Life Drawing Or Life Lessons?

For Christmas, I received the gift of nudes! That’s right, staring at all the nooks and cranny’s, two hours a week, for 6 weeks.


Now obviously, it is a lot more than that, and I even find myself now thinking, this may well be the best gift I have ever received. What makes me say this? Well, not only did I learn a lot in terms of artistic skill and strategic approaches to drawing, as bold as it sounds…

I learned a lot about myself, and all the skills appear to me to be, fundamental to personal growth.

So what did I learn?

1. Don’t avoid the difficult.

Now, this is all well and easy to say, but applying to drawing, let alone everyday life can be easier said than done. In particular as a creative individual, I have found it tempting to leave the seemingly more challenging areas of a piece until the end, and what 9/10 times is the result? No matter how many times you try and tackle that awkwardly positioned ankle, or capture the emotion within that teary eye, it does not integrate with the rest of the piece. It was only when I considered the body as a whole, planning the proportions, perspectives, and posture, actually provided me with the strong foundations to build on when adding characteristic details.

“Focus on the wood, not the trees” – In the early planning stages, don’t get bogged down with the isolated details.

Having completed this course several months ago, I have been applying this integrated approach to most projects and tasks that I take on. Projects are much more enjoyable when you do not have that lingering doom hanging over your head, of the pending avoided task, it taints even the fun aspects. Instead, I have found in many cases once overcoming the activation energy to starting a difficult task, you have mentally gone through the worst and the assignment is not anywhere near as overwhelming.

2.  Learn to let go, embrace the exploration process.

Often for me, the fear of mistake is my own worst enemy. Life drawing helped me appreciate that the art is in the process and the natural progression. “Masterpieces” are not ill-informed, neither do they come from nothing. Work that you are proud of, is work that has evolved, and the “rejection” pile is all a part of the process.

I also learned that being comfortable in your exploration may feel better because you have little to lose, but the product is two-fold, you have little to gain also. I don’t know what it is about a plain piece of white paper that is so terrifying, but in order to gain, you need to take a risk and break out of your comfort zone.

Ultimately, it is the body of work that you don’t see, that is responsible for the final piece…

This natural exploration and development process has been transferred to many aspects of my everyday life, particularly my scientific career. All tasks that I assume, to deliver to the best of my ability, have evolved and been trialed and tested to optimise the result. Not only will you not achieve your maximum potential if you try and cut corners, but your personal satisfaction will also be lacking.

3.    Mix it up, Invert your way of thinking to help your creative juices flow.

The times during the class that I felt as though I had hit a wall, I was encouraged to mix up my routine and resources. This may seem obvious, but I was amazed at how changing the simple can give you a fresh head and a new perspective.

So, you are working on white paper with graphite, literally speaking the inversion would be to move on to black sugar paper and work with white chalk, and that’s exactly what I did.

Change what IS in your control

This may seem irrelevant to the explorative process. However, this simple change mixes up your perceptions and the traditional drawing approach goes out of the window! Now, instead of focussing on applying shadows to create a third dimension, you are in fact focussing on adding light surface tones to remove the shadow, a new perspective on the same task.

This method has encouraged me to recognise when a strategy isn’t working for me, and to reevaluate my resources and how I can use them to mix up the game, pretty relevant to the everyday life you might say!


Ultimately, if you are an artist or not, It doesn’t matter. I would highly recommend a life drawing class to everybody. I may have brought the average age of the class down, but I was surrounded by vibrant and unique individuals, which made for a very entertaining experience.


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