Live figure drawing is the traditional foundation of studio fine art training. Live figure drawings were once the most regular and gratifying part of my creative life. I would go weekly to sketch models, to chat occasionally with other artists, and to immerse myself in image-making, forgetting the many troubles and failings of my life. The last figure drawing session I was set to attend was cancelled when the COVID pandemic closed down the city, the country, and the world for the past year and counting. I am still waiting for the day I can figure sketch again.
My closet is filled with loose piles of paper and sketchbooks from years of figure drawing sessions. Many are worthless quick scribbles of warm up sessions (one often starts with one and two minutes sessions to warm up, before graduating to five and ten minute long poses, and finally to long duration poses.) I have often thought about discarding these years worth of scribbles and sketchbooks overflowing in my closet, but always found that I didn’t have the heart to. Living alone, I’m sharing some here so that they might see the light of day in some small, fleeting way in case something should happen to me and my possessions are consequently discarded en masse like the work of all forgotten artists throughout history.
Memories of The Corcoran Gallery of Art
The Corcoran Gallery of Art was a well-known art museum and art school located in Washington that closed in 2014 after decades of financial problems, mismanagement, and the final crisis of a glorious but crumbling building that forced the closure of a major traveling exhibit. Opened in 1869, it was the first fine art gallery in Washington DC and one of the first in the nation. It was founded by William Wilson Corcoran, the cofounder of Riggs Bank, DC’s largest bank, which was acquired by PNC Bank in 2005 after a series of money laundering scandals brought it down. The museum was originally located in the Louvre-inspired Beaux Art building that now houses the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery before moving across the street to a larger building, which is now part of the George Washington University. Luckily, as part of it’s closure and dissolution, it dispersed its collections to other art museums, with the bulk going to the National Gallery of Art and other DC institutions, where they can still be viewed today like familiar old friends. One of the last memories I recall of the Corcoran was taking part in a figure drawing session of a clothed model in one of its first floor spaces. I had drawn the model in other figure drawing sessions elsewhere. Here are some of those sketches, drawn in color pencil on letter-sized copy paper, a simple ode to a beloved Washington DC cultural institution no more.