Life drawing is drawing (or sometimes painting) of the human figure from a live model. Sometimes the model is clothed or semi-clothed but the idea is that you can observe the human form in its ‘life’ or natural form.
Drawing clothed models is very useful of course because you can get to observe the folds and creases of the clothing. Life drawing has the advantage of seeing the anatomy as it is and sometimes to understand how clothing behaves in the way it falls and creases we have to understand what is underneath, the anatomy.
Feeling Comfortable with Life Drawing
Many of my beginner learners feel quite inhibited about going to a life drawing class, worrying that it will be full of experienced artists and too ‘arty’. In my experience they are not, they are often mixed ability learners but those who attend are usually interested in observing and capturing the human form.
The other reason many of my learners feel uncomfortable with life drawing is the idea of staring at a naked human being. They often think, will this be embarrassing. The reality is that life drawing doesn’t feel uncomfortable for most people. Drawing the figure is really just another challenge with shape and tone and you will be staring at the figure as an ‘artist’ and any thoughts of embarrassment are quickly gone in this setting.
Why Should I Go?
If you are interested in the figure than you can’t beat life drawing classes for developing your skills in drawing the figure. Learning in a group setting is always best because you get to see how others have tackled the subject and learn from them.
The shorter life drawing studies are great for loosening up your drawing style. There simply isn’t time for perfection, which is something important I had to learn at art college. Life drawing is a great place to try out things too in terms of media and style. I found that it was the one time when I would bring whatever art materials I had, conte crayons, oil pastels and try out the lot. It was also what finally made me draw larger and in a looser, less controlled way.
What Can I Expect?
I think the best way to treat life drawing is as a chance to try things out and have a go. I remember starting out and getting so frustrated because I couldn’t get the proportions right and there wasn’t enough time. The first term I had several unfinished drawings! Life drawing has never been easy for me as I prefer drawing things slowly and carefully and prefer drawing plants and flowers. However I did learn to draw a bit faster and be less worried about what was on the page.
Life drawing also taught me how to map out a drawing and understand the joints and proportions of the body. The figure is excellent for teaching us shapes and how they relate to one another. If one part is wrong the rest doesn’t look right so drawing the figure forces you to look at the whole picture. I used to draw in piecemeal parts not considering how shapes related to one another until many years of life drawing.
Will I Be Good Enough?
Some of my learners ask me this. I think you have to go not worrying about this aspect. Life drawing is challenging and progress can be slow but if you keep going you will see improvement. Life drawing is a great way to learn to draw, from real life and you will learn much more than trying to capture the figure from photographs.
My advice would be to take the plunge, what is the worse that can happen?