Life drawing at Edinburgh’s City Art Centre

A week ago I attended a free day-long life drawing class at the City Art Centre in Edinburgh. This was led by artist Rosie Lesso who I’ve met before at one of the Drawing Room sessions.

In the morning session Rosie started by taking us down to the gallery to see a couple of life drawing studies and a portrait made by Wilhelmina Barns-Graham. Rosie described how WMG’s artistic education in Edinburgh gave her a grounding in drawing, which was a focus here. This was apparent in her work.

Returning to the studio space we began doing some quick 15 minute sketches of the model (who I happen to have drawn previously!):

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During and in-between sketches Rosie discussed techniques and advised on how we could improve. I particularly needed to pay more attention to the model’s waist and leg proportions – which I kept making too wide and too short respectively.

Before breaking for lunch, we also tried some slightly longer sketches. The choice of materials and paper type was entirely up to us, as there was a variety of options provided. I stuck to charcoals and pastels, but tried different paper:

121201 2

121201 3

After lunch, we had the whole afternoon to draw a single pose. Because we had plenty of time we were able to really concentrate on getting things like proportion and perspective correct.

In my previous experience of doing figure drawing and portraiture in Michael Mulready’s classes, I built up the pieces by using shade. In this class however I was using a different technique of drawing the outline of the model. This was more akin to how Wilhelmina Barns-Graham would have done her pieces. We were totally free to choose whatever technique we wished, and it was good to try this.

I’m pleased with the result. The model’s lower left leg didn’t come out that well, but at least my camera’s face detection located the drawn face! I really benefited from having plenty of time to work on the picture.

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  1. labellerire

    I love the first sheet of sketches, especially the first of the three. How long did it take you to do each? What size are they? And although the proportions may not be structurally exact, I think you really captured the essence and poise of the model. I don’t know why, but the second one reminds me of Dianne Jackson’s animated ‘The Snowman’. There’s something abstractly fluid that I can’t put my finger on.

    • timhards

      Thank Rachael. I’m surprised that you picked out the first sketches, but I see what you mean now that I look back at them (including the Snowman reference!). 80% of the time after doing any drawing or painting, I’m not very happy with it, and it takes 1 or several days for me to appreciate the positives of it. With this session I was immediately pleased with the final large drawing, but not so with the earlier warm-up sketches. As I commented on your blog, I’m more expressive when I’m using charcoal and pastels. It would be fun to spend some time trying to use these to draw free-flowing, dynamic figure drawings.

      Regarding your questions: each of the 4 sheets above was A1 (I had to buy a bigger folder to keep them in). The first 3 sketches at the top took about 15 mins each (I’m quite slow); then middle 2 about 30 mins; the final took around 2.5 hours I think.

      • labellerire

        I can emphasize with you there.. sometimes I think I spend more time ripping then actually drawing. 😛 I like the final drawing, your technique is really good. Unfortunately we haven’t been taught much about using charcoal, so my efforts in the medium always feel a bit forced and amateurish. Think I need to practice some more. And I agree, your pastel work is very expressive.
        And slow is good in my opinion, gives you more time to appreciate the model, and think about the ideas you are trying to express. You seem to be like my in that sense.

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