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Acclaimed Artist and Teacher Leads Figure Drawing Class

James McMullan urges students to analyze "rhythms" and "pressures" in model's body, during Southampton Writers Conference class at Stony Brook Southampton.

Sunlight streamed through the windows of the Radio Lounge at Saturday afternoon as artists sketched the contours of model Andy Rogers' stomach and arms in charcoal, pencil and ink.

The dozen or so artists came to the college to work with James McMullan, who is known for his “High Focus Drawing” approach. As a program, McMullan led two drawing sessions, which turned into performances as Rogers' form appeared on canvas and newsprint.

The McMullan event is “priming the pump” for more visual arts courses at Stony Brook Southampton, said Robert Reeves, the associate provost of the satellite campus of Stony Brook University. The college is offering its first course on graphic novels in the fall, he added.

“We’re building strength in the visual arts,” he said, adding he can draw upon the roster of cartoonists and illustrators who work on the conference’s brochures.

Rogers’ open-legged pose first came through in watery, peachy puddles on Margaret Weissbach’s canvas. Weissbach, who lives in Port Washington and summers on the East End, then brought definition to Rogers’ form with ink.

During the class, McMullan, told the artists to “get an impression of the whole pose in mind,” a way to make drawing faster and easier. Later, McMullan said that his drawing method takes the rhythms of the body into account. Artists should consider the pressure points of a pose when drawing a model.

McMullan said that drawing fits in at the Writers Conference — even if, at first glance, it appears unrelated. He explained his method of drawing is about thinking and organizing thoughts, a task writers must also accomplish to work. McMullan knows this well; he wrote a 12-week series of columns in The New York Times and writes and illustrates children’s books.

“This feeds into all creative efforts,” he said.

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