place for drawing in this world. 


Even if cell phone selfies have "put artists out of a job," people of this day and age will still pay for a drawn or painted portrait, illustrations of anatomy, animation (think of the thousands of animated videos that exist in the world).

Being an artist most often means you make your own thing in your space all by yourself, but being an artist can also mean collaborating with other people with different styles and perspectives to make something more than what you'd ever be able to do just on your own.

Taking figure drawing with Amy legitimized drawing for me in a new way, and legitimized the value of the human figure to me even more. Before this class, I was intimidated to draw a human, whether just a part of it, like the face, or the entire thing. 

I was surprised when I said to my model for the still life (second image in this post) that drawing her was not at all what I was worried about. It was the space around her, the other objects, her comfort, and my paper choice that I was concerned most about.

Even our figurative artist presentations were more rewarding than I thought they would be. First, I was able to explore the life and art of an artist I have long admired: Hung Liu

Liu is a figurative oil painter who lives in the Bay Area. She even taught at Mills College when I was there in the late 90s (missed opportunity!).

Here is a photo I took in 2015 of one of Liu's paintings, called Shoemakers, made in 1999. It is owned by the Crocker Museum in Sacramento, CA.

All the students in my class did brief presentations about other contemporary figurative artists, and right away this information paid off when I went to the Seattle Art Museum in mid-May, only to see in-person original paintings by Kehinde Wiley, David Salle, and Eric Fischl. These are living contemporary figurative artists, making a buck by making art. Moreover, all of these artists communicate and create in ways that include depicting the human figure.

The significance of understanding this overwhelms me and causes me to believe that one day I, too, could make something that someone will pay for and shoot, maybe even put it in a museum.  

As I said before, taking Figure this semester, with this instructor, with the skills I've built up over the last few years, and with the appreciation I have for art museums (newly found in just the last 4 years): divine intervention.