Michael Vincent Art Works

© 2009 - 2016 michael vincent - all rights reserved

Drawing from life - the ultimate drawing challenge.

We all remember those experiences, those defining moments, which have played a key part in our lives, so fresh in the mind it is as if as if they happened yesterday. I would like to begin this short paper on life drawing with an account of one such experience.

 In 1968 I left rural Suffolk and those quietly beautiful meadows to travel to London to become a student at the famed Chelsea School of Art in the fashionable Kings Road. In spite of its reputation for being at the forefront of 1960’s “hard-edge” Pop Art Chelsea  still honoured one  great drawing tradition - drawing from the life model, the human form, male or female,  devoid of clothes.

I well recall the experience of my first life class! We seemed  so innocent then; I had not  experienced the sight of a naked woman and dreamed of the first life class, that first encounter with a beautiful young woman  happy to disrobe for me in order that I could draw her in every detail.

  As the time of the life class approached I experienced a surge of eager anticipation and much excitement. Pencils sharpened, paper at the ready, a distinct flutter in the heart and a shaking in the hands - what a moment! And then in she walked! A monumental woman in her late fifties I guessed; a huge mountain of billowing flesh which overflowed the chair and seemed destined to swallow us all. I was in shock, stunned, my eyes were probably falling from my head. In life, yes, a defining moment certainly, at least, in my career as a young essentially Romantic artist who, suddenly, was experiencing a reality check of a high order.

Female Study (detail)    Pencil drawing    Chelsea 1969

But then something  happened.  I started to draw and a new energy entered my body, an intense creative energy as I connected with the spirit of this woman and began to study her form and to draw. I moved from the innocent child still in his late teens to the artist connecting with passion to this inspiring and challenging experience, one that no other form of drawing can present.  I went on to produce many drawings of this monumental woman, an experience for which I will always be thankful.

 Female Form  Auckland NZ   Pencil drawing  1992

 

This is the essence of life drawing, what the experience of drawing from a living and unclothed human form presents. There are parallels here with working within nature, when the artist is expressing his connection through his materials to the spirit of the earth. In life drawing we connect to the spirit of the woman, or man, we enter into a deep spiritual connection which it is our privilege to express through our drawing or painting. We are not producing a copy of the form before just as  we are not producing a copy of the landscape around us. Through the discipline of drawing we externalise and embody our response to this living and moving form and our interpretation will be unique to each of us.

The Life drawing class

I have come to believe that the best experience in life drawing for those new to this is to be had in a class where there is minimal instruction. So often the tutoring itself, the tutor’s expectations of the purpose and outcome of the life class, can make a daunting experience even more challenging, accepting of course  that it is important to provide structure, support  and encouragement.

 Before entering a life drawing class  have an understanding of the media you are using. If you lack confidence in this attend an introductory class in drawing or painting. It is important to be confident in the use of your chosen medium before you embark on the challenging experience of life drawing.

 Approach the class with an open mind and a readiness to be challenged. Interacting so closely with another human being will present you with different feelings - it can initially be daunting but once you have overcome any fear or anxiety you will embark upon a new and exciting level of drawing experience.

 Look closely at the model, observe, allow your pencil to flow, perhaps lightly at first as you come to understand, through deep observation, the relationship of one form to another, the flow of the body, the texture of skin and hair. As with all things learning comes through experience. As you observe and study and begin the process of making marks on paper your understanding grows - of the beautiful form before you and the many ways you can embody this understanding in your drawing. It becomes an intense journey and an amazing artistic experience, different for each of us and often highly addictive! The more life drawing you do the more your understanding will grow - we learn how to draw from life  through experience.

 Study for Earth Diva -  Pencil study 2005

The Life drawing

Drawings produced in the life class exist in their own right becoming records of you experience in this intense drawing activity. You can extend  into painting within the life class again ensuring you have sufficient confidence in the handling and application of your chosen media. Or you can use drawings and colour work produced within the life class for the creation of larger canvas which are too complex to complete in a life drawing class. There are so many ways and, as always, the right way is the one you choose.

 Approach the class with an open mind and a readiness to be challenged. Interacting so closely with another human being will present you with different feelings - it can initially be daunting but once you have overcome any fear or anxiety you will embark upon a new and exciting level of drawing experience.

 Look closely at the model, observe, allow your pencil to flow, perhaps lightly at first as you come to understand, through deep observation, the relationship of one form to another, the flow of the body, the texture of skin and hair. As with all things learning comes through experience. As you observe and study and begin the process of making marks on paper your understanding grows - of the beautiful form before you and the many ways you can embody this understanding in your drawing. It becomes an intense journey and an amazing artistic experience, different for each of us and often highly addictive! The more life drawing you do the more your understanding will grow - we learn how to draw from life  through experience.

 Earth Diva - Oil on Canvas 2004 - 06

Michael Vincent  

May 2006