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.
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.