I'm a freelance writer/photographer living in the East Village neighborhood of New York City.
Published January 23rd 2011
Drawing, like riding a bicycle, is a skill that never wanes. However, if you want to brush up on your hand and eye coordination, little is as effective as repeatedly drawing the figure from a live model. Luckily, New York City offers a wonderful selection of quality workshops, drop-in sessions, and other more social events that each offer their own version of that timeless method of artistic self-discovery. Sharpen those pencils and let's go.
The Art Students League (215 W. 57th St.) is among New York's oldest and most widely respected institutions, having had many a famous artist grace its halls including Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollack, and Louise Bourgeois. Situated in a land-marked building—the League's home since 1892—students come and go by the thousands. It offers more than 130 classes taught by 80 professional artists, a great bargain for anyone seeking part- or full-time engagement. Classes range from $71 to $200 per week. The League also hosts a popular lecture series.
Spring Studio (64 Spring St.) is a professional art studio that offers daily life drawing sessions for a flat rate. Known for its excellent models, prompt starting times, and friendly atmosphere, the studio welcomes artists at all skill levels. It also offers ongoing workshops. The rates are $15 per session, with a sliding scale for multiple packages that are typically good for a year or more. Check the schedule for more detailed information.
The Society of Illustrators (128 E. 63rd St.), like the Art Students League, is a long-standing institution founded by artists in 1901 to promote illustration and related exhibits. The Society welcomes those with an interest in drawing the figure to drop-in to one of its two weekly sketch nights typically held on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Both feature live models; Tuesday's models are nude, Thursday's models are partially clothes and/or costumed. Admission is $15 ($7 for students) and supplies are available for purchase. Best of all, students are welcomed to dine in the swanky Society Dining Room at a communal table.
The Educational Alliance (197 E. Broadway), a nonprofit group that has been serving New Yorkers since 1889, holds affordable ongoing arts workshops throughout the year and membership in the program entitles students to join its free Saturday night figure drawing workshops (non-members pay $10).
Finally, though many people don't realize it, the Metropolitan Museum (pictured, 1000 Fifth Ave.) allows guests to bring sketch pads, easels, and dry media into the museum for the purposes of sketching. (Most New York art schools send students to the city's major institutions for the same purpose.) The lighting is often fantastic, especially in the new Greek and Roman Galleries, and you can't beat a huge museum like the MET for some meditative quiet time. With a suggested donation for admission, it's among the least expensive options for a day of drawing.
For those who want to turn sketching into a fun night out, try the live models at Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School, or a Drink-n-Draw session at 3rd Ward in Brooklyn. The poses are risque, the characters are colorful, and (at least some) alcohol is included.