Monday, February 25, 2008

Life Drawing

I heard today that the life drawing piece had been cancelled. Actually it was more convoluted than that. The over-all editor said that he didn't want any pictures of naked men in the piece. The art school said that if that (only nude women can be in newspapers) was the reason I wanted to go again then they wouldn't arrange that because that isn't what art is about and thus it got binned.

It's a shame, I thought it was a good piece but I will still get paid so it's not an awful outcome just a disappointing one. Anyway, because otherwise the piece would be lost I'm going to share it here.

I’ve not done a great deal of drawing since I finished school. It’s been pretty much been limited to drawing pictures of otters in boring meetings or scribbling on drunk peoples’ faces while they sleep. Neither of these prepared me for my first life drawing class.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect, apart from possibly some naked people and I wasn’t quite sure how I’d deal with that. It’s not often you are encouraged to stare intently at a complete stranger, especially a nude one.

Thankfully the class was very well run, everyone seemed to be deeply practiced at what you were supposed to do. I just had time to pick an easel and tape some paper onto a board before the model struck his first pose. Luckily it was one where he was facing away from me so I had a fairly gentle introduction to life drawing.

Encouraged by the excellent teacher Gregory Ward (who is himself a very experienced artist – all the instructors at The Prince’s Drawing School are) I set about the paper and started trying to draw what I was seeing. For some reason I had lost all grasp of prospective and while I was trying to capture the primal beauty of a well muscled leg I ended up with something more akin to a melting Twiglet.

Gregory spotted where I was going wrong and taught me how to sight measure using the charcoal provided. This involves closing one eye and holding the charcoal at arms length, you then use it to work out the proportions of everything. This makes you feel deeply arty and also helps keep the limbs in your drawings the right length.

This seemed to work well and while working on my second attempt I started to day-dream about if it was time to invest in a studio of my own. Sadly my second piece while vaguely in proportion wasn’t really up to much either. Instead of a drawing of a man in mid-stride it was closer to an elderly yeti sneezing.

At this point the pose of the model changed and he was sitting in a chair with his body twisted. With a bit of helpful advice from the other students I started again. I really took my time to think about what I was seeing and drew carefully.

It was really absorbing because you start to really look at what you are seeing. I spent ages trying to get the contours of the shoulders just right and found myself marvelling at the line of the muscles down the models back – in a completely heterosexual way of course. After what seemed like an instance (but really two hours had passed) it was time for the final pose of the evening. This would be a longer one where we could really take our time over our work.

The whole experience was really engaging. The room was completely silent as everyone was completely concentrating on what they were doing. It was almost like a state of meditation. You start to notice the interesting things about the human body and then wrestle with trying to get them onto a bit of paper.

As this was the final pose of the evening I spent a bit of time doing some practice sketches of the tricky bits before I tackled the whole composition. The model was lying down on a bed made out of foam cushions and a thick blanket, with one arm thrown across his body and his legs raised slightly. It was a tricky one to capture because everything was at a strange angle and there were shadows everywhere.

I really wanted to draw something I could be proud of so I was almost sweating with concentration as I started on my work. This would be my masterpiece. Using all the vast knowledge of drawing I had accrued in the last two hours I was going to do everything I could to produce something a bit special. I was so enthralled by what I was doing that a couple of times I found myself holding my breath.

This was what it was really about, losing yourself in the moment and forgetting everything else. I didn’t want to be a journalist anymore. I wanted to be an artist, a roguish type living in Paris and sketching out a living while I followed my passion.

Sadly while I did really enjoy what I was doing I don’t think I’d ever make a living out of drawing. My final piece ‘Man on a bed’ would have been much more accurately titled ‘Jellybaby on a lilo’ and I doubt I’ll ever really master drawing anything that has fingers or toes, or a face.

After three hours of working away, I was exhausted, elated and strangely calm. I left the class unable to wait till I’d get to draw again, and while I don’t think I’ll be showing anyone the collection of sketches I left with I am deeply proud of them in a secretive sort of way.

The Prince’s Drawing School was set up because figurative drawing was in danger of becoming a dying skill as the popularity of conceptual arts increased. Instead of actually drawing people or things the fashion was to just put some thing in a tank or on a bed and call it art. Thankfully the trend is moving back the other way as people are starting to realise again how enjoyable figurative drawing is. After having my first taste of life drawing I’m amazed more people don’t try it.

I’ve never been so awful at something and yet enjoy it so much. It’s not just a pleasant way of spending an evening, it changes the way you look at everything. Art is cool.


DJ Kirkby said...

‘Jellybaby on a lilo’... ah you do make me laugh!

Clair said...

*mutter mutter sexism* What a shame. I shall now have nothing to look forward to on Tuesday. Boo. Still, thanks for sharing, it's good!

Louche said...

DJ - Glad you enjoyed it

Clair - Love the new photo!