Watching their figures

Michelle Farrar

They've been meeting in Corona del Mar every Tuesday for the last four

years to paint the human figure, save for August and December vacations.

An all-women group thus far, this unnamed band of professional artists

has joined together to share inspiration, information and the standard

model's fee of $15 per hour.

"Most groups that paint together do quick sketches," said Deloma

Davis, a Laguna Hills artist who has taken part in the painting sessions

for more than a year and a half. "We have a model that comes and poses

the entire month. That's really important, because it gives us a chance

to do important work."

One such model, a bag of costumes under her arm, arrived at their

studio on Fernleaf Street. Awaiting her was a group of painters whose

five regular members and three substitutes are more than enough to take

up all the best views in the room.

Why paint from a live model, who will never return to exactly the same

position after each 20 minute break, and not from a photo?

"The photograph is flat. It's not a three-dimensional image,"

explained Edith Stalay, a regular and former children's book agent from

Corona del Mar.

The artists also feel that they can sense emotions and other invisible

phenomena in the presence of their subjects and translate it to the

picture plane.

"It's a gift that the artist gets from the model," Stalay said.

Inspiration also comes from the outside world. Donna Fradkin of Costa

Mesa said she is inspired by her experience as a psychiatric social


"In my work as an artist, I see the world as such a beautiful place. I

see that if more people can see the beauty in the world there would be

less problems," she asserted.

That search to create beauty is a common tie between the women. While

many of the women have attended figure classes in order to work "from

life," they said they find the poses in a class situation too short to

complete a portrait.

The group schedules a model every month for four-hour sessions so they

have the time to work in oils. Pastels and charcoals are other favorite

mediums here.

Members discuss ahead of time props and backdrops and choose between a

nude or clothed subject. Each member takes turns booking the model.

The group hasn't been able to agree on a name yet, perhaps due to the

strong personalities involved.

The studio has been rented from retired architectural delineator

Robert Jackson and his family. The space has panoramic windows that

invite natural light and a wide, shallow sink of the kind used to develop

photography. Sixteen foot ceilings create plenty of wall area filled with

canvasses. Many flowers and a water garden courtyard keep spirits high.

This environment has nurtured commercial success. Ruby Aranguiz of

Corona del Mar, one of the founding members, recently put 24 of her

figures on display with the prestigious Fingerhut Galleries. Many of them

were painted in these sessions. Her landscapes were the subject of a solo

show at the South Coast Art Gallery.

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