The study of the figure, either for the purposes of drawing or painting, is a discipline that, more often than not, is no longer a requirement in present-day art schools. Thankfully, there is a group of dedicated purists within the art world who understands the importance of preserving and promoting this craft.
Damon Lehrer lives in the Boston, Massachusetts area and is the founder of the Boston Figurative Art Center. While the BFAC as an organization is fairly new, Damon’s experience and passion for figure study are not.
When asked why the study of the figure is so important, he said:
“Working from the figure places the artist in a tradition out of which has come some of the most astounding works of art in history, and which extends back before history was written, so the intimate feelings of working from the model are intertwined with a sense of connection to something universally felt, and eternally seen by people. It’s a blessing and a curse, because neither the artist nor the viewer can escape the comparison to the whole history of figurative art – to Michelangelo, to Rembrandt, to the cave drawings in France, to Norman Rockwell.”
“People have so many associations with figurative paintings and drawings, everyone’s an expert. It’s incredibly hard to be good at it, and easy to spot weakness and indecision. Perhaps that’s one reason it’s not taught much anymore. But for many of us, it’s this challenge and the potential reward of achieving something universal and historically connected that makes it worth struggling toward, in spite of all the obstacles. What’s contemporary about figurative painting today is that it still excites these feelings and ambitions and comparisons; while we’re here and can see, it will be here and living and vital.”
Damon represents just one of the many modern-day artists around the globe who are dedicated to figure drawing and painting. Speaking as a painter of abstracts, I have a great appreciation and admiration for both the classic and contemporary masters of this form, as it continues to celebrate what it means to be human and alive.
Brian Sylvester is a guest blogger on WallSpin, and an artist on Zatista.