Drawing from Life

Monday, 21st June 2004, page 2 of 2
Wild West Yorkshire nature diary

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As we wait for them to call passengers for Danny's flight there's plenty of time to draw. While Danny draws people on adjacent tables at the Caffé Ritazza I draw the queue at the bureau de change. There's just time to draw the basics of each figure before they reach the counter and then move away. I add a brief note of colour using the handful of crayons I carry around with me.

Derwent watercolour crayon  pod

Danny tries my crayons too but with very different results considering we're using the same media on similar subjects. My figures are in muted colours with the granular texture of the paper showing through, so they seem a little subdued (as people do when waiting in a queue). Danny's colour is bolder and brighter. The calligraphy of his crayon marks gives his drawings a lively character.

However hasty the colour, it adds character to the drawing. I feel as if there's enough in these drawings to tell a little story about each person. In each pose there's a varying amount of tension, expectation or resignation as they go through part of the process of setting out on a journey.

life drawing,  February 1989

Life Class

While Danny was with us over the weekend he asked to look through some of my old sketchbooks. Amongst them were life drawings I'd made at an evening class. Life drawing is a challenge for an artist, an artist's equivalent of a pianist playing scales but for me, as someone who likes to draw from nature - from 'real' life - life drawing lacks something. This drawing of mine from the spring of 1989, when I decided to pack in the weekly life drawing class I'd attended for the previous ten years, is typical.

I'd say the disadvantages of a life class drawing are:

  • the pose, which has to be held for 30 minutes or more, tends not to be spontaneous

  • there's no story to be told about the model in that particular situation, other than the tedium of her sitting motionless for long periods, and I think that tedium can come through in the drawing

  • there usually isn't any particular relationship between model and artist so the model becomes an object to be studied. Her own inner life becomes a thing of secondary importance

For these reasons I find drawing 'real' life people more fascinating than life drawing. It's similar to drawing animals: you might be able to study a stuffed animal in far greater detail than the living one but the more carefully you draw it the more stuffed it's going to look. Next Page

Richard Bell, richard@willowisland.co.uk

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