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Life Drawing in Perth

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by Suze C (subscribe)
"I'm a writer living in the Perth Hills with my relentlessly fun seeking children.
Published February 8th 2017
The Naked Truth
There's an artist in all of us. I truly believe that ever since our caveman ancestors chalked a stick figure mammoth on a cave wall, we have been destined to make art. If you watch a small child with her crayons, she throws herself into drawing without a second thought. As adults, sadly our inner critics grow faster than our creative bones, so we find ourselves stunted, not afraid to draw, but to make mistakes.

Find your creative bone
Find your creative bone

Art Imitates Life
There's no great mystery in art, if you practice, you will improve. Much like everything else in life, you get better at a skill by doing it. You are training your hands to make unfamiliar movements, to work with tools and different materials, learning to use your eyes to see things differently, the shapes between what you are painting, the colours you are mixing. Most importantly, you are exercising your mind to problem solve. Working out perspective, proportion and three-dimensional shapes.

Learning to work with shadows
Learning to work with shadows

Start Something Good
I started to draw to amuse myself, rather than just vegetate in front of the television. I got a basic 'how to draw' book, a pencil and a cheap sketch pad. Within a few weeks, I could manage a half decent fruit bowl and draw someone's dog from a photograph. I probably had less talent and ability than the average high school student, but I got by. I took some courses, but it wasn't till I started to go to life drawing classes, that I learnt anything about art.

BurntSeinna, Yellow Ochre and a good brush
Burnt Seinna,Yellow Ochre and a good brush

Jump Right in
I had always felt a little strange about attending life drawing classes, lots of clothed people standing around a naked person frankly felt a little odd, but I felt I had got as far as I could from drawing people from photographs. So I took the plunge. Life drawing is not like a class, it's a community. Each artist is at a different stage and everyone has at some point, been standing in your shoes.

Life drawing is very different
Life drawing is very different

Start with the Basics
To start a life drawing class, it's not necessary to have reams of materials. Sure there will be plenty of people dragging in easels, stools and paintboxes the size of the average beer fridge, but it's not obligatory. My first few classes, I took in an empty chocolate box with a couple of pieces of charcoal in it, a rubber and not much else. I didn't have an easel, just the biggest piece of hardboard I could carry and a big pile of butcher's block paper. The kind that is so inexpensive you can just work on it and throw it straight in the bin. You'll be doing quite a lot of that.

The bare necessities
The bare necessities

Be Quick
The first thing you need to know is that everyone comes early to get a good spot and it gets busy. Sometimes you get two models, one doing a portrait pose and the other nude. The second thing is, unlike sitting with that photograph for three weeks, painstakingly recreating that spaniel, life drawing is fast. Poses vary in length from 2 mins to 20 mins each. You have to be quick and bold to create something. This is why life drawing can be so great at releasing your expression, because you have to commit to the moment. When you've got the hang of charcoal, invest in a good brush and a couple of tubes of paint.

Dont look too closely at the ears
Dont look too closely at the ears

Laying it Bare
Then there are the naked people. Yes they are naked and you probably register this for a few moments and suddenly you are so absorbed in what you're doing it seems completely normal for them to be naked. In time, something peculiar happens, you start to look at human bodies differently. You find yourself delighted to have a model who has curves, or someone older whose face has lived a little. It becomes more about how you capture the hollow of that armpit and why when I draw ears do they look like brussel sprouts.

Avoiding Cauliflower ears
Avoiding Cauliflower ears

When I started life drawing, I always ran out of time. The best piece of advice I was given, was if I couldn't draw the whole model quickly enough, just to focus on a foot or a shoulder and work on that instead. The other gem I was told was to buy an anatomy book and practice between sessions, both paid off in spades. You can experiment at home with different ways to apply charcoal.

A good anatomy book is useful
A good anatomy book is useful

Light and Shade
Life drawing is all about capturing the essence of the human animal, understanding the movement in figures, the way muscles move against gravity and how light and shadow work on skin. It has several advantages over drawing purely from photographs or your imagination. The mind is slippery, because of the position of our eyes, humans have evolved with significant blind spots. To cope with this, the mind just fills in the dots and imagines the bits it can't see. This means that the picture in your mind is never going to be as accurate as the real thing. A real live person means you have a 360-degree view and you can alter your angle to get the best composition possible.

Get Drawing (nosey cat optional)
Get Drawing (nosey cat optional)

There is a really active life drawing community in Perth on both sides of the river. The costs vary, but are usually between $10 and $25 dollars depending on the models and session. These are some of the ones I have tried and tested. All have a great space and a good vibe for new artists.

  • Bassendean life drawing sessions meet Mon 9.30am till 12.30pm at Bassendean Community hall. Bassendean Contacts: Jeff Bryant and Bonnie Barlo .

  • Life drawing at Curtin University Building 201.504a at Curtin Campus at Bentley, Tues 6.15pm till 8.30pm.

  • Erwin Mullers studio is an intimate space at his home studio at 3 Culworth road Bassendean, Wed 7.00pm till 9.00pm. Call him to confirm prior to class 0419 912876.
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    Why? Life drawing sessions for artists
    Cost: $10 - $25
    Your Comment
    I'd be no good at this class. I can't draw 'quick'. I meticulously scrutinise every aspect of my drawings and keep rubbing out until I am satisfied.
    by Bryony Harrison (score: 4|12626) 1523 days ago
    I was really terrible at doing anything quickly, It certainly pulled me out off my comfort zone. :)
    by Suze C (score: 1|46) 1520 days ago
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