I went to life drawing for the first time in ages. It’s a fairly new group with lots of new life drawers and even the models are new. All this freshness brought me to thinking about what life drawing really is – and what it isn’t.
My first life drawing experience was over 20 years ago and I still don’t know if I ever would have tried it if the teacher hadn’t tricked me into thinking it was on a different day. I found the idea of drawing the naked human body quite confronting. I’d been brought up in a highly modest family and hadn’t seen many nude bodies. I thought there was no way you could sit there and stare at a naked body – all of it – without, well, letting your mind wander. But I learned very quickly I was wrong.
Life drawing is for artists as jogging is for athletes – essential practice. It trains your ‘eye’ and your hand. What happens when you are sitting there staring at that naked body is that it becomes a challenge of shape and tone. The poses the model does are timed. The first half dozen or so are very fast so you have to draw quickly. This is called loosening up, but what is really happening is that your analytical brains hold over you is loosened. Your creative brain and the part that truly sees are set free from their restrictions.
But if you are now really seeing, well, um, isn’t that even a bit more embarrassing? Surprisingly no. What you are really seeing now is the form, the shapes, the shadows, midtones (and there are many!) and the highlights. You have shifted into your artist brain and it is not interested in nudity!
Many times while drawing from life, for some reason especially when its a longer pose, I ‘come to’ at the end to find my gorgeous drawing is missing an entire limb! I get so engrossed in the shapes, how they relate to each other, how the tones juxtapose and how it relates to the background that I can overlook the obvious. If I can forget an entire arm believe me I haven’t taken any notice of the naughty bits. Not that I don’t draw the naughty bits, its just that they are simply more shape/tone/line challenges.
If you are thinking of taking the plunge and signing up for a life drawing class, go ahead. Will you be any good at it? I’m sure you will be just as good as we all were in our first one! It takes time to train to be an good athlete, and even longer to become an elite one. The same goes for drawing so be kind to yourself when you start out. It might sound like a long road to success but it will be paved with many small successes and triumphs that you will revel in. Go on, try it!
P.S. If you are in the Coffs area try the life drawing group at Cr8Studios.
These drawings were done in my self-made journal. It has lots of different types of paper and page sizes in it. I used a 2B pencil, grey brush pen and artline. I’m a bit rusty!!!