What is Life Drawing you may ask. Does it consider form? Is it done on paper? Do the drawings only have a human in various poses? What if the work is only small, not large?

To put it simply it is an art also know as "figure drawing" and is the art form that represents the human shape in all its postures, using any drawing media possible, from canvass to woodblock. So yes, in the end there are a range of materials it can be done on, including paper.

Portraits, illustrations, medical sketches all fall under the umbrella of life drawing and even sculpture is sometimes included in this category. Most typically, you'd have experience with making shapes with a pencil on paper, or of a human form nude, holding a pose live for several minutes at a time.

This niche is often opposed to Still Life Drawing that uses landscapes, animals or objects as a subject. They often focus on a small area, making them free from the surrounding beauty, and giving you time to put your head to the human form in front of you, being thus able to workshop the lines of the body.

However, both styles have been around since the prehistoric times as the famous Lascaux cave walls can testify. Mankind has been trying to represent itself in two dimensions for thousands of years, yet we've perfected techniques in how to do this well in the last 500 years in particular.

Egyptian paintings, though lacking the expression and details of more modern artists, are probably the more abundant source of life drawing from the Antiquity. As hieroglyphs don't function as an alphabet per se, their semiotic purpose is easier to follow ie a head can mean a head, or a leader, a cat can mean a cat, or something relating to Bastet (the goddess of cats) and one of her qualities, and so on.

Yet this style of painting is considered much harder and more intricate that still-life drawing, so if you are new to the world of the art, you might want to try yourself at Still-Life drawing first to get some experience with the small details of your work.

Find your next drawing class Melbourne.

As with most artisitc forms, the benefits are multifaceted rather than just relevant to the perfection of an artistic technique, with life drawing being no exception, having also been described as a great way to increase numerous useful life skills.

  • Observation skills: in our modern and busy lifestyle we often look at things without really seeing them. Life drawing forces you to analyse every single detail of the model's body you have in front of you in order to depict it the best you can on paper. With the force of habit, this skill will translate into your everyday life and most likely assist you to read the people around better, noticing small expressions around work or college, and in combination with our next point, making you better able to engage with individuals in a more refined way.

 

  • Relax: Because most life drawing workshops last for 2 to 3 hours, sometimes more, and because they are very quiet classes, with only the teacher going around and helping each student, the only thing you have to focus on is your model. Figure sketching is a nice way to escape our crazy and noisy lives and because it is a hard exercise it requires all your focus, all your thoughts. In a way, it is a form of meditation. A workshop helps you let go of all the little worries you may have to focus on during the day, as your attention is given to one task, that you can fully dedicate your time to, and get individual assistance on. And like we mentioned above, being able to focus on more minute details of a person can help avoid breakdowns in communication, thereby avoiding subsequent stress.

 

  • It makes you a better artist: This obviously goes without saying, due to the intricate nature of the practice itself, which endows you with indispensable skills that can be transferred to other artistic mediums. Life drawing is considered by some to be the foundation of any fine art education and training, be it at college or for personal or professional enjoyment. As the human shape is thought to be the most complex and difficult to represent, it is seen as one of the most difficult challenges an artist can face, not to mention the respect and intimacy that both parties bring to the space, with the models bearing all and letting themselves be studied while nude, and the artists finding ways to accurately do justice to the former's body on the canvas. Putting in the work to progress in this discipline is a lifelong effort that makes you a better drawer but also a better painter, sculptor or engineer.

Superprof will give you all the tips and secrets on how to master Life Drawing.

Self-portrait by Vincent Van Gogh Life Drawing
Van Gogh only achieved fame after his death. Today his paintings sell for tens of millions of pounds. Here is his Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat from 1887.
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Life Drawing Tips To Perfect Your Art

Mastering the art of life drawing might take you years but everyone needs to start somewhere. As with any skills, you only get better with repetition and learning from your mistakes, so don't be afraid to go back and review, and try the same technique or drawing several times over. This is a very fine tuned technique that requires you to understand your working, especially when you're trying to portray something that is obvious to your eyes, but perhaps less so to your hands.

Just like you would if you were writing a novel, or even a speech, you'd have you idea in your head, and then need to put it onto paper. But this can be more arduous than it seems, with many attempts being needed to correctly articulate what you really want to say. This is exactly the same for drawing, so remembering a few tips and applying them every time you put pencil to paper should make your efforts pay in the long run:

Get the proportions right

One easy way to do this is to begin with a rectangle in which your whole model fits. Such a rectangle can be divided into smaller squares for each part of the body. Remember that although body shapes vary, we're all born with more or less the same bone structure, so the essential shape should be the straightforward. Then you should focus on size and proportion of limbs and head once you've got this step down pat.

Draw and measure, not the other way around

The grid that you may have drawn just before should not limit your artist's instinct.  You may have been taught that measurement must be placed on the drawing first but that may limit your natural flow. It's definitely best if you let the lines flow out of you, as you're directly working from what you have in front of your eyes.

If you draw first and measure next, you also might not have to measure as much since the accentuation of certain features of your piece may come out exactly how you want, meaning that the others fall naturally into place.

Use your arm, not your hand:

Life drawing is all about capturing the figure of your model, sometimes even showing the way they move, how the muscles stretch and relax. To be able to capture this amount of details in a natural way, it is impossible to do so just by using your hand and wrist, so use your whole arm. This will actually aid your dexterity too, as it gives you more control over where you place your fingers and whole hand, whilst crafting the drawings with more elegant strokes.

Everything from your shoulder to the tip of your fingers should be drawing. This requires you to sit quite a way back from your canvass or drawing support, and your arm may get tired more quickly, but start out with this method, then as your arm gets tired and you need to move in to hone in on more detailed parts of the portrait, that's when you can move back towards your canvas.

Do not erase, keep drawing:

This tip is important because erased parts of your drawing will only draw attention and the viewers will probably focus more on the parts you erased than on the rest of the drawing or painting. And this is not to mention that we are encouraging you to learn from your mistakes, not get rid of them entirely. You never know either - having the traces of previous attempts on the canvas may lead to other figures appearing on the work, or to a new found artistic inspiration that you didn't have in your mind's eye.

Look at the whole figure:

Taking two or three seconds to analyse the whole figure can have a big impact on the final drawing. The average practitioner mentally draw 3 lines, one from shoulder to shoulder, one from knee to knee and one from hips to hips.

This way you should be able to see how the figure support its weight if it is taller or wider. Drawing a quick outline of the figure this way and then drawing the rest over it should make your life easier and you should become better at it over time.

So get to your pencil, charcoal or pen and ink and get drawing!

Drawing with pencils in Life Drawing Classes
Pencils are the most common drawing tool you will use, they come in all shape and size, each having a different use. Line, shades or shapes, choose carefully.

A Guide To Becoming A Life Drawing Model

Being a life drawing model is not reserved for those with an exhibitionistic side, but it definitely requires a certain dose of self-confidence.

To strip in front of an entire art class could be extremely awkward and stressful if you're not at ease with your own body. Do bear in mind though, that participants will be focussing on the lines of your body, viewing you more or less impersonally despite the fact that they are seeing you nude and vulnerable in the middle of a room.

As Anne Noble-Partridge says to her models, her students are here to represent the model's image, not judge on their masculinity or femininity. Being super fit is not the point here as artists are looking to be drawing the human figure, rendering all its shapes and forms, naked or clothed. Therefore, if you want to lend your services to the field but do not consider yourself as typically fit, that's not a problem - the diversity of the human form is what the drawers are there to see.

That means that anyone, of any age (though models are usually over 18 for legal and ethical reasons) and in any fitness condition can actually become a Life Drawing Model.

Noble-Partridge is the founder of London Drawing, a collaboration between professional artists, tutors and performers, offering Life drawing and painting classes including bespoke lessons and corporate workshops in life drawing, creative drawing and creative problem solving.

In classes, male and female models seem to be equally popular.  But anyone wanting to sit for students will have to be ready to pose still for extended periods of time (even though models usually get regular breaks). You might also be asked to take intimate poses living you quite exposed. That comes with the job.

A lot of actors and models actually prefer this kind of job to wait tables or working in retail, as they are not only contributing to an artistic endeavour, but it also helps them face jitters that they may encounter when on the stage or catwalk.

This has actually been said to give people a confidence boost as well, since being nude in front of a room of (hopefully) strangers is liberating, and forces them to push past any potential fears they may have about showing their body. Beyond crossing this boundary, having people appreciate their physical form and render it delicately and thoughtfully onto paper or canvas can imbue the experience with a sense of serenity, which brings an understanding of the beauty of one's own body that wasn't present previously. So you never know, this may be a confidence boosting exercise!

How Important is Physique Though? What Does It take to be an Artist's Model? and Where To Look For Life Modeling Jobs?

So many questions that we will answer the best we can.

Patroclus painting by David as inspiration for Life Drawing.
David, a famous French artist of the 18th century, produced many nude and semi nude portraits and paintings. Here is his Patroclus. (by ErgSap)
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Famous Life Drawing And Artists

Many in the field, including painters, drawers, sculptors or all the above have been using life drawing in their work.

One of the most famous of them is probably Leonardo Da Vinci.

The famous Italian polymath, mastered many crafts, from painting to engineering, as well as anatomy, botany, geology and cartography.

During his long and prolific career in Milan, Venice or France, Leonardo used both still life and life drawing techniques. Mona Lisa and The Last Supper are only two of the most famous paintings by the artist.

Many other artists can be named for mastering life drawing, some even disciples of Leonardo Da Vinci, like Rembrandt, had a very successful career in their lifetime. Today paintings of Rembrandt are amongst the most expensive in the world. The Pendant portraits of Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit, a pair of wedding portraits painted by the artist in 1634, sold for 180 million pounds in 2015.

Edgar Degas and Vincent Van Gogh are two more examples of life drawing masters, and more recent names include Andy Warhol, Georges Condo or Maria Lassnig.

Each of these has a unique way to represent the human body on paper or on canvass, and each of them influenced their own artistic sphere, having a long-lasting impact on the life drawing community.

Where To Find Life Drawing Classes

If you are looking at starting life drawing, there are better ways to start building your skills or improve than just looking at Youtube videos.

Nothing beats a life drawing class to hone your skills. However, it might be tricky to come across one near you. So where should you look and what should you look for?

Your local art centre, university or studio would be the best places to commence.

Looking on the ad boards in such a location is a good start, then contacting the organisers by phone or email will probably increase your chances to find a class that pleases you, as you can get a feel directly from those involved what you can expect yourself.

There are also a few websites that can help you such as Meetup which allows you to search figure drawing lessons near your city or in your county, and connect with other like-minded, budding artists who would like to join with you.

Artmodeltips is also great if you're looking for life drawing lessons across the country, as it lists many universities and studios in each county and major city, making it easier for you to get in touch with the nearest on to you. Each listing offers a different kind of workshop but all give you a chance to being drawing or improve on your skills.

National Gallery of Victoria
The National Gallery of Victoria has a wealth of life drawing you could look into | Source: Wikimedia

Find Life Drawing Lessons In Australia

Because Melbourne and Sydney are admittedly the cultural capitals of Australia, it should be easier to encounter a life drawing class.

That is of course if you know where to look.

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney holds a monthly gathering called the Sundown Sketch Club, with each monthly event featuring a different theme. The classes vary in what they cover, as in there will be some life drawing, some architectural sketching, and a drop of experimentation too. Nonetheless, all of these skills push you to refine your optics on life drawing.

The life drawing lessons will often include a life model and are directed by professional art teachers who specialise in drawing and painting, and only cost between $33 and $42 for a two hour session from 6-8pm on the first Wednesday of every month. But do make sure to book ahead, as these workshops tend to book out very quickly.

In Melbourne, you'll encounter simply Life-Drawing.com.au, which hosts a variety of life drawing activities at a central location on the corner of Swanston street and Flinders lane. The multipurpose creative space that it's hosted in is called Missing Persons, so if you do want to try and work some other artistic outlets, this would be the place to do so.

The classes are typically held on a Tuesday or Wednesday, with a different person sitting each time, so you can even get experience with a different physique two nights in a row. You will need to enquire for pricing information, and you'll need to purchase tickets beforehand, so make sure you have a look at the Missing Persons Events Facebook page to get your attendance sorted.

Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney
The Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney hosts a wealth of knowledge on the best ways to refine life drawing techniques. | Source: MCA website

How To Start Life Drawing Online

If you live in the countryside or somewhere far from a major city, or if you simply can not commute but want to start figure drawing, there are options for you out there, no matter your location.

The Royal Academy in London might be one of them, and despite the fact that it's in the UK. it's one of the best places for you to get an artistic education, due to its global repurtaion. The 250 years old institution has championed art and artists and has extensive galleries through London, and given the current global predicament, the geographical difficulties won't apply, and you'll be able to access all of their life drawing beauty online.

This new way of studying and practising life drawing makes it easier for everyone living far away from any studios or art schools. All you need is the Internet and a computer. You could begin with a portrait or a sketch of an (almost) nude model who's posing hundreds of kilometres from you.

The 90 minutes long sessions can be joined at any point, for all or parts of it. The sessions are guided by an instructor and it usually starts with some quick poses before trying some longer poses to perfect your drawings,

Note that because these sessions are held on social media, they don't include fully nude models. So for any NSFW content, you will have to find a regular class.

Lovelifedrawing is another provider that offers online drawing lessons. One of their only classes is even specifically aimed at beginner and those who are not yet sure if life drawing is for them.

The mini-course they offer has three modules involving a lot of guided practice designed to help even complete beginners who never sat in front of an easel. One of the main plus for this course is that it’s free and you can start straight away!

So it is perfect if you are looking to learn how to draw online.

By the end of their free mini-course, you should have started to draw figures more accurately and more importantly, you will have gained the confidence to be more expressive and to let your artistic self out. This course also gives you the tools to get on the right path for the next steps of your figure drawing hobby or career.

So get to your drawing board and let your creativity flow!

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