Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Twelve-Minute Portraits

Don't miss the opening of my two shows tomorrow night at Digging Pitt Gallery. They are really both must see stuff.
I think that the story behind the Portrait show is pretty great. A lot of these people are my neighbors here.

Twelve-Minute Portraits
The 20-Year History of a Drawing Group

In the summer of 1986, Patrick Ruane proposed to Stuart Smith and Victor Capone the idea of getting together for figure drawing. They had all been art majors at IUP and wanted regular opportunities to draw from a model as they had in figure drawing classes. The first evening of drawing was at Pat’s house in Harmerville on September 17, 1986. The following week Ron Donoughe, who graduated a few years before them and heard about it from his wife, joined them. Duncan MacDiarmid began drawing in 1990, not long after moving to Pittsburgh; John Ritter joined in 2000, and Mike McSorley, who first participated in the early 1990s, started attending regularly in 2005. In addition to the 7 current members, a dozen other artists, both men and women, have participated over the group’s 20-year history.

Drawing sessions lasted 2 hours and included 4 to 6 poses. In the early years they drew weekly in the basements of Pat and Ron’s houses, often inviting friends and relatives to sit for 20-minute poses. Occasionally each drawer pitched in a few dollars for a model. When considering a name for the group, Stuart suggested ‘Sk├╝ll’ as a reference to portrait anatomy. It was roundly ridiculed as sounding like a biker gang, yet lacking an alternative, the name stuck for some time. Pat routinely referred to the evening’s host as the ‘Skull-Master.’

In the early 1990s drawing moved out of basements and into living rooms. The venue now rotates among the drawers’ homes, three of which are in Lawrenceville. Sessions are bi-weekly, are simply called ‘drawing,’ and have not included a nude model in years. The length of poses is between 10 and 15 minutes, easier for both volunteer models and the drawers themselves who regularly take their turns ‘in the hot seat’ when no model is available.

Striking a balance between creating art and socializing has sometimes been a challenge. The current format is 90 minutes of drawing followed by a half-hour of refreshment and conversation. While talking does occur during drawing time, much of the conversation is related to art. Other common topics include families, work, and current events. When the artists move from portrait studio to dining room table, family and friends often join them for tea, pie or other snacks, and more warm and witty conversation.

Twenty Years of Journal Entries about the Drawing Group
by Victor Capone


Tuesday, September 25
On Mondays Stuart, Pat and I will be drawing. We’ve met twice already. Ron Donoughe joined us last time. It’s good to do it. I’m willing to commit myself.

Monday, November 3
Tonight we drew at Ron’s place, and it was really great, particularly because his wife Tracey was there. She sat for us twice. She made pumpkin pie for us and whipped cream for on top. She asked Stuart and me to stay, and we played Chinese checkers. Drawing was pretty good, incidentally. It’s good meeting regularly for this purpose.


Wednesday, March 16
I am thankful for the Skull-- Wednesday night drawing sessions with Stuart, Pat, Ron & Harry. It is good to draw.


Wed, January 11 Skull resumed; Maureen also drew & Charlie modeled.
Wed, January 18 Skull at Ron’s; Nadine & Maureen;
Ron’s son Seth is so big, almost 3, & cute.
Wed, January 25 Skull at Pat’s; Stu, Maureen, Nadine
Wed, February 1 Drew at Nadine’s; Ron, Pat & daughter Lindsay, Stu, Maureen
Wed, February 8 Full Skull at Maureen’s; Stu, Pat, Ron, Harry, Nadine, Maureen
Wed, February 22 Skull at Pat’s; Bob modeled & took our photo.
Wed, March 1 The Skull at Ron’s; Michelle & Chuck
Wed, March 8 Skull at Pat’s
Tues, March 14 Skull at Nadine’s; 3 heads only
====1989 CONTINUED====

Tues, March 21 Skull at Pat’s; Charlie modeled.
Tues, March 28 Skull at my house; my brother Joe modeled.
Tues, April 4 Skull at Ron’s; drew a neighbor girl.
Tues, April 11 Skull at Pat’s
Tues, April 18 Skull at Nadine’s
Tues, April 25 Skull at Ron’s
Tues, May 2 Skull at Ron’s; Stu’s sister Susan modeled
Tues, May 9 Skull at Nadine’s; my brother Joe sat.
Tess, May 30 Skull at Pat’s; new Skuller Don; Keith modeled.
Tues, June 13 Skull at Nadine’s; only Stu & I came; we spoke about justice.
Tues, June 20 Skull drew at Ron’s; Seth had his rage

Thursday, December 14
A small skull drew at Ron’s: Nadine, Ron and I. We saw 16-day-old Emma, and 3½-year-old Seth posed. He did so much better than last spring when he deliberately moved every part of his body. This time he sat and talked. He said he was a crab; his name was ‘Crabby Seth Donoughe.’ When I asked what a crab looked like, he said it had pinchers. He said that crabs are very fast. Ron said he often became a crab and spoke as a crab, and earlier we even saw him crawl up to Ron and pinch his leg as a crab. So I drew him with claws. I knew he would like it, but I was wrong. He was greatly disturbed by it. He wanted hands. It was not some kind of joke to him. He couldn’t deal with that image. He went upstairs to his mother seeking comfort and almost complaining, even though he emphatically said before that he was a crab. I’m told that the next day Tracey called him a crab, which he had previously enjoyed so much, but he immediately protested, “I’m not a crab; I’m a little boy.”


Thursday, January 18
We drew at Ron’s tonight. First Tracey sat feeding Emma. Next Nadine sat, then I,
and finally Stuart at Seth’s request. We met Duncan and Joann who drew as well.

Thursday, September 20
Duncan and Joann had a dinner tonight at their home to kick-off drawing for the year. Everyone brought something, and we ate dinner and did 3 drawings.

Wednesday, January 16
Desert Shield became Desert Storm at 7 p.m. We drew tonight and watched the Gulf War unfold with the bombing of Baghdad.

Wednesday, May 8
Drawing at Ron’s. Julie drove me and drew. Stu told that he was laid-off this week. Duncan, Joann and Rose there too.

Wednesday, June 19
Tonight we drew outside at Ron’s. We actually did 5 poses. Kim brought peanut butter cookies. Seth posed like a statue, but he was staring right through me-- killing me softly, as it were.

Wednesday, June 26
Tonight we drew at Duncan & Joann’s. Stu, Rose, Kim & I attended. Joann’s daughters Anji & Andrea were with their father.

Wednesday, December 11
We drew at Stanford and Daisy’s apartment for the first time. I did drawings right
in my journal of Seth, Stu, Ron & Joann.


Wednesday, April 15
I returned to drawing tonight at Duncan and Joann’s. Also there were Ron, Seth and his small friend, Stuart, Stan & Daisy, and Rose, who came later. Because Anji & Andrea were with their father in Rio, some of us walked over to the Artery to see art after we were done drawing. We ended up in a real searching conversation primarily between Joann & Stan instigated by his observation that not working for
corporations allows the individual to enjoy a walk or sunshine….
====1992 CONTINUED====
Tuesday, December 1
Drawing was at Ron’s. Ron said that although he went to hunting camp with his family over the weekend, he didn’t really feel like he fit it too well. He was painting while the rest of them threw darts and drank beer. Well, I’m sure he did all of those, but he left for home in the morning when they all went out to their spots to hunt. Ron said that one place he feels like he does fit is with the guys at drawing.


Saturday, September 17
It looks like the former ‘Skull’ may be re-emerging with its stag nature- with no room for chatty visitors. It was suggested that we should only allow serious drawers who can keep drawing as the priority.

Saturday, October 1
Drawing resumed with a disciplined format: 4 five-minute poses; 2 ten-minute poses; 1 twenty-minute pose, and no talking for the first hour.

Tuesday, November 29
Drawing included a group story-telling game recorded by Rose for the library.


Tues, January 16 At Ron’s. Nadine returned to drawing, at least for one night.
Tues, January 23 Drawing at Duncan’s. Ron, Kathy.
Tues, February 13 Drew at Ron’s. Nadine gave me a ride.
Tues, March 26 Only Duncan and I drew.
Tues, April 9 Drawing at Duncan’s with Stu & Ron. Marty modeled.
Tues, April 16 Drawing at Ron’s. Stuart & Michelle each made one of their
now less-frequent visits.
Tues, April 30 No drawing
Tues, May 7 At Duncan’s. Ron talked about his father’s death last week.
Tues, May 14 Went to drawing. Joann told me it was cancelled. Apparently
Ron asked Duncan to take it at the last minute, but it was
====1996 CONTINUED====

Tues, May 21 Drew at Ron’s
Tues, June 4 Drawing cancelled
Tues, June 11 No drawing
Tues, June 18 Took my niece Krissy to drawing at Duncan’s. It was an
interesting group: just 3 thirty-something men & 3 teenage
girls (Krissy, Anji & Andrea).
Tues, June 25 No drawing
Tues, July 9 Drawing
Tues, July 16 Drawing cancelled
Tues, July 23 No drawing, just a visit
Tues, October 8 Tea without drawing at Duncan’s

Monday, December 30
The drawing group seemed to fade away in 1996. Nadine hasn’t come in years. We tried to begin again in 1996, but only Duncan, Ron and I were regulars, and Ron even missed a lot. By the fall I didn’t even expect to draw, but I did keep Tuesdays open. Still, that had been the highlight of my week for years. It was sad having to put it to rest.


Tuesday January 14
Drawing began tonight. Ron had a newly remodeled kitchen, and I brought Rebecca as a first time participant. It was our first effort in months, and it brought back the things I value.

Tuesday, April 15
We drew at Ron’s: Duncan, Stu, Tess and Seth. Rose, Joann & Anji came. Emma sat still for a 12-minute pose, about 3 times as long as we asked her to.

Monday, December 31
Drawing resumed in 1997 on a bi-weekly basis. It was well attended. I’ve brought in artists and models, and I do get to see my friends.


Tuesday, December 1
I used watercolor at drawing tonight. I need to rely on my gut more. I need to let chaos creep in, let go of the utter need for control.


Wednesday, December 22
We drew at Julie's last night. Pat wore a tie. His family had a portrait taken. I was a bit envious of him. His clothes fit so well. I just don’t fill my clothes as well.


Wednesday, January 5
Last night at drawing Pat described me as a vampire in the art building at IUP who roamed around all night and who he never saw doing any work. Ouch. Perhaps he was right. I was not focused back then. I could not get it together, and I guess I’m struggling with the same condition still.
Okay, I am going to do my part for a baby mobile that the drawing group decided to put together for Nadine. I’m going to inform the few who were absent last night what we decided. Of course, my creative energy will be diverted to disseminating info and away from the creation of my part.

Saturday, January 22
What are the traits I admire about these guys? Some of them have an excellent sense of humor which includes being up-front about their foibles. Of course, they are artists and do not worry too much about convention.
Ron is like a wholesome gentleman. He takes an interest in people, and he doesn’t mind being up-front about his niceness. He also has good values: home, quality work, and people. Pat is funny. He is actually so clever. He’s got strong opinions, not on the fence, and not offensive in his explanations. He also makes fun of me, but I know he kind of admires me. I don’t know Ritter well, but he has an intense look and a sure counter-culture foot.

Wednesday, March 15
Last night we had drawing at Maria’s. We also had a decoy surprise party for Stuart. His family is having a 40th birthday party for him is 2 weeks, but someone spilled the beans, and we were asked to fake this one to satisfy his suspicions. It was a good idea. Do we have to do another one in 3 weeks for Maria?

====2000 CONTINUED====
Tuesday, April 11
Tonight Pat was entertaining Duncan’s son Langston by talking about taking out his brain and enjoying TV. Lang loved it, and Pat repeated it for him various times. Then Pat talked about taking out his brain and talking to me, as he yawned. Painful.

Tuesday, September 19
Tonight we drew at Ron’s. I painted a good one of Ritter. I want to enter something, perhaps a watercolor, in a teacher art exhibit. I assume they have to be matted and framed. I have a few decent watercolors. They are just studies, but that would be okay. There is that one of Stu and the pillow. I guess I can do this.

Wednesday, October 3
Last night in Tess’s absence, we drank Beaujolais in honor of her birthday. Don’t know where she was. Perhaps she was just blowing-us-off because we're all cads.

Sunday, July 21
We got some lousy news today. Ritter broke his hip, or the femur just below the hip, while skateboarding today. It sounds pretty nasty to me. Duncan said he went to West Penn Hospital where they will be putting a plate or a pin in it on Monday. I guess John won't be drawing on Tuesday.


Wednesday, July 16
Nothing has been set for the next drawing. Both Tess and John have expressed willingness to host it. The date is unclear. Duncan will probably be out of town July 22 & 29. I will be in class on July 22 and at the beach (North Carolina) on August 12. I wonder if Pat is doing the out-of-town summer work again this year.
Tuesday, October 21
We drew at Anji’s house. It was nice. She had 2 young artist friends who drew with us. One is a CMU student. I hope they appreciated it. Really, I look forward to drawing because I feel like a dieter at a smorgasbord: I don't get to see my friends too often, so it's wonderful to have a chance to see everyone in one place.

Tuesday, November 15
Drawing at Duncan’s. We discussed Bush’s reelection and implications about our country.


Tuesday, May 24
Drew at Stu’s with Duncan & Tess. It was her final drawing before moving to D.C.

Tuesday, June 7
Drawing at Pat’s. He said that biscotti literally means ‘twice-baked.’ While they are indeed baked twice, I could not support his definition. As far as I knew, biscotti just meant cookie. I always understood that the closest English language word was biscuit. Pat actually backed down, but now I’m wondering if maybe he was right.

Tuesday, July 19
Draw at Stu’s, and all the guys where there: Stu, Ron, Duncan, Pat, Ritter and McSorley.

Sunday, November 20
In the 19 years since we have been drawing, I have probably hosted it fewer than 10 times. I have humbly invited everyone to draw at my home on Clawson Street in Homewood this Tuesday, November 22. I will move out this coming weekend, and the closing on the house is the following Wednesday. When I find a house of my own, I will invite everyone again. This Tuesday, I would be very pleased for the drawers to assemble one last time in Homewood.

Tuesday, May 9
The first drawing at my new house in Lawrenceville: Stu, Ron, Dave who was just passing by, Duncan, McSorley, Pat and Ritter. They had a nice reaction to my attic/studio/loft space. Ron challenged my ethics about something I found in the trash. Everyone shared accounts of prostate exams and encounters with snakes and bees.

Tuesday, April 25
Drawing at Ron's. We have dates for a group show at Digging Pitt Gallery. After considerable brainstorming, we agreed on a title: Twelve-Minute Portraits.

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