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Human body Powsey's favourite thing to draw

THE HUMAN BODY is the favourite subject of artist Cliff Powsey. - Photo submitted
THE HUMAN BODY is the favourite subject of artist Cliff Powsey.
— image credit: Photo submitted

When it comes to art, drawing is Clive Powsey’s favourite medium and the human body his subject of choice.

In fact, while attending the Ontario College of art, he sometimes missed – and even failed – classes in order to attend life drawing sessions.

“We all inhabit a body so naturally it’s of keen interest,” he explains. “And it’s a vehicle for human drama. If you watch a movie you see figures carefully arranged to interact — it’s just another form of figurative art and landscape.”

From Jan. 25 to Feb. 9, Effigies: An Exhibition of Drawings by Clive Powsey, will be on display at Art Alchemy Studio Gallery in Courtenay. Powsey will be present at the Jan. 25 opening reception from 7 to 9 p.m. and the following three Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m.

Effigies features new drawings from the past year relating to the human figure and bodily infrastructure. The stark, high-contrast drawings are on paper in crayon and acrylic with linear hatching and line work for a print-like effect reminiscent of stone lithography.

“Drawing is much more immediate than other forms of art,” notes Powsey. “It’s more of an artist’s art.

"In the past there was a long-standing tradition of well-known artists drawing a similar body doing different activities. But in recent decades figurative art has fallen in the hierarchy of genres as conceptual and idea-based art has become more popular.”

“In North America today, sketches are primarily used to prepare another product such as a vacuum or widget,” he adds. “Hundreds of drawings might be rendered to create something but the drawing is seen as part of the process not of particular value in itself.”

Powsey fell in love with drawing as a child and was always interested in depicting the human body.

“I really enjoyed anatomy while at art school,” he says. “I always did a lot of life drawing and sometimes we’d go to the medical science museum to draw. Working from cadavers was unnerving but it does give a person a good sense of anatomy. I was always more interested in drawing than attending a class.”

Although it’s no longer considered a requirement for a painter to learn to draw before practising their craft, Powsey feels drawing, particularly the human form, is a beneficial skill to have.

“Studying anatomy and figurative drawing allows an artist to know and understand the structure beneath the drapery of clothing on a person,” he explains. “They learn about the architecture and landmarks of the body. They don’t just see the body superficially, they literally see the bones and structure of it and that’s what makes it so interesting.”

Powsey’s so enamoured of the human structure that he bought a skeleton to keep in his studio and draws it to this day. And his knowledge is such that even though some of the drawings in Effigies are from live models, some were created from his imagination.

Although Powsey has attended life drawing sessions throughout his life, he rarely exhibits his work.

“Artists mostly use cheap paper at life drawings,” he explains. “They make a sketch then throw it away and begin a new one. Once in a while I invest in some good paper so I can have a figurative exhibit.”

The Cumberland resident’s watercolours and drawings have been exhibited in solo and group shows in a variety of venues on Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland, Alberta and Ontario with numerous pieces being held in private collections. Powsey’s many awards include the D.L. Stevenson Award for Excellence in Watercolour and the Best Watercolour at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibit.

For the past 30 years Powsey has worked as a watercolour landscape painter and background artist and art director for traditional two-dimensional animated film and television programs including Franklin’s Magic Christmas, Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas and Pippi Longstocking.

He also teaches and from Feb. 13 to March 6 will offer Watercolours: Life Painting as an evening continuing education course at North Island College.

And from Feb. 18 to March 25, he will be teaching Drawing: The Basics at the college. There’s a possibility that a life drawing class will be held at Art Alchemy later this year.

Art Alchemy, an artist-operated studio and gallery, is at 362-C 10 St. in Courtenay above United Carpet (stair access only). The gallery, artist studios and classroom are open Thursday through Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. or by appointment.

For more information about Powsey or to see his work, visit www.clivepowsey.com. Due to the adult subject matter of Effigies, the show is not suitable for children.

Information about Art Alchemy can be found at www.artalcehmy.ca.

Paula Wild is a published author and regular contributor to the Comox Valley Record's arts and entertainment section.

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