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Sunday, March 04, 2012

Desirables of a Life Class

I'm not hugely experienced in life drawing (just over two years), though I've seen three or four different types of class/session now. I'm usually open to whatever the class is. However, I've built up some ideas about what I like. I've tried to reflect on the most important, which appear towards the top of the list. I hesitate to call them Requirements, so let's say they are Desirables.  I've left out things like location and frequency, as these are on the Cost side of the equation.  Can you tell that I'm accustomed to thinking with my left brain? Or that I'm fairly grumpy?


My ideal drawing class, or strictly session, would have : 

  1. A Model, or maybe Some Models, who are willing to be still and be studied for a while.

    That's basically it for essentials, so here are the differentiators:
  2. Nude. The figure can best be studied without obstructing clothing. On the model I mean. Some is OK, but essentially I'd like to draw the figure. 
  3. Time. A decent session duration. Two hours is standard, but I could go low as 40 minutes or up three hours. Beyond that, the place has to be comfy and offer other features.
  4. Poses. A variety of poses, some short, some long, in various postures (stand, point, stretch, sit, lie).
  5. Stillness. Poses held quite accurately, though doesn't have to be static to the millimetre.

    You get all that with any normal class with experienced models (or good guidance). So now we go to the aspects which vary a lot from class to class.
  6. Light. Good light falling on the models, preferably warm and directional. Medium shadows that show form.
  7. More Light. Good amount of light on the drawing paper, neutral and flat.  (Yeah I know, bear with me, this is an ideal list.) I'd like to be able to see a light mark made with a 2H pencil.
  8. Knowledge. Both of how long each pose will last, and what poses there will be. No sudden surprises.  Poses may be slightly longer than advertised.
  9. Schedule. Start, break and stop at the advertised time. I usually have a train to catch.
  10. Space. This means adequate sightlines, fairly close to the model. Enough leg and elbow room to adjust my drawing position. There should be the option of sitting (on chairs) or standing to work, and moving around.
  11. Peace. No crashing about, dropping things or giggling.  Noisily setting up next to me after I've been concentrating for 10 mins? ... hmm, not impressed. Talking in a soft voice is fine. This is do with the culture of the class, and harder for the leader to control.
  12. Easels and boards. It's very nice to have these available, as they don't fit in my bag so well.
  13. Tea. I can't survive on will alone, so refreshments are very good to have. A nearby shop/cafe if the venue doesn't put on its own tea. This needs toilets to work properly. A class shorter than 2 hours can do without.
  14. Sympathy/society. Interacting with other artists (and models) is part of the process. I don't especially want formal crits or anything, but it's good to see what approaches and techniques are being used, and to have the chance to chat with the others. Again this is class culture aspect, as some people don't seem comfortable with having their work on show.
  15. Tuition. It depends on the intent of the class. I can cope with none, sympathetic guidance, all the way to stern correction. Demonstration is a very effective technique. This could simply be having a drawing done in the same time as I made my attempt, and getting some quick Q+A with the master.
  16. Materials. It's a bonus to have paper and such for sale, though I'm basically going to bring my favourite stuff to a class. Having consumables such as tape, fixer, water and towel/rags is very nice.
  17. Beer. Post-session pub trips are nice to have. But these would essentially be a wind down for me, so no jumping joints thanks. 
  18. No extraneous noises.  I've listed this one separately as it's to do with the environment rather than class culture.
  19. Hygeine.  The room should be fairly clean. It should be safe to sit on the floor, and there should be wastebins that are not already overflowing.
  20. Admin. This means signing up, paying, finding information and all that, should not be a hassle.
  21. Beautiful models. Well, everyone is beautiful, but you know what I mean. I've listed this simply to show that it's low on the list. Anyone can be a life model.

    Now we are into the nice-to-haves, no particular order :
  22. Variations on class leadership. I've never experienced a class without one, so assume it may be necessary. It would be interesting to try a class led from within, i.e. a model or artist intermittently changing mode, or just by having everyone keep to a chalked-up menu, which might work for a small group of like-minded people.
  23. Theatre (ideas, props, costumes). A sense of occasion is fine, and a narrative is interesting for long sessions. However, if the narrative has surprising elements in it, then this is in danger of breaking the Knowledge of the Pose desirable. If the drawings turn out OK, it also adds interest to the sketchbook, which goes down well with the non-artists who later see it.
  24. Music (see also Theatre).  I don't mind a bit of ambient background noodling, but I could do without singing (unless word-free) and dramatic musical content. Some artists stick their iPods in.  Were I to do so, it would be vocal-free, but not necessarily chill-out. E.g. Electronica, instrumental rock, dub reggae, classical would all work, and could even be pretty loud.  The main thing is that it shouldn't draw attention to itself at the intellectual level. If it's live, it should be in tune (nothing like a flat to draw attention to itself). I recognise this is personal; I'm crap at multitasking (e.g. can't answer a question if I'm typing a sentence), but I do like working with music on.
Next time, I might tell you how some different classes have done on this scale.

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