Saturday, 1 September 2012

Lesson idea: Life Drawing

Life Drawing is something that is important within every art department and I encourage all my students to attend our weekly course throughout the year. Most comply and it ends up being their Friday afternoon highlight, but many of them question the importance of an hour and half spent staring at a naked model. I needed to change students opinions and after hours of endless searching for 'contemporary' approaches to the subject I came up with this lesson idea. It went down brilliantly with my students and got them producing some of their best work yet - you can check out their work here!

Note: For this lesson I get students to sit on the floor in a circle format around the room and work on long and thins (half A2 cartridge or sugar paper). You can position the model in whatever way works for you and your environment - sitting, standing, props, etc. I find the model is best positioned sitting or standing in the centre of the group to provide equal viewpoints from each point of the room.  At the beginning of the lesson I provide students with an envelope. Inside the envelope is a key terminology card** e.g. proportion, weight, tone, etc. for the students to refer to later in the lesson activity. Read on to find out how it is used below...

Starter: Drawing with masking tape
(10-15 mins)*
This activity is all about translating what you see into a range of interesting marks and textures, loosening up and getting unexpected results with masking tape. The masking tape allows students to not erase mistakes like the pencil and instead cover their mistakes up with layers. There's something beautiful about seeing the process of an image build up and the masking tape allows students to see the transition from 2D to 3D. I love this starter as it helps students trust their judgements and you will get some great later responses from this!
You need to judge how the students respond to drawing with masking tape as on some occasions less or more time is required.

Before you move to the next part of the lesson get your students to review their work in a discussion with peers. Using the key terminology cards** that were picked at the beginning of the lesson, pair students up and get them to write down on the long and thin how their drawing relates to the key terminology card.

Main: Three tone collage
(45-50 mins)
For this activity you will need two coloured pieces of sugar paper and masking tape. I tend to choose more natural colours for mine - one dark and one mid tone as the masking tape will act as the lighter tone. I always start by getting students to draw a 30 second - 1 minute continuous line outline of the figure as a quick map for their collage. Don't worry about it not being perfect as it is just a preliminary guideline. Now, start by observing the subject - get students to half close their eyes and they will see that tonal values are much simpler to read as this technique diminishes the colour. Next, choose a base colour for the main shape of the figure and once ready add highlight/low lights with the remaining colour and masking tape.

Remember: Lighter colour for areas carrying less weight, or a darker colour for the main shape or direction of the pose. Look at my examples above or click here to view my classes.

Plenary: Review and target setting (15 mins)
Get students to work in their pairs they were in at the beginning of the lesson and annotate each others work on post-its focusing on their key terminology card**. Get them to think about their personal opinion of the work - what is it they like about it?  What don't they like? Once answered get them to review the comments and set themselves a new target for the next lesson. An example target could be: "When making artwork and experimenting with materials I will persevere if it's not working straight away. If a technique works for me.. I will get out of it as much as I can without becoming stale and move on to the next challenge." Notes from the feedback can be attached to the long and thins and compiled into a book format later on! This is perfect for portfolios and universities love it as they get to see the students work in progress and how their skills/ideas develop. 

I hope you enjoyed reading my alternative take on a life drawing lesson and if you use any of these methods or teach similar techniques then let us know - we'd love to see how other students respond to drawing with paper. Watch out for some more life drawing lesson ideas coming soon!

- Kirsty 


  1. Those are beautiful! What is the age group you are working with here?

    1. Thanks Jade - teaching life drawing is a lot of fun and the results are always exciting! These studies were created with 16-18 year olds within an hour session. Kirsty ❤