Thoughts on Life Drawing / by Jeannine Cook

The New Year is really getting going again in my art world, with talk of exhibits which are happening and planned. The more important aspect of art, however, is starting seriously to work again after the holidays - does one actually call it "work"? It is more joyful, more absorbing.

Life drawing started again too, with that wonderful silence of concentration of a dozen artists grappling with this discipline. I thought back to a piece I read of some while ago in about an exhibition held at the Cantor Arts Center, Stanford, CA, of work by Frank Lobdell. He is a highly imaginative, often playful but very sophisticated abstract artist, painting in oils. Lobdell started participating in weekly life drawing sessions very early on, back in the late 1950s, with his friends Richard Diebenkorn, Elmer Bishoff and David Park. He continued the practice when he moved to Stanford in 1966.

Even though one can detect the trace of life drawing's effects in some of his early work, it is a very far leap from life drawing to his colourful and very abstract work. Described as "essentially a non-figurative artist", Lobell apparently regarded these life drawing sessions as an important source of ideas, a "springboard to develop a vocabulary of abstraction (my emphasis) that was informed by a study of the human body and grounded in the formal issues of expressionist gesture and line".

I have always found it most interesting to watch my fellow artists drawing in our life drawing sessions and then see what kind of art they produce. Like Lobdell, each of us can follow very individualistic paths, seemingly far removed from the human bodies we draw, and yet, all of us benefit enormously from life drawing in ways obvious and not-so-obvious.