From the Ground Up in Acrylic
Interview With Ciruelo Cabral
News for July
Life DrawingAsk an Artist
by Annie Rodrigue
My teacher tells me that life model is a good way to get better with character design or anatomy. Is that really true?
When a topic on life model comes up, I canít help but think that I am very biased on the subject. I love life model drawing. I have these classes I go to at least twice a month during university sessions and I enjoy them way too much!
A part from enjoying these life model sessions, I also go because I find this is the best way to push myself. It might sound easy to just stand there and draw what you are seeing, but I have found that the life model is probably the most humbling subject to put on paper. Why? Because, when you start sketching a model, you will notice your flaws right away. You have problems with hands? Chances are you will have to draw lots of them at different angles. If you decide to leave them out because you find you are not good enough, it will show right away in your work. While itís true that you donít have to show these to anyone, you will see that you donít need to. You will probably be your worst critique and be annoyed at how obvious some the mistake you make are. This is what life model does: it imposes you a subject, an angle, and a lighting to render. You are forced to pull it off or else...
When I look at what I am writing though, it might sound like life model is a pain in the butt! Iíll be honest: it can be. In case of life model sessions, you do not decide what pose the model will take, you donít decide which body part you will get to draw or at what angle. There is also a lot of foreshortening. We all know how painful this can be, and to impose yourself this kind of study might turn out to be difficult on your self-esteem at first. There is hope though! I probably shouldnít make any promises, but I will anyway: if you keep at it and go every week or two weeks for a year, or even a few months, you will see improvements. You will start to understand what goes where, and you will be able to apply this new knowledge to your own drawings and designs.
Working with Photos
I can hear some of you say: "Hey! I can work with photos instead! I get to pick the pose and it doesnít cost me a thing!" I canít exactly agree with this. Not that using a photo reference is a bad thing (it isn't at all!) But I would highly recommend trying life model so that you can compare the two. First, picking a pose means that you get to decide what you can and cannot draw. If the pose is imposed to you, you are forced to analyze it and learn from it. Itís not easy at all, but itís very gratifying when you do get it right. Second, a picture is flat. There is no volume since itís a printed image on paper or an image on your computer screen. When you have a model in front of you, you can actually feel the volume of the muscles and of the body. This is valuable information when you want to understand how to build a drawing of a human body from scratch. If you understand where the masses go, you will understand how to move it around and create poses for your characters.
Quick Pose VS Long Pose
This might not be available in all life model classes, so I would recommend shopping around, but poses will last for different laps of time. Some places will only do long poses (20 mins to 1 hre) and other places will go with quick poses (30 secs to 15 mins). If you have never done life model drawing, you might be tempted to go to classes that will only have long poses. This is not a bad thing, since it will help you get acquainted with the mood, the medium you are using and the techniques. On the other hand, donít be scared of trying the quick poses. They can really help loosen up! With quick poses, you need to analyse the model faster and apply this on paper even more quickly. It will help you keep your strokes at a minimum and will push you to only put what is essential on that piece of paper.
Donít Try to Create a Masterpiece!
This is what is even more wonderful about life models! When I go there, I leave all the pressure I usually put on my shoulders at the door. This is a learning experience. Your goal is certainly not to make every drawing a masterpiece. Thatís just not possible! Some of the drawings, you will be very proud of showing, but the rest, you might want to throw in the garbage. And you know what? Itís absolutely okay! You are allowed to get it wrong, because if you do get it wrong, you know where you need to practice. Give yourself a break!
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