I actually enjoy drawing the folds in fabric more than drawing the nude figure. The anatomy of bone and muscle structure is so compelling in studying the nude but the intricacies of fabric on the figure adds another dimension of complexity. I love the pull of a belt on a waistline or the cinching of the fabric at the bend of an elbow or knee.
Life drawing with clothed figure in pencil on newsprint paper
I enjoy contemplating the lighting as it casts over and under the folds. Where is the source of lighting? I stare at the shadow type underneath to determine if it is soft and diffused or hard and linear. Now, thirty years later, I still am fascinated by the curves and shadow of figures and lighting though now I don’t draw the figure. I concentrate instead on my favorite subject matter, flowers. These life drawing were the beginning of the process of learning to see.
In most cases in the classes I attended at York College, CUNY, Queens, NY in 1976 when these drawings were created, the lighting was not dramatic or controlled. The classroom lighting was positioned from the surrounding windows and the overhead fluorescents to provide enough light for the students. The emphasis was not to create distinct lighting on the models. These drawings were from my second semester in college so are my first attempts at figures and folds.
Life drawing classes are the traditional method for teaching the drawing of the human figure. Live models are used so that students can study the muscles and anatomy of the figure in order to render the volume and dimensionality of the human body. Using photographs instead of models can often cause students to render the figure in too flat a manner.
Life drawing in pencil
Drawing classes that I attended at York College, CUNY, in Queens NY in the 1970’s, were held in 4-hour segments. Poses were held for short bursts of sketching time such as 5 or 15 minutes in the early part of a class to allow the artists time to warm up their drawing arm and eye. As the class progressed, poses often were held for longer periods and were in fact upon many occasions maintained for the entire remainder of the session. When the model took a break they would then return to their position in the center of the class so the students could continue to work on the drawing of that pose.
Seated figure in pencil on newsprint paper
Life drawing is such an fundamental part of the curriculum of any art school that it is hard to believe that in the not so distant past these classes were taboo for women. Throughout history women were banned from traditional art school under the guise of protecting their delicate sensibilities. In order to pursue their art many women took a separate path towards expressing themselves and gravitated to watercolor paintings of flowers and gardens. These were considered acceptable mediums and subjects for a well-protected and well brought up middle class woman.
Leaning figure seated on stool drawing
And then along came Georgia O’Keeffe and everyone saw flowers in a very different way. She helped to forge an acceptance of woman as artist and the doors of art schools flew open.
Pencil drawing on newsprint paper from life drawing class
Classical art education classes began for me when I was accepted into the Fine Arts program at City University of New York, (CUNY) York College in Queens NY during the mid-70’s. My first drawing class brought me to the Queens Museum in Flushing Meadow Park to study and sketch the plaster casts of the Greek, Roman and Renaissance eras. As I studied Art History I found that this was a method of training Artists with a tradition going back centuries. I feel proud to have been taught in the classical art tradition in which the Masters studied. I am so glad that I had that platform as the basis of my entire Art career.
In my first college level drawing classes we drew from plaster casts of famous sculptures
I remember feeling totally honored at seeing those casts so up close and personal in the hidden rooms of the museum. I felt like I was being introduced into a select world, the world of the Artist. It was the beginning of being a part of a long tradition of people who were looking to learn their craft so they could find ways to describe things and views and images and ideas.
I wasn’t yet thinking of expressing my voice. I was just learning my craft. I had studied music in Junior and Senior High Schools and one of the ways I learned to master my trumpet was to play the scales up and down endlessly. Drawing, in the beginning, was very much like doing the scales. I needed to own the medium before I could begin to be creative with it. You become an Artist when the process takes backstage and your creative vision can flow.
I practiced, practiced and practiced my trumpet but never made it to Carnegie Hall. I did however, by practicing, become a professional Artist.