Recommended Drawing Exercises
WHAT IS IT?
Life Drawing is the act of drawing a male or female model, usually nude, while they’re physically posing in front of you, so not from a photo or memory.
WHY DO IT?
Practically, Life Drawing will massively improve your drawing and seeing skills, but this exercise has the added gift of introducing you to other Artists, making for a totally unique social experience. Life Drawing will, over time, improve your ability to see and draw proportions, light, shadow and foreshortening, much more effective than drawing from photographs will.
It’s the best way to study the human form, having a nude model posing in front of you, I just cannot express how valuable this is. Most Life Drawing classes will start with quick poses, before moving onto a long pose. These quick poses are the perfect opportunity to put into practice all the skills you’ve learnt from your hours of Gesture Drawing :)
Unlike Sketching People in Public, you’re not going to get any evil looks if the ‘model’ notices you drawing them either :) So you’ll be practising various drawing skills in a totally safe environment, surrounded by supportive Artists. Most other drawing exercises are done in private, with multiple hours spent with no one but yourself for company, in fact, the majority of art is carried out this way, making Life Drawing one of the most unique drawing exercises you can do.
The images below some of my sketches and drawings from Life Drawing Class. You can find more in My Sketchbook section
HOW TO DO IT?
You will need to locate a Life Drawing Class near you. This is easier said than done sometimes, however, if you have the desire, you will find one. If you can’t find any online, I recommend going to your local Art shop to see if they have any adverts in the window, or know of any classes near by. Along with art shops, your local Art college is also a good place to start your search for a Life Drawing class.
With a class located, let the fun begin :) I was scared at first, but there is nothing to be afraid of, only tons of things to be excited for. You may be interested in a blog post I wrote, where I answered the question, Isn’t it uncomfortable drawing a nude model?
Tables and Easels are normally provided, all you need to bring along is your paper and drawing / painting equipment. The tables are usually set out in a C shape, with the model in the centre. Sessions can be with our without a tutor. The Art Club I’m a member of for instance, will sometimes have Ian Barlow tutor us, I personally love these sessions, but both have their benefits.
That’s it really, you just draw what you see while the model poses for you. We usually get ten minutes at the end to view each others work, which is one of my favourite parts of class. It’s fascinating seeing how everyone captures the model so differently.
IS IT FUN?
So much! What makes this drawing exercise totally unique from all my other Recommended Drawing Exercises, is that this one is done at an art class, with other artists. This makes for a highly fun, inspiring and rewarding experience. Being lucky enough to have a model pose for you is one thing, the act of getting lost in the drawing another, but being surrounded by other artists, all wanting to help each other grow. Beautiful!
If I hadn’t started life drawing, I would never have got the opportunity to enter my art into various exhibitions, join the Plymouth Hoe Art Fair or join a Gallery. Life Drawing has changed my life. It isn’t just about drawing, it’s about being around other artists and all growing together :)
“I always find it worthwhile to study the model for the first minute or so, before placing any lines. I normally look for the area, shape or line I find most interesting, and than start my sketch from there.“
– Sophie’s Top Tip
Below is an older post I did about Life Drawing before this one :)
I’m currently working on a new realistic drawing, but I can’t share any WIP images at the moment for various reasons, I expect it to be finished around mid March, but something that I’ve been really enjoying lately is Life Drawing. The second term of my Art Club started up 6 weeks ago and I thought it might be nice to share what it’s like to draw models from life, as it’s so much different to drawing from photos.
The club I go to offers both clothed and nude models, but we sometimes do other things like still life and Mixed-media Collage, these odd sessions are a nice fun way to just let your hair down (hard for me as I haven’t got much, unless I’m wearing a wig lol) and have fun. I’m going to concentrate on what it’s like to draw live models, we usually have a fully clothed model for Portraits and a nude model for full figure drawings. Portraits are usually one single pose over the 2 hours, with figure drawing normally starting with a few 2-5 minute poses before moving onto a long 1 hour pose.
My biggest problem since the very first session, has been trying to finish a drawing. The quick sketches I’m better with as these are more like gesture drawings, which I do a lot at home, but the longer poses I find it really hard to not get obsessed over doing all the details. I’m getting better, when I first started I think I only managed to render an arm, whereas now I can get about 60% of the drawing finished. While I know it isn’t a race, I really would like to leave with a fully finished drawing from one of these sessions at least once, if nothing else, forcing yourself to speed up is useful to help loosen you up.
The group is pretty packed each week, we always have about 10-20 people turn up, we’ll all position ourselves around the room, some at tables, some standing at Easels. I would say most people there stick to their favourite medium, there are oil painters, watercolourists, pencils, charcoal and then there is Phil…who uses Pastels most of the time, he is incredible! I hope to get a photo of some of his artwork when we are at the exhibition next week, his work is so beautiful. As for me, I’ll use graphite pencils 90% of the time, sometimes I’ll use charcoal for the quick 2-5 minute sketches, but I prefer to use pencils when doing the longer poses as I feel I have more control.
There isn’t normally any tutoring, the host will position the model at the start and than we just draw :) We’ll draw for an hour and then have a 15 minute break where we can get a drink and walk around looking at everyone’s work. Then we’ll continue drawing for another 45 minutes until the session ends, at which point we’ll get another chance to view everyone’s finished work. This is the best bit, because it’s fun to not only see how everyone’s work has progressed, but also how everyone captures the same model in such a different way, it’s kind of amazing really.
We do have the odd tutored session, like next week we have a David Norman Masterclass Workshop where he’ll be teaching us watercolour, we can either watch him or follow along and paint with him. I’ve found every one there to be so nice, we are all just there to draw and there is a very nice peaceful vibe.
Something I’ve wanted to do for a while now was attend a life drawing class with live models. I remember searching around online for one in my area earlier this year but never found any, instead I found my original Art Class, and after signing up for that, I stopped looking for a life drawing class. Then in July, when I started learning from my Figure Drawing book, I had this burning urge to look again and I was not only successful in finding one, but it was just up the road from me :) The class was full, there must have been over 20 of us all ready to start drawing and painting the model, it already felt amazing to be part of this group! Everyone was so nice and friendly, and you could feel the vibe that we all just wanted to draw, I instantly felt like I had found a place I could fit in.
Unfortunately, that first weeks drawing didn’t turn out too good. In fact, I think it may be one of the worst drawings I’ve ever drawn! I didn’t really care though, I was just happy to finally be there. I had decided beforehand that I was going to use charcoal as I thought it would give me more chance of finishing the portrait within the 2 hours. This was my main error, while I do mess about with charcoal from time to time at home, I honestly don’t really know what I’m doing with it yet lol so I pretty soon realised I should have used my pencils for this first drawing instead.
It was also down as a portrait week, but afterwards I realised I could have actually drawn a full figure pose. Doh! I would have preferred that as I’m really trying to concentrate on figure drawing at the moment, but least I know for next time! I tried my best so I was still happy despite the quality of my drawing, the only thing that was a bit annoying was that the model was so nice and she had this crazy hair that was flowing over her face in such a nice way with the lighting at a perfect angle, there was potential for such a nice drawing! Hopefully she and her hair come back for a future session.
This past weeks session was slightly different. It was a different model, and she was in a full laying down pose. She was called Sarah and I was a bit happier with my drawing as I used my pencils this time, and wasn’t so focused on trying to create a finished drawing.
As you can see from the photo, I didn’t even get half of this A4 drawing finished lol The time just flew by and I had so much fun, the other artists there are not only all so nice and friendly, but also so good! It’s really nice walking around seeing everyone’s artwork, all so different, all picking out different things to emphasize in their artwork, I find it fascinating. Next weeks class is still life, so that should be fun, we all have to take something to add to the still life, so I’m taking my little wooden cat ornament that sits next to my sofa :) My advice, get your bum down to a life drawing class if you’ve never been, it’s amazing, even if your drawings turn out like poop lol
“The wisest mind has something yet to learn.”