Life Drawing Session 14jan13, male model

January 14, 2013

I thought I’d write down my thoughts on sifting through sketches from a life drawing session, an activity akin to navel-gazing. We all have a navel and, apart from checking from time to time it’s still there, thinking about it is next-to-useless. But I’m hoping to learn things from my life drawing sessions in 2013, not just progress from one to the next as mere ‘experiences’. What I’ve failed to do in the past is really think about life drawing sessions after the fact and re-work the sketches.

1. The setup for life drawing at this particular venue is very good: overhead props for use by models, quite strong direct lighting, uninterrupted visual access by drawers. I’ll be going to this venue again. On a couple of poses last night, I was slightly too close to the model but it was impossible to retreat because of sketchers behind me: I will live with this, making allowances for any uncomfortable foreshortening.

2. The range of physiques is going to be interesting for me: do I copy them in detail (e.g. make them ‘personable’ by including tattooes)? or generalise them (no distinguishing features)? or idealise them (turn them all into Greek statues or Ingres sketches)? Last night’s was tall and thin, without muscular definition, hence more emphasis on contour rather than heavy tone.  Except for the last 20min sketch, I didn’t acknowledge his long hair (so his skull was difficult to place). We had a fabulous Rembrandt-type woman from time to time, but her poses were too erratic to capture.

3. The poses were challenging, but not insuperably difficult. I’ve been doing a lot of training sketches recently with the standing pose, so last night’s longitudinal poses were a challenge. The head was in hard profile, so I’ll adopt Charles Reid’s advice of isolating the nose in these instances. The model had a habit of letting his left arm hang loose, while gripped with his right hand – his right arm behind his back. 

4. Supports and Materials. As a newbie to this group, I never expected to score an easel and I didn’t. That said, propping supported paper on my knees was not a handicap. Using kraft paper (aged and therefore with a tan to it) for A4 went well – it scans as a rosy hue (!); I used the back of cartridge paper (the rough side), slightly smaller than A3.

5. State of mind. I’d forgotten how visual concentrating on the model is so physically exhausting.

Part 1. Ten poses at two minutes  each.


Part 2.  Four poses at five minutes each (details from A2 page).

scan0058  scan0055  scan0056    scan0046

Part 3. Three poses at ten and twenty minutes each (details only)

scan0054 scan0057scan0059

 Strengths identified. 


1. value for money – there is no difference at all between this tutor-less sketch club event and a fee-paying Life Drawing Class. I’ve never had a Life Drawing teacher actually correct my work or offer any advice apart from a confidence-boosting smile of approval with the remark “Keep going!”.

2. including the full length of the body; 2. including context (cushions, stage and plinths;

3. using tone to reinforce moulding;

4, time spent on hands and feet;

5. visualising thighs-as-circles-kneecaps-as-square-lower-legs-as-triangles;

6. A4 for short poses and A2 for long poses is the right size of paper;

7. experimenting with a range of pencils to see what works best for me at this time, with potential for water-soluble graphite/charcoal for use with waterbrush (preferably on-site, but would need stouter paper than cartridge). 

8. stuck to the Bridgman idea of the Three Immoveable Objects: head, chest, hips (if they are blocked in properly, everything else hangs off them).

Weaknesses identified.

1. Quite unable to apply George Bridgman’s Eight Initial Lines; 2. Lower leg proportions/measurement.

2. Only intermittent cognizance of using Straight Lines for Male Models (rather than curves) after Daniel E Greene.

3. Give equal attention to both legs in the quickest poses.

4. Working too low down the page – aim for the head with an inch of the top edge (you can always shorten/lengthen legs to fit).

Opportunities identified.

1. Even in the quickest poses, include a minimum of just one line to suggest context, e.g. the chair edge he’s leaning on or the top of the wall he’s gripping.

2. Two minutes is actually quite a very long time; certainly enough to slowly block in these Eight Lines with an outcome of something sensible;

3. In very short poses (sometimes 2 mins stretches to 3), go in hard with straight lines for a second re-statement.

4. Work larger in order to better define facial features, hands and feet;

5. Try and move behind defining fingers as more than Claws – or at least move from Claws to Webbed fingers as a block.

6. Potential for using waterbrush over the watersoluble graphite/charcoal as a shortcut to using watercolour on location.

7. In ‘featureless’ models, reinforce the odd dark crease/fold with contour and keep the very strongly-lit edges as ‘lost’ (don’t go back to these edges in any later re-statements).

8. Bring a masonite support board next time (not anything thicker/heavier).

9. Some 19 sketches for re-work in the week leading up to the next session.

10. Push personal stamina from 2.5 hours to the full 3 hours (even if the last 20 min pose is a study of a close-up detail).

11. When re-stating, move across the whole in the re-stating. The model will move subtly over time, so any detailed re-statement may result in a “cut” sketch – where the top half of the body is out of synch with the lower.


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