Back In The (Figure Drawing) Saddle

A new year brings new challenges and, for me, one is to get back to drawing from a live model. As it turns out, there is a weekly drop-in figure drawing session about 15 minutes from where I live. Five bucks for two hours. Can’t beat that. It’s hosted in the studio of a well-known local figurative artist. Besides her, there were five of us and a very, very good model. I went for the first time last night.

I did a LOT of this kind of drawing when I was in art school in the late 1980s, up to nine hours a week for three years. But since then I’ve done very little, partly because I’ve been trying to get a handle on oil painting and partly because I couldn’t find a group that didn’t think that 20 minutes was a short pose. This is much more to my liking- a bunch of thirty second and one minute poses, then some fives, then a couple of tens and a few fifteens. We drew for a solid hour, took a ten minute break and then drew another fifty minutes. Heaven!

I still had my masonite clip board, some, by now, “antique” rough newsprint and lots of different types of drawing media- compressed charcoal, conte crayons, charcoal pencils, etc. One of my goals was to simply try out different sticks and pencils to see what felt right and to get used to this type of drawing again. I had no idea what to expect. Would it be like learning to ride a bike and remembering how to do it years later or would it be more like riding off a cliff and having to make a very long climb back to where I had been since I last did it?

A little of each, I think. Here’s a progression of five drawings, starting with a thirty second gesture drawing and working up to the final 15 minute study. Needless to say, I highly recommend this to every representational artist, no matter what your subject matter. The human figure is endlessly challenging, but the point is less to turn out pretty drawings than to hone and train your eye.

30 second gesture drawing-compressed charcoal
one minute study-compressed charcoal
one minute study-compressed charcoal
five minute head study-conte stick
final drawing of the evening, 15 minutes; conte stick

I didn’t hurt to have a model that artists like Waterhouse, Millais and Rossetti would have happily hired.

3 thoughts on “Back In The (Figure Drawing) Saddle

  1. Wonderful! So stimulating to go back to those things we did in school, and learn again… the figure is challenging but then so rewarding and beautiful. I learned the most about human shapes when taking figure sculpture, although it felt invasive to actually touch all the parts. ha.


  2. These are really beautifully done! Short poses are where you can really tell someone’s skill, I think. I’ve got a figure drawing session to go to tomorrow and it’s the first one I’ve been able to attend in months. I know I’m going to feel rusty too!


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