Gallery artists Susan Allen and Kerry Doyland offer their perspectives on Life Drawing, read on for tips and ideas on how to start drawing from the model.
Above; life drawing by Susan Allen.
Susan's Life Drawing tips for the Beginner.
The model is in front of you, you have 5 minutes to draw the figure. Where do you start? My advice is to start from the inside of the figure (skeleton) and work out (skin). The inside of the figure is the energy and action of the pose from which you can build the skeleton, muscles, skin and details on.
Look at the model, really look, then look again. What is the pose, look at the curve of the spine, tilt of the shoulders, angle of the hips, turn of the head.
Draw a Line of Action. This is one line from top to bottom which has one curve in it which expresses the action of the pose.
Draw the skeleton— a simplified stick figure drawn on top of the line of action
Add ovals, cylinders, rectangles etc to represent the muscles
Drop a vertical line from the head and note where the feet should be in relationship to this line. This is called the Line of Balance.
Now you can redraw the contour of the figure looking carefully at model. Block in some shading with the side of your charcoal. Then really look at the model again and redraw every line, improving the shape. Don't erase, keep all your lines and make the best line darker.
Every figure study I do starts with this process of looking and building the elements of the pose. In step 6, I draw lots and lots of searching lines and then select which line best describes the contour of the figure and make that line more prominent. Even longer poses have to start with the line of action. So in a half hour pose, the first 5 minutes will be devoted to getting the action of the pose, drawing quickly and not labouring on the outside edge. Inside to outside, draw quickly, draw lots of light lines , search, look and look again. Oh, and smile, relax and enjoy!
Pastel drawing by Kerry Doyland.
I didn’t start life drawing until my late thirties and so my approach to drawing the human form is quite different to Susan’s. We are both passionate about it, but as I didn’t have academic training in it, I remember very vividly the nerves I felt when I first rocked up to a life drawing session and had to ‘wing-it’.
I believe that we can all draw, yes ALL of us, and that the only thing that stops us is the fear that we won’t do it right or well. And so when I’m encouraging anyone in the process, the first thing I do is even the playing field.
I ask them to use their ‘wrong’ hand, and although the response is normally ‘ Eh? But if I can’t draw with my dominant hand, how the hell can I draw with the other one?” But that is where the magic happens. Once we gift ourselves the luxury of accepting that the drawing is allowed to be a disaaaaster, we relax, we switch from logical left brain to creative right brain and we get into that blissful state known as ‘Flow’.
After that its plain sailing, and the rest of the techniques I use just help to keep that flow going.
As the past Artist in Residence at Leigh Community Centre I started a Life Drawing Scholarship which was awarded to monthly applicants to encourage them to put a toe in the water, and as the current Artist in Residence, Susan is doing the same. Materials, some coaching, and access to a Friday night life drawing session are included. It’s a fabulous opportunity, so why don’t you apply?
Life Drawing at Leigh Community Centre: 25th June, 6th July, 30th July, 10th August and 27th August
Susan Allen Artist in Residence Activities:
On-location Watercolour (Leigh-on-Sea) 19th July and 16th August
Walk and Draw (Leigh-on-Sea) 6th July and 7th August
Developing Paintings (Leigh Community Centre) 29th July and 26th August
Art classes at Create98:
Prosecco and Paint 24th June and 25th August
Watercolour Monet's Garden 30th July
Portraits By French Masters 27th July
Watercolour Venice 20th August
Watercolour Seaside 24th August