As the fifth-annual 24-hour Drawing Marathon approaches, roughly a dozen artists are preparing to sketch a live figure on a life-size canvas at the Binghamton University Art Museum. Given few breaks, they must be prepared to draw for the duration of the 24 hours. Pipe Dream interviewed five participants to learn more about how they started drawing and what they’re hoping to experience at this year’s event.
Sara Watson is a senior majoring in environmental studies.
Pipe Dream (PD): What made you decide to apply for the marathon?
Sara Watson (SW): I’m an art minor, and the professor I have for [Studio Art 372: Life Drawing], Blazo [Kovacevic, art director of the BU Art Museum and an associate professor of art and design], told me to apply.
PD: Is drawing something you’ve always been doing?
SW: I drew a lot when I was younger, and then I didn’t draw at all until my sophomore year. I took [Studio Art 171: Drawing I] and liked it a lot, so I kept going.
PD: Are you familiar with the medium used in the marathon?
SW: Yes, it’s all charcoal for the marathon and that’s pretty much the only medium I use.
PD: How are you preparing for this?
SW: I have been sketching my friends just a little bit, but nothing too intense.
PD: Do you want to gain anything from this experience?
SW: It’s a personal challenge, to be able to finish a piece in 24 hours. Even just getting accepted is an achievement.
Meg Reynolds is a first-year graduate student studying biomedical anthropology.
Pipe Dream (PD): What made you decide to sign up for the marathon?
Meg Reynolds (MR): I’ve been hearing about this since I was a kid, and I’ve always wanted to do this. It’s open to the community but I didn’t know that, and I waited until I [was] a student to apply. I think it’s cool to get a model for 24 hours since you never get them for more than one or two hours.
PD: Have you always been interested in drawing?
MR: Yeah, I’ve been doing it since forever. Both of my parents paint and [it] encourages me.
PD: Is the setup of this marathon similar to what you usually do?
MR: I did one life-size drawing, but with black crayons instead of charcoal. It was a portrait of my little sister and I use[d] spray paint, too. It was really fun. And I’m bummed because the drawing went missing.
PD: Are you doing anything to prepare for the marathon?
MR: I’m going to draw my roommate later today if I don’t have work. I’m actually doing [Anthropology 480H: Graphic Anthropology] that lets you draw a little bit, so it’s some practice.
PD: Do you expect to learn anything from this?
MR: I think you can get into a new state if you do something for 24 hours, so I think it’ll be a cool experience. It can teach you how to focus, and most of the time life-size works stay as sketches because you don’t have enough time. Most of the drawings I’ve seen from the marathon have a lot of work going into them, and they have a different feeling than drawing from a photograph even if you spend 24 hours on that.
Halle McMahon is a senior majoring in art and design.
Pipe Dream (PD): Why did you enter the marathon?
Halle McMahon (HM): I’ve heard about it since I became a BU sophomore, and I really wanted to do it but could never fit it in my schedule. And I’m graduating this semester so it’s the last chance, so why not?
PD: You’re an art and design major, so does your usual style differ from the marathon?
HM: Well, I started out as more of a fine artist. When I was in high school I also majored in art, so I’ve been doing this style for a while. I started to do digital works for designs when I [went] to college.
PD: Have you been drawing since you were little?
HM: I grew up doing art. My mom also did a lot of art. I start[ed] art classes when I was nine or 10, and I went to Fiorello H. Laguardia High School [of Music & Art and Performing Arts].
PD: Do you want to gain anything through this experience?
HM: Maybe not to gain anything, but it’s more of a mental test to see how my style changes and how time affects the art that I make. I definitely want to make something out of it and I’m curious to see what it will be.
PD: Are you used to drawing in a public environment like this one?
HM: No, I’ve never been in such a space. I’ve had people watching me while I work, but not while people are voting and commenting on your work.
PD: How do you feel about that?
HM: I’m more excited — I didn’t think about this when I applied. I didn’t think about the competition aspect of it. I’m not going into it really wanting to win. I’m more curious about the outcome of it.
Menkaure Umoja, 25, of Binghamton
Pipe Dream (PD): What made you decide to enter the marathon?
Menkaure Umoja (MU): My friend Meg asked me to apply with her and I usually say no to everything, so [I said] yes for once and [applied] last minute. And I got invited which is pretty cool.
PD: Is art your usual thing or did you just want to try it out?
MU: I’ve been drawing since I was 15 — about 10 years. I’ve never been in a gallery or pursued it professionally, just on the side. I never finish things in time. I draw really slow and I feel like that’s what stops me. I wish I could be really fast and consistent, which is why I’m interested in the marathon. You just have 24 hours and that’s it — you can’t go back and touch up.
PD: Is your usual artistic style similar to this marathon?
MU: I like to do portraits, so it has a person’s face too, and I practice figure drawing to keep my hands going. People posing in pictures for reference are super easy to draw, and I also like superhero stuff where it’s important to understand the human form. So I guess it’s pretty similar.
PD: Did you practice especially for the marathon?
MU: I was already working on some stuff, but I wanted something to focus on specifically, and I’ve been practicing for this. It’s like a goal now because I’ve never had a deadline for anything.
PD: Are you nervous or excited for the event?
MU: I just like to go with the flow, not get nervous. I’ve never drawn in front of people so that’s going to be really different. It’s going to be cool — I’m excited. I heard an expression that means “don’t fight the current,” go with life and things will work out. Just trying to draw a good picture and not freak out.
PD: Is there anything else you want to gain?
MU: To be able to work faster and more confidently, especially around other people, and not be so shy. I like the social aspect and the time crunch, so this is actually a perfect challenge. I’m excited to see what I and other people can do, you’ll never know what you see. It’s a nice thing to add to my portfolio, a whole, hopefully complete drawing. My mom died recently, and she was an artist. She wanted me to do this and be good, so I’ll use it as my motivation.
Ken Weir, 66, of Endwell
Pipe Dream (PD): Are you familiar with the environment and work size of this project?
Ken Weir (KW): Sure, I’ve done a lot of portrait drawings and I often work large. My admission piece was a drawing of a figure and it’s life sized.
PD: Do you draw in any other style?
KW: I pretty much only draw realistically. Sometimes I draw patterns alongside figures. Originally my training is with realistic figure artists when I went to the New York Studio School [of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture] in Manhattan. We paint from the model for three hours every day.
PD: So what draws you to this kind of art?
KW: I can be called a humanistic painter, and sometimes I paint figures in dramatic situations. I’m specifically focused on portraying a human being’s figure sympathetically.
PD: Is drawing something you’ve always been doing?
KW: I didn’t draw until I took a class in my senior year in college. After that, I draw both as exercises and as an art form.
PD: Do you have any tactics for the marathon since it’s a big block of time?
KW: I’ll do what I normally start for figure drawings. Start with a small sketch to understand the relationship of structures and space, and to practice the shape. Then I’ll just draw the outline and do the shading.
PD: Do you have any personal goals going into this?
KW: Well, I have a show at Downtown Binghamton. If the drawing comes out good I’ll exhibit it with my other works, so that’s a personal goal.
The Drawing Marathon will take place from 10 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 28, to 10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 29, in the Binghamton University Art Museum. The event is free and open to the public. Attendees should be at least 18 years old.