“Coffee and sheer willpower.”
That’s how life-drawing art model Bethany Gordon, a senior majoring in graphic design, planned to stay awake during the second annual Drawing Marathon, sponsored by the Binghamton University Art Museum. The event took place in the museum itself and lasted from 10 a.m. on Friday to 10 a.m. on Saturday.
From a pool of applicants, 10 selected artists competed in the marathon, which offered both a jurors’ prize, decided by three appointed judges, and a people’s prize, decided by the qualitative nature of comments left in an open box. The artists drew a single figure drawing using charcoal on canvas for the duration of the event.
The three judges were Blazo Kovacevic, the innovator behind the drawing marathon, BU alumnus and assistant professor of art and design; Diane Butler, the director of the art museum; and Ann Welles, who runs Exhibit A, a gallery in Corning, New York.
“There’s no real structure to [the criteria for judging], we just are like, ‘Let’s see what’s best,’” Kovacevic said. “We want to have that moment of ‘oh.’ Something that will surprise us, something that’s different.”
Before coming to BU, Kovacevic did his undergraduate studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Montenegro. He said that his inspiration for a drawing marathon came from the eight-hour classes he took at the academy.
“I was always intrigued what would happen if we could get into some setup where we’d be drawing for more than a few hours,” Kovacevic said.
The marathon consisted of 15-minute breaks every hour, and half-hour breaks every four hours. The artists were provided with food, drinks and art supplies, but they were not allowed to leave the museum during the course of the competition.
The height and width of the provided canvases required that for the most part the artists had to stand to draw, increasing the physical toll of the task.
“My legs already hurt and we’re only 10 hours in,” said artist Madison O’Connor, a freshman double-majoring in art and psychology.
Among the participants, coffee was an energy-maintenance strategy.
“I plan on waiting until 11 p.m. to start drinking coffee and then just keep on drinking,” said Christina Rose, a senior majoring in art.
Others had less formal, but just as caffeinated plans.
“I haven’t really thought much of how I’m going to stay up yet, I guess I’ll probably just drink way too much caffeine,” said Max Samson, a sophomore double-majoring in graphic design and computer science.
Despite the physical strain, both Rose and Samson agreed that the mental aspect of committing to a drawing for 24 hours was even tougher.
“I decided I’m going to reward myself by drawing the face last,” Rose said. Rose does portrait drawings more frequently than full-figure drawings.
Rose’s spot in the museum room allowed her to see the face of the seated model, but not all the artists had the same view. The canvases were spread out in a circle around Gordon, causing each artist to draw from their own unique angle. In addition to the variety of angles in the drawings, artists had their own approach and strategy to their creative process.
“Some would say my approach is kind of formulaic, I try to break the figure down into weight and planes, kind of like the typical how-to-draw books with the circles and prisms, then you break it down into lines and then finally you add rendering,” Samson said.
On the other hand, O’Connor has a method that involves putting down a heavy layer of charcoal and then erasing from it to create details.
“My specialty is kind of like building and then subtracting from it,” O’Connor said.
Viewers at the event liked O’Connor’s work enough to crown her the winner of the $250 people’s prize.
The jurors’ prize, worth double the people’s prize at $500, went to Kelly Wu, a Johnson City High School senior.
All of the participating artists’ drawings will be on display at the art museum in room 213 of the Fine Arts Building until Wednesday.