'Stars of the silver screen' – vintage life drawing

If you've always fancied giving life drawing a go or, like me, haven't done any in ages, keep an eye on the events at the Reading Biscuit Factory. Currently, the Biscuit Factory, in partnership with Reading arts charity Jelly, is hosting a monthly life drawing session. Each session has a cinematic theme, as one might expect from the venue. 

monochrome pastel sketch of reclining woman holding fan

Armed with an array of materials but not nearly enough paper (luckily the organisers had some lovely large sheets to spare), I headed to last week's January life drawing event and loved it. The theme: "Stars of the silver screen" – a lovely Hollywood golden era-inspired evening. Abby – our artists' model – with her assortment of vintage props posed artfully for the group in an array of cinema-classic inspired standing, seated and reclining positions. Photographic lights provided us with lots of dramatic highlights and shadows to sketch. For those of you who might be self-conscious about attending a drawing session, the lights are all on the model so you don't need to worry that your creations are being scrutinised. 

monochrome life drawing of reclining woman

There are good reasons why life drawing is a well-established art practice. Drawing a pose that's held for perhaps only a minute or two forces you to focus on what you see rather than what you draw, so it's good training for your hand–eye coordination. Longer poses (our longest last week was 10 minutes) provide opportunities to study form more closely and engage with building up light and shade. 

Graphite pencil sketch of seated woman

With life drawing, you have to shift your focus from the details you think you see and find the lines, forms and shadows that convey character. You don't have time to look at your drawing and overthink it but rather have to focus on what's in front of you. This helps you detach from the quest for perfectionism and instead builds trust in your intuition. You have to trust the mark you make. 

Brush pen duotone sketch of woman

I worked initially in graphite pencil but also attempted some brush pen and pastel studies. Really glad I took the pastels (they're a vintage hand-me-down set themselves). I found much more freedom and energy in my mark-making with these. I also realised that I prefer to stand rather than sit when I'm drawing and the bigger the surface I am working on, the better. 

Brush pen sketch of woman holding fan

I did more than 30 sketches in the two-hour session. Heads up, two hours goes really quickly. I think my favourite sketch is this one:

Pastel monochrome sketch of woman with vintage cigarette holder

Thank you to the organisers and Abby for a great event! I'm looking forward to hearing what February's theme shall be. And I'm definitely going to take much more paper with me. 


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