While talent can be inborn, true artists know that the only way to unlock it and go from potential to kinetic is practice.
The Patchogue Arts Council’s sketch club meets weekly and dives into a different location or topic for members to focus on and draw. Mark Propper, a prominent local artist, heads the group and decides what the focus of each week’s meeting will be. The PAC sketch club was formed in 2009, and Propper has held this position for the past four years.
“We encourage people to work at their level. It’s better to work on your own without instruction, and this helps the unity of the group,” said Propper.
Egalitarian in its membership, the sketch club has beginners all the way through professional artists, and the range of skill lends itself to nuanced critiques and interpretations of the subject matter.
“We are not discriminatory in any way about participation,” said Propper, adding, “We are very community-oriented.”
In the past, topics for the group have included still-life drawings of toys, dishware and fruits, to other adventures with churches, nature scenes, and seaside beaches.
“It’s not a class as much as it’s more of a happening,” said Propper. “People who are willing to draw, dedicated to drawing, participate in the sketch club and sometimes other people will offer advice.”
For true novices, Propper said simple computer paper and a No. 2 pencil will be sufficient to start, and one need not buy an expensive pencil set.
“You can learn about different products and different preferences from the more advanced people in the group,” said Propper.
With showing your work being voluntary, Propper emphasized the nurturing community of the sketch club. For some more advanced sketchers, the club is a way to make time for sketching, as the meetings are two hours each session. Throughout the range of sketchers, recognizing the true nature of shapes and proportion is central to the art of drawing.
“We call it ‘learning to look’,” said Propper, adding, “The translation of seeing the shapes and getting it on paper is where it becomes complicated.”
In a meeting on June 22, rain moved the sketch club indoors on Zoom, and Propper decided to have the attendees draw paintings from John Singer Sargent.
“Zoom is a challenge to keep the content stimulating,” said Propper.
Singer Sargent, known for his aristocratic but inviting ladies of the late 19th century, was chosen because of his accuracy in capturing and developing characters (“You really get a sense of who the person was,” said Propper) and particularly, his uncanny ability to paint realistic flesh.
“In his work, you get these hints of subtle tones that people don’t pick up on,” said Propper. “Learning and studying another artist’s style helps teach you other forms of expression.”
Selected for the evening was Singer Sargent’s 1897 piece, “Mr. and Mrs. I.N. Phelps Stokes.”
The portrait depicted the New York architect and philanthropist Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes and his seemingly boisterous wife, Edith Minturn Stokes.
The portrait was commissioned as a wedding gift for the couple and originally planned to feature Edith alone in evening wear. Originally, a Great Dane was to be her companion, but with the canine unavailable, her husband sat in on the portrait.
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