Local artist Greg MacDonald has been involved with the Moab community figure drawing sessions since 2018. Since then, the sessions have bounced around different locations—they started in the basement of the Moab Arts and Recreation Center—and have weathered the COVID-19 pandemic.
This month, MacDonald is acting as the substitute facilitator for the sessions, which have returned after a few months break. He’s filling in for Dustin Hardgrove, a local painter who will resume facilitating sometime later this winter.
Sessions run every other Thursday for three hours, from 6 to 9 p.m., and invite people of all skill levels and mediums to practice depicting figures with live models. The next session will take place on Thursday, Jan. 26; participants should bring their own supplies.
“Artists usually work solo—I paint every day alone,” MacDonald said. “And so it really is a remarkable thing to be able to draw with other people who are doing the same thing. There’s this sense of learning through osmosis.”
Sessions used to run for two hours; the third hour was added recently to allow time to practice both short and long poses. During each session, the group, and model, will warm up with a few two- to five-minute poses, then transition to longer poses, some that last an hour and a half. There’s no instruction, MacDonald said, because the sessions are centered around low-key, casual practice, but participants are encouraged to learn from each other.
“If people feel like they want to share their work and talk about their work with others, they’re free to do so,” MacDonald said, “but the whole idea is to have people feel comfortable and just want to draw because it’s a marvelous exercise.”
The practice of figure drawing specifically is highly useful, MacDonald said: his figure drawing practice finds its way into all of his works, even as his paintings depict fantastical, whimsical imagery of fae-like creatures (MacDonald calls them “Whats”). His style has developed over years, he said, and has been an “organic process”. At the beginning of his art career, he focused on drawings, but over time, those drawings gave way to paintings, and now, the two mediums intertwine in everything he creates.
“[Figure drawing] is a practice I’ve been doing for a long time, because it gives me information about the human form,” he said. “But what it really comes down to is the beauty: we go hiking out into the canyons here because the landscape is beautiful, and there’s something enriching about it. It brings us into the present. And there’s something about drawing that’s very similar to that—your mind is not anyplace else, it’s just right there, engaged in this beauty of the human form.”
MacDonald acknowledged that the sessions can feel intimidating, especially for drawers who are just beginning. But, he pointed out, almost everyone used to draw as a child with no fear at all.
“It mystifies me that something we used to do as kids so freely somehow becomes something we’re afraid to do later in life—but everybody seems to want to do it,” he said. “That fear doesn’t ever leave, it’s always there, even in very skilled, practiced artists. But that is something that you learn to quiet, in order to do what you do. The more you practice, the more easily you can quiet those voices that tell you not to draw.”
Figure sessions are open to everyone; a $10 donation is suggested.