Life Drawing Classes with St Ives School of Painting

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With 2020 making it impossible to attend a life drawing class, I signed up for the online Saturday Life Live sessions run by St Ives School of Painting 

I’d love to visit St Ives School of Painting for real but for now, I’m taking up the online learning opportunities.

I’ve been looking for life drawing classes or groups for over a year, but have yet to find one I can make. Therefore. finding St Ives School of Painting’s online life drawing lessons couldn’t have come at a better time.

Since learning to paint a few years ago, I’ve developed a proclivity to stick with landscapes and coastal views. However, I want to explore other mediums and subjects, and life drawing feels like a natural step. Plus, it’s good to develop different skills. I like to stretch myself, learn new styles, and see what I connect with artistically.

I’ve now taken part in 3 online life drawing lessons from the St Ives School of Painting, each with their own style and a different artist giving the lesson. 

an open sketchbook with pencils and willow

Online Life Drawing Classes – How It Works

As all the Saturday Life Live sessions are virtual, you can see the lesson but they can’t see you. While this means we miss out on the experience of learning and sketching together, it’s ideal if you’re a little shy about your work. 

All life drawing sessions are 2 hours long. They start at 10am and cost £10 each. Don’t worry if you can’t make the live lesson, you’re sent a link afterwards with the whole recording and stills of the model poses. Even if you join the live art lesson, you can still revisit it online, and spend longer mastering different poses. The link is valid for 2 weeks.

A willow sketch of women as part of life drawing St Ives School of Painting
Willow life drawing of women sitting from class at St Ives School of Painting

As with all life drawing lessons, there’s a live model. Each of the life drawing classes focuses on the work of different artists. Therefore, the model is dressed and posed in keeping with the artist’s original style. The 3 lessons I completed emulated the styles of Shiele, Lautrec (think Moulin Rouge), and Degas (ballet dancers). 

In terms of material, you need quite a few bits of paper. I got through about 8 sheets per lesson. St Ives School of painting send a list of items you need when you sign up. While it’s entirely down to personal choice, charcoal was certainly a favourite. I used willow and occasionally switched to soft pencil or graphite.

life drawing class in the style of Lautrec with St Ives School of Paining

The Saturday Life Live Classes

Over the 3 art classes completed, I’ve definitely learnt something different each time.

Each lesson is follows a similar format. First, there’s a brief introduction about the artist hosting the lesson, and the artist whose work is in the spotlight.

Life drawing sketches
life drawing sketches

Lessons start with a number of quick poses and sketches, lasting around 2 or 5 minutes.

I’ve never worked like this before and the quick sketches helped me focus on the lines of the body and the style of art I was aiming for. You can see how the artist is approaching each drawing too, and they talk through their methods with each pose. 

A life drawing sketch of a ballerina sitting and holding her feet
Life drawings from St Ives School of Painting

Another good thing about the shorter life model poses is there’s no time to think too much about what you’re doing. It’s more instinctive, which I think is a good idea as there’s not time to think about mistakes. Even if it’s not quite right, it’s all part of mark making and the story of the picture.

Multiple sketches of women from a life drawing class
An online life drawing lesson with St Ives School of Painting

When it comes to life drawing, I’m a total novice. For this reason, I found it helpful to hear how each artist achieved and measured perspective with the different model poses. How they notice where an elbow is in relation to another part of the body, for example.

It’s not just capturing the right angle or the negative space either. In the Shiele class with artist Gary Long, he encouraged us to draw with thick, decisive lines, much like the artist. This is in contrast to the Degas lesson, where there was an emphasis on “keeping it loose and free.”

After about 45 minutes, there’s a short break, which gives the opportunity for a Q and A. After the break, we’re given longer poses, usually somewhere around 15-20 minutes. I can tell you now, it’s amazing where the time goes! 

life drawing sketch in the style of Shiele
a coloured pencil sketch from life drawing class with St Ives school of painting

After each life drawing lesson, there’s much satisfaction in sitting back and looking at the sketched completed in the 2 hour lesson. With this comes a sense of achievement. I can hand on heart say that I wouldn’t have contemplated such drawings on my own. While not all sketches didn’t work out, I can see the difference from my first attempts in each lesson compared to the last (although they didn’t all work out).

All I need to do now is wait for restrictions to lift and find a life drawing class near me, where I can broaden my horizons that little bit more. 

Why not check out the classes offered at St Ives School of Painting? They run short and year long courses for people of all abilities, using a variety of mediums and styles.

If you’re looking to explore your creativity and improve your artistic skills, you may be interested in my post on daily painting.

Pinterest graphic charcoal sketch of woman

Author: plbedford

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