Finding beauty and strength in the human form

It wasn’t until I went to life drawing class that I truly appreciated how beautiful the naked human body is.

Ok, I know what you’re thinking. I realise that sounds all kinds of dodgy, but I promise this will be worth the read (or the scroll through my sketches)…

10-minute pencil sketch.
One of my first 10-minute pencil and charcoal sketches.

I wasn’t sure what to expect either. I joined a group of artists who met every week at a studio with a life drawing model, to draw, or paint, or sculpt, or play with whatever medium took our fancy. So, I found myself, pencils, charcoal, and drawing pads spread on the desk before me, sitting in front of a dressing-gowned model – who was ready to de-robe… Frankly, I thought the whole thing would be rather uncomfortable!

But it wasn’t at all.

2-minute charcoal sketches.
Quick, 2-minute charcoal sketches.

All around me, the other artists filled the room with encouraging warmth, and the occasional, encouraging “goodness, you have lovely wrists/ankles/calves/hips” to the model. And, as soon as charcoal hit paper, it was never about body parts – only sweeping lines, fluid shapes, highlights, and shadows.

Charcoal sketch of our 2 models
Charcoal sketch of our 2 models

Instead of judging someone’s naked lumps and bumps, it was all gorgeous curving lines and light that gently wrapped around shapes and forms.

10-minute charcoal sketch.
10-minute charcoal sketch. I love this pose and the way the light is wrapping around her body.

My art experiment became to try and capture the model’s pose as dynamically and expressively as I could, with a quickly sketched out form, and blocked in light and shadow.

And, I learned a lot. And not just about art.

I learned that every body is beautiful – no matter what size or shape.

10-minute charcoal sketch.
10-minute charcoal sketch.

I learned that women are all curves, and men are rather more angular (I know, right!)

Quick, 2-minute charcoal sketches of our male model.
Quick, 2-minute charcoal sketches of our male model. Less curves, more angles!

I learned how wonderful it is to capture someone in a way they’d never seen themselves before (and they got to take those sketches home at the end of the evening).

10-minute charcoal sketch.
10-minute charcoal sketch. I love the highlights and shadows on this one too.

I learned that I love a mid-tone paper, a deep, soft, black charcoal for the shadows, and a bright, soft, white charcoal for the highlights.

Oh, and oil pastels are also fun.

10-minute oil pastel sketch.
10-minute oil pastel sketch.

And, I learned that EVERY body is beautiful – lumps, bumps, scars, bruises, knobbles, wrinkles and all.

I think we all need the odd reminder that we live in absolutely beautiful, dynamic, expressive bodies. Yup, a good reminder for me too.

10-minute oil pastel sketches. These are some of my favourites.
10-minute oil pastel sketches. These are some of my favourites.

One of our models, Janine, is a body-positive ambassador and an inspiration. She wrote an article that you can read here about our life drawing session. She says she felt beautiful, and it was “the most powerful experience of my life”.

These sketches inspired my donated piece for the Raglan Arts Weekend and I’ll tell you all about it next time. The Raglan Arts Weekend advance exhibition is opening on the 8th of December at the Old School Arts Centre (gosh, it’s snuck up quick!) So if you’re heading to Raglan, pop in for a sneak peek.