Posted by on Apr 27, 2024 in drawing, Figurative, Process, Sculpture

Life drawing is a difficult skill to learn. Many artists avoid it and when I was at college in the 90’s it was often considered by students as old fashioned and stuffy. Maybe it was because life drawing requires practice and can feel exposing. It takes years of practice to understand and find your own approach. I believe it’s fundamental to artistic practice no matter what your oeuvre.

One of my aims is to understand and draw the model from the inside out – that being to question what lies beneath the skin which cloaks bone, muscle, and tendon. All of this is evidenced on the outside of the body, and complicated by the pose. The skin covering of the body is textured and modelled not only by what lies beneath but also by the light and shade playing on its surface, which helps in the quest to find the volumes. Another key consideration is to determine in the pose where the main point/s are of the body’s weight.

This is just some of the technical stuff, difficult to achieve but helpful to carry in one’s head as hand and eye try to coordinate. I’m rusty again and picking up my skills after not having drawn from the model for about 4 years. I had found that after years of practice I was able to draw the figure with more ease and confidence. Although you learn while drawing the model never to assume that you know a curve or a volume and so to keep looking, when a model isn’t present you can rely somewhat on the knowledge and skills you’ve acquired, which I find informs the other areas of my practice.

In life drawing, another question for me is always: what is the ‘essence’ of the model under scrutiny? What does their body say to you of its history and the owner’s spirit? Is their general ‘essence’ one of containment or vigour for instance and, importantly, what mood are they in in that session. I can’t answer for other artists, but this is very influential in my approach to a drawing – it’s not just about capturing a likeness of the outside. I was once in a class where the young model stepped onto the modelling podium in a strop, plonked her coffee cup down at her feet, sighed gustily and assumed a pose oozing with fury and disdain. I was in turn both amused and irritated and consequently drew quickly. The result was one of my better drawings. It was a small turning point in my learning; as a Japanese kendo sensai once advised my son: ‘too many mind’ can be a hindrance.