Life Drawing, weeks 1 & 2
Although my preference is more for abstract art than figurative, I still think it’s useful to be able to draw properly. After quite some effort, I can usually essay a reasonable likeness of what is in front of me, but am pretty dire at the human figure. So, I signed up to a couple of five week Life Drawing classes at Embrace Arts, the arts centre of the University of Leicester. The one that I am on now is ‘Life drawing: catching vitality‘ with tutor Diane Hall.
I was somewhat nervous starting out. Mainly that my attempts would be ludicrous and everyone else would be producing much better work. I confided this in Diane beforehand and she reassured me that I was not the only beginner artist. I was still worried.
The class was a lot bigger than I thought it’d be – 16 of us, in all, plus one medical student doing an elective that involved attending the first few classes. The room was large enough to accommodate us all. 16 easels circling the centre where the model would pose.
We were asked to use charcoal for the first class. The model posed for half an hour as we tried to capture a likeness. I really floundered at this, trying over and over to get the proportions right. In the end, I had more erased than drawn. The model then took up the same pose after turning 90° to the left. I did better with this second pose although the upper body looks too narrow and the emphasis on the two legs is the wrong way around: at least this one looks like a human female!
After a break to give the model a rest (I don’t know how she does it), we started in on the third pose, again a quarter turn to the left. This one looks a little square and the lines are too same-ish. With the fourth drawing, I over compensated, I think, and made every line stand out. The proportions are better but the back leg doesn’t look as if it belongs to her. I gave up on trying to get the face right: I might have to resign myself to drawing people from the back! And with them wearing mittens and socks
I was quite pleased at the end of the evening. I had managed to produce some reasonable sketches in the time although I clearly had a long way to go. The worst part, though, was the screaming agony in my neck and shoulder. I’ve always had problems there and have learned to compensate by not holding my arm outstretched for too long. This does not work when you have a limited time to draw a pose. For the last drawing, I was holding and rubbing my right shoulder with my left hand while trying to draw and snatching my arm down every few seconds: the model must have thought me a real wuss.
We began this week with the model walking around, moving her arms, changing body posture. I wasn’t at all sure what we were meant to do. The guys either side of me managed to draw poses out of the movement but I couldn’t even see how to do this. So, all I did was try to capture a few lines. Not a success. I don’t even think I got enough to turn it into an abstract and there really is no sense of movement there. We were given bundles of charcoal to use in drawing – three or four sticks taped together. I enjoyed using this: it produced some nicely textured lines.
After this session, the model held a pose for a short while. I used the bundle of sticks again for this drawing and tried to get a sense of dynamism into the drawing. I’m not sure I succeeded at that. It does look more ‘alive’ than those of the previous week with a better use of shading, and the proportions are better but the arm shapes don’t work and the legs are wrongly emphasised. Diane suggested that I needed to get more of a mixture of light and shade into the lines and I tried to take that on board for the final pose.
The last pose was a long one. She held it for about ten minus before the break and then the whole time after the break so we had plenty of time to work on our drawings. I did manage to get more variation into the lines this time, trying to thin the lines out where they were lighted and darken them where they were in shadow. I also made more use of shading, rubbing texture into the drawing with my fingers.
I know the drawing looks ‘wrong’ but, at the time, I couldn’t see how to fix it. Her right arm was bent inwards and tucked into her body with her weight leaning back on it and I feel I got the lines in the right place but the drawing doesn’t suggest that at all. It looks as though that arm is bent outwards and drawn badly. I didn’t get time to ask Diane how it might be made to look right – one of the problems of being in such a large class.
My neck and shoulder were in agony again. I’m going to have to find some strengthening exercises, some avoidance techniques or get a jab of cortisone before every class! Still, I was happy with what I’d produced and am looking forward to next week.