There are many drop-in life drawing classes around Melbourne, which are fantastic for artists who have experience in drawing from the figure. Here at Melbourne Art Class, we run a unique, six-week Introduction to Life Drawing Course, tutored by a number of our talented artists / teachers. We have designed this course for students who would like to learn the fundamentals of life drawing and receive one-on-one tuition in a supportive environment. During this course, students learn different techniques for drawing the figure, and many of our students complete the course multiple times to hone in on different skills with our teachers’ guidance.
Our current Life Drawing Course is presented by Hilmi Baskurt, and the students have achieved incredible results in such a short time! You can see some of their brilliant work below.
Our next Life Drawing Course will be presented by artist Jesse Dayan, and this will sadly be his final short course at MAC. It has been an absolute honour having Jesse teach our Life Drawing short courses, and we are very fortunate that he will still be able to run Life Drawing workshops here at Melbourne Art Class in the future.
You can find out more about our tutored Life Drawing Courses and enrol here.
It may feel like it obstructs your creativity, however learning the basic proportions of the human figure will help you produce accurate first drawings. I know I have reached a near finishing-point in a sketch only to realise that the shoulders are not wide enough, or the torso is too long. With practise, and really seeing and measuring the human form, these inaccuracies will diminish.
You can measure the below proportions of the body on yourself. Some people are surprised when they find out that the bottom of their nose lines up with their ear, or that they are eight heads tall. We’ve listed these proportions below as a basic guide to the human body (an average adult):
An adult’s head:
When you draw the oval of your head, divide it vertically and horizontally. Front on, you can fit five eyes along the horizontal line (not including the ears); draw your two eyes in the middle with one left in between. The pupils will be on this line.
The bottom of the nose is about one and a half eye widths down from the eye line.
One eye width beneath the nose are the lips.
The ears start from the top of the eye and finish at the top of the mouth.
An adult’s body:
A “perfect” adult’s body (developed during the Renaissance) measures eight heads high. It helps if you draw the head and then number another seven heads beneath it (see diagram below).
Draw the pelvis between spaces three and four as a flattened circle. This is important because it is the body’s centre of gravity and stability. You can then draw the line of the spine from the head to the top of the pelvis.
The thighs will fill the space between four and six, and the calves between seven and eight.
The torso begins halfway between one and two and touches the pelvis.
The shoulders are three head widths on the top of the torso line.
Draw a line down from the top of the shoulders to the fourth head. These are the arms. Elbow joints sit at space number three, wrists at four and your hands take up the space to five.
Practicing life drawing
These basic proportions will aid you to see the human body in sections and will help you produce a more accurate drawing.
It is important to practice as much as you can and get exposure to different human forms if you want to master drawing the figure.
We tend to have so much happening in our lives. When we wake up we already have a list of what we need to do that day formulated in our head and on top of this, we also have constant interruptions from an electronic device in our pocket, which seem to easily distract the best of us.
Many of our students at MAC have commented on the wonderful feeling they get in our classes when they take time out of their busy lives to concentrate on sketching or painting, and then finish a piece.
Are you ever able to concentrating on one thing – that you enjoy – until completion?
Because of these to-do lists we create in our lives, this state of being a constant “work in progress” doesn’t often allow us to stop, take our time, complete something, then reflect and admire. Daily “stuff” inhibits the pursuit of activities that bring us joy – especially those that allow us to be creative.
Another reason why we may not finish what we start is because we get a feeling of satisfaction when we tell other people our intentions. Over a long period of time, there have been a number of studies undertaken that have shown that people are less likely to pursue their goals after they have told people about them*. This is because once we let someone know about our new idea that requires our action, we get a feeling that satisfies our self-identity, which unfortunately renders us less motivated to complete what we set out to do.
Why it feels good to finish artwork
When was the last time you admired some flowers in your garden and actually sat down to sketch them? Or walked down to the river to photograph the ripples on the water? Finishing something generally makes you feel good, and finishing a piece of art definitely has something special about it.
When we start something new we receive a dopamine rush, hence why we like to tell people about our goals. This rush is not unlike the same feel-good sensation we get from doing anything we find pleasurable. This positive sensation is linked to the increased activity of dopamine in the brain. We also receive a dopamine rush when we complete something.
Creating art is significant because it is something created and finished by the individual for the purpose (mostly) of the individual. However, it is not like writing a novel, or learning a language; these end-points seem almost unreachable. We can control the time it takes to complete a piece of art, and the completion is made all the more satisfying because we have brought an image to life from a white, flat surface which we can admire.
Although there is a sense of completion when we finish reading a novel, or watching a movie, it is different because we may feel like we have lost something; the story is over and the characters lives’ are frozen in time on the final page. Though when we see a piece of art we have completed, we may feel a sense of pride and achievement that lives on as long as the work does. Even finishing the tiniest sketch of a leaf – and being happy with it – can bring about this feeling. It is so simple, yet so special.
At MAC, we aim to inspire people who take the time out of their routine to be creative with us. Some simply pick up a piece of charcoal and make marks on paper, while others spend weeks and months touching up an oil painting they are deeply involved with, and proud of. No matter what your medium, we hope that you too feel that wonderful sensation of completion, whilst enjoying the journey of creating art. Now go and pick up that pencil!
1. Life drawing helps improve your fundamental drawing skills
Drawing the figure demands a lot of an artist as the anatomical and structural complexity of the figure is difficult to master. Many artists use drawing from a model to see and describe subtle nuances of proportion, tone, texture, space and gesture.
2. Drawing from a model increases the fluency and economy of your drawing.
With the inevitable time limitations of a Life Drawing session and the range of expression available from a Life Model, an artist can constantly find new and more economical ways to describe the figure. The possibilities for expression available to an artist are virtually unlimited.3.
3. Drawing the body tunes you to the visual proportions, rhythms and harmonies of the body
As with drawing from nature in general, working from the body’s complex proportions, rhythms and harmonies can tune an artist in to many rich visual possibilities. This could prove useful in in other fields such as architecture, design, various forms of composition and engineering. It could even help art practice!
4. Drawing as a form of meditation
Drawing from a Life Model encourages you to focus your mind upon and respond to the human body and to a human being. Not only is this a great way of clearing your mind but it can invite a reality check by reminding us of our common humanity.
5. Drawing from life is better than drawing from photographs
An authentic experience in our digital era is becoming more of a rarity. Life Drawing allows you to see and capture the human body with a sensitivity and understanding that you simply cannot achieve through copying a photograph.
6. Drawing within a group encourages learning
Life Drawing classes not only bring like-minded people together, they also help artists explore a variety of ways to approach a single subject.
We do not often have the privilege of viewing individual artists’ processes, and Life Drawing classes encourage sharing and critiquing of work in a relaxed and non-judgemental environment. You will always find artists of varying skills in a Life Drawing class.
MAC’s next tutored Life Drawing Short Course with Jesse Dayan begins on October 30. Find out more information here.