With a quiet, unerring regularity, two groups of life drawing artists have congregated at Featherstone Center for the Arts in Oak Bluffs each and every week for years, slowly improving their ability to conjure living, breathing images out of flat white paper.
The best work from members of both the Tom Maley and the Firehouse figure drawing groups will go on display this Sunday, May 31, in Faces and Figures, an exhibition at Featherstone’s Virginia Weston Gallery.
The opening reception is Sunday from 4 to 6 p.m. All are welcome.
Anne Gallagher was part of the original Tom Maley life drawing class that began more than 30 years ago in Mr. Maley’s West Tisbury home behind the Field Gallery.
The idea of the group was that they always had a model and never gave instruction. Ms. Gallagher, who brought the group to Featherstone four years ago, still adheres to those two dictums. She added one more aspect: she bakes cookies for the group each week.
The group’s continuity is remarkable, despite the annual fluctuation from a steady summer crowd to six or eight participants in winter.
“The success of the group is that it meets every Tuesday from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. with a live model, year round,” says Ms. Gallagher. “They know we’re always here.”
The cost is $10 per session, which pays for the model and chips in a few dollars for Featherstone. Ms. Gallagher is the volunteer coordinator who arranges the model and is the backbone of the group.
The rationale for quick studies with a live model? “What’s important is that every body is different; no two are alike. Every pose is a challenge, which is a tremendous advantage for artists to go from a quick sketch to longer poses in sculpture or painting,” Ms. Gallagher says.
Tom Carberry hosts the Firehouse group Wednesday evenings from 7 to 9 p.m. “We run the gamut from professional artists to those who do it for their own pleasure. All of us are very expressive.”
For Sunday’s show, the artists selected their best efforts to present to the public. “We love that they (Featherstone) host our group,” says Mr. Carberry. “This show is our way to give back to Francine (Kelly, executive director of Featherstone). It’s a great way to punctuate what we do.”
Faces and Figures is an appropriate title for their efforts. “A lot of what we do is communicate the impression the model makes,” says Mr. Carberry. “Everyone receives someone in their own way. We’re trying to evoke some personality in the work. It comes out intuitively.” He notes that some artists focus entirely on portraiture, just working on the lines that define a face.
There is an immediacy to the effort. The artist seeks to capture the character of the model, to find the emotion; to seize the moment. “Quick studies; that’s all we do,” says Mr. Carberry.
Life drawing is the focus of the group, not painting, and not finished work.
Like Ms. Gallagher, Mr. Carberry believes short poses give more energy, whether to an expression of grace or power or even just relaxation.
“Some models act it out, and that gives us more emotion. We like that!” he says.
The combined gallery exhibition is on display through June 17.
For more details, call 508-693-1850 or visit featherstoneart.org.