It’s Like Coupon Clipping...But Not

7 Jan 2014

Mixed media painting by Alex Powers, Five of Us
Five of Us, 1996, mixed media painting with gouache, charcoal, pastel,
and collage, 23 x 40. Collection The Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B.
Chapin Art Museum, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
All works by Alex Powers.
When I was a kid, my mom always cut coupons on Sunday morning. I’d sit beside her and do the same, but I’d flip through magazines and newspapers and cut out pictures I liked or lettering that I thought was neat, and I never gave up my artsy coupon clipping habit because it’s a great way to pull inspirational images into my orbit.

Alex Powers and I are kindred spirits. The muses for his figure drawing and painting are actually a mish-mash of his own snapshots, magazine photographs, and newspaper tear outs, and even television images that he draws. But Powers outpaces my “coupon” clipping in terms of creativity by also pulling from unusual sources, such as X-ray images of luggage from airport security monitors.

Powers takes his inspirations and often combines them with text that furthers the theme of the work or makes his ideas about the subject clear. He almost always paints faces to convey his ideas, and he has a few pointers for figure drawing that I want to pass along to you.

Mixed media painting by Alex Powers, New York Art
New York Art, 2003, gouache, charcoal,
pastel, and collage drawing, 30 x 40.
He prefers to render the figure nude or partially clothed because he finds that the body and face communicate much more than any costume can.

Painting eyes looking straight out of the painting or drawing will follow the viewer as they walk back and forth in front of the painting.

Mixed media painting by Alex Powers, Small Talk
Small Talk, 2000, gouache, charcoal, pastel,
and collage drawing, 30 x 40.
Collection Anne and Dr. Ronald Jarvis.
Not everything is interesting. Powers doesn’t find the top of the head or flesh tones particularly interesting, so he often neglects to include the former and one stroke of local color is all he uses for the latter.

He defines one or two contours of the head, but tries not to make the lines longer than the other lines in the face to prevent the head from separating from the background.

Powers’ method is uniquely his own and yet I've learned so much from studying his process, much like I have studying the approaches of the artists in our latest Figure Drawing eMagazine, from how to draw faces and figures in compositions to approaches to capturing the body with gesture, line, and texture. Access to the eMagazine ensures you get this kind of straight-up, practical information from myriad artists who all come to us from a vantage point of distinguished expertise. Reading through this digital resource can accelerate your rate of discovery and learning, as it has mine. Enjoy!

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