Reasons You Should Try Life Drawing
‘Do you know your problem?’ my tutor asked me one day about halfway through my Foundation Art course. I looked quizzically back as he was thumbing his way through my latest sketchbook where I had, under his instruction, completed some drawings of the large wax and newspaper sculptural pieces that I had been working on.
‘You can’t draw!’ he exclaimed before the exhalation of a cynical snort of laughter.
This was a devastating blow. I had always thought of myself as an able drawer and had never had any issue with my skills being recognised before. Even more so, because, as most artists and creative types, I’m a vulnerable soul who can take criticism of my work quite personally, especially from people with knowledge and authority on the subject and who seem to take such pleasure in delivering the news. It was even more frustrating because I hadn’t wanted to do the drawings in the first place!
But this was the purpose of the Foundation course – to break you down and find out where your creative and artistic strengths were. It was heady year of blistering procrastination and creative despair, but punctuated with these inspirational bursts of creativity. The challenge was the point, not the work you produced. And by the end of it I had produced a first class final project and the very same tutor had taken back his original comments about my drawing.
But drawing, like any other art form or skill, is a muscle that needs to be used and exercised regularly. And I have to admit that in the last few years, as I concentrated more on an academic career path, such creative endeavours fell by the wayside and I became disillusioned with my own abilities – those awful self-doubt imps took up residence and started whispering in my ear whenever I thought about opening a sketchbook and picking up a pencil. So it had been a long time since I had put pen to paper to make a mark other than that forming a letter or two to jot down a few notes.
Then, about six months ago, I heard about a life drawing class run by a friend and, after a little procrastination on the matter (something even I can admit I am world class at!), I went along and dusted off my drawing materials and eased my hands back into the process.
It was disheartening at first. Like with much of my work insecurities, I can see what I want the image I’m working on to look like and when that doesn’t manifest in reality, I get quite disheartened. The recent admittance of my perfectionist streak is helping me deal with this, I hope. There were also a number of established artists within the group whose work was simply stunning. Not the best place for a self-critical artist coming back after a long break to get started, however, I have been so fortunate that the atmosphere in this group is so relaxed and supportive that I have the freedom and space to experiment and create work that has developed and progressed so much since my first session.
Not only is there a real sense of artistic tradition when you are sat in a life drawing class, but there is also an inherent sense of unpredictability that you can’t get from setting up a still life or going out to draw architecture or landscapes. You may have some control over the positions of the model, but I personally prefer to let the others direct and then work with what is in front of me – to varying degrees of success. But you also have a sense of working against the clock, with each pose given a specific time in which to complete your drawing, which certainly allows you to test your skills.