Capturing the human form can be daunting.

The model is on the stand, a pencil or brush is poised and the paper is prepared. But connecting what our eyes see with how our hands move is where many feel a bit lost, like starting a trip without a map.

Irrespective of professional or personal experience, “making art” requires being open. Open to learning, to trying to getting lost and finding ourselves again. Being open requires courage. Surrounding ourselves with other like-minded adventurers makes the journey less intimidating and exponentially more enjoyable.

The Art Academy of Cincinnati’s Open Studio “session” is an opportunity for the experienced (and less so) to try their hand at figure drawing. This long-standing Community Education offering, moderated by longtime and local artist Larry Griggs, creates a special kind of community where “Open” really means open. Though there is no official or formal instruction, learning abounds. Folks from different disciplines and various backgrounds gather to both focus in and branch out. There is no unsolicited critique or forced fellowship yet those who want input can get it. Various styles, different media, and divergent techniques offer opportunities to orient everyone toward their individual and collective destinations.

Griggs has participated with the Open Studio for twenty years and moderated for the last fifteen.

“If you sit at home and work on your own thing continually, you can just go down one road. You need to have some broader experience and exposure to what other people are doing to prod you and make you look at yourself in comparison,” Griggs offered. “For one thing you can do whatever you want. And we can also make mistakes and try new things because we’re all very forgiving.”

Fran Watson, another veteran of the art world – both in creating and critiquing – found herself drawn to the Open Studio again and again. As an abstract painter and insightful writer for over three decades, Watson contributed to The Art Academy News back in the 80’s. She also graced the pages of City Beat and AEQAI where art advisor and curator Dan Brown wrote a touching tribute. Not only was she a lifelong learner of art, Watson taught abstract art courses at The Barn, Woman’s Art Club Cultural Center,Mariemont, Ohio, and was an active member of the Cincinnati Book Arts Society.

The AAC’s Community Education Open Studio allowed Watson to stay connected to other artists in a very elemental way, as well as to that part of the soul that longs to continually learn and create. To find our own way forward while leaving breadcrumbs behind for others to follow. Watson’s idea to showcase some work from Open Studio developed during the summer of 2016 with the support of Grigg’s, the AAC, and the Woman’s Art Club, Watson began to put together the upcoming exhibit, “Figures” to be on display at The Barn, Mariemont. The show will display a sampling of works to highlight both the diversity and the process of figure drawing itself – including unfinished pieces. Inspired by her hope, fellow participants embraced her vision as their own, and carried the torch to see the exhibit come to fruition after Watson’s passing in October of 2016 at the age of 84.

Figures is a nod to how, like Watson, we are all a work in progress and how the process can be as fulfilling as the “finished” work. Watson embodied the spirit of the Open Studio till the end. Drawing and living require patience and perseverance, a willingness to keep showing up, keep the pencil moving. And always staying open to the next opportunity.

Figures at The Barn (


Where: The Barn, Woman’s Art Club Cultural Center, 6980 Cambridge Avenue Mariemont, OH 45227
What: Exhibition, “Figures”
Thursday, August 31, 6-9 p.m. – Opening Reception
Friday, September 1 from 10 a.m – 2 p.m.
Saturday, September 2 from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Sunday, September 3 from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.

Continue your own journey with classes at AAC Community Education.