I believe something amazing happens when people do life drawing…!
When we are drawing other people, whether you are an established artist or not, ourselves somehow manifest on the page.
That’s right, in my experience as an art educator and teacher of life drawing classes, I have seen time and time again my students actually drawing themselves.
I have done it too! A long time ago when I was at a life drawing class, I was getting frustrated at my drawing. I just couldn’t get the torso and breasts “right” of the beautiful voluptuous female model in front of me. And that’s when it hit me… I was insecure about my own body, in particular the size of my breasts and as a consequence, I was representing my own body instead of the model’s!
It was a huge realisation at the time. So much so, that I looked over previous drawings to find similar patterns in my work. I slimmed off limbs and hips too (I am a slender person).
When I founded Life Drawing Eumundi and students with various skill levels were enjoying the practice of figurative drawing I witnessed the same patterns in my students.
Now, although I was training at the time to see objectively, shapes, tones and measure proportion technically, what I did not account for until much later on in my practice and from teaching others, was our intuition about looking. Really looking at something, especially a naked figure requires trust, and not much thought to represent what is there, in the moment.
I get students to be present with their bodies as they’re drawing. Artists are stubborn, but if your back starts aching and your posture is compromised, I’m sorry it is difficult to keep drawing or be satisfied with your work. No suffering artists around here!
Being mindful as we draw, feeling our bodies do the work and not over-thinking things like proportion, perspective or foreshortening, we start to truly experience and enjoy our drawing.
Another revelation I had was while I was studying drawing at university. I was totally immersed in the process of depicting sticks that were dropped randomly on a page. Wait, there’s more. The objective was to view them from different heights, gaging the shapes as they changed. When I focused solely on the shapes the sticks made as they overlapped and reached the edges of the paper I drew naturally what I saw. After just a little practice I reviewed my drawing much to my surprise. The perspective was pretty good!
I have also done a similar activity with cluttered objects, it’s fun too.
I tell my students the harder you focus on getting perspective right, the less you will achieve it. Whether it is drawing a building or a body, it is about the shapes. And I have had lots of experience drawing both.
I believe that the process of drawing can heal. It is my aim to help others develop a healthy, positive body image through art and drawing.
I have since long overcome my insecurities about my breast size or long limbs and embraced my body as a vehicle. As a mother, as a lover and as an artist.
You don’t draw with your mind… You draw with your body!
Photo courtesy of Katie Johnston Photography