I am a big believer in the notion that life drawing increases your skill in a more refined way and far quicker than any other form of artistic learning or practice. It's difficult, I find, to discern or conclude why this is so, though. I mean what's the difference between drawing a model in front of you as opposed to painting a landscape? Or a still life? Heck, something from your imagination!?
I think the answer lies in this: when you have a live model in front of you, there are many contributing factors you have to address to make a convincing picture, especially if you're a realistic representational life drawing practitioner like myself.
First and foremost is the form of the figure. The human body is endlessly fascinating to study and draw; the way the muscles move, stretch and bunch, how the skeleton contorts limbs, compacting parts and elongating others. An artist can spend a lifetime in the pursuit of anatomical knowledge. It never gets old!
On top of the form, you have many other elements that contribute to the whole. You have:
- lighting how light and shadows play on the form.
- atmosphere and other surrounding factors.
- style how developed you are with how you draw.
- perspective on the form is a difficult thing to master.
- foreshortening is perhaps even more so!
- media what you depict the figure with.
- technique similar to style, but less naturally achieved. It's more conscious too.
- time how long do you have to achieve your desired result.
If possible, I prefer to just dive into a single pose. Many artists need to do those quick one- and two-minute poses. I think they're a lot of fun, but I do okay without them. I'm a slow going sort of artist. I like to build up tone and layers over time, and in my own time.
But saying that, I do enjoy the variety of the classes I currently attend. I have my regular Wednesday evening class that usually involves a single long pose, examples of which are the first and last images in this very post. I also have the once-monthly (not nearly frequent enough, Scarlett!) Dr. Sketchy Burlesque/Life Drawing class that entails many different poses at a variety of lengths.
I've just had another one of these the Saturday just gone (the theme of which, almost custom-designed for me, was 'Magical Creatures'). Here's an example from that session-
So while I do love the Wednesday class and its sustained poses, the sheer fun and exhilaration of the Dr. Sketchy classes are also more than worth the entry fee.
I think that the way to artistically look at the two different events is to perceive them as just that: two different events. With the Wednesday class, I can feed the classical artist in me and really knuckle down to some realistic drawing and painting.
With Dr. Sketchy's, I am only just starting to get a grip of what I should be doing at it. Because of its set-up, the classical and 'realistic as possible' way isn't going to be very effective. There's just not enough time, I find, to do this justice in any of the poses.
So I tried, at the Mythical Creatures show, to try and be more stylistically inclined toward simple line, with less detail and rendering than I would normally do. I think the results worked, with the promise of further refinement and success in this method.
The system I am using for the long poses at the moment, and what I am quite enjoying too, is drawing onto a grey paper with a variety of graphite pencils (usually an HB to begin with, then moving up to a 2B and 6B) and a white pencil for highlighting. It's a low-tech system that can have great results and has been practiced for literally hundreds of years by artists. I do plan on changing it up in the future though.
One of the other Wednesday nighters, Kathy, broke out some watercolours the other night and the results were fantastic. I'd like to give that a go at some point too. Getting some clay going might be fun as well!
For far too many years, I fell out of attending life drawing classes. I really wish I hadn't done that. I honestly believe I would be a far better artists now if I had have regularly attended classes.
But I plan on making up for lost time.