I started following Yorkshire life drawing on Instagram soon after they began in September last year. At the time, I had no idea I would be relocating to Yorkshire. I’d come across them through some art models who I follow. A year on, coincidentally but most fortunately, I find myself living around the corner from The Black Horse where the Yorkshire life drawing group meets on Thursdays.
I had planned to join them before I even realised my new home would conveniently be in Otley. But it did take me a few months of settling in to find the courage to venture out. I’m so glad I did.
Chatting between poses to Simone, an illustrator who was also joining the group for the first time, we both reflected that life drawing is a very meditative process. The poses are timed and most sessions start off with some very short poses, just a few minutes, while we warm up our hand-eye coordination. But despite the speed, it’s amazing how absorbing and soothing the task is. I guess, some may call it mindfulness.
Life drawing is valuable because it helps us respond spontaneously and intuitively. You can’t spend time deliberating about angles and composition, you simply get started and draw what’s in front of you. There isn’t time to overthink what you’re doing during the process either.
I’ve observed some artists are good at mapping in a grid or reference points to help manage proportions. I tend to just wing it. For me, drawing is about feeling the subject rather than getting it right. I respect those artists who can do both simultaneously and those who really have a knack for exploiting the possibilities of expressive distortion or simplification.
I’ve learnt with life drawing to always take a range of media and surfaces with me. Mixing it up is good. I went to my first Otley session, planning to work in blue ballpoint (one of my favourite media to draw with). To my surprise, my preferred medium that night was graphite. I rarely draw with graphite and had only brought them with me “just in case”. Good call, for once the graphite/paper interaction felt intuitive to me.
Another surprise at this session for me was how much I enjoyed sketching our model Emma’s hair (scroll back to main image or reclining figure and the seated pose above). I remember struggling drawing hair in my school sketching days and it’s never been something I have a feel for. I usually love the wispy bits and rush through the rest. But this time, I found I really enjoyed shaping and modelling her hair on paper.
I tend to sketch quickly. So, in addition to doing some full length poses (or as much as I could fit on the page since I usually draw bigger than I intend to), I also did some hand and feet studies. Hands and feet are troublesome to most of us artists. Luckily for me, I usually get to hide feet in ballet shoes. Nevertheless, one of the things I have come to realise (through drawing), is that fingers and toes are easier to capture if you draw the shadows they create rather than try to sculpt the form.
Yet another surprise was that the group walked around and looked at each other’s creations in the break. I wasn’t anticipating this but it’s really fun to see what everyone creates and hear what people like. Definitely a very warm and welcoming group. Yorkshire certainly lives up to the reputation of everyone being friendlier up north. I even stayed for a drink afterwards to get to know others in the group.
The welcoming atmosphere created by Diane (our organiser) and the rest of the group was also enhanced by the lovely architecture and chandeliers of The Black Horse. Gorgeous building. Well worth popping in for a pint if you find yourself in this hood. As I’ve visited the pub before, and seen the life drawing event photos on Instagram, I knew that it wouldn’t be too weird if I rocked up with my mini beanbag pouffe. One of the things I’ve found tricky with other life drawing sessions is that I’m not particularly comfortable drawing on a chair. Definitely a good call to take my drawing pouffe with me. Ok, one of my drawing pouffes, as I’ve recently invested in another which has a back and a footstool so is a bit better for my posture (as I sit here and write this blog for you).
Thank you to Diane, Emma and all the lovely drawing folk I met. Looking forward to joining you regularly.
^ The Black Horse is a lovely pub for a cosy drink if you're not into drawing.