Weekly drop-in figure drawing sessions will resume in Logan Square on Tuesday nights from 7-10 p.m. starting Jan. 26. This event, organized by AnySquared, is held in a studio art space, and it is open to artist and non-artists interested in sketching a live model. Following common practice in figure drawing, the evening begins with quick sketches that are called gestural drawings, and then the length of the poses grows progressively longer from several minutes up to half an hour or so. As a result, drawing can become more detailed and larger.
Though a handful of regular artists keep their observational and drawing skills sharp by dropping in at Figure Tuesdays, occasional and beginning artists who would like to practice and learn are also welcome to visit. Some supplies (drawing materials and paper) are available, but visitors are encouraged to bring their particular mediums and paper that they prefer. Graphite, charcoal and ink seem to be the most popular mediums, though on occasion hard and soft color pastel as well as brush and ink are used.
The atmosphere at Figure Tuesdays is casual and informal: music plays in the background, conversations are ongoing among the artists present, and some visitors bring their own beverage. This atmosphere contrasts to art schools, whether universities or community and private art schools, where the atmosphere is more studious and focused. If a drop-in visitor needs their own space and sound as they draw, bringing their own musical device with earbuds is advised. More information about Figure Tuesdays, such as a suggested donation fee that compensates the model, can be found on the event’s Facebook page.
Figure drawing from a live model has become an established course in art schools and practice in art communities since the early 19th century. Usually, in a large city, like Chicago, several figure drawing sessions can be found. Turning to Gretchen Hasse, the model coordinator of Figure Tuesdays, I asked her how sessions at AnySquared studio got started and how they may differ from other drop-in figure drawing sessions.
According to Hasse, she actually befriended Tracy Kostenbader, who hosts Figure Tuesdays at her studio space, at a figure drawing session that was being held at the Autonomous Zone in the mid-1990s. The Autonomous Zone, an anarchist, political activist group, held a variety of skill share classes at their “Free Skool,” a place where the general public was invited to learn for a suggested donation.
At some point, Hasse, whose work focuses on a graphic novel, video, and collage, assumed the role of model coordinator of this session at Autonomous Zone. These sessions were open only to women artists, because according to Hasse, “from the beginning we wanted a safe space for women to work from the figure; many of us had experienced icky sexism in figure drawing spaces.”
When this figure session stopped being held after several years, it resumed at the AnySquared AnyWhere studio space on Milwaukee Avenue in the early 2000s and ran until the late 2000s.
In 2015, Hasse and Kostenbader decided to resume holding the figure drawing session, now under the aegis of AnySquared. Like art schools, though not all open to the general public drawing sessions, Hasse strives to choose and schedule a variety of model body types and age ranges, as well as change genders from week to week. Because the atmosphere at AnySquared studio space for drawing is friendly, welcoming and encouraging, Hasse has invited some models who are modeling for the first time. Speaking from her own experience when she was an art student and also a figure model, Hasse says, “this can be an empowering experience for a person and even lead to more modeling work.”
Hasse and Kostenbader say the modela for artists should be well compensated for their work and time. Artists, they say, should offer support to one another and their community.