Friday, 20 January 2012

Life class

Today I had a wonderful class.  I had never participated in a life class before and was a little apprehensive.  We had two excellent models, one was a small slight oriental girl, the other a more rounded, buxom redhead. 

Our initial instructions from our tutor Michael, were to walk round the model, and to look closely from all sides, to familiarise ourselves with the detail of what we could see.  This takes a bit of nerve, because looking in detail at a nude, particularly when they can look back, is not what we are brought up to do.  As usual I was completely absorbed in what I was doing, so my awareness of what other class members did, is limited, but I have an impression that more of the mature women had a good close look, than the younger class members.  Michael explained several times that a life class challenges people for a variety of reasons, many of which are cultural, and you need to develop an acceptance of what the human body looks like, and to draw what you see.  The way in which our acceptance of the human body and looking at it in detail, in public, can affect us, is clearly shown when we draw - sometimes class members focus on the stool the model sits, on or details like the hair.  I certainly felt apprehensive before the class.   This is where careful listening to the instructions and a preparedness to work in a new manner that makes you feel uncomfortable, is an advantage.  And when I followed the instructions, looking really closely, I saw all sorts of things I would normally miss!  It will be interesting to find out how I feel about drawing life studies next week, if it is a male model.  Will it make me feel more/less uncomfortable?

First ever life drawing, using ink and oil pastel

I worked mostly in charcoal, but used some ink, black and white oil pastel, and white pastel. I drew 3 sketches of the oriental girl - her backside, her foot and her arm/hand. I found it useful that I have looked extensively at the legs of cyclists and runners, while being a supporter at triathlons. I am very familiar with the differences in leg musculature as people who are primarily runners have a very large calf muscle, and cyclists have a slim calf that shows clear definition between the two main muscles. I have a basic knowledge of leg anatomy which helps when you know where the tendons attach for different muscles. And although the model's calf did not have clear definition, there were small indications of the muscles which I would have missed, had I not been looking closely.
Leg, drawn with charcoal

Arm in charcoal, on crumpled paper

In the afternoon, Michael encouraged us to develop an interesting background on the ground paper.  I've been doing this for some time in my textile work, but had forgotton about it for this drawing class.  So, when Michael gave us a lump of beeswax, I made some random rubbed/rolled marks on my paper and washed over it with varying dilutions of Quink ink.  This made me feel much more comfortable than working on bright white paper, although I was told to focus on the drawing rather than the background.

Michael gave feedback during the day to all students.  I really need to write it down at the time, because I am so absorbed in what I am doing, that otherwise I forget.  He's given me the same feedback a couple of times - so I need to take it on board. 

- When drawing something that has a totally straight line, draw it with a ruler eg metal frames, fabric that is under tension with the model's weight.  Using a ruler is allowed! 

- If you get a line wrong, and it bothers you, rub it out.  Using a rubber/eraser is allowed!

- Sometimes the effect you want, needs to be drawn heavily, then rubbed back.  You can draw and rub back as many times as you like to get the effect you need, particularly when using charcoal.

- Get the pressure/weight to show by flat lines under the foot.  People who stand a lot do not have round heels.

- Don't put too much emphasis on the background.  Make it more subtle.

Victoria's wonderful round bottom

Victoria leaning back, holding fabric to support herself. 
I should have put in some of the stool she was sitting on.
Victoria leaning forward

Leaning forward with weight supported by fabric loop.

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