Warm tones with pastel, female nude

Beautiful life drawing using warm pastel tones of woman lying down

This is an important question for prospective students and maybe even those that haven’t been motivated to go to class for a while. I thought about it and discussed it with other artists, and everything seemed to boil down to two main reasons.

Reason 1: because it makes you a better artist

The obvious reason to go to life drawing class is to improve your ability to draw people and to create beautiful pictures of human beings. You’ll certainly become better at drawing people, which is one of the images we as humans find most fascinating. The life drawings of the ‘old masters’ like Leonardo da Vinci have a timeless quality to them – they don’t look dated at all. While art goes through various trends,  drawings of the human form will probably always capture our imaginations. However, it’s not only for the ability to draw people that you should consider life drawing.

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    The big mistake that led to all my other mistakes

You’ll also improve your general drawing skills. Your cartoon drawings will get better, your drawings from imagination will get better, your drawing of ogres fighting evil elves armed with samurai swords will get better, your landscape paintings will improve. Why does life drawing help with all forms of art?

“If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a dodgeball.”

Wise words indeed. Have you seen that snooker players are moving into playing pool tournaments – the big pockets and small tables are easy for them after playing on difficult snooker tables their whole lives. Or how about darts players? They practice on special dartboards where the double and triple scores are smaller than competition boards. Practising the most difficult form of your art is a powerful way to make you better at your art. And drawing people is difficult.

You might think that because we’re so familiar with the shapes of the body and features of the human face, that they would be extra easy to draw. Ironically, they are the most difficult to draw precisely because we are so intimately familiar with them. If your lines are off just a little, the picture will look funny. You might get away with that drawing a tree, but not when drawing a human.

The other great challenge with life drawing is that drawing a person means more than getting the lines right – you need to make them look real and alive. A living thing has a certain organic energy that sets them apart from inanimate objects. Capturing the life in the model is a really difficult thing to do, and something I must admit I haven’t mastered at all. I get close when we do 2 minute sketches where I can’t be too careful or methodical, but lose it during a longer pose. Mayko, though, is able to do it every time, and all her pictures are full of life and energy as a result. The picture above is one  of my favourites of hers (see the gallery for more).

So, if you practise life drawing, you’ll be great at getting what you see onto the page, including the most difficult things to capture. If you’re interested in drawing or painting from your imagination, this is a fantastic skill to have. You’ll be able to accurately transfer what your mind conjured up onto paper and be able to show it to the world. Often, people will be creative and have wonderful imaginations, but not have the means to express that and turn it into something tangible. Life drawing gives you one means of doing that by teaching you to draw what you see.

Reason 2: because it so peaceful and relaxing

Life drawing class is quiet and tranquil. You are there for 2-3 hours with nothing to think about other than drawing what’s in front of you. This is a stress-free task that is easy to understand but hard to do. It requires focus, so you won’t be thinking about that annoying person at the office, the twelfth item on your to-do list or how to pay next month’s gas bill. It’s a different type of thought to those that bounce around our minds in modern life, and it feels very healthy to give your mind this break.

Edit: check out the comments below – Michael Shaughnessy points out some very compelling and more far reaching benefits to life drawing.

To build a solid foundation of life drawing skills, have a look at our online course for beginners taking you through a step by step guide to building up fundamental life drawing skills.

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  • Jorge Goytizolo March 16, 2016   Reply →


    My name is Jorge Goytizolo and I am creating a life drawing magazine. I was wondering if I could use this Article for my magazine with a link to your website. The magazine will be published online on the 31st of March and will be free to anyone. This is our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Drawing-Life-Magazine-1002608003109319/?fref=ts

    Many thanks


    • Kenzo March 16, 2016   Reply →

      Hey Jorge

      Thanks for your message. Great that you are creating a free magazine – the more life drawing resources out there, the better!

      If the magazine will be webpages on a site, then as I understand it, it’s not really good practice to have the same content in two places online (duplicate content), and it may even affect your search rankings.

      Anyway I will email you and see if there is some way we can help your magazine, perhaps writing fresh content or something.


  • Michael Shaughnessy November 22, 2017   Reply →

    I teach life drawing at the University of Southern Maine but am a sculptor by orientation. I would add a few things to this list. I have always felt that drawing from life is a skill that offers a profound and transferable abilities that are applicable far beyond simply drawing. It is a cognitive function but it also touches the soul.

    It is a form of connecting. Connection is at the root of knowing and Understanding. This drives empathy and eventually when done well it is a from of love.

    It allows us to understand the complexities of relationships. All of drawing from life is based on the synergy of one thing to another.

    It demands we move past preconceptions. It demands our giving ourselves over to the subject.

    It creates a powerful sense of hand eye coordination and response.

    It in fuses the act of intention with the intuitive and accidental. It demands that we instantly recognize potential and act upon it.

    It requires and develops a fusing of accuracy and aesthetics. It is a manifestation of caring.

    I often say drawing will make y9u a better writer, lawyer, nurse, poet, sculptor, musician, engineer, social worker, leader, teacher, and parent. to name a few. It takes a lot of work but it is so much more than catching an image.

    • Kenzo November 29, 2017   Reply →

      Hi Michael,

      thank you so much for this insightful and useful comment. It adds a lot to this article, so I added a little note to ask the reader to have a look at the comments section.


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