The husband-and-wife instructors where I earned my fine arts diploma many years ago were classically trained, eastern European in origin, and felt strongly that drawing was a skill essential to working in the visual arts. Both were kind but strict, dedicated to excellence, and unfaltering in their devotion to art making and art instructing. As their student, I was fortunate to have the fundamentals of drawing drilled into me. We did all kinds of exercises, some of which made little sense at the time. For instance, I remember drawing the same brown paper bag a dozen times from the same angle, under the same lighting conditions, using the same drawing materials in the same amount of time. I now understand repetition is essential to training our brains and solidifying our motor skills, but at that time I was both bored and puzzled (bearing in mind I went straight into art school from high school). In addition to and in combination with these exercises, we spent a lot of time engaged in life drawing - hours and hours of it, in fact.
Life drawing, in the common studio context, consists of drawing a live, usually nude, most often female (in my experience), human model. The model strikes different poses for varying lengths of time, from quick, one-minute warm-ups through to longer poses that give more time to explore light, shadow and form. I view life drawing as great exercise for all artists, no matter where the focus of our interest lies. It's a way for us to stay sharp and train our hands and eyes in a way only working from life can offer. Drawing from a photo only gives us part of the information we need to create an image; drawing from life gives us the whole enchilada! It also poses different challenges, making us work hard, tuning our ability to "see" our subject and to better understand it, and teaching us to translate that knowledge from eye to brain to hand to paper. Sure we can draw the every day life around us, and many of us do, but I find life drawing studio sessions to be invaluable.
I belong to a life drawing group that meets once a month for three hours. We come together, and without many preliminaries we and our model for the evening get right down to it. We draw, and draw, and draw, and draw some more. We might glance at one another's efforts but we never compare or judge. We're each there for our own reasons but we share a common interest in our devotion to honing our drawing skills.
Here are just a few of the sketches I've made:
|1 minute warm-ups|
|Moving into longer poses|
|20 minutes or so|
So when I recently received a commission enquiry to draw some human figures I was intrigued. It's not that I never include human figures in my art work, but it doesn't happen all that often.
|My silk painting "Walking the Dog - April"|
|An illustration of mine for "Living Water" (a children's book)|
When I saw the subject for the commission, I immediately said "yes!" It was a lovely pose with eloquent body language and I felt immediately inspired. This was the result:
Both I and my client were very pleased with the outcome. It just goes to show that every so often it's good to step outside the box and do something different - and that goes not just for artists but for everyone! However, for artists it can offer a chance to explore the skills and knowledge we have accumulated while giving us a refreshing change of scene. It can be almost as good as a vacation!
Now... back to my regularly scheduled artwork.