One of the frustrating aspects of Lockdown has been the lack of Life Drawing classes. For several years I was able to attend weekly life drawing classes where I could develop my Figure Drawing. Usually I would tackle the subject in oils if it was the same pose throughout the evening. It was a great way to experiment with brush strokes where I was literally “drawing” with my brush. One of my figure paintings is available through the Artist Support Pledge.
The human form in all its various shapes and sizes remains one of the most difficult subjects to draw well. One of the finest draughtsmen is John Singer Sargent. His formal training took place in Paris in 1874 in the studio of Carolus-Duran. His gifting became quickly evident to all. One of his peers described him as “one of the most talented fellows I have ever come across, his drawings are like the old masters, and his color equally fine”.
John Singer Sargent
There are not many examples of Sargent’s early Figure Drawings. However, during lockdown I spotted this image on twitter. It’s a fine charcoal drawing of a model that has been beautifully and tastefully drawn. I’m impressed with the way Sargent has captured her form with a series of strong angles and dramatic lighting. The pose appears relaxed, although it would have been very difficult to hold for long periods of time.
Sargent quickly made a name for himself with his superb portrait commissions. Over time, his drawing became much more fluid, expressive and even more confident. A quick search on the internet will reveal many of his later Life Drawing studies which are lively and refreshing.
I still keep going back to the discipline of copying Sargent’s work in my Moleskine sketchbook. You can read about this in my top sketchbook tips in previous blog posts. I recently gave a painting lesson to a friend and her 10 year old son. During the lesson, I stressed the importance of drawing as a fundamental foundation to good painting. A quote from Sargent himself is the best way to conclude this post:
“You can’t do sketches enough. Sketch everything and keep your curiosity fresh”.