Why Life Drawing Classes Are Worth Their Weight in Gold

If I was only allowed to make one art-related recommendation, it would be for everyone to attend at least one drawing session with a live model. I honestly believe that life drawing is the most efficient way to boost your skills, and it is incredibly fun as well.

I’ll be very sad once I graduate from university next semester because I’ll lose access to the convenient Wednesday night live model sessions that are open to all students. After some time reflecting on these classes, I’ve come up with several ways in which life drawing has made me a better artist.

IMG_1442

1) I got faster. I’m pretty “slow” when I’m making art. This normally isn’t a problem, but sometimes you just want to be able to fluidly put pencil down on paper and bust out a nice sketch in a few minutes, especially if you’re sketching out in a cafe or you have a few minutes free in the morning before work.

Life drawing, especially the quick one to five minute warm-up poses, train you to make your marks effectively and to be very choosy with your marks. The goal here is to get a nice gesture or contour without worrying too much about details, likeness, or proportions. Simply capture the essence of the form.

IMG_1454

2) I got more accurateIf I paint a landscape, nobody will notice that a tree doesn’t look the same in the painting as it does in real life. But a model will surely notice if a drawing looks like her or not. Life drawing can teach you to capture likeness in a way that drawing a still life can’t, and this is something I’ll definitely miss.

IMG_1452

3) I got more experimental. The ability to design my own poses has given me a sense of ownership that is difficult to replicate in other settings. The human body has such a unique shape and there are endless ways to pose the figure. This has really encouraged me to think outside the box and explore new materials, papers, and techniques that I wouldn’t have considered otherwise.

IMG_1462

4) I got tons of critiques. Being around a group of like-minded individuals means that I had access to lots of ideas! I was surrounded by a group of people that constantly inspired me and gave me helpful tips regarding composition and techniques. Arguably, this is the most valuable aspect of life drawing, as tapping into the knowledge of others lets you hone in on your mistakes and quickly correct them. I learn by seeing, and then by doing, so seeing the artwork of my peers and applying their techniques immediately afterwards can lead to a surprising amount of improvement in a relatively short time.

IMG_1463

5) I got more observant. When you spend a few hours a week doing nothing but looking at a stationary nude model, you start noticing subtle features that you didn’t pick up on before. A gentle curve, an interestingly-shaped mole, or even a slight shift in weight. Not only do these observations inform my drawings, but since I plan on entering a career where a big part of the job involves picking up subtle details about people, life drawing is good practice!

IMG_1478

Once I graduate, I know I’ll need to look for another life drawing group I can attend. Luckily, there are plenty of resources available to help find a session nearby.

  • This directory. It organizes figure drawing sessions available in the United States and Canada by state/province. Some other directories can be found on the internet using search engines.
  • Facebook groups. There are many Facebook groups that have formed with the purpose of organizing dates where they hire a model for a few hours and the group meets up to draw and paint. These can can be very informal gatherings with food and drink. If you have a group of friends interested, consider forming a Facebook group that includes them and start scouring the internet to look for a model available in your area. The more people you find, the cheaper hiring the model will be per person.
  • Local colleges. If you have a community college nearby, chances are that they’ll offer some fine arts classes. Check your community college’s website to see if they offer a life drawing class.

I strongly encourage everyone to try and attend at least one life drawing class, even if you have an aversion to the human form. At the very least, it will make you more aware of yet another way people choose to create art.

Until tomorrow,

-Daniel

Advertisements

12 comments

  1. You are so correct on all your points, there is nothing like figure drawing and having a live model. I got burned out going to my little rural figure drawing group, I keep thinking I want to go back but it eats up a good part of my Saturdays and I am spoiled right now having that free time. Maybe one of these days I will go back. 🙂 very good post and I am with you, at least go once to get the experience and understanding how important it is for an artist to attend a figure drawing class or group.

    Like

  2. Hey Daniel. This is great advice. The fastest way to get better at drawing figures is to draw from observation, and in a life drawing course, proportion and form become easier to learn. It is also a different experience than drawing from a picture on a phone or a paper photograph because drawings from observation tend to be more lifelike. It also encourages quicker drawing because the live model cannot sit still for twenty hours straight. I’ve been meaning to go to one of these drawing sessions. Thanks for the link to the directory. I didn’t know that existed until now, so I’ll see about attending one.

    Like

  3. Absolutely agree with all these points. I haven’t been to a life drawing class for many years, but it’s true- your skills improve rapidly with consistent attendance. I too am quite “slow”, so having to draw quite quickly was the most challenging aspect for me. As you say, it forces you to become aware of which lines and contours are most important to include so as to produce an effective likeness. I keep thinking I should find a local class to attend so as to brush up on my skills again.
    Excellent sketches, by the way. Loving the light.

    Like

  4. Your figures are really well done!

    I’m not much good at it, but an alternative to life drawing class is asking your friends or family to pose – its not quite life drawing, but a chance to draw people that you can observe longer and more closely than sketching people sitting in cafes or waiting for the bus.

    Like

  5. I agree! Figure drawing classes taught me how to draw well. Also, if you are not brave enough to attend a drawing session, use a book to practice from first. It is the same as learning to paint in your studio prior to plein air painting, but know that plein air painting is still going to throw you. Drawing from life is truely valuable.

    Like

  6. this is an excellent article about life drawing and I love how you posted your images to fit the points. Good works!!!

    Like

  7. It has been years since I last took a life drawing class, but I agree with you about their importance. I actually liken it to plein air painting. You have to capture the landscape quickly before it changes. The biggest thing I miss from my art classes is the group critique. I enjoyed discussing art with a group of likeminded people while learning to view my art critically. Aside from ability, I think it’s one of the most useful skills in art. I’ve nominated you for the Liebster Award. You can check out the details on my latest post https://burntumberarts.wordpress.com/2016/06/07/more-progress-the-liebster-award/

    Like

  8. Thanks for sharing contact links along with your appreciation for life drawing. We found our life drawing group and a plein air group at our community art center, and our local watercolor society has great activities too.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s