Learning to draw the figure has been the way artists were taught classical art for centuries. I am not sure when this tradition started, as some of my art history is hazy, but I do know that Renaissance artists like Leonard da Vinci studied anatomy and the human figure so much they could draw it in their sleep.
I am constantly amazed at the sophisticated drawing skills of artists through the ages, who didn’t have tools that we enjoy today to make drawing easier; the camera, projectors, anatomy books and the Internet.
Drawing from a live model is an exercise that many of us find useful for honing the x-ray vision that we are taught in figure classes; the ability to see under the skin and paint the bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments, which, if done correctly, will give a faithful likeness of your subject.
We are taught to capture the action of the nude figure; the slope of the shoulders are in opposition to the slope of the hips, the twist of the torso from the pelvis, and the thrust of the arm outstretched. Bodies are amazing, and artists, like me, are constantly watching and observing how miraculous bodies are.
I used to have figure drawing sessions in my northern studio and I miss it so much here in Florida. There are a few nude figure sessions around the Tampa Bay area but I find it difficult to attend, for various reasons.
Most figure drawing sessions start with a “warm up” where you work on the whole figure for 1 minute, then 2 minutes, 5 minutes, and eventually get up to about 20 minutes. It is such luxury to have two 20 minutes of the same pose.
Drawing is hard! Painting is much easier…I’m not sure why painters can get away with murder in a painting but mess up the foreshortening of an arm in a charcoal or pencil drawing and it is just lies there screaming “wrong, wrong, wrong!”