Standing in a room around a real, living, breathing model, wearing nothing, is enough to make most people run in the opposite direction, but drawing from life is a real skill. In a forced attempt to improve my drawing skills, I went along to Life Drawing Class at Altrincham Open Studios. The class lasts 2 hours, from 11-1pm on a Tuesday morning, with a much needed break in the middle to refuel. It’s £10/£15 Members/non members.
Going to a class forces you out of your comfort zone. At home I continue to work on my signature style, but it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and I wanted to challenge my own work. The tutor, Jo, started the class with a warm up of keeping your line on the paper with three quick poses, just a few minutes each. It helped me familiarise myself with working with an easel and using a real person in front of me for a reference.
For the next longer pose we were invited to use acrylic paint and a sponge brush. Strictly instructed to use only white, black and one colour of choice with no water. We were then told our work would be rubbish, which may seem counterintuitive to some, but it took the pressure off us, the students, to be precious and just go for it.
This was a real challenge for me, in my recent art work I have exclusively used watercolours and gauche. Using acrylic makes you mark permanent, it’s unapologetic and forces you to be braver with the your lines. The only hint we got before starting the piece, was to use the black sparingly. Sponge brushes make thick strokes, sticking to the three colours forces you to identify light, shadow and tone on the body, rather than sticking to the all too familiar outline.
The second half of the class was a longer pose, this time, we were instructed to use one extra colour and were allowed to use water. Honestly, by this point my concentration had started to wane and I made some catastrophic mistakes in terms of proportions. Taking it all down to experience I just decided to focus on the head in an attempt to salvage the piece.
Although none of these pieces will be making it to a wall anytime soon, I enjoyed the process, working in a new media, trying something new and meeting other like-minded people at the class. Over time I hope it improves my concentration and my accuracy of drawing.
I’ll be going back each week. Back to being a beginner. Back to a blank sheet of paper. Back to thinking have I ever held a pencil before. Back to thinking have I ever seen a human before. Back to making mistakes.
Claire & co.
P.S I’ll be updating this post with weekly drawings, so keep coming back for more nudes!