What is life drawing
Life drawing has been with us for a very long time. Look at historic paintings or artworks and you will find many with nude drawings in them. Those are considered life drawings.
Life drawing, also sometimes known as figure drawing or gesture drawing, is the drawing of the human form in various poses and levels of detail. It can range from highly detailed and anatomically proportional drawings to loose and expressive sketches to gesture drawings which shows the simple form, action and pose in a short amount of time.
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What normally happens during a life drawing session
During a life drawing session, there will be a model, male or female, nude or clothed, surrounded by artists. The model will be posing for different durations. From shortest to longest. The poses can vary from 2 minutes to 10 minutes, then followed by a long pose of an hour or so normally. The exact time and number of poses can vary from session to session. The shorter poses are meant to loosen you up, make you more comfortable with your lines and warm up. During the short poses, we normally do gesture drawings. Gesture drawings are meant for more difficult poses that the model can not hold for a long period of time. Some popular mediums used during life drawings are charcoal, graphite. pen, ink and pastels. For the longer poses, some may use painting mediums like acrylics or oil.
There are also more creative life drawing classes where it’s more interactive, have more than 1 model or uses interesting props etc.
Benefits of life drawing
Better understanding of human anatomy
Being able to understand the human anatomy is going to help your life drawing skills tremendously. There are 2 main systems of the human body you’ll need to learn: the skeletal system and the muscular system. Learning the individual bones and muscles are important, but you may be unable to visualise how they look in various poses. During a life drawing session, as the model poses, you will be able to have a better understanding of how the muscles and bones interact with each other, how the muscles look when tensed or relaxed in different angles etc.
Looking is different from seeing. Looking at things is easy, but seeing is harder. We can easily look at a model and know that it’s a model. But seeing means understanding the model’s body, knowing where the muscles are, how the body is rotated, where the shadows and lights are, the proportions and relationships of parts of the body, the angle at which the head is tilted etc. By seeing, we can draw with more detail.
Learn how to simplify things
Getting straight to the details is going to make you lose sight of the bigger picture. This may be why your drawings always end up out of proportion. By being able to simplify complicated objects, you will be able to map out the rough overall shapes and proportions before you can start on the details with less worry.
Life drawing sessions contains many short poses of only a few minutes. Thus you won’t be able to draw in much detail, it forces you to see the body in simpler shapes. When you can simplify something as complicated as the human figure, you will be able to simplify other objects easily.
When you’re only given a few minutes to draw the human body, you need to think about the marks you make. How can I draw the pose with minimum strokes? You will learn how to simplify things, how to suggest the presence of a body part, how to pick and select only the interesting or important parts to focus on. During the short poses, it’s not just mindless quick drawings, you need to think very quickly, estimate proportions and angles, and not waste time on details.
The actual life drawing session doesn’t teach you about the muscles and bones one by one. You will have to learn them on your own. There are many websites, books and video tutorials out there that teach anatomy. Here are some of my suggestions:
This is a website with lots of anatomy lessons and portrait lessons. They have a wide selection of free anatomy content on YouTube for free and they also have more advanced paid courses. I mainly watch their YouTube videos. Their videos are very engaging, funny and informative at the same time. I’d recommend you have a look. They are free, so nothing to lose here.
Bridgeman’s Complete Guide to Drawing From Life
This book contains detailed explanations, analyses and illustrations of the human body. This book is for a more advanced artist who already has a basic understanding of the human body as there will be lots of technical words used in its explanations. This book also helps you see the human body in a different way. I use different resources for learning anatomy, and each of them teaches a slightly different way, some works for me better than others. In this book, the wedging concept has helped me understand how the body is connected better.
The Anatomy of Style
This is a book I’m planning on getting. This book is written by Patric J. Jones. He creates gorgeous figure drawings that are full of life and motion. I’ve only recently discovered this artist and I fell in love with his art style. According to the book description on Amazon, this book will not only teach anatomy but also gives us his own tips and techniques. He will show us his creative process and how to draw accurate figures with style. I hope by reading this book, I will be able to be influenced by his style and achieve my own style in figure drawing. I’ll write a book review on it once I’ve gone through it.
If you are an artist and are serious about trying to improve your art skills, life drawing is going to help out a lot. Try it out! Find a life drawing class near you or online and go for it! It’s going to be difficult at first, trying to draw the human figure. But as you learn more about the human anatomy, you will get better. I hope that you will find life drawing enjoyable and also improve your drawing skills.
Life drawing and anatomy studies can be done digitally too!
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Thank you for this beautiful article about life drawing. I knew about life drawing where models pose in nude or clothed but didn’t actually know detail about this. Thank you for explaining all the benefits of life drawings. These are really very important for an artist. Thank you for recommending these 2 books. I enjoyed reading your article. Keep up the good work.
Thankyou! I’m glad that you’ve learnt something new from my post.
The importance of studying the anatomy of the human body can take our drawings to a totally new level. I’m just starting but I really like to draw. And I would like to do it properly. So I greatly appreciate your recommendations. I’ll start with the Proko website and then move on to more advanced content. Thank you!
Thanks! The Proko website is great for beginners! There are tons of free videos for you to learn. I hope you find them useful.
Wow! Someone just encouraged me to try out Life drawing to help improve my art, and I decided to check it out.
Imagine my surprise seeing you recommend the same thing.
Now I know I am on the right part.
I do love the idea of vesting in the human pose, even though I feel it would be challenging, but at the same time, I believe it will help me master paying attention to details.
Will surely check out if there are any training classes around me.
Thanks for sharing this.
Thanks! Luckily for me, there a quite a few life drawing classes near where I live. I hope you’ll find some near you too!
You have a very interesting post. Thanks for it. I had no idea how to make an avad drawing as the subject of the man. It is important to know the human anatomy very well before you begin to draw. Your recommendations are very relevant (youtube, books) to document you seriously. I like painting but I do not have the culture to appreciate it to true value.
Thankyou! Glad you found the post interesting.
I love drawing from early childhood. After reading your article, I got enough idea about life drawing. Your discussions will work a lot in making a good drawing. Hopefully, to increase the efficiency of life drawing, following the Bridgeman book, my skills will increase. I’ll buy this book soon.
Thank you very much for informing about life drawing. 🙂
Thanks! The Bridgeman book goes into details like what’s the function of each muscle. It’s a good book to read once you have a good basic knowledge of human anatomy.
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