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by Cailin Elliot

Above: Untitled

Mary Filer produced over 280 charcoal sketches between 1946 and 1967, most of which were rendered on large, textured paper measuring 36” by 24”. While some of her charcoal sketches were done in preparation for other projects, most of them were the result of Filer repeatedly practicing daily life drawing with timed, nude model sketches.

In 1947, Mary became an assistant instructor for the Art Association of Montreal’s school of Art and Design, working under the celebrated Canadian artist Arthur Lismer. Since life drawing sessions are a fundamental skill taught to aspiring artists, she likely produced many of her charcoal figure drawings while demonstrating the technique to her students. Often, she created multiple sketches per session (sometimes up to 10 drawings per day) sketching the same nude figure from different angles. Additionally, Mary often made note of the time limit she had for completing each sketch (such as “2 mins” or “5 mins”) in the margins.

Filer was also fond of rendering familiar subjects in the charcoal, often drawing individuals from her own life such as her nephew James. One of her most frequently rendered subjects in charcoal, however, was Tasha, her beloved poodle, and Cameo, a Siamese cat.