Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Life Drawing (Very Nude)

1 minute gestures from week 2.  Gesture drawings are a quick representation of the movement of the body.  Every artist does these TOTALLY differently.  Some people draw squiggles, or cage like forms of the body.  You do these first to loosen up, and get used to looking at the body as a complete unit capable of so many different angles that play off each other. Claw/noodle hands optional (unless you're me). 

One of my biggest goals for this year was to start taking life drawing classes again.  I did life drawing classes as a degree requirement for a few years in University, but otherwise did not pursue life drawing as a hobby and devoted practice time outside of my studies.  This is something I really wanted to change, as my rendering style as a costume designer is something that I find really important, and can be a great opportunity to express your individual aesthetic as a designer.  And, well, you have to know what the human body looks like, if you're going to design clothes for it (and then try to draw the whole thing so someone else can build it!).  This is why drawing naked people for a few hours every week is a good idea.  Plus it's incredibly relaxing and fun.  I've been taking a drop in life drawing class for about 5 or 6 weeks now (not counting the ones where I didn't make it to class), and I've already seen quite a bit of improvement.  Here are my favourite works from each session.  
Week 1// conte crayon and newsprint.  I enjoy drawing breasts from real life, because the light and shadow has to be just right to express fullness.  Most women's breasts are not perfectly identical, and capturing this, or the way the pose changes the breasts (such as the pose on the left) is really tricky. 
Week 2// Conte crayon, chalk and grey pastel paper in 2 shades.  Sometimes your model is a fidget, and you end up drawing their hands and feet and flippers because the moment you go to flesh them out, they start moving the part you're focusing on.  True story.  #lifedrawingproblems
Week 3// Pencil and Newsprint.  I have always loved the illustrative style of comic books, but never really had a handle on doing shading in such a graphic way.  I tried to approach the drawings with this in mind, this week.  Also I find drawing eyes difficult, especially from observation.  Is it just me, or do the models tend to look around a LOT? 90% of the time I end up with something vaguely crosseyed.  It's so much worse if the face is at 45', Anything beyond the nose is constantly shifting!
Week 3// Pencil and Newsprint.  I likewise tried line as expressively as possible, to imply depth without shading and additional contouring.  I am not by instinct a minimalist, which makes cartooning and water colour very difficult mediums for me.
Week 4// black and white charcoal pencils and kraft paper.  After the success from my experiment drawing highlights and shadows on coloured paper, I picked up some charcoal pencils and large format kraft paper while in Toronto.  Living in a region with no dedicated arts supply store makes classes like this difficult, and I have to stock up before things become dire. 
The first couple weeks of this class I tried to focus on using different mediums, to find something I really enjoyed working with.  I knew from university that I liked conte crayons, but I found quickly that I was trading exactness and detail for quick brushy shadows a little too much for my liking.  Then after that I discovered how much I LOVE being able to put in highlights, by using chalk on a coloured paper.  I found that working off a "medium" tone instead of the bright white (or close, haha) of newsprint, made me feel I could push my shadows more, and really sculpt the body.  So far so good! I had some old charcoal pencils hidden away in my drafting table at home from a kit a friend gave me years ago, and loved the balance of control, fluidity and tone: being able to buy something in "light" "medium" and "dark" made laying out blocky shapes and continually refining really easy and less stressful if I made a mistake.  I do not use an eraser for life drawing, so if it's a dark line, it's there to stay.  And suddenly, your drawing has 3 arms...oops!
Week 5// Blacka nd White Charcoal on Kraft paper.  This was the same model as the first week, with a sweet new haircut.  I immediately notice how much more balanced and connected her shoulders and clavicles look here, compared to the first class.  I still need to work on laying out my darkest darks first, as gradually building them takes too much time.  Even in a 20 minute pose like this, I don't get the whole figure fleshed out. 
Week 6// Sometimes, a pose is too similar to be worthwhile, or I feel I'd get better practice working on something more specific.  Hands and feet are notoriously difficult, so I'm trying to dedicate more time to sketching just these from life.  I'm particularly happy with the foot on top.  The balance of light and shadow around the ankle gives the bone a crisp line, but indicates the fulness around it.  The model flexed her toes every time I tried to draw them.  It drove me nuts.
So far in this process I've been focusing more on accurately laying out the body and keeping things proportionate, than I have developing style.  I finally feel like I can start delving into that more, now.  As a challenge to myself, this week I tried to start a drawing not with the shadows, but with the light.  I think that because there tend to be fewer stark highlights on the body, I find it easier to keep the distances between them more accurate, and I think it lead to my best life drawing to date (below).  I'm particularly happy about her right arm and bent wrist.  I think the weight resting on it looks plausible. 

Week 6// black and white china marker on kraft paper.  China marker is like the awesome freak-baby produced if oil pastels,  pencil crayons and permanent markers managed to spawn.  Glides beautifully over paper, makes it very easy to get bright brights and dark darks, but only offers a small range of responsiveness to pressure.  So, you can cross hatch, but traditional shading is out of the question.  But it makes you strangely bold to work with something so accepting of a heavy hand (like mine). 

Though I've only been doing life drawing regularly for about 2 months, I can already see how drawing the body from observation offers the greatest insight to how the body is constructed, and how this can inform any drawing of people outside of class.  I see this time helping me reach my own goals as an artist, with the incredible work I get to see every day motivating me to keep pushing myself and to try new things.  I can't wait to get a couple more sessions under my belt and then apply what I've learned to the 3 shows I will be designing this summer. I'll do another bulk update on life drawing in a couple months, but if you want to see what I'm up to, I instagram my favourite piece or two from each class (@efgerofsky)
Are there any skills you have been working on lately?  And any other artists in the house?


  1. I love this post so so so much. I adored my life drawing classes when I was studying, it was so relaxing to get completely caught up in a pose. I had an amazing teacher who taught me a whole new way of seeing and drawing. Oh you have made me all nostalgic! The way you have captured the models breasts and light on her upper body in the third to last image is beautiful x


    1. Thank you, Enid, I really liked how that part of the drawing came out, too.
      I'm all for not giving up life drawing just because you're out of school, though! While I don't find it to be a very social experience (I am about 30 years younger than the average age of the class), it's been such good practice, and so meditative :). There may be an arts centre or collective near you that offers a drop-in!

    2. you are so right! I am looking into finding a class today x

  2. Can you draw me like one of your french girls?

    1. To be fair, I HAVE painted you! Don't be gettin' greedy on me :P

  3. Wow, you are crazy talented!


    1. Thanks so much Becky! That's very sweet of you to say.

  4. These are so beautiful! The quick gesture drawings are always my favorite. <3 I love life drawing, but haven't gone regularly in ages. It's so relaxing and refreshing to just pore over a drawing completely for yourself and drawing figures is my favorite. I totally agree about using a white crayon/pencil for highlights on a darker paper. Brown butcher paper is my favorite thing to draw on!

    1. Sometimes I do a gesture that's so expressive, I wish I felt like I could capture the longer poses so simply and so fluidly! But there's something to be said for being quick, too!
      I would LOVE to see your life drawings if you ever check out a class sometime! I really respect you as an artist (...because I obviously disrespect you in every other capacity, haha :P) and it would be so thrilling to see how your style translates to on-the-fly work. This is all long-hand for you da best.

  5. You are so talented and skilled :) I love your drawing, it's a great gift you have! Reminds me of a graceful version of Egon Schiele's sketches! xx


    1. Aw shucks, thank you Nancy! I admire Schiele's work greatly (and Klimt!), it's so nice to hear you draw that comparison. Thank you.

  6. Erin - some beautiful work here. keep it up.

  7. These are remarkably nice drawings. Breasts are the first thing men ( and probably women ) look
    at even before they look at the face. Being a breast lover myself, ( Freud would say because I lost
    my mother at age 2 ) ,I like week 5 the most. It reminds me of impatient Jenny I used to know, but
    she wore glasses even in that pose. Week 6 would make a lovely poster for Weight Watchers for
    the before and after illustration. Week 6 would be the " before *. I like the drawings. Keep it up
    Erin, you sure have the talent. Thank you for showing it. John...

  8. Wow, this is amazing. The shading is just unbelievable. The texture of the hair is so real. Great work.


  9. Wow looks like you've really been developing your figure drawing skills. These sketches turned out wonderfully. The use of charcoal really brings them to life. Thanks for sharing! Xo, M&K at brewedtogether.com

  10. these are AMAZING!! i can't believe you didnt do this as a hobby earlier, you are so taltned! fun to see everything togethe.r and haha don't remind me... i have no artistic skills and no time to improve w/ work/school taking my every min (that i'm not procrasting on blogs obv : ).
    My blog: Cuddly Cacti
    My E-Shop: Mitla Moda


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