In April 2016 I was invited to attend a life models workshop run by Hannah McNicholl. Last Sunday I attended another one, this time run by Michael Crafter, who was one of the models who came to the original workshop. Since then he has learnt a lot about his craft, and his modelling experience combined with his skills as a professional photographer render him eminently qualified to give workshops on modelling technique and professional practice.
I arrived after Michael had given the models basic instruction in etiquette and professional practice. We had one and a half hours to try out some poses, and my job was to give feedback on their performance.
The above sketches were made at lightning speed, when the models were posing for two minutes at a time. I chose the poses that I found most interesting, mainly because they reflected the energy that a short pose allows. Three of these poses could have been held for five minutes or more, but the one on the bottom left embodied more tension, and I was conscious that the right arm was moving slightly even in the short period that I was drawing the model – so I redrew the arm to give more action to my drawing.
These are all four to six minute drawings made in charcoal, recording the poses that caught my eye when I had to choose between eight different models who were all posing at once, for 10 minutes. All the poses present exciting negative shapes, and appear both relaxed and imaginative. I emphasised to the models that they needed to put themselves in the situation of the artist, who is looking for a pose that is both dynamic and static – if they start to wobble we will lose our concentration. These are all compact poses so they are easier to draw in a short period of time.
These are examples of a line drawing and one that has the minimum of tone. Both drawings took about six minutes. The one on the left was easier as there was no foreshortening, and the lines on the drape helped me to establish the proportions. I suggested that the models bring drapes to cover chairs or benches as beginner drawers can often become distracted by trying to render the furniture accurately, when they need to be focusing on the model. But an elaborately patterned drape can also be a distraction.
The drawing on the right is an exciting and challenging pose, but I couldn’t see her feet – it’s important not to dig your feet into the drape so that your toes are obscured!
I had the relatively rare experience of being able to draw both men and women in the same session. We also had a small amount of daylight filtering through the frosted door, so this enabled me to do a couple of more detailed tonal studies. I usually keep tone for the longer drawings but on this occasion I only had 6 – 7 minutes for each drawing. Note the way I added a dark tone behind the shoulder of the man in the drawing on the right – it helps to emphasise the light which was spotlighting his shoulder. Back views are often the most exciting of all, so I reminded the models not to back up against a wall when they are posing.
The girl in the left hand drawing ( which took me about half a minute) had some beautiful tattoos on her arms and torso. Tattoos can be distracting for artists as it makes it harder to see the outline of the form and the interior muscles, but in this case I wished I’d had half an hour or more to add her tattoos as they created a beautiful pattern that complemented the negative shapes created by her pose.
This was the last pose I drew. She gave herself quite a challenge – a ten minute standing pose – but she held it well and I found it quite charming. It’s important not to make standing poses too symmetrical, but if you are not properly balanced they can be the hardest of all to hold!