Artist Masterclass: Preparations

Sara Bloem Sketchbook Pages

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

SB: I’ve gotten a lot of the logistical side worked out. Last week we talked about getting references. In my case, generating references involves two things: model(s), and a camera-neither of which I had last week. This week, I contacted a local art school and they were kind enough to forward me their model roster. I emailed every female model on there, and I’ve gotten quite a few good responses.

CL: In your sketchbook pages you wrote that you felt frustrated.

SB: Yes, I have a couple questions: by using models who aren’t me to talk about my issues, is the content lost? If the figures aren’t from those cultures – I mean, I’m not screening my models by ethnic background – does it just become random pictures of women putting on clothes? I thought about fixing the problem by compositing other faces into the references later.

CL: From your sketches it looks like the faces aren’t really going to be that prominent in your compositions. It seems like the clothing and the gesture of the figure is the larger concern.

Sara Bloem Sketchbook Pages

SB: I was wondering: how do you make your drawings transcend your reference?

CL: You have to use the reference photographs loosely; don’t be too faithful to them. I used to put my reference photos into Photoshop and intentionally make the resolution very low, so that the images were blurry. That way, I would resist the temptation to copy the references too accurately. I also think exaggeration of gesture and form is huge. I used to also up the contrast in Photoshop, so that the image was starker; I did that with my project Wading. I would play around with your reference photographs in Photoshop before you start drawing from them, you can get all sorts of interesting effects.

SB: That’s a great suggestion, especially because I was using Photoshop to collage photos before (see image below).


CL: Is there a chance the Photoshop collage process you used before might make an appearance again? I think that was a really great technique that you figured out for those final 6 portraits that you did in your independent study with me in your final semester at RISD.

SB: I feel like it really helped me get away from the strictly literal last semester.

CL: You might want to use it again, explore it in greater depth this time now that you’ve done it once before. I’m a big fan of sketching in Photoshop.

SB: I think that might help push me away from just copying my reference too.

CL: That way you’re processing the reference photos and manipulating them before you even get to the drawing stage. I think you’ll feel better once you’ve done the reference photo shoot, then you’ll have something really concrete to work with. I think you’re in really great shape, why are you worried?

SB: I think just because I didn’t draw for a few days. It’s hard not to beat myself up about that a little. I’m taking it as a learning experience and moving on.

CL: You can’t beat yourself up, there’s always going to be something!

Sara Bloem Sketchbook Pages

Related articles:
Conversation #2: Logistics
Conversation #1: Solidity
Introductory Interview

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