One of the best decisions I ever made as an artist after I got out of art school was to return to drawing the figure from life in regular sessions.
Few practices are as challenging or rewarding for an artist as drawing the human form. The great traditions of Western art are founded on it and it is still one of the most fundamental aspects of artistic endeavor.
If you’re not a full time art student, finding a session for drawing from life is somewhat easier in large or medium size cities than in more rural areas, but it can be a bit of a challenge even there unless you know where to look. Often there are classes or workshops offered by art schools, museums and artists’ organizations, but you have to search them out.
It would be nice if there ware a central reference for them, and as it happens, I stumbled across a very good listing of over 500 such sessions across the U.S. and Canada. (If someone knows of similar listings in Europe and elsewhere, let me know and I’ll post the links.)
Figure Drawing Open Studios, Workshops, and Continuing Education Classes is a list assembled as part of the web site supporting The Art Model’s Handbook, a book aimed at those who work as artist’s models (a more demanding practice than most people realize).
Presumably intended as a service to models, they have provided an excellent list of classes and venues, organized by state or province.
I checked on the several classes and workshops in Delaware and Philadelphia that I have attended or am familiar with, including The Delaware College of Art and Design (where I teach an unrelated class), The Delaware Art Museum, The Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial, The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Philadelphia Sketch Club and the Plastic Club. The listings for all of them seem accurate and reasonably up to date, so I might assume that their listing for other venues in North America are similarly good.
Though I doubt it’s comprehensive, this is a great place to start if you are looking for a life drawing session.
Some are formal classes, but many are individual sessions or open studios that you can attend when you like, without signing up for a specific number of classes. Some of the latter are instructed, many are open studios where you are on your own to work as you like without instruction.
In most cases you bring your own materials, and the venue provides easels, chairs and sometimes even drawing benches. There is a moderator who administers the sessions and usually determines poses. Sessions can vary in length, but many are about three hours, with breaks for the models at intervals.
The listings give some indication of which sessions are devoted to long poses, short poses, or mixtures of short and long (the most common arrangement). Some offer sessions of clothed or costume models and portrait sessions in addition to more traditional life drawing sessions. (For a side take on non-traditional drawing sessions, see my post on Dr. Sktechy’s Anti-Art School.)
If you haven’t attended life drawing sessions before, you’ll find most of the sessions quite beginner friendly, contact the school or organization and see what classes or sessions they recommend.
As opposed to the more formal classes, most of the open studios and workshops are weekly, come and go as you please, and charge only a model fee for the session, usually about $8 – $10.
Most of the listings offer a link to the venue sponsoring the sessions, where you can find more details and contact information (it’s always wise to make sure dates and times are current).
The image above is by Pierre-Paul Prud’hon, one of the finest academic figure artists, certainly one of my favorites, and is meant to be inspirational, not intimidating.
One of the most important things I learned in my continuing practice of drawing from life was to never be intimidated by comparing my level of drawing ability to someone else’s ability. Nothing will hold you back more. We are all simply at different points on the path, and the more you draw, the further you go.
What are you waiting for?