Australian Fine Artist

Venue: Frankston Chisholm

Tutor: Bill Hay


The way we light the model for life drawing makes a huge difference. Like portrait drawing and painting, the light and shadow creates drama, and helps to form the contours of the body.

Famous artists have used dramatic lighting to create some of the most impressive portraits and nude studies in art history. Two examples of lighting used to its best are by artists Vermeer and Rembrandt. Vermeer used light through windows, seatng or standing his models so that the light cast strong highlights on to them. Rembrandt painted haunting portraits by keeping one side of the face in shadow and in the case of his self portraits, placing a dark background around the face.

(NOTE: Drawings of nude male figure follow in this article)


For today’s lesson, we started off with some shorted line drawings to get going. Quick line drawings help you to relax and start understanding the unique features of your model. This is the time to check out their muscle tone, proportions, unique features etc. My first drawings are used to loosen up my arm and hand, and to relax and begin drawng in lightly, rather than going in to firmly too soon.

As we got into the session, the blinds were drawn and a spotlight was shone onto the model. The strong light revealed the muscle tone of the model so much more than the natural light in the room. Suddenly there was so much more information to take in. the nice thing about seeing your model like this is that if you take the time, you will see tones all over the body. From the darkest areas to graduating soft tones as the arm or leg rounds around to the light, or on the forehead, and around the torso there will be forms showing that you would not normally see so easily. You may also notice highlights where the light is storngest on areas of the body.

This is all information that you can use to create form and shape. It is an addition to your use of line, which in sme cases can be stronger in dark areas or places you want to emphasize, or nearly taken out in the light areas. The principle of lost and found edges, often used in paintng where you can decide where you want your outlines to occur, is a great way to add variety to your drawings.

Drawing tonally usng a strong light also gives you the opportunity to use the side of your charcoal or pastel, do some smudging and softening with an eraser, or add the use of a white pastel for stronger more distinct highlights. Drawing like this on a coloured background, like pastel papers that come in some very strong dark colours, can be another way of creating dynamic finishes.

Some artists run a water colour wash onto the papser before they start drawing, and then add the tonal effects over the top as they draw in the model. This can create some beautiful finishes if you allow the water colours to run into each other and blend.

Next week we will be experimenting with collage and life drawings, so that should be yet another way to experience drawing the human form. Until, then, keep drawing.

Samples from this week’s session below

(10, 15 and 20 minute sketches, charcoal on A2 paper):

lifedrawing141016-1 lifedrawing141016-2 lifedrawing141016-3

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