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Everything You Need To Know About Life Drawing

By Remi, published on 18/07/2018 Blog > Arts and Hobbies > Drawing > A Guide To Life Drawing

What is Life Drawing you may ask.

To put it simply it is an art also know as “figure drawing” and is the art form that represents the human shape in all its postures, using any drawing media possible, from canvass to woodblock.

Portraits, illustrations, medical sketches all fall under the umbrella of life drawing and even sculpture is sometimes included in this category.

This art form is often opposed to Still Life Drawing that uses landscapes, animals or objects as a subject.

However, both styles have been around since the prehistoric times as the famous Lascaux cave walls can testify. Mankind has been trying to represent itself in two dimensions for thousands of years.

Egyptian paintings, though lacking the expression and details of more modern artists, are probably the more abundant source of life drawing from the Antiquity.

Yet this style of painting is considered much harder and intricate that still-life drawing and if you are new in the world of the arts you might want to try yourself at Still-Life drawing first.

Life drawing has also been described as a great way to increase numerous useful life skills.

  • Observation skills: in our modern and busy lifestyle we often look at things without really seeing them. Life drawing forces you to analyse every single detail of the model’s body you got in front of you in order to depict it the best you can on paper. With the force of habit, this skill will translate into your everyday life and will most likely help you read the people around better.
  • Relax: Because most life drawing classes and workshops last for 2 to 3 hours, sometimes more, and because they are very quiet classes, with only the teacher going around and helping each student, the only thing you have to focus on is your model. Figure sketching is a nice way to escape our crazy and noisy lives and because it is a hard exercise it requires all your focus, all your thoughts. In a way, it is a form of meditation. It let’s go of all the little worries you may have to focus on one single task.
  • It makes you a better artistlife drawing is considered by some to be the foundation of any fine art education and training. As the human shape is thought to be the most complex and difficult to represent, it is seen as one of the most difficult challenges an artist can face. Putting in the work to progress in this discipline is a lifelong effort that will make you a better drawer but also a better painter, sculptor or engineer.

Superprof will give you all the tips and secrets on how to master Life Drawing.

Self-portrait by Vincent Van Gogh. Van Gogh only achieved fame after his death. Today his paintings sell for tens of millions of pounds. Here is his Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat from 1887.

Life Drawing Tips To Perfect Your Art

Mastering the art of life drawing might take you years but everyone needs to start somewhere.

Remembering a few tips and applying them everytime you draw will make your efforts pay in the long run:

Get the proportions right

One easy way to do this is to start with a rectangle in which your whole model fits. Such a rectangle can be divided into smaller squares for each part of the body.

Draw and measure, not the other way around

The grid that you may have drawn just before should not limit your artist’s instinct.  You may have been taught that measurement must be placed on the drawing first but that may limit your natural flow.

If you draw first and measure next, you might not have to measure as much.

Use your arm, not your hand:

Life drawing is all about capturing the figure of your model, sometimes even showing the way he or she moves, how the muscles stretch and relax. To be able to capture this amount of details in a natural way, it is impossible to do so just by using your hand and wrist. use your whole arm.

Everything from your shoulder to the tip of your fingers should be drawing. This will require you to sit quite a way back from your canvass or drawing support.

Do not erase, keep drawing:

This tip is important because erased parts of your drawing will just draw attention and the viewers will probably focus more on the parts you erased than on the rest of the drawing or painting.

Look at the whole figure:

Taking two or three seconds to analyse the whole figure can have a big impact on the final drawing. Most artists mentally draw 3 lines, one from shoulder to shoulder, one from knee to knee and one from hips to hips.

This way you should be able to see how the figure support its weight if it is taller or wider. Drawing a quick outline of the figure this way and then drawing the rest over it should make your life easier and you should become better at it over time.

So get to your pencil, charcoal or pen and ink and start drawing!

Drawing with pencils. Pencils are the most common drawing tool you will use, they come in all shape and size, each having a different use. Line, shades or shapes, choose carefully.

A Guide To Becoming A Life Drawing Model

Being a life drawing model is not reserved for those with an exhibitionist kink but it will definitely require a certain dose of self-confidence.

To strip in front of an entire art class will be extremely awkward and stressful if you’re not at ease with your own body.

As Anne Noble-Partridge says to her models, her students are here to represent the model’s image, not judge on his masculinity or her feminity. Being super fit is not the point here as artists are looking to be drawing the human figure, rendering all its shapes and forms, naked or clothed.

That means that anyone, of any age (though models are usually over 18 for legal and etic reasons) and in any fitness condition can actually become a Life Drawing Model.

Noble-Partridge is the founder of London Drawing, a collaboration between professional artists, tutors and performers, offering Life drawing and painting classes including bespoke classes and corporate workshops in life drawing, creative drawing and creative problem solving

In art classes, male and female models seem to be equally popular.  But anyone wanting to be a life model will have to be ready to pose still for extended periods of time (even though models usually get regular breaks). You might also be asked to take intimate poses living you quite exposed. That comes with the job.

A lot of actors and models actually prefer this kind of job to wait tables or working in retail.

How Important is Physique? What Does It take to be an Artist’s Model? and Where To Look For Life Modeling Jobs?

So many questions that we will answer the best we can.

Patroclus painting by David. David, a famous French artist of the 18th century, produced many nude and semi nude portraits and paintings. Here is his Patroclus. (by ErgSap)

Famous Life Drawing And Artists

Many artists, including painters, drawers, sculptors or all the above have been using life drawing in their work.

One of the most famous of them is probably Leonardo Da Vinci.

The famous Italian polymath, mastered many crafts, from painting to engineering, as well as anatomy, botany, geology and cartography.

During his long and prolific career in Milan, Venice or France, Leonardo used both still life and life drawing techniques. Mona Lisa and The Last Supper are only two of the most famous paintings by the artist.

Many other artists can be named for mastering life drawing, some even disciples of Leonardo Da Vinci, like Rembrandt, had a very successful career in their lifetime. Today paintings of Rembrandt are amongst the most expensive in the world. The Pendant portraits of Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit, a couple of wedding portraits painted by the artist in 1634, sold for 180 million pounds in 2015.

Edgar Degas and Vincent Van Gogh are two more examples of life drawing masters. But more recent names include Andy Warhol, Georges Condo or Maria Lassnig.

Each of these has a unique way to represent the human body on paper or on canvass, and each of them influenced their own artistic sphere, having a long-lasting impact on the life drawing community.

Where To Find Life Drawing Classes

If you are looking at starting life drawing, there are better ways to start building your skills or improve than just be looking at Youtube videos.

Nothing beats a life drawing class to hone your skills. However, it might be tricky to find one near you. So where to look and what to look for?

Your local art centre, local university or local studio will be our best to start with.

Look on the ad boards surrounding those places is a good start but contacting them by phone or emails will probably increase your chances to find a class that you will like.

There are also a few websites that can help you such as lovelifedrawing.com which allows you to search figure drawing classes near your city or in your county.

Artmodeltips is also great if you’re looking for life drawing classes and lessons outside London as it lists many university or studio per county or major city, making it easier for you to find the nearest on to you. Each listing offers a different kind of workshop but all will give you a chance to start or improve on your drawing skills.

The National Gallery in London. The National Gallery in London contains thousands of portraits and life drawing artwork. (by Miradortigre)

Find Life Drawing Lessons In London

Because London is the cultural capital of the United Kingdom, it should be easier to find a life drawing class.

That is of course if you know where to look.

The Royal Academy not only offers live streamed figure drawing classes but also gives normal class where full nudity is often the norm.

But the RA is not the only place you will be able to fulfil your creative cravings. The website Hotcourses has more than 150 different classes listed just in London. Most of the time though, these classes will not be free and range from £30 for a single session to £400 for a 12 weeks life drawing learning program.

These courses obviously include a life model and are directed by professional art teachers who specialized in drawing and painting.

If you are already somewhat experienced and would like to take your skills to the next level, the Drawing Theatre might just be what you need.

The Drawing Theatre is an incredible mix of theatre and drawing, usually set in a unique and creative workshop to stimulate the inspiration of the artists attending. The sessions combine a theatrical performance, with plays on movement, gesture, light and sound, giving a chance to the drawers to explore all the aspects of the human figure and shape.

The other great thing about the Drawing Theatre is that they run (almost) daily workshop, across all London. Each of these open studio session only costs £10 and no need to book, just show up. You can find all the details of the upcoming classes on their website.

Life portraits focus on the human form Painting is also used when in figure drawing, especially for portraits.

How To Start Life Drawing Online

If you live in the countryside or somewhere far from a major city, or if you simply can not commute but want to start figure drawing, there are options for you out there.

The Royal Academy might be one of them. The 250 years old institution that has championed art and artists and has extensive galleries through London where you will be able to admire the best life drawing pieces. They also boast one of the best art school in the country and their website also offers #LifeDrawingLive.

This new way of studying and practising life drawing will make it easier for everyone living far away from any studios or art schools. All you need is the Internet and a computer. You could start a portrait or a sketch of an (almost) nude model who’s posing hundreds of kilometres from you.

The 90 minutes long sessions can be joined at any point, for all or parts of it. The sessions are guided by an instructor and it usually starts with some quick poses before trying some longer poses to perfect your drawings,

Note that because these sessions are held on social media, they will not include fully nude models. So for any NSFP content, you will have to find a regular class.

Lovelifedrawing that we mentioned before also offer online resources. One of their only classes is even specifically aimed at beginner and those who are not yet sure if life drawing is for them.

The mini-course they offer has three modules involving a lot of guided practice designed to help even complete beginners who never sat in front of an easel. One of the main plus for this course is that it’s free and you can start straight away!

So it is perfect if you are looking to learn how to draw online.

By the end of their free mini-course, you will have started to draw figures more accurately and more importantly, you will have gained the confidence to be more expressive and to let your artistic self out. This course will also give you the tools to get on the right path for the next steps of your figure drawing hobby or career.

So get to your drawing board and let your creativity flow!

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