This month’s Open Exhibit (un-themed and untethered to a certain medium) had a number of varied pieces, but artist (and Art League instructor) Jackie Saunder’s sketchy figure in Uncertainty certainly stood out to juror Fidencio Fifield-Perez.
The choice to use tactile response to create a gestural figure makes for an expressive figure drawing, and the artist’s choice to sit below the subject makes for striking composition. To find out more about the process behind the piece we spoke with the artist who has been using this technique for several years and finished this piece in a less time than it takes to bake a batch of cookies.
How would you describe Uncertainty?
Jackie Saunders: Uncertainty is an ink drawing, done in 20 minutes, in which I “felt my way” along the contours of the figure, rarely looking at my paper, keeping my eye on the model, and letting my hand and eye work together. I did not “measure,” I traveled along, around and through the figure, attempting to capture his gesture in a dramatic way.
You do a lot of figurative work. What was your goal with this piece? What were you trying to capture?
Jackie Saunders: My goal in this piece (and in all of the ink drawings from life) was capture the gesture dramatically. This model was a young man, who worked an all-night job, too. He seemed uncertain about his finances.
What draws you to create figurative work?
Jackie Saunders: I love people and DRAWING them! The human figure is the most challenging subject, full of complexity and emotion. The models are generous and vulnerable to us, posing nude, and I want to “immortalize” them with sensitive drawings. I respect them and thank them for posing. I do my most emotional work from the live figure.
How is working in pen and ink different than just using watercolor?
Jackie Saunders: Pen and ink is more graphic and powerful with the rich black ink. The pen nib allows me to draw sensitive contour lines with varying pressure, suggesting the twists and turns of the figure in space. Ink washes allow me to model form quickly (most poses are only 20 minutes ) and the pen line drawn into a wash makes rich bleeds where I want them. The whole process is very spontaneous and exciting.
What made you decide on the black and white color palette for this piece?
Jackie Saunders: I love the powerful line and design of Egon Schiele drawings. This pose reminded me of Egon Schiele. The model’s face was turned down. hair hanging over; his feet were strong and expressive, providing visual balance to his face.
How does sitting below the subject change the composition of the piece?
Jackie Saunders: Sitting below the model allowed me to get as close to him as possible (without blocking other artists’ view). I can connect emotionally to the model when I am close, feeling as if my drawing hand is actually touching him, recording my visual response. I am much more united to my model. Also, drawing from below the model elevates and makes him monumental…it gives a more emotional “punch,” I think.
What’s your creative process like?
Jackie Saunders: It is all very spontaneous, using line and washes with pen and brush, feeling as if I am caressing the figure with my eye. I really keep my hand anchored to the paper, sweeping down the contours, across the forms, finding the form in space by a tactile response, not by measuring.
What would you like the viewer to come away from the piece with?
Jackie Saunders: I would like the viewer to enjoy the drama of a lanky, solitary figure, perched on the stool, head down, knees thrusting down, foot arched, toes grabbing the ground.
Where do you see your work going next?
Jackie Saunders: I think I will just continue drawing and painting the models in the Art League Open Life sessions. I am most motivated working from life (not photographs). The act of drawing and painting from life keeps me focused on responding to beauty with my whole being. This keeps me seeking “right relationships” of line, shape, value, composition… all of which leads to a certain truth and beauty.