Student blog part 1

Figure drawing of woman lying  down foreshortened

We’re lucky to have Mayko and other experienced artists here to give us professional support and advice. Sometimes though students can also learn from someone that is going through the same learning process, so I’ll be writing articles on my experiences implementing life drawing advice. I’ve always loved drawing from my imagination but have little life drawing experience. So far I’ve been to around 20 life drawing classes.

Yesterday was my first life drawing class since starting this site. So I was able to try and implement some of the things I’ve learned while interviewing the artists and writing the articles. It was actually my first class for a while, and at first it was hard to get back into it. Fortunately, the teacher, Simon, provided excellent support, and coupled with some of the things I’ve been learning I wasn’t too unhappy with my final drawing.

This is the final drawing, which was during a 45 minute pose. I decided to go for a difficult and highly foreshortened angle to test some of the things in this article.

Here’s a rundown of my experiences and things I learned while trying to implement the various bits of advice I’d been given during the class:

Equipment selection: The first thing I did was carefully select my gear according to the tips in this article: a Caran Dache 2B pencil, a Windsor and Newton putty rubber and a Daler-Rowney A3 drawing pad. I also was given a set of Nitram ‘academie fusain’ charcoals. I’ve never used charcoal before, so was a little unsure with this, but I’m now really excited to try out charcoal and other materials more.

I often wish that I could bring my drawings to life in the way that some of my favourite artists do. I find that my lines become quite laboured and overworked. They don’t have the free flow of the lines like the pros. I found that using charcoal, which I’ve never used before, simply didn’t work with my normal style. You can see in this drawing that my lines are overdone, and I can get away with this a bit with pencil, but not with charcoal. So I’m hoping charcoal will help me learn to use smoother, flowing lines.

Trying out charcoal (figure drawing)
First attempt with charcoal – need to change my style

Keep practising, no matter what: The first picture was a 30 minute pose, which I found very difficult because it’s been so long since my last class. So that was the first lesson learned – keep coming to class no matter what. I certainly won’t be neglecting my life drawing practice in future.

Don’t try to implement all the advice at once: I tried to implement all the advice I had been given at once, which was overwhelming because my brain can barely handle one thing at a time, let alone 17 things, so I switched to focusing on one piece of advice at a time. During a class, you get 5-10 poses to practise with, so there’s plenty of time and opportunity to try different things out.

Pencil figure drawing of a woman lying down
Pencil drawing of a woman lying down

Improved use of the page: one of the most practical pieces of advice for me was to determine where the extreme points of the model were (top, bottom, left, right) and ensuring my composition positioned these within the page but at same time making good use of the available space. This has always been a problem for me and this tip was really helped. My figure often seems to end up in a little corner of the page.

It’s good to have a clear starting point: I decided to use the ‘start with the weight bearing part of the body advice my mum Mayko gave me. I first identified which limb or body part was bearing most of the model’s weight and started the drawing from there. This was an interesting idea because it made me think about what parts of the body were straining or tense and which weren’t and where gravity was acting strongly. Most usefully, though, it helped me stop faffing around trying to decide what to do first. I also

Overall, I loved the class and am very happy to be back in regular practice. I’m also really loving interviewing artists and researching techniques and finding new tips to add to this site. Life drawing is such a rewarding hobby, because you see real improvements even during a single class. It also feels very healthy, if only to give you a few hours of meditative activity.

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