INDEPENDENCE — The sound of charcoal quickly moving on paper is barely audible over the soft music in Richard Bunse’s cozy studio at River Gallery. Eight artists sit in a circle, some with an easel, some with sketch pad in lap, absorbed in Hayley Hardwick’s form. Photo by Emily Mentzer Richard Bunse doesn’t seem to take his eyes off the model to see what he is drawing with charcoal on paper. “How long can you hold this?” Bunse asked. “As long as you want,” Hardwick replied. “It’s pretty comfy.” The next long pose she tries isn’t as comfortable as she thought it would be, and she has to switch positions. Hardwick laid on pillows and blankets, a nude model for the artists’ weekly gathering. “She changes as she settles into the pose,” Dale Bunse said, working with pencil. “Gravity takes over.” Hardwick decides her own poses, and takes a lot of inspiration from photography. “But a lot of the stuff I see isn’t realistic to hold for 10 minutes,” she said. “(Modeling) was easier than I thought, and harder than I’d dreamed of.” Holding the pose is harder than you think, Hardwick said. Photo by Emily Mentzer The art of life drawing Each artist, though working from the same model, has a completely different result. Some work with water color and ink, some with pencil, some with charcoal, and one with a Sharpee. “He’s the most brave one here,” Dale Bunse said of fellow artist Fred Maurice. “They keep me from making mistakes,” Maurice said of his permanent markers. “Or if I make them, I live with them. It’s flying without a net.” The talent in the room varies. It includes people like Maurice, who have distinguished teaching careers, as well as folks who didn’t discover their inner artist until after retirement, like Rollie Wisbrock. Wisbrock uses water color and ink, and paints human figures on the pages of a textbook, “Artificial Intelligence.” “I love imposing the human form on it,” Wisbrock said. He incorporates headlines and content into his art. Photo by Emily Mentzer Rollie Wisbrock studies model Hayley Hardwick during a figure, or life, drawing session at River Gallery in Independence the evening of Feb. 19. After retiring as chief of staff for the Oregon State Treasury, Wisbrock started painting with a professor at Western Oregon University. But the camaraderie found in the small group of life drawing artists who assemble each Wednesday evening at River Gallery was instrumental in his art development, he said. “They are encouraging, supportive,” he said. “This is important to us. People are generous with their time, and generous with their opinion.” That’s one thing Richard Bunse enjoys about the group, one he has organized for more than 16 years. “Artists tend to have feedback from the public,” Bunse said. But when artists gather, they give feedback on the process. Photo by Emily Mentzer Artists move around the room to find different angles of the model, who is situated in the center of the quaint studio. “The group is really nonjudgmental,” Bunse said. “It’s a group that likes to share the process and techniques and is willing to help each other out. It’s always kind of intimidating for someone who has little experience to sit down with a group like that, but there’s a warmth in our group that makes people comfortable.” Bunse said he never has to advertise for models, and doesn’t exclude male models, but he prefers some with experience in dance, art or drama. “They all bring something different to the table,” he said. Dancers are aware of their body movement; artists know what other artists are looking for; and those in drama are expressive and bold. Photo by Emily Mentzer Fred Maurice says he lives with any mistakes made with his permanent marker. “A lot of people have an idea that it’s just an object that we draw,” Bunse said. But there is a relationship between model and artist, and models express themselves in an artistic way, too. “When we get a good model, it’s Zen. Yoga of the mind: totally focused.” Learn More • Right now, Richard Bunse keeps a waiting list for people who want to join the group. He limits the group to 10 because his studio is small, and he doesn’t want everyone to feel crowded. He will allow an artist to sit in with the group for an evening for $10 to see how they like it. Regular members of the group pay by the month, which Bunse said makes people feel more obligated to come, even if they don’t feel like drawing. For more information and to view art by some of these artists, visit the River Gallery, 184 S. Main St., Independence, Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; call 503-838-6171; or go online to Rivergalleryart.com. If you want to give life drawing a try sooner than Wednesday, Western Oregon University’s art department will host an open life drawing session from 7 to 10 p.m. on Tuesday in Campbell Hall, room 111. The session is free for students, $5 for non-students; bring your own art supplies. For more information about this session, call 503-838-8000.