Life Drawing Meditation

Summer Art Challenge Day 22 — making art every day!

A lot of the work I do involves drawing from my imagination. I say imagination, but it also involves memory and experience, gained through many years of drawing stuff from life. One way I use to keep my chops up is to go to life drawing sessions — I really should go weekly, but for some reason I don’t. However, I have a clever plan to make myself go at least once a month: I volunteer as the timekeeper/facilitator at my artists’ co-op’s sessions, switching off with other members. I get in free, and it winkles me out of my comfy home studio in the evenings.

Usually I feel some resistance to going; I’m not sure why, because I always have a good time once I get going with the drawing. After everything is set up, and everyone settles in, I can retreat into my own little drawing world as if no one was around me — at least until the timer buzzes! My breathing slows, all the chit-chat that normally goes on in anyone’s head goes away, and I’m off in right-brain land. This is as close to meditation as I usually get, and I always feel rejuvenated after a session. I recommend it for busting up an artist’s block, too — you don’t have to be creative, just draw what’s in front of you, and when you’re done there’s a lovely feeling of accomplishment. If you’re not into drawing people, you could draw anything that’s around you — but there’s something about being in a room full of people of all skill levels, all focused on drawing, and the rhythm of of the increasing length of the poses that focuses me like no other drawing experience does.

Here’s my favourite drawing from tonight.

Derwent coloured pencils on sketchbook paper

Derwent coloured pencils on sketchbook paper; 20 minute pose.

If you want to try life drawing, a lot of colleges and universities run sessions; you can also find them at art galleries and sessions run by artist groups. Not all are nude; some are “draped” or even costumed. Some sessions feature a series of short poses, up to about 20-30 minutes, as ours does; others specialize in long poses up to hours or days (yes, the model gets to take breaks!). Some are portrait sessions, with the focus on drawing accurate faces or full-body clothed figures. A lot of people feel shy when they start, but you quickly get over that when you start drawing, and realize that everyone else is focused on their own drawing and is not looking over your shoulder! Sessions are different than classes — everyone is just there to practice. Sometimes they look at each other’s work and offer helpful advice, and it’s always intriguing seeing what other people do with the same pose as you were drawing. Different sessions have different “personalities” too — if you don’t feel comfortable at the first one you find, try some others until you find one that fits.

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