3 Life Drawing Tips

21 Oct 2014

I have a painter-friend who is gearing up to do a major work with figures, but she feels a bit rusty about painting a model in all his or her glory. To help prepare herself, she's set up a series of life-drawing sessions so that she can spend a bit of time drawing models before tackling her actual subject. I thought it was a really good idea, but I was super intimidated when she brought up the idea of me coming along and drawing, even though there will be several other people there sketching as well.

Figure drawing by Degas.
Figure drawing by Degas.
I've decided that I am going to go, because I should go, and I have always liked life drawing models once I'm doing it. I just build up the tension in my head beforehand for whatever reason.

This time, I'm going in with a game plan that includes sticking to three life drawing tips, and here they are:

Start with the gesture. I always feel my eyes bulge out and careen crazily back and forth when I get in front of a model, like I need to catch every nuance or else utter failure is assured. Not true. I plan to step back, take a deep breath, and start with capturing the gesture of the model, the full-body pose, before doing anything else in my sketchbook.

Another of my life-drawing lessons is to focus on proportion. If I can get the head to be the correct size relative to the torso, arms, and legs, then I will know that I am in pretty good shape.

I also plan not to sink into the quicksand of adding too much detail too soon. In my first session, all I want to do is put down simple lines and a basic application of light and shadow on the form. I don't need to go much beyond that, and if I find myself reaching for those finer details I hope a little alarm will go off in my head. Then I'll know to go back and check my proportions, because I bet there is something I am skimming over.

For more chances to harness the power of life drawing into finished paintings in oil and pastel, look into the guide, Paint Like Degas. It focuses solely on Degas' drawing and painting approaches and includes comprehensive art instruction on the subject. Enjoy!


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