S-s-s-somethin' From the Comments

(10 extra net-culture points if you get the reference in the title.)

Andrea writes: "I was wondering - have you ever taken life drawing classes? What is your opinion on them?"

Andrea, yes I have taken figure drawing classes, quite a number of them. Zdzislaw Sikora, the most infamous life drawing instructor on the Eastern Seaboard, taught me figure drawing nearly every semester for 3 years. Beyond that I've taken a half dozen other classes from other teachers as well. Obviously I am a firm believer in it. The human figure is the source of all good things in art. If you know how to accurately convey the human form you can do anything I believe. Architecture is based on our proportions, we share musculature and form with animals, (and even plants), our skin alone is a study in color theory, not even getting into eyes and hair, and if you can capture emotion or attitude in a figure drawing... well... that's just art at it's most sublime. Even if all you ever do is the most abstract of works it's my opinion that having a grounded basis in drawing the human form would be helpful, and would inform your work.

Now, having said all that... do I think that classes are necessary per se? Mmmmm... no. Like most things it can be learned through self study. There are hundreds of good books and other resources out there to help you learn. There is however something ineffable about being in a class, a dozen or so people all focused on the same subject, and the same lesson is a pretty powerful experience when it works properly. A good teacher will be able to lead you through a series of understandings that will stick with you forever (check my words about Zdzislaw here.) Even a bad teacher may awaken a thing or two. (I won't name names but I still think about things I learned in one of my first college classes that were more based on my teacher's bad choices than her good ones.) There's also a lot to be said for the bonding that can occur between students in these situations. Think about how great it is looking at other people's versions of the EDM challenges, and then imagine being able to sneak a peek at them in progress, or to have direct access to the artist to ask questions with the pieces in front of you. It can be great.

3 Response to "S-s-s-somethin' From the Comments"

  • andrea joseph's sketchblog Says:

    Hi Cully, thanks for your response.

    I have always hated the life drawing classes that I have taken in the past (the last one was probably over 10 years ago) and usually dropped out. More recently though I've been considering giving it another go. I think the problems in the past were; one, the teachers I have had in the were less than inspirational. They never seemed that interested in the subject that they were taking or the work that their students were creating. Obviuosly your tutor's words still stay with you toady. I guess it's about finding the right tutor and class then.

    Secondly, I felt a real pressure about working in a group. I have always been self conscious and had a problem with drawing in this way. I think it's about feeling judged. I now though want to try and work through those feelings/fears. Which is why I ask the question.

    Thanks for a very useful and informative answer. Riven's website and work is just amazing. You're right too; I'd love to see other people working on their challenges! Cheers, Andrea.

  • Cully Says:

    I understand feeling judged. Working in a large group will inevitably lead to someone being competitive about their work. There's just a source of confidence that you have to find for yourself to stand among your peers and know that you belong. Depending on the type of class it may just be a matter of being able to BE the competitive one. Early on in one of my classes the teacher told us that class critiques would often be negative, and inured us to the situation by making sure that we said something negative when it was our turn to speak. If you are willing to say something negative it makes you more receptive to having something negative said about your work too. It all depends on what you are looking for. There ARE classes out there where everything and everyone is shiny and happy and never a negative word is said, which other people enjoy.

  • Nina Johansson Says:

    Hi guys! interesting discussion. I agree with Cully, I think life drawing is important if you want to develop your abilities to draw and to see. Books and websites are all good ways to knowledge, but I think the transformation from 3D reality to 2D paper surface is an important one to learn and practice. Few things are as difficult to draw as the human body, but few things are as rewarding once you start "getting it".

    I can totally understand Andrea´s point of view too, classes can feel competitive (though I have been lucky enough to never experience that) and if you are very self conscious it can be tough to work in a group. The teacher is important too, I´ve had a few very good ones, and one not so good, and the difference is huge.

    What I do is I don´t take classes anymoer. I go to open life drawing sessions, where you just pay a fee of perhaps 8-10 dollars and there´s a model hired for usually about two hours with a break in the middle, and you can work on your own. Sure, there are people around, but as I don´t know them, and they don´t know me, there is not an athmosphere where you comment on each other´s work. There´s no teacher, either, so noone will be looking over my shoulder and saying things about my work. This is perfect when you have taken a few classes already, and really just need to WORK, to give it some time. I don´t go very often, maybe once every two or three months, sometimes a bit more often. I think it´s incredibly rewarding.

    It can be hard to find open life drawing sessions if you don´t live in a fairly big town, but if you can I´m all for it.
    /nina j