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Drawing Lesson 38, Part 2 – Life Model Drawing

Life Model Drawing in Coloured Pencil

Video Lesson Description

In this video lesson, you will discover the process of creation of a Life Model Drawing.

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Life Model Drawing – Human Anatomy

When it comes to Life Model Drawing, good results in life drawing depend on fine artist knowledge of a human anatomy. It is not enough to draw what you see. You must know the subject to depict it realistically. Your eyes must be guided by your knowledge in order to see things.

Without the human anatomy knowledge, a student observes the outer shape only – without a solid understanding of what bones and muscles shape the body. Ignoring skeletal construction, the student faces challenges in constructive linear drawing. Without awareness of the muscles under the skin, he or she misinterprets the life model drawing forms and shapes.

Another common mistake students make in Life Model Drawing is portraying a figure in the wrong proportions. Most often it happens because the student concentrates his attention only on the part of the model’s body he is currently drawing. We have a very narrow angle of focused view. So looking at the model’s arm, we have to move our eyes or head to see her legs in focus. Then, of course, her arm becomes out of focus.

So, what is the solution for Life Model Drawing? How to draw a model without distortions?


Life Model Drawing
First of all, a proficient fine artist must know the rules of the human body’s proportions. Such rules were discovered in ancient Egypt and Greek-Roman times. Antique frescoes, paintings and sculptures from those times, manifest great attention to the Life Model Drawing and demonstrate deep knowledge of human proportions. Later on in the time of the Renaissance, this subject once again came into the focus of the Old Great Masters. Masters such as: Leonardo da Vinci and Albrecht Dürer were fascinated with human proportions and extensively practiced a Life Model Drawing.

Once again, the rule of drawing what you know comes to help. When the fine artist has comprehensive knowledge of the human body’s proportions, he can see, apply and check those rules to the life model drawing.

In the Drawing Academy course, I have presented several video lessons on the subject of the human body and head proportions. You may refer to those lessons at any time and refresh your knowledge of proportions.

The second thing the fine artist can do to ensure correct proportions when making a life model drawing, is to look at and compare various parts of the drawing to each other. Here is a good exercise: when drawing a leg, look at the shoulder or at the head. It might sound illogical, but it helps to establish the relationship between sizes, as well as, tonal values of different parts of the body.

Life Model Drawing in Red Pencil

Life model drawing in colored pencil has some specific characteristics. Red pencil makes marks similar to red chalks and sanguine. Its color represents the warm tone of the human skin very well. For that reason, drawings done in red chalk or pencil media look very natural and authentic. This also presents an educational challenge to the student; because such media looks better this way than when drawn in graphite pencil, it is more difficult for a student to see mistakes in their drawing and fix them.

If you are already an advanced draftsman, then going for colored media to do a life model drawing makes perfect sense. However, if you are a beginner, it would be much better (for educational purposes) to stick to graphite pencil in one or two grades. For example, you may choose HB and 2B pencils for long life drawings; or go for a softer pencil grade like 3B or 4B for short, five minute sketches. Graphite pencil will be a less forgiving option; one that does not obscure structural and shading mistakes.

The life model drawing in red pencil comes with some challenges, as well. This particular make of pencil is oil-based and therefore, is not easy to erase. Needless to say, avoiding mistakes in red pencil is easier than fixing them. Also, this is the only grade of pencil to be used in this artwork. Therefore, the whole gradation of the tonal range of the drawing must be done from the lightest tone, which is the paper background, to the darkest this pencil can achieve. Going darker is not an option, so correct judgement of tonal values is very important during the rendering process.

Art students often admit that drawing feet and hands, when doing life model drawing, is not an easy task. I have to say that it becomes much easier when you know their anatomy, construction and proportions. In the Drawing Academy, there are video lessons specifically created to demystify this subject. By understanding the shapes and proportions of the bones and the muscles of the feet and hands, you will give yourself an advantage in drawing these parts of the human body.

Life Model Drawing – Understanding Shapes

When it comes to the life model drawing, the shape of the human form is dictated by the internal structure of its bones and muscles. By drawing what you see outside, you’re just making a visual copy. By drawing what you know and understand about the human body, you represent three-dimensional reality on the flat surface of a picture. Good understanding of shape and volume comes when you not only observe and copy what you see, but when you feel the shape from every direction. For this purpose, it is a great exercise to sculpt in clay or plasticine, parts of the human body you are about to draw. Then, you will be able to fully appreciate the three-dimensional volume of those parts and draw them later with greater confidence.

The human mind remembers much more when you have additional sensory activity involved. When making a life model drawing, you use your vision; while your sense of touching three-dimensional objects lies dormant. By sculpting a model, you begin to understand its volume and shape from all directions.

The Russian painter and art teacher of the 19th century, Kramskoy, advocated such a method of learning. He did small sculptures, in clay, of portraits he was about to paint in oil. He also suggested his students use the same approach.

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