This week, myself and Alice discussed our experiences at ‘The Naked Portrait’ currently at the Laing. We would really recommend giving it a visit using the discount on their Facebook page!) and if you haven’t heard our thoughts you can give it a listen here.
In its exploration of the difference between ‘naked’ and ‘nude’ the exhibition included some examples of life drawing that I found to be truly mesmerising. During all of my education I was never given the opportunity to try life drawing (absolutely shocking for an art student) and so this is something I chose to pursue after I had graduated. I love the act of studying the human form and feel it has improved my observation skills and my decisive mark making, i.e the ability to make a bold mark on a page with confidence.
Even more importantly, my weekly life drawing classes are like therapy. For 3 hours a week I sit in a room and think only about the model and the paper in front of me. I liken the experience to meditation.
I feel this is something that anyone who enjoys drawing should try! whether you identify as an artist or not, life drawing can help you build an arsenal of skills that you will use beyond drawing the human form. Its also fun to spend some time in the presence of nudity without sexual connotations that are now common place in society today – something which can be a little strange at first but that I now find quite liberating.
As always, I would like to take this opportunity to reinforce the idea that there are no rights or wrongs in art – and life drawing is no exception! Even if you are in a room full of other people drawing the same subject, a prospect that can be quite intimidating, what you see will be different to everyone else. Your artistic eye and style will shine through in whatever you do, but more literally your viewpoint of the sitter will be slightly different and therefore so will your artwork. If you find yourself in a class will many other artists it can be very inspiring to see what everyone else produces and see how they have managed to capture the model from their vantage point.
I enjoy using colour to abstract my work. I also find something highly satisfying about ‘half finished’ pieces in which some sections of the body are highly detailed and others are left as an outline:
How to find the life drawing class that works for you:
There are a few options out there so all you need to do is consider the price, frequency, time, style and travel/distance evolved. Depending on what you’re looking for, you can sign up to courses that last multiple weeks or sessions that run on a week-by-week basis. to save you some googling I have compiled a few examples that may be appealing to you. But remember, there are plenty more out there (for example if you are part of a university the arts society may run life drawing classes).
If you’re after a low-key life drawing experience, Cobalt Studios might be the one for you! Each evening promises to offer a slightly different experience but good music and art is a garment. This is a self lead experience with no teacher, but feel free to reach out to your classmates for advice and feedback! You will need to bring your own materials and sketchbook but boards and paper is provided.
Local Council Adult Learning:
Local councils have an obligation to make sure that all of their citizens have access to learning opportunities and usually have a selection of courses available. Legally they must provide at least Maths and English level 2, but many also offer leisure courses (depending on the local council in question). Since graduating university I have completed courses in ceramics, creative writing and life drawing all of which were offered by my local council’s adult learning programme. I feel it is vitally important to use these services while they are here as, with government cuts to both education and the arts, they may not be around for much longer! By enrolling on these courses we are proving that they are valued and important and give the council a reason to keep them running! There are often discounts available too which are worth checking out!
Below I have included the websites to some local council websites so that you can have a look at the prospectuses and spy any arts courses that you may be interested in.
North Tyneside: https://my.northtyneside.gov.uk/category/225/finding-right-course
Newcastle Arts Centre:
Newcastle Arts Centre host a variety of different art classes. Their life drawing workshop spans over 4 days and all of the materials are provided. All abilities are welcome and the classes appear to be very structured, so if this is the work environment you could benefit from go check it out!
The Lit & Phil:
The Lit & Phil is an independent library in Newcastle, housing over 170,000 books, making it the largest independent outside of London. However this institution is so much more than a library; it is also a historic building, a meeting place, office, theatre, lecture hall, jazz venue, performance space and, a classroom! Classes, including life drawing are offered here so check out their website to see how you can get involved. As the Lit & Phil is independent this could be an amazing way to support one of Newcastle’s coolest venues and learning institutions.
When signing up for life drawing, try not to worry too much about finding a course that is specifically for ‘beginners’ (or the level that you feel you are at), as life drawing is something that even the most experienced art master would need to practice throughout their art career. I would however suggest that if you have never done life drawing before that you choose a course that has a tutor as they will be able to provide you with some art theory and techniques to get you started.
These are just a few examples of the numorous classes that are out there!
I hope this helps you in your search for art classes or perhaps even inspires you to consider taking one if you hadn’t considered it before.