Bruce Samuelson, one of the featured artists in the fall issue of Drawing, specializes in a form of semi-abstracted figure drawing, with bodies arrayed in fragmented, ambiguous arrangements. He is also a longtime instructor at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Here, we’re pleased to present a sample of Samuelson’s figure drawings, accompanied by excerpts from our interview.
Drawing: How long does one of your drawings take?
Bruce Samuelson: Someone else asked me this once, and I told them it took me 40 years. It’s almost like my work is all one continuous drawing.
Usually it takes quite a while, although occasionally it could happen very quickly, within an hour. It depends in part on the medium; when I’m working with mixed media it takes longer.
DR: Is it important for all art students to draw from life, even if their own goals are non-objective?
BS: I always feel they can learn a great deal from drawing, regardless of where their interest is, because in the end it’s about seeing in your own way. Just because you have a figure in front of you doesn’t mean what you have on your paper has to look like it. It’s not the figure so much as nature itself. Whether it’s color, line or space, nature or the figure can inspire you without necessarily dictating to you.
DR: Who were some of the teachers or artists who influenced you most?
BS: I had a lot of good teachers at the Academy. The one that stands out the most was Hobson Pittman. He taught by example—he lived as a painter, and his work was of high quality. The impressive thing about him was that nobody he taught worked like he did, at least that I ever saw. In fact, if your work did start to look like his, he would be very quick to discourage it. He emphasized the personal and unique voice of each student, and I try to do this as best I can in my own teaching.
DR: Are there any artists—contemporary or historical—whose work you constantly revisit or frequently share with your students?
BS: There’s not a day in my studio I don’t look at Michelangelo in some form. But I could also be looking at Cézanne or Francis Bacon. With students, it always depends on the individual and where they’re going. Sometimes my suggestion might be the opposite of where they’re at or what they’re looking for. But you can’t go wrong with the Old Masters. And I’m always sending them after non-objective people as well, Mark Tobey for example.
To read more of the interview and see more of Samuelson’s artowrk, click here to get your copy of the fall 2015 issue of Drawing magazine.