Student blog 5: different strokes

Trying to use smoother lines
Trying to use smoother lines

There’s a ton of life drawing advice out there (much of it is on this site!). However, different things work for different people, and there’s no ‘correct’ way to approach life drawing. I started to understand this better than ever during the last two life drawing sessions – we’ve each got to try out the various techniques and tutorials, and see what works for us.

I have been implementing the measurement advice that I have been given – to use the head as a measurement unit and figure out the full length and breadth of the pose and the relative positions of limbs with it. However, Simon (teacher at ULU) advised that it can work better to get a draft down first, and measure when it’s needed – i.e. when something appears to need correction on the page because it doesn’t look right. I think this tactic actually works better for me.

student-charcoal-lying-woma

You don’t necessarily need to use a measuring unit like the length of the head – if you are concerned about one particular body part, you can simply compare its length to another one that you are more confident about. So, as with anatomy, you can use measurement as the basis of your whole drawing, or use it a little bit to help improve some parts of it. Different artists will use measurement in different ways.

Another thing is putty rubbers aren’t superior to standard rubbers in every way, they are just different. Sometimes they don’t give you as a clean a rubbing out as a normal rubber can give, and when the soft ones get warm they can actually ruin the drawing surface of the paper by covering it in a thin layer of putty. Simon gave me an excellent tip – if you like to be highly accurate when rubbing out, you can cut a standard rubber to give you a sharp edge that can be used for accuracy.

I will have to edit the  ‘materials and equipment’ and ‘measurement’ pages with this new information.

I really made an effort to clean up my drawings this week. This isn’t because there’s anything wrong with a messy style, but my style is quite lazy and I don’t like it when compared to other great artists (see some great drawings for my fellow life drawings here which show how nice a drawing can be with clean lines). So tried to emulate some of their smoother lines, and I liked it and will keep going with it.

(Those aren't tan lines - that's where the shadows were falling)
(Those aren’t tan lines – that’s where the shadows were falling)

I’ve been finding that I’m less satisfied with my drawing for the long pose than for the shorter ones. I wondered if it was because I had more time to screw things up! I also thought it might relate to the fact that the long pose is usually lying down and there’s not much life in it. But it’s obviously ridiculous to blame the pose in that way, since the other artists in the class are able to produce beautiful drawings during the long pose, but somehow it’s not been working well for me. So I’ve been trying to spice things up by drawing at a foreshortened angle, and I think it gives the drawing a bit of an edge that a side-on view of someone lying down wouldn’t have.

Man lying down - tried to get an interesting angle
Man lying down – tried to get an interesting angle

So the lesson learned continues to be that different things will work for each of us and one of the best ways to make progress is trial and error. There are so many tips and tricks out there, and you can try them all on for size – only some of them will fit.

To build a solid foundation of life drawing skills, have a look at our new online course Draw Life Beautifully: The Fundamentals of Life Drawing Every Student Should Know

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