Monday, October 11, 2010

Second Figure Drawing Class

3 poses-gesture drawing

This week I was able to attend the figure drawing class again. Last Saturday was the 2nd session, but it was my turn to “sit” the gallery, so I had to man the desk in the main gallery room while the class was held in the exhibition hall.

It was lonely. And I kept thinking, “I want to draw-I want to draw!” Yes, I had people come into the gallery to see art, and talk etc. But I wanted to draw!

But someone has to run the gallery!

This week it was Gary L’s turn. I got to draw!

Class started with 5 quick gesture poses, each lasting only one minute. You have to be quick to capture the essence of the pose. Details are not possible. This really helps you focus on what defines the pose, and the form.

For gesture poses I like to use conte’. It is expressive, and although it does smear, it is not as loose as charcoal, but more gestural than pencil. I also like the lighter burnt sienna tones.

Before class I had toned several sheets of drawing paper with charcoal. I thought I would try “sketching” with my charcoal erasers. I have two black erasers designed for charcoal. One is rectangular, and one has an odd triangular shape. These are used to remove some of the toned charcoal, subtracting to reveal the white of the paper. In practice, depending on the pressure and face of the eraser you use, it is possible to get a gradation of value from the toned paper. That along with some really soft vine charcoal makes for a different approach to drawing.

Toned Paper Charcoal Sketch

What Class Is Like

Figure drawing class can have some really intense moments, when you are concentrating on capturing the gesture, or struggling with foreshortening, but mostly, it is a relaxed fun studio experience. We all know each other, including our models. While during a pose the class can be remarkably quiet, between poses, conversation is rather mundane. We talk about our families, the work week, etc.

Model's View

This week I handed my camera to our model so she could take pictures of people drawing her. I thought these would be a different point of view of class!


We all bring things to drink and share these. The gallery has a small refrigerator, so we always have at least cold water. We need this figure drawing can be thirsty work! This week we all brought stuff to snack on. This is fairly normal. Although not required, someone usually brings something. Cookies, candy, fruit, nuts, at some point it will show up.

We tend to be rather adventuresome in our snacks. I think that is because we are a fairly well traveled bunch. Gary T and Dave have both lived in China in the 90’s. Lynn, our model once lived and worked in Nepal. While I hail from the Chicago area, I have travels all over northern Europe in my youth, and try to see as much of North America as I can. Linda has lived in many, many places in her life. So we have seen and tried a whole lot of stuff!

This week Lynn, our model brought in dried cantaloupe. I brought in strawberries and honey-roasted peanuts; we had cookies, lemonade, pop, and our usual assortment of hot teas. The Gallery stocks several herbal and exotic teas. This might be a funny topic for an art blog, but it just goes to show you how mundane the class can be.

graphite wash

When non-art people realize I am going to a figure drawing class and there will be (gasp!) a naked model I can’t help but see in their eyes a rather shocked “deer in the headlights” look.

What do they think? I am a older woman. So they find it shocking that yes, I am drawing naked people, and yes this week the model is female (we do employ male models too) Most of the class is at least middle aged. It is a mixed bag of men and women. We come in all sizes, shapes and backgrounds. We are brought together by our love of art, and the need to be creative. Nothing brings out that creativity like a figure drawing class. It is the association with other artists as much as having a live model that does this. I don’t think a private session with a model would be half as productive. A lot of it is the simple acceptance that comes with being part of such a group. We care about the lighting, the pose, the lights, darks and shapes.

Final pose

And it is fun to see the different approaches. Some people are intense, other more relaxed, but each approach is unique.


  1. This is a very interesting comment to me. I used to enjoy the life drawing classes that I attended. Now as a 60 year old man I am finding equal, if not greater satisfaction in being a part of the process, as a model. It's given me much more understanding of the process and has informed my skill as an artist tenfold. Indeed, life drawing is a special activity. Everyone should participate in a class sometime in their live. It is sooooo rewarding!

  2. Nice to hear from both sides of the room.

    Writing this blog gave me the opportunity to talk more to our model, and get her feelings.

    And you are never too old for it!


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