Further Reading ... >
This 10-week course on Saturday mornings at the Julian Ashton Art School presents an exercise-based introduction to all of the essential elements of life drawing. A life model poses in every class. The first part of the course strongly emphasizes establishing a constructional foundation of head, rib cage and pelvis masses concordant with a well observed 2D shape, while the later stages explore other elements laid over this foundation, such as contour and light and shade. After one of more terms of Beginning Life Drawing, students may wish to progress to studying more detailed anatomy in the Essentials of Anatomy class on Saturday afternoons.
For class dates and enrollment information, please see this page.
If you want to begin reading ahead about artistic anatomy, the best reference book to begin with is:
This course is committed to a gestural-constructional approach to life drawing, as opposed to a visual copying approach pursued in some other classes. The gestural-constructional approach has huge advantages over visual copying for any subject that is not completely immobile, and that includes all life models. In addition, it is of course the only approach suited to drawing from the imagination.
There is, however, one danger. Even though from the start we have emphasized that the method is all about actively seeking different kinds of information, there is something about the seeming looseness of gesture drawing that lulls some students into surrendering this active looking one test at a time. Eventually you see them passively scribbling away, becoming increasingly frustrated, and then complaining that "It's not working!".
Well, the bad news is that of all the things I'm teaching you this term, not one of them works. YOU work! The things that I'm teaching you are tools, like a hammer. A hammer will make your job of driving nails into wood a lot easier. But it's still only a tool. As soon as YOU stop working, "IT" stops working!
This checklist should help you to maintain an actively engaged approach to your drawing, and keep you out of the ranks of the "It's not working!" brigade:
1. Did you begin by actively switching off your 3D perception of your subject for a moment, in order to objectively see the FLAT SHAPE presented to you?
2. Did you decide what you wanted to say about that shape as a WHOLE shape first?
3. Did you express your decision about that shape, as well as the size and position of your whole drawing, with a quick (less than 5 second) summing up of its EXTENT on the page? Are you sure you didn't allow yourself to be distracted by drawing details on the way through?
4. Did you then progressively refine the shape of your drawing using a cycle of COMPARING and ADJUSTING?
5. Did you use all of the TOOLS at your disposal, i.e. gestural exploration through the shape AND straight-line blocking in of the limits of the shape.
6. Did you use all of the TESTS available: vertical and horizontal alignments, measurement of angles, triangulation, measurement of distances (halfway point, etc).
7. Did you complement this process of OBSERVATION of shape (1-6) with a process of CONSTRUCTIONAL EXPLANATION of that shape as an arrangement of masses in space? Did you remember to look for the big masses first - head, ribcage and pelvis - irrespective of whether they were easy to see or whether they were hidden away behind a tangle of arms and legs?
8. If the drawing contains contour lines, did you draw these in confident phrases using the gestural-constructional foundation you had established.
9. Did you sum up you conclusions about surface FORM in the context of a clearly conceived overall statement, e.g. if the drawing is shaded, did you establish a clear pattern of light, halflight and shadow shapes, and ensure that any further elaboration did not disrupt this overall pattern. If the drawing uses cross-contours, do these embrace clearly visualized mass-conceptions?
10. (For students who have begun studying detailed anatomy) Did you attempt to draw on your developing anatomical knowledge by trying to visualize how each body part WOULD be constructed in the given pose before looking in detail at the model?
11. Did you, in any one of these stages, slip into passively letting some detail grab your attention, when you should have been actively seeking larger scale information?
12. Did you, in every one of these stages, attempt to engage your VISUAL MEMORY a little more than ever before?