What is life drawing? What are the benefits of taking a life drawing class? These are some of the questions that many people have when they first hear about why life drawing is important. Drawing from real models in front of an audience can be intimidating, but there are many benefits to it.
Life Drawing Overview
Life drawing, the practice of sketching live models, enhances various artistic skills and I wish I had exposure to it much earlier in my career. You can break down the core benefits of life drawing into these 3 components:
- Hand-eye coordination
- Real-time perception
- Human form analysis
- Emotion-related body reactions
- Motion depiction
- Relaxation and meditative qualities
- Anatomical understanding
- Simplification techniques
- Perceptual and technical skill enhancement
Like I said, I wish I took life drawing classes much earlier. I used to think I was an excellent artist until I took a life drawing class and had a few epiphanies regarding my abilities that only life drawing was able to expose.
What is life drawing?
First it’s important to understand what life drawing is before why life drawing is important. Life drawings are just that, a live model who poses for artists to draw from.
The models will pose in different ways and depending on the type of class you take they can be nude or clothed.
In some cases at professional art schools where people attend school full-time there may even be multiple classes going on with various types of models.
Some students have their work critiqued by other students while others do self critiques after each session so they know how to improve as an artist.
Why should I learn life drawing?
They had a free class as long as you bought a beer and meal. We thought it would be fun and as an accomplished artist I knew I would ace it and amaze everyone with my talent.
Then a few things happened.
The time the first model was available was very short. I am not a naturally loose and fast artist (the beer hadn’t kicked in yet). I am very methodical and studied in my drawing.
Having to speed my drawing up was something way out of my comfort zone.
The other thing was that I was given charcoal sticks which I had never used before then. I had assumed I would be using graphite pencils or charcoal pencils.
These translated into one of the worst drawings I have made as an adult. What it showed me was that I needed to improve my anatomy drawing skills, I needed to learn to use a variety of drawing tools and mediums and I had to push myself to work outside of my comfort zone if I was to improve and grow as an artist.
Is life drawing the same as still life drawing?
Life drawing is the drawing of people in various poses and situation. Many people think its drawing nudes but drawing nudes is just one aspect of life drawing. Even drawing someone sitting in an armchair is life drawing.
Still life drawing is drawing that focuses on still objects. Where still life is drawing subjects such as still/non moving objects such as fruits, flowers, non-living objects, life drawing focuses on drawing a live human model in various settings.
Both have a benefit and are an important skill to learn if you wish to become a complete artist.
What is the purpose of life drawing?
Life drawing is important because it allows you to learn about the human figure and how different body parts move together as one whole unit, such as hips and shoulders moving at the same time.
It also gives an insight into why certain poses look more appealing than others depending on what looks natural for each subject matter.
When you learn life drawing, you will notice your other drawings or paintings will start to look more natural and powerful especially if you have people as a central figure in the artwork.
When I look back at my pre-still life classes artworks I now realise that the people I painted actually looked quite rigid and unnatural. After attending life drawing classes I found that when I painted people, they looked more natural and relaxed.
What do you learn in life drawing?
You learn how to draw what you see. This may sound simple but it is actually one of the most challenging things that an artist can do.
It’s why some people are naturally more gifted or talented at drawing than others because they have a better understanding of composition and how light works with shadows, shading etc.
But these are skills that can be learned and after attending life drawing classes you will hopefully see where your skill gaps are and use these as an opportunity to fill the gaps.
Do I need to attend a life drawing class to learn life drawing?
You can learn how to draw simply by studying the world around you, however life drawing is a great way of learning why things look like they do and why your drawings are not quite right.
Life drawing classes will give you the opportunity to ask for guidance from instructors on why something might be wrong or could be improved upon.
You can learn life drawing by practicing literally anywhere you can take a sketch pad and some charcoal pencils or charcoal sticks.
You could attend the zoo and draw animals, draw people interacting with animals.
You can draw people at the local park. You can even draw grandpa sleeping in a chair during his day nap.
I also liked to draw my kids when they were asleep.
You could technically learn some life drawing from photographs but I think not having the 3rd dimension actually affects the life drawing. You lose the depth that you would get from drawing someone in person.
You will see how lights and shadows interact with various body parts that you won’t be able to get from a photo.
If someone approaches you to ask what you are doing, you can simply state that you are an art student and you are practicing on getting better. People tend to be more accommodating to being drawn when they hear this.
What if I’m not artistic?
The best thing about attending life drawing courses is that there are no expectations placed on students when it comes to being able to render an accurate picture of what they see in front of them.
This makes it perfect for people who have little experience with art but want to try something new without feeling intimidated by others in their class.
How can I improve my life drawing?
There are plenty of ways to improve your life drawing and here we present three simple strategies:
- Focus on what you can achieve.
- Look for the shapes in what’s before you.
- Always stay curious!
- Practice, Practice and Practice – you will get better.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself.
- Ask for feedback.
Why is practice important? Life drawing is a skill that needs to be practiced constantly in order to hone it into something useful such as an artistic career or just being able to use this skill when needed at home, with friends and family.
By practicing regularly, students will begin seeing improvements within their drawings rather than just struggling along without any significant results.
The more someone practices, and then analyses what is not working, the better they become at rendering objects accurately which makes them feel confident about themselves.
Where do I start with life drawing?
I started life drawing in a place I would never had expected. The local pub ran life drawing classes for fun as a way to sell more drinks and food. They still run the classes every Monday evening.
I think each class cost me $15 and that included not only paper and charcoal but also a beer and a lasagne and it was for 30 minutes. Well worth it.
If pubs and clubs are not your thing then there are community colleges that also run inexpensive classes. Google “Life drawing classes near me“, contact a few places and ask if you can come visit to see if the class is right for you.
If these are a little too much and you want to get some basic practice in, you can start by drawing family and friends around the house or in their natural settings.
You can tell them what you are doing or just do it without anyone knowing.
You can also run virtual life drawing classes such as on YouTube.
I purchased a few books when I started just to see if I could get some tips and tricks, granted YouTube didn’t exist at the time but I still find a lot of useful information in actual books. I have a few listed below.
You could draw clay models or as they used to in art schools, draw statues. Have you ever seen students sit around a statue in an art gallery or museum? They are practicing life drawing as much as they are learning to copy an artwork.
The options are limitless.
Why life drawing is important – Wrap up!
Life drawing is a great way to get better at drawing, and it’s also an interesting social activity. This along is a great reason why life drawing is important to not just artists but people in general.
You can find life drawing classes all over the world – from New York City to Sydney!
If you want more information on how this art form works, we encourage you to Google “life drawing classes near me” in your local area and also follow us on Instagram for updates.
We’re excited about helping people learn more about their potential as artists and sharing that with others who may not know much about life drawings yet.
Joseph Colella (Joe Colella) is an Editor and Writer at WastedTalentInc. As a frustrated artist with over 40 years experience making art (who moonlights as a certified Business Analyst with over 20 years of experience in tech). While Joseph holds a Diploma in Information Technology, in true wasted talent fashion he spent years applying for various Art degrees; from the Accademia di Belle Arti (Napoli), to failing to get into the Bachelor of Arts (Fine Arts) at the University of Western Sydney. While he jokes about his failures at gaining formal art qualifications, as a self-taught artist he has had a fruitful career in business, technology and the arts. His goal is to attend the Julian Ashton School of Art at The Rocks Sydney when he retires from full time work. Joseph’s art has been sold to private collectors all over the world from the USA, Europe and Australasia. He is a trusted source for reliable art advice and tutorials to copyright/fair use advice and is committed to helping his readers make informed decisions about making them a better artist.
He also loves all things watches (ok it’s an addiction) so show him some love and visit his other website https://expertdivewatch.com