A life drawing session
Drawing the human form is one of the more complicated things that you can do. I always go in to a life drawing session feeling exhausted and wondering if I should do the class. But come out of it completely knackered but at the same time energised! I still don’t know why I do life drawing. It doesn’t have much use in terms of actual daily work. The drawings I make I don’t usually sell. But I know that looking very hard at the human form and drawing fills me with good ideas. Not necessarily ideas that immediately translate in to furniture or anything else for that matter – but just good ideas. So it’s work done on faith. Work done that you don’t really know how you’re going to use it.
When I was a student at the Royal Academy schools and the Ruskin School at Oxford University I used to watch the tutor coming around the life drawing studio. He or she would come and sit down either on the donkey the student was occupying (yep that was the name of it, it’s an artist donkey which you sit astride with a drawing board upon your knee propped up on a rest, I keep thinking we should make them for the students at Rowden.) But I digress. The tutor would come around take up your place on the donkey and look at your drawing. You would have to squat alongside them. A life drawing studio is absolutely silent and you can hear the conversation even across the life room even when it’s murmured very quietly.
The tutor would talk to you about the drawing and point out where it was wrong and maybe do a little drawing themselves on the side of your paper which was always so much better than yours. I always wondered if it was a good way of teaching drawing and didn’t pay much attention to what was told me. Now I respect the idea of silence in the drawing studio. It’s important that words aren’t around and If I’m going to do any teaching I’ll do it before we start drawing or after the session where I’ve done a bit of drawing myself so that I can reflect some of the things that have happened to me on my piece of paper.
The enemy in this situation is the nice drawing. And the nice drawing might appear as a result of your work. It won’t be a great drawing but it will be a nice drawing. It’s the “niceness” of the drawing that may be the problem. What you’re after is an honest piece of work. This is what’s so beguiling about photography. It can be made to tell all kinds of lies. Great drawings are never just nice. They’re honest and truthful. And give their maker no quarter in their evolution.