Life class is one of my favourite things. For a start, it builds skills, lawd knows I need them. And I think my contour drawings really have improved.
I find painting easier than drawing, but I love both. For those of you that are curious about how the whole nude-person-in-a-room-where-does-everyone-look- conundrum: there simply isn’t one.
For a start, the model knows what she’s doing. She knows which poses will work for longer poses, which poses are challenging for us artists, and which of those are best for warm up or quick gestural poses. So, she’s professional, it’s her job. She’s not embarrassed at all, nor does her confidence make anyone feel uncomfortable. When it’s break time, she puts on her dressing gown and chats in the kitchen whilst we have tea and biscuits. She’ll take a look at our work, but not be horrified if you’ve not been very flattering.
It’s a very quiet, serene environment. Apart from when we’re arriving and setting up, tea break and home time, there’s really no talking. That’s not a rule, or at least not one anyone told me of, but we’re all just concentrating on what we’re doing. One of the artists brings music to play, another brings her dog. By the way, there is no teaching at my life class. If you’re a beginner and thinking of doing a class, you might want to think about one with a teacher to start off, but it’s more usual that they’re untaught.
Though I don’t paint figures or portraits, life drawing very much has it’s place in every artists repertoire. A friend of mine told me that at the Glasgow School of Art, regardless of what discipline you were studying, everyone was expected to attend life class. That’s because you learn to observe and see: shapes, relationships, spaces, light, dark and colour.
In practice, for me this means a constant internal dialogue where I’m saying things like…what angle is that, what negative shape is made in space between where her hand touches her head, is that line there longer than that one over here….and a lot of squinting! I am going to get
more a lot of wrinkles from all the squinting. It’s a small price to pay.