Life Drawing: This time, with clothes


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My brain hurts

Foot study

Life drawing is hard. Mentally painful and exhausting, in the way that completing an obstacle course when you’re very unfit is hard. Not impossible, but it wrings you out and leaves you exhausted and seeing little lights. Or, in my case, seeing everyone I pass as a tangle of planes and shades and tendons.

In the case of life drawing (and an obstacle course, for that matter), I am very unfit. I’m throwing myself in the deep end, and hope it will pay off, but at the beginning of every pose I sit, shaking my pencil-hand and thinking, “I can’t do this. I can’t do this.” And then I draw a shape into which the pose sits, or only draw the shadows, or concentrate on the negative space, or simply unfocus my eyes and draw big loopy lines, and then focus and work down to the detail. And I hope that repeating, and repeating, will make better, if not perfect.

Tonight we had a male model, which adds another level of difficulty for me, because I am not used to breaking the male body down into proportions and I am fundamentally unfamiliar with it. With female models, I have the advantage of having a female body with me 24/7, so I understand a little more about how it works. And the female body – even underweight – is composed of curves and roundness and sinuous lines. I suspect this is why the female nude figures so much in decoration – there is something about its lines which is decorative (in the sense of it functions on an ornamental level as well as representational – much like the lines and patterns of arabesques). The male body is far more a study in musculature and bone structure, all angles and unexpected shadows and lines and places where the ribs or spine or collarbone play a much less subtle role in the overall shape.

Navel gazing

Further, life drawing is bad for public speaking. When told to picture the audience in their underwear, you will not feel less embarrassed. You will feel like you should be drawing that overwhelming array of shadows, sinews, solar plexxi and lines of balance.


The animation society is folding at the end of the year, so I will have to find a new session to attend after the next fortnight. It’s a shame. I prefer to walk in Woolloongabba alone at night than in the Valley.


I’ve been drawing a picture a day, but sometimes these are little better than stick figures, or scrawled cartoons. After sketching around New York (and I plan to scan selections in due course) I want to keep stretching myself and doing something with all the drawing.

On Monday I took myself off to a life-drawing session in Woolloongabba. I’d been there before, years ago, and managed to find my way to the back room where it was held, all dressed up from work and clutching a “STRAND: 18 MILES OF BOOKS” bag with a new sketchbook and charcoal pencils bought at Eckersleys on my lunch break.

Charcoal is messy. Or not messy so much, but not obviously suited to fine detail. I had a charcoal pencil, and am glad I used it because I do like the results, but I would have liked to be able to find my mechanical pencil to do a study of hands and feet, but it was m.i.a. I did use my markers for a foreshortening sketch, and it actually worked, with a lovely graphic line.

Life drawing is hard. Especially the silence of other people drawing. The second half was better – a few people had spoken in the break and the model thought something was crawling on her and the organiser said there had been a mouse in the kitchen. It didn’t exactly liven things up (it was a small group) but it did make me less jumpy every time I heard the click of my pencil on the table echoing around the room.

Foreshortening is harder. In the last pose, the model was lying on her back and I had an excellent view of the crown of her head. “How are you with foreshortening?” the organiser asked, and I said, “We’ll find out”.

But negative space is my friend. Negative space makes everything simple, like a Mr Squiggle cartoon where you fill in a few spaces and look at it differently and there is a picture you didn’t even notice you were drawing.