Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Saturday Figure Construct Class

The Academy of Realist Art, Boston opened to students in January of 2009. At that time the school held Figure and Bargue drawing classes during the week. But as demand arose, ARA established, in September 2010, its Continuing Education program by offering a Saturday Figure Construct class.

Instructing in February, 2011

The Construct class addressed the specific problem of how to begin a figure drawing. With a new pose set each week, students were instructed in the school's approach towards accurately representing the proportion, gesture and body type of the model.

The class attracted novices - professionals from fields as diverse as medicine, real estate and education who had never taken art classes - but also experienced artists from the various Boston area studios who were looking for a classical academic point of view not offered at the local art colleges. Some of these students stayed on with the class over multiple terms while yet others, finding their niche, formally joined our regular atelier program.

The Gestural Construct 

The Figure Construct class deals mostly with what we call the Gestural Construct, the first step in ARA's methodology. The Gestural Construct addresses two main elements:

Firstly, it introduces students to ARA's comparative measuring technique. Over the years it has been exciting to see those students, with no prior figure drawing practice, embrace the system. Equally gratifying have been the numerous accounts from experienced students of how grateful they are to FINALLY have a systematic approach to figure drawing. For most of them, the past had been more of a "free for all" series of drawing courses lacking in direction. I'm always thrilled to hear that our method provides students with the self-assurance they've always sought from a drawing class.

Secondly, the class focuses on simplicity. This isn't easy! Students are challenged to sum up each pose with 15 or so lines, recognizing active and passive areas of the figure.

Our Gestural Construct synopsizes the long and detailed story of the pose. The many complexities and specificities that students see when they first look at the model are abbreviated, simplifying the pose to it's essentials. Once these basic elements are working together and the drawing has achieved a proportional and gestural likeness to the model, the student is able to move forward from this solid foundation and delve into smaller proportions and planar analyses. Most great drawing systems that I know, whether they be comparative, sight-size or otherwise, work from the large block-in to the smaller forms and no matter the project at ARA, Boston (figure, Bargue, cast, still-life or portrait), we employ that strategy. 

 The Figure Steps

In this class, students are introduced to unfamiliar tools such as plumb lines and knitting needles. By establishing vertical and horizontal alignments, these tools aid in capturing gesture, tracking model movement and assessing tilts and twists as well as guiding the student towards conquering foreshortening. In addition, mirrors provide a set of fresh eyes that reveal major proportional and gestural problems.

Even our pencils are uniquely prepared, sharpened to a very fine point and held in a specific manner that allows for the easy application of light, loose lines.

Pencils, plumb line, mirror, sharpening block, kneaded eraser, knitting needle, knife

Demonstration pieces are always available for viewing. 

Wall of demos

There are also optional outside projects to further the understanding of our method. 

Measuring homework

The academy has gone through multiple changes over the past five years: a model room renovation, the introduction of new classes, and summer workshops taught by distinguished visiting artists. 

 Students working in renovated model room (same view as above pic)

Opposite view

Taking some measurements

In Spring 2014, Kevin Gearns took over as instructor of the Construct class. Kevin works with each student individually and creates a calm and encouraging atmosphere. His attention to detail and superb preparation have won over the student body. 

Laura by Kevin Gearns

The winter term class runs on Saturdays from January 31st - March 21st, 1:30-4:30. Tuition is $375. For more info or to register online, please visit:

For questions, please email us at or call Julie at  617 426 3006. We would also invite you to tour the school so that we can answer any questions you may have in person. To make an appointment please call or email.

- Emmy

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