I get asked this pretty often:
Question: Do you need a life drawing practice to be able to draw people from life?
(and this one I don’t get asked)
Question: But does it help?
Answer: A big YES!
A huge part of the challenge when drawing people is capturing subtle motion and shift in weight. Without these subtleties people look wooden. Life drawing helps me see more easily why my people sketches might look wooden. These two studies were both done during a 15 minute pose. The one on the left was my first attempt. It took a second attempt and keener observation to get to the more dynamic balance of the second sketch.
Life drawing gives me a chance to examine everyday stances. To see how the body moves. To give a gesture a second shot when it doesn’t work out the first time. To problem solve and understand first hand.
The twists in the body, the shifts in weight from one leg to another, the resting of hands in hips or in the pocket of jeans and how that affects stances…these are super common things we come across in drawing people. Can they be observed on location? Sure, but clothes mask and make subtle changes harder to see. People move away. And getting an exact replica of a pose to re-look at is challenging.
What I learn and observe in life-drawing sessions helps me see and ‘find’ action, movement and weight more quickly and easily when drawing on location.
Foreshortening and dynamic motion: a good model will give you all of those.
Understanding it in life-drawing helps me capture it in life. Especially when my models are a kid that won’t be holding still long, or dancers doing the fast-paced waltz.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg on the benefits of life-drawing.
Not sure how you find a life-drawing session near you? Community colleges and art museums near you might hold one? Search Meetup for a group near you. Contact your local model guild and see if they can share locations with you. Or, find a space, share model costs with a group of artists and get fantastic models through your local model guild (that’s how I practice and learn).
What if you can’t attend a life-drawing session where you live? There’s always anatomy and figure-drawing books. And there are online life drawing sites… so, so many of them. I haven’t used them enough to recommend one over the other. But if you have used them and have a favorite, write in and let me know which ones and why, and I’ll share your list right here on the blog.