Drawing From Life

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Most instruction focuses on the use of models in "life drawing" courses. The use of photographic reference—although common since the development of photography —is often criticized or discouraged for its tendency to produce "flat" images that fail to capture the dynamic aspects of the subject. Drawing from imagination is often lauded for the expressiveness it encourages, and criticized for the inaccuracies introduced by the artist's lack of knowledge or limited memory in visualizing the human figure; the experience of the artist with other methods has a large influence on the effectiveness of this approach.

In developing the image, some artists focus on the shapes created by the interplay of light and dark values on the surfaces of the body. Others take an anatomical approach, beginning by approximating the internal skeleton of the figure, overlaying the internal organs and musculature , and covering those shapes with the skin, and finally if applicable clothing; study of human internal anatomy is usually involved in this technique.

Another approach is to loosely construct the body out of geometric shapes, e.

For those working without visual reference or as a means of checking one's work , proportions commonly recommended in figure drawing are:. Note that these proportions are most useful for a standing model. Poses which introduce foreshortening of various body parts will cause them to differ. Erasure was not permitted; instead, the artist was expected to describe the figure in light strokes before making darker, more visible marks. A popular modern technique is the use of a charcoal stick, prepared from special vines, and a rougher form of paper.

The charcoal adheres loosely to the paper, allowing very easy erasure, but the final drawing can be preserved using a spray-on "fixative" to keep the charcoal from rubbing off. Harder compressed charcoal can produce a more deliberate and precise effect, and graduated tones can be produced by smudging with the fingers or with a cylindrical paper tool called a stump. Graphite pencil is also commonly used for figure drawing. For this purpose artists' pencils are sold in various formulations, ranging from 9B very soft to 1B medium soft , and from 1H medium hard to 9H very hard.

Like charcoal, it can be erased and manipulated using a stump.

Figure drawing

Ink is another popular medium. The artist will often start with graphite pencil to sketch or outline the drawing, then the final line work is done with a pen or brush, with permanent ink. The ink may be diluted with water to produce gradations, a technique called ink wash. The pencil marks may be erased after the ink is applied, or left in place with the dark inks overpowering them. Some artists draw directly in ink without the preparation of a pencil sketch, preferring the spontaneity of this approach despite the fact that it limits the ability to correct mistakes. Matisse is an artist known to have worked in this way.

A favored method of Watteau and other 17th and 18th-century artists of the Baroque and Rococo era was to start with a colored ground of tone halfway between white and black, and to add shade in black and highlights in white, using pen and ink or "crayon". The human figure has been the subject of drawings since prehistoric times.

While the studio practices of the artists of antiquity are largely a matter of conjecture, that they often drew and modeled from nude models is suggested by the anatomical sophistication of their works. An anecdote related by Pliny describes how Zeuxis reviewed the young women of Agrigentum naked before selecting five whose features he would combine in order to paint an ideal image. In the late 18th century, students in Jacques-Louis David 's studio followed a rigorous program of instruction.

Mastery in drawing was considered a prerequisite to painting. For about six hours each day, students drew from a model who remained in the same pose for one week.

The Best Books For Mastering Life Drawing

And if you think about the world what we have now; there bunch of people whom have learned just by copying and studying pictures. The really big factor that combines these two, is that they both practise the eye-hand cordination, basically you draw what you see. It's very true though that these two are very different things, indeed. Life drawing has alot of changing factors, what you can't find in photos and there's the advantage of seeing the subject in various angles.

The photo, it doesn't change, it wont move away so you'll have more time to study, lets say texture. Both will give a really wide scale of different things to learn, so like said, it's better to try a bit of everything. Which one feels better for you? The key to learn is to keep you motivation high.

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Go draw, have fun Find all posts by Teea Find all threads started by Teea. I have been drawing for 50 years half of those I learned very little because I was a copier not only from photos but from life. So my advice is learn the rules which make your drawings 3 dimensional create space with perspective , weight of line pushing back and pulling forward discover rules that work for you So many talented artists some of them teachers never get past the copying stage. I promise you, learn the rules and apply them and you will enjoy a wonderful experience regards to you all Tom.

I think it depends on your goals. There is definately a benefit to drawing from life as much as possible. For one thing so much information is lost in photographs, especially in the darkest areas and the lightest areas. So, if you copy photos you are already copying a poor facscimile of reality, so you end up with a copy of a copy that's twice removed from reality. If you look at drawings from life vs drawings from photos there is a difference.


The traditional atelier way of art drawing does start with students drawing from "plates" then to casts of sculptures then to live models, so schools starting with drawing from photos isn't really an unusual thing, but I'd expect such a school to eventually have the students working from models. I personally can't afford that kind of school so I don't draw from models, I would though if I could find a local model session in the evening. It's a good thing I really like trees because they are inexpensive and always willing models.

What drawing from life gives you is observational skills which will help you when drawing from photos. If you have spent time observing the real thing closely you are more likely to be able to understand and improve on the photo. I'm an absolute beginner, but I think that you should do both. Drawing from pictures gives you all the time in the world to look at the details, to turn the reference photo on its head ect. It gives you time to develop skills you will need for quick sketches from life, I think. But I would also draw from life right from the start. It's already been said that a photo is missing a lot of details.

Sometimes it also helps to get a different perspective of the thing you want to draw. Find all posts by bookscorpion Find all threads started by bookscorpion. Well you are getting lots of semi conflicting advice. I will add my 2 cents. To draw well you have to really look and see what you are drawing.

Drawing from Life - Dryden Art

That takes training, believe it or not. The tendency when you are learning to draw from life is to draw what your mind sees - not the same thing as what your eye sees, and you need to learn the difference.

A Day of Drawing from Life with Glenn Vilppu and Aaron Blaise

This is the stage where a teacher can help a lot pointing out what is not correct. Learn to look at the negative space around an object, the shape of space between objects, I think that kind of learning is easier to learn when you are drawing from life rather than a photo. For years I drew without any formal training, then a couple of years ago I went back to school and took only art classes including drawing.

There are definite advantages and drawbacks to drawing from life versus drawing from a photo.

We started drawing from life but simple objects - onions, squash, cabbage, moved to shapes arranged as a still life - bottles painted white, cubes. Then we moved to shoes, shoes are good subjects to learn to draw.

They have complex shapes and usually everyone has at least a few different pairs. Start simple once you master the simple shapes move on.

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So I am of the school that thinks that for real beginners start drawing from life and learn to look at what you are drawing. Most photographs give you too much information. Still when I was taking classes I realized that I needed to draw everyday to really improve and drawing simple objects got a bit boring after a while so I did use photographs, but be selective about the photos you use.

At first use photos that show single objects, I wouldn't start with a human face until you feel you can draw simpler objects well. Check to see if there are any art centers in your area, or even any artists studio's, if so you may be able to get involved with some open life sessions.