I was half way through sixth form when I attended my first life drawing class. However it was whilst at Suffolk College and was studying art full time, that it really clicked what a valuable and enjoyable practice it was. I started going to evening classes and have tried to attend classes on and off ever since. I have now been running life drawing classes for about 3 years as well, there is always more to see and to learn.
For anyone who wishes to develop their painting and drawing skills I would strongly recommend the practice of regular life drawing.
These are three reasons that I think it is such a great practice:
Firstly – It teaches you to look
The main problem we encounter when developing our drawing is learning to look and draw what we see and not what we know. Our minds and visual perception play all sorts of tricks on us – we think we know what things look like, however life drawing will show very quickly when you aren’t looking.
We have ideas about what the body looks like, but when the figure is lying down or in an unusual pose – all of those ideas have to be forgotten. The only thing that works is to look carefully and see thing not in terms of legs, arms and ears but as simple shapes, proportions and relationships. This is the ‘secret’ to learning how to draw!
Secondly – It helps you see drawing more as a Journey than a Destination
Its very easy when you start drawing or painting to think in terms of a destination. There is a natural desire to want to get to a place where you can relax and the drawings and painting come out effortlessly. My experience is that it isn’t quite like that. Sometimes you have good days and sometimes you have bad days. Regular life drawings really helps you come to terms with this natural aspect of producing art. Self criticism is probably the biggest obstacle to work with as an artist especially if it makes you give up. The trick is to keep going, even when its difficult and not going very well. Regular life drawing makes you a bit more resilient and then every now and again you produce something that shows a bit of progress and it feels worth it!
Thirdly – It helps you uncover your own artistic voice
We all have our own unique handwriting and we all sign our names differently. In the same way we all respond to the model and draw differently. As individuals we can grown and develop our skills of observation, proportion and expression – however there will be a particular thread or style specific to us in everything we draw. Discovering and appreciating this uniqueness is another great lesson of life drawing. One of the things I hear so often in my classes is peoples fascination with the way that everyone’s pictures look so different!. Life drawing allows for experimentation and play, there is almost endless scope for investigation into ways of seeing and responding – drawing with long sticks, left handed, blind, quick marks, slow marks, drawing with the rubber. Each experience helps add to that unique style and voice. We can learn to drop the comparisons and celebrate the fact that we all have something individual and distinct about our way of seeing and drawing.
So that’s three reasons why I think Life drawing is a great practice whatever your goals are as an artist. Here is a link, if you are interested in coming to any of my classes, including Life Drawing in the next term!