(Just quickly for anyone who doesn’t know, life drawing is observation and drawing of the human figure from a live model)
For the past 2 weeks I have been taking an ‘intensive’ life drawing course, which basically means that a 12 week course is condensed into 2 weeks, during which I attend class for 6 hours a day for 10 days. Every day we focused on new concepts and skills and I can definitely say I saw a massive improvement in my skills over the two weeks. I will also mention that these drawings were all A0 size, on either newsprint, litho, or craft paper, and I will write the materials used under each day.
I won’t go into a lot of detail about what we did individually each day since everything is basically self explanatory in the captions, but most days we would do quick warm ups at the start that consisted of 1-5 minute gesture or continuous line drawings to get us observing the movement, general shapes, or details in the figure, and not worrying about putting it all perfectly together yet. We would then go on to doing one or two main drawings that were to be toned or at least more polished than the warm-ups. I was required to submit my three best drawings at the end of week 1 for assessment, and my 7 best (new) drawings at the end of week 2. If you want to just see the drawings then just scroll down but first I want to ramble a little about how impactful this experience has been for me.
Now, I just want to say that I have always hated drawing people. Bodies, mostly, heads and faces I love, but I have always hated drawing bodies because I struggled with it and practicing scared me. So in a way taking life drawing as a subject was amazing for me because it forced me to practice something I’m uncomfortable with drawing. Especially because in this class I’m having to draw from life instead of photos which requires translating a 3D image into 2D space, and I’m also having to draw in amongst a group.. which means drawing in front of other people – something I’ve often struggled with. I think that over the two weeks I improved not so much in my ability to draw, but in my confidence with the subject, and my ability to see what is actually in front of me instead of what my brain wants me to see. It also, I think, changed my perspective on drawing.
I didn’t have to do this course as an intensive but I’m glad I did because I think the fact that I was drawing for pretty much 6 hours every day has been the main factor in my change of perspective I’m about to talk about. First of all, it demonstrated to me very visually and tangibly just how much more time I have than I think, and how much I can actually get done in two weeks. I accumulated quite a substantial pile of work in two works and I actually struggled to take it all home at the end.
The main thing that sparked something in my brain however, was my tutor saying that ‘drawing is not such a precious thing’. This was in reference to not worrying if what we create right away is perfect, we can do it again, we can refine and reconstruct for as long as we want until we’re happy with it. There is a lot more freedom in drawing that a lot of us don’t seem to realise because we treat it as something that is just so precious and needs to be perfect all the time. This just made me realise that I view it that way! That may just be partly because I’m a perfectionist and I want everything I make to be perfect, but also it’s because I view ‘drawing’ as ‘sitting down and creating a masterpiece’. I draw nowhere near as much as I should or could because a lot of days I’m simply not in the mood to sit down and work on a single drawing for up to 10 hours, and that was the only option I ever saw. I would always be skeptical of whether I would actually finish the drawing so I wouldn’t even start, but I’ve realised that finishing doesn’t matter as much as I think it does. The actual act of drawing is far more important than having everything I create be a polished piece of art. Almost none of the drawings I created were entirely finished and while I wouldn’t sell them, they are still valid as a drawing because in creating them I was exercising my skills and practicing!
I found that, while none of the super quick ‘warm up’ drawings I did during this course were masterpieces, they were actually the most beneficial for me, and what I saw most improvement in. It is easy for me to sit down (or stand by an easel in this case) and create a polished toned drawing, if I have the time to make it perfect, but creating a drawing in under 5 minutes that I’m happy with is honestly a foreign concept to me. It seemed impossible. But, learning gesture drawing taught me to enjoy the process of drawing and capturing the essence of something rather than labouring over a perfect depiction and composition. Also, it did exactly what it was setting out to do, warm me up! I even came to enjoy the look of these rough-around-the-edges drawings just as much than the more polished ones because they just communicate something more raw and expressive.
I believe that’s all I have to say, but basically.. while I’m very tired after all of it, it was definitely an impactful experience and I can definitely feel that I’ve improved because of it, and possibly most importantly, I feel inspired to draw more! I’m inspired to draw without an end product necessarily in mind. Just to draw for practice and to enjoy the process of drawing until I don’t want to anymore. But for now, without further ado, I present the majority of the life drawing I have done over the last couple of weeks!
Day 1: Observing the figure
Materials: willow charcoal
Day 2: Proportion and structure
Materials: willow charcoal
Skeleton (day 2 + 3)
Materials: permanent marker (for continuous line), willow charcoal, white conte, black conte, white acrylic paint
Day 3: Figure in motion + expressive ink work
Materials: willow charcoal, permanent marker, Winsor and Newton black drawing ink
Day 4: Tone
Materials: willow charcoal, mouldable putty eraser, compressed charcoal
Day 5: Hands, feet and head studies
Materials: willow charcoal, white conte, black conte
Day 6: Foreshortening
Materials: willow charcoal, white conte, brown conte
Day 7: Foreshortening + body contour
Materials: willow charcoal, 4B compressed charcoal
Day 8: Portraiture
Materials: willow charcoal, white conte, brown conte, black conte
This is definitely my favourite work from the two weeks! I love portraits!
Day 9: Experimental work
Materials: willow charcoal, compressed charcoal, watercolour paint, Winsor & Newton black drawing ink, black acrylic paint, white conte, newspaper, white acrylic paint