Drawn together: Group meets weekly to hone skills

Thursday, July 16, 2009
Anita Dickerson, a retired art consultant, sketches live models Ashley Willis, 19, left, and Brittany Emmons, 18, at a Drawing Group session. The group meets every Wednesday at the arts council in Cape Girardeau. (Elizabeth Dodd)

At an improvised studio in the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri, 18-year-old Brittany Emmons and 19-year-old Ashley Willis posed against a stark white wall. Seated on a bench with her legs folded to the side, Willis smiled at Emmons who was perched on a stool beside her.

Within minutes, the teenage girls' portraits appeared on the easels about 10 feet away, reconstructed by hundreds of lines and curves drawn by the fast-moving hands of six local artists.

The artists and models came together as participants of the local Drawing Group. The group meets every Wednesday from 7 to 9:30 p.m. to draw using live models, such as Emmons and Willis.

"I've always drawn portraits. That's my thing, so to have live models is a lot of fun," said longtime art educator Carol Horst. "I do a lot of commissioned portraits. and this gives me a lot of different ideas."

The sessions begin with a warm-up of gesture drawings. The models make a series of brief, 10-minute poses in succession, an exercise for artists to capture the essence of a pose quickly. The models then hold a hour-and-a-half long pose for the artists to sketch.

Terry Godwin of Jackson wears an appropriate shirt to a drawing group session Wednesday at the Arts Council in Cape Girardeau. (Elizabeth Dodd)

While both Emmons and Willis were paid $30 for their fully clothed modeling, the Drawing Group works with nude models as well. The incentive for posing nude in a room full of strangers: $50.

Anita Dickinson, retired art educator and consultant, said drawing nude models is not much different from drawing those who are fully clothed.

"When you draw a nude, you concentrate on the shapes and lines, not anything else," she said.

Capturing the essence of the human form requires talent, and the Drawing Group has long provided local artists with a casual opportunity to develop such skills. The group has existed, in one form or another, for 30 years.

Originally held every other week in Cape Girardeau and Sikeston, Mo., at different artists' homes, the Drawing Group was formed in 1979 by art educator Grant Lund. The sessions were moved to the arts council in Cape Girardeau about 10 years ago, and the group's latest incarnation is a result of efforts by local artist Craig Thomas.

"Craig is our dedicated person. He has been really instrumental in promoting the arts scene and keeping this going," Horst said.

Horst taught art in the Jackson School District for 28 years and is an adjunct instructor with Southeast Missouri State University's art education department. In addition to being a veteran of the local art scene, Horst is one of the Drawing Group's veterans. She said she has been a member of the Drawing Group since 1980.

"This is like a fellowship here. It's so great to be with kindred spirits who like art," she said.

Thomas said that while a core group of artists, like Dickinson and Horst, return week after week, there is also a large contingent of surprise visitors.

"It's always interesting to see who comes through the door. Every week it's different depending on the group," he said.

Thomas said anywhere between four and 20 people gather at the arts council each week for the drawing session and they "come from all walks of life."

"We get some very interesting conversations. We have some very right-wing and very left-wing people in here. Some are conservative, some are liberal," he said. "We get novices, professionals, teachers, college students, high-school students and so many different people."

Though Thomas leads the group by hiring models and creating their poses, the sessions are free form with no formal instructor. The group is open to the public and attendees bring their own paper and drawing utensils to do what they love -- create art.

"It's their release, and that's what they like to do," Thomas said. "It's nice. Artists get to commune together and share their passion."


* What: Drawing Group

* When: 7 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesdays

* Where: Arts Council of Southeast Missouri, 32 N. Main St.

Pertinent Addresses:

32 N. Main Street, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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