Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Life Drawing Session at CABAS April 2016

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A few years ago I taught a Life Drawing session for Carlisle and Border Art Society. It was an interesting experience, with some of the participants keen to try new things and others less so! We also had a lot of people crammed into a very small room which made it very hard to get around. I was recently invited back to run another session which I was a little nervous about but also excited.

Working multiple sketches on a page

Working multiple sketches on a page

Working multiple sketches on a page

It was a much smaller group this time which made things a lot easier and everyone was willing to have a try at the exercises I suggested. I focused my session around the way I draw and the things that I think are important in life drawing; capturing the essence or 'spirit' of a pose or model, spontaneity and relaxation. As the group are all artists and some of them are excellent draughtspeople I didn't want to focus on the technical aspects of drawing the human body as this is not something I am particularly skilled in or knowledgeable about.

Drawing with my non dominant hand

Drawing with my non dominant hand

Drawing with my non dominant hand

I think my strengths lie in capturing what is in front of me by observing and recording quickly the shapes and forms of the model. I aim to capture the idea of the pose and hopefully something of the model themselves rather than to render an exact likeness. Drawing is a primal means of expression and a great way of making you properly look at things and those are for me the important elements of Life Drawing.

Blind Drawing

Blind Drawing

With this in mind I focused the session around lots of short poses. Working on shorter poses frees people up and takes off a lot of the pressure. There is physically only so much you can do in 2 or even 5 minutes so the pressure of producing a 'good' finished drawing is removed. The focus is on capturing the basics, which is of course always the best place to start!

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I also asked the participants to challenge themselves to draw in different ways, including working without looking at the page (I call this blind drawing,) working with a continuous line and working with the non dominant hand. All of these exercises are designed to free people's drawing up, to take away the pressure of producing something 'perfect' and accurate (because who can do that with their non dominant hand or without looking?) and to to allow them to just draw and really look at what they're drawing. The focus shifts onto observation and allows us to bypass that nagging voice inside our heads that says "that's not right, that's rubbish, you can't draw." I found it was really interesting that several of the participants found they preferred their drawings done with their non dominant hand, the drawings were more free and gave a better idea of the pose even if they were less technically accurate.

Left handed drawings

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I really enjoyed the session, I am a lot more confident in my own work and in running sessions than I was last time I ran a session for this group. That helped me run a better session and hopefully gave people something to take away and develop in their own practices. Credit is also due to my model who had really thought about which poses would be good and created some interesting and challenging poses for us to work from.

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