Artist Masterclass: Logistics

Sara Bloem Sketchbook Pages

Artist Masterclass is a series of conversations between myself and visual artist Sara Bloem

SB: As we discussed last week, my primary visual motif and metaphor will be women putting on and taking off clothes. I have done studies of that from photo reference, and I’ve also been trying to figure out what techniques I want to use – how I want everything to look stylistically. There are a number of concerns on my plate right now, but I’ll narrow it down to a few. 1) It’s become clear to me I need to take some good, real-life reference photographs this week. Without reference, everything is too theoretical and scattered. I’m not sure right now who I will use (myself or friends?) and what I’ll be using to take pictures with. 2) I fear that I’m overanalyzing every step as a means of procrastination. 3) I need to establish a stronger plan for how the multiple figures in each composition are posed.

CL: For your reference photographs, I really think you should hire a model, it’s expensive, but it’s worth it. It’s vitally important that you’re behind the camera so you can make compositional decisions while you shoot. If you use yourself as a model for the reference photos you’ll lose control of the situation.

SB: I also did what we talked about way back when I was in your freshman foundation drawing course. I looked up images online of women disrobing, just to see what’s already out there.

CL: What did we talk about?

SB: The importance of starting your research broad and casting the net wide, so you know what’s been done. All the online images of people half in and out of clothes are ridiculous. The people look plastic. The clothes are on them but like, ironed into place. So I know what I don’t want to do now.

Sara Bloem Sketchbook Pages

CL: Sometimes knowing what you don’t want to do puts you closer to what you do want to do.
I find a process of elimination to be quite helpful at times. I’m curious about the overanalyzing as a means of procrastination that you’re experiencing right now.

SB: I find myself writing a lot of little notes to myself as I get more and more anxious about the project. “What if I did it that way?” “No, I don’t like the thing I just drew, I should make things less.” That’s literally what I write down. But the notes don’t help me as much as actually doing things. I feel anxious because I perceive many challenges along the course of this project. It’s easy to see all the obstacles.

CL: This is going to be your first professional body of work executed outside of a school context, that’s a pretty big deal if you think about it. I think that I always feel anxious about my work, there’s just so much to worry about. I worry that I can’t live up to my own standards. I worry that the work will be awful and I will see nothing but regret when I look back on the work.

SB: Especially after you graduate, and being at school seems like this beautiful, luxurious dream.

CL: There will come a point where you will no longer miss being a student. That sounds weird right now, but in a few years you will feel that way. I don’t miss being a student anymore, I used to.

SB: Why don’t you miss being a student anymore?

CL: I like having months, even years to ponder the concepts in my work. In school, everything you’re doing feels like you’re just briefly sampling appetizers. By contrast, I started my current project, Falling back in 2010.

SB: I can see that. I feel like there’s a simmering process going on right now, as opposed to a full boil before, in school.

CL: So what about the compositions, how many figures are we talking per composition?

SB: I’m thinking 2-3 figures. Last week I was just excited about moving forward with the gestures of clothing and unclothing. But I hadn’t thought about what gestures would bond the different figures within a composition. I do think it’s important to have multiple figures, because I want it to suggest a broader historical scope as opposed to a single personal story.

Sara Bloem Sketchbook Pages

CL: How’s this for an idea: hire 2-3 models and have them all pose at the same time. That complicates things, but it would be really interesting to see how they interact with each other in the same space. I think if you shoot one figure at a time you will lose that physical interaction. I have an idea for your camera problem: can you rent a camera? I’m sure B&H in Manhattan must have something like that.

SB: This might be a silly question, but where do you hire your models from?

CL: I met all of the artist models in town through my classes when I used to teach at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts many years ago. There are so many logistics to being an artist, I’m sometimes in awe that anything gets done. I don’t think you’re procrastinating, it just feels like it’s because things take time. After all, you have plenty to talk about this week and you just sent me sketches. As long as you’re putting in the hours you can’t not progress. Don’t compare your progress to what you used to accomplish in school. You have to be incredibly patient after school. You just have to develop a different rhythm. It’s a big adjustment, and it will take time.

SB: Thanks for saying that. Really, I feel 900% more calm right now.

CL: I remember knowing what I needed to do when I was a student, but I was afraid to go through with it. It’s like I needed a teacher to say it out loud to me before I could proceed.

SB: Fortunately, I feel that somewhat less now, now that I’m out of school. I feel much freer when making work.

Sara Bloem Sketchbook Pages

Related articles:
Conversation #1: Solidity
Introductory Interview


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