Gestures and Axes

I have to admit that when I signed up to take a beginner drawing class, I was expecting classes similar to the last art class I took, back in 6th grade. Classes spent drawing shapes - outlining circles and then shading them. This class has been nothing like that. As adults, we are forced to jump right in to more classical drawing exercises.

And what could be a more classic drawing exercise then drawing a live model? A bowl of fruit I guess. Anyways, I was very curious when our instructor told us to expect a model for our last few classes. Would the model be a woman? A man? Clothed? Unclothed? How would everyone act - nonchalant or overly formal?

The answer is the same...everyone acted the exact same. It was as if the naked woman in front of us was just a bowl of fruit.

Our instructor explained to us that the focus of our first exercise was to focus on capturing the form or "essence" of her pose. He then asked her to hold a series of 10 one-minute poses. This is called gesture drawing - where the artist draws a series of poses taken by a model in a short amount of time. The aim is to warm up and focus on getting the basic form down on paper. Mine ended up looking a lot like stick figures...

From there, we built more time onto the drawings - progressing to a series of 10 two-minute poses. It's amazing how much one extra minute can help.

After warming up, we were told to focus on finding the "axes" for different parts of the body. For example: the tilt of her head, neck, knees and feet. I first marked top and bottom lines to show intended size of my drawing. That helped confine everything to a limited space. We were given 5 minutes for each of these three poses, so I had time to use a straight-edge to measure the level of tilt for each section of her body:

Next, we moved on to 2 ten-minute poses. We started the same as before by finding axes, but after that we built on top using straight line contouring:

The last forty minutes of class was devoted to a long pose: