When I was in art college I remember weeks on end of basically just sitting in front of naked people with an easel working out how best to get that conglomeration of skeleton, flesh, skin and hair onto a two-dimensional bit of paper. What I forget every time I decide that I need to exercise my drawing muscles from life is how exhausting it can be. Learning to draw should properly be called learning to see.
Having realised yesterday that I had a day free and also that I had missed all of the life-drawing sessions I could find out about in Cardiff before Christmas, I did the next best thing and stomped over to National Museum Wales to draw nudey sculptures. Sculptures have the advantage of being a) free to look at and b) unmoving; however life models are better because the poses within a session are often time-limited and there is nothing that sharpens up your observational skills than trying to get a realistic human shape on to paper in 120 seconds in the full knowledge that what you are looking at will no longer exist after that time allotment is used up.
So I went to the museum and I drew Perseus by Frederick Pomeroy with its ridiculous overly-modest figleaf (which the ubiquitous-to-museums sixth-form students evidently found as funny as I did). I guess it took about 45 min to an hour.
and a Thompson’s Gazelle (10 min)
And Rodin’s The Kiss (an hour or so) (you can see I was getting tired here and it’s sort of a mess but I want to go back and draw it again from fresh)
I’ve also been studying anatomy books – if I can understand the structure of something I find it easier to draw. I guess I’m sort of teaching myself the things I wish I’d learned in college. Looking at the bones, muscles and tendons beneath the skin appeals very much to the technician in me and I’m loving learning how bones rotate and ligaments slide and basically how amazing we are. If you’ve seen Leonardo Da Vinci’s sketches of all the dead bodies he ‘acquired’, took apart and drew you can appreciate how obsessive this understanding-how-things-work can become. Not that I’ve robbed any graves lately or anything *ahem*
NB this is the anatomy book I’m studying. It’s excellent, if you can overlook the occasional moment of 1920s racism :/