Life Drawing: Live!

Life Drawing: Live!


Hi, I’m Jonathan Yeo and welcome to the
Royal Academy. I’m an artist and actually my work is
currently on show in the ‘From Life’ exhibition, which is on
upstairs. Today we’re going to be doing a live-streamed life class which you guys
at home can take part in. So first we’re going to be doing a series of
three-minute poses with our model, Andrew. This really is a warm-up, so don’t
stress too much about what it looks like. Then we’re going to be looking at some
longer poses and the idea is that this gives you a bit more time to consider
what you’re doing and I’m going to be here probably prattling on about form and
colour and light and that sort of thing. If you do want to ask questions, then
use social media and the formats should be appearing around here now and use
the hashtag #LifeDrawingLive. Then finally, we’re going to be rounding
up the class by looking at all the work from the people here and hopefully
looking at the work from you at home, so do please send your photos in. This is
pre-recorded, but we’re going to be joining the Life Room live in any second
now, so stay watching! Hi, we’re now live! So welcome to the Royal Academy of Arts,
in London and the live life-drawing class. This is the first time we’ve ever done this,
it may be the first time it’s ever been done so, in which case, you’re part of the
historic occasion and basically, we’re going to be starting with a series
of short poses. So, watching at home obviously you have the luxury of
putting the kettle on and having a break, but, basically, you’ll be doing it
at the same time as everybody else. The idea of the short poses is to loosen
up. It doesn’t matter how good it is, it’s just about working on instinct.
They’re such short poses, you won’t really have time to get it right or think
too much and that’s the whole idea. No one needs to see what you’re doing
if you don’t like it. If you do like it, you can share it with us. I think they’ve
told you how to do that and we’ll be looking at it later on.
So, we’re going to get started now. I didn’t introduce Andrew,
we should’ve done that. This is two minutes! [background noises] [Course leader speaks]
“30 seconds left!” “Stop!” “This is another two minutes.” “Go.” “30 seconds left!” “Stop.” “So next is three minutes.” “Ready?” “Go.” “30 seconds.” “Stop!” “One more three-minute.” “Ok, go!” “30 seconds left.” “Stop!” So welcome back and if you’ve just tuned
in, we’re at the Royal Academy for the first ever, I think, live-streamed
life class. If you have just joined, all you’ve missed is so far is a warm-up
section and so people should be loosening up, but the idea is to
realise it’s basically impossible to do anything and get it right in a two-minute
pose. Hopefully it actually forces you to work
instinctively, rather than trying to get things right. We’re now going to move onto
a 10-minute pose once Andrew, our fabulous life model, has had a chance
to move around a bit. So that gives you a little bit longer to,
maybe if you’ve been looking at the lines only, start thinking about shading
or if you’ve been doing other things then try and start bringing things
together a little bit more. Above all I would say, and just by looking
around the room here, there’s an instinct to try and draw things precisely, which
is great, but actually maybe take advantage of the fact that you’re having
having to work faster then you like to and look for shapes and colour variations
and blocks of shading and the colours around the model as well as on him.
Anyway, just a suggestion, the same goes for you guys too really. I think I would
try and enjoy the fact that, I’m sure you do this more than I do, so you can
ignore me, but I think a lot of you were doing the outlines more than the shapes.
I would say that part of the fun of this is that when you’re in a hurry, you
can just blast in areas of colour and the relative light and dark
and that can be a way of doing something you wouldn’t normally do.
I always find that interesting, when you’re forced to do things you don’t normally do
because that’s when you learn new things and sometimes you think “hang on, how
did I do that much quicker than I would normally, doing it the way I
normally do it?” That’s when, you know, you learn useful things. Anyway I’ll try
not to comment too much, I don’t really know what I’m talking about. It’s very
impressive how much you’re getting done, I’m rather jealous of it.
“So, 10 minutes…” “Go.” “It’s halfway” You don’t have to do the whole
figure either, with these. I tend to try to get away with doing less,
if I can, particularly with these poses. Look where the lighting hits and
where it ends. It’s quite nice, the ways in which you
get the light and shade, and that light shading describes the muscle and the
three-dimensionality and the architecture of the body and the muscle. You can see
from here, on his torso, and his arms, in a way, it’s the shading in those areas
that describes the shape much better than the outline. [Jonathan talks to a member of the class] “One minute, guys!” “30 seconds!” “Done!” Hi, so we are here live at the Royal
Academy’s historic Life Room. Where some say they haven’t cleaned it
since Turner and Constable once scrambled around on the floor,
I’m sure that’s not true. We are about to do a 15-minute pose
and so these are getting longer. The idea is that you could do a bit more
each time, but they’re still short enough that you’ve got to work fast, basically.
If you are unsure about what to do or if you’ve seen a pattern in what you’re doing
already then it might be a nice opportunity to deliberately set out to do something
a bit different to what you normally do. So, if you’ve been looking at the outlines
try just looking at the shades or if you’re ambitious, doodle the negative space, i.e.
the space around the figure rather than the figure itself. It doesn’t matter how
you do it, it’s about the exercise of it really and hopefully learning something
by doing something instinctively that you might not otherwise know about.
Anyway, Andrew is limbering up and I think he’s nearly ready for the next one and
we’re going to get started here. Do send things in, obviously you can
probably tell I haven’t done this before, but I think we’re going to be able to see
some of the things you’ve done later on and we’ll show your comments
if they’re very nice about us. [Jonathan laughs] So, I’m going to get out of Anneka’s way
now. Same sort of goes again, I think. See this is what’s great, I won’t go on
for too long, but the in-and-out shading, this is such a beautiful thing. Look at
the drawings of Michelangelo and people like that, he obsessed about that and
in a sense, the way you put the lines on the outline doesn’t really matter too much
if you get the volume right. That’s what I love about it. Follow
your instinct, but try doing something from a different point of view than what
you normally do and I’ll try and give some sort of feedback. You can scorn me for
how I measure up to a proper art teacher afterwards. “Go!” [Jonathan talks to a member of the class] One of the great things about working from
life is it reminds you how you see differently to how cameras see things.
I think we’ve got so used to, in the 20th century, the idea that the
camera is right and we get it wrong, but actually we’re starting to realise
that’s not the case. With Photoshop, and now we all kind of take photos
of ourselves and shove filters on them and change things. I’m starting
to think the idea that the camera is the truth and anything done by hand
isn’t… then on top of that, obviously, as Hockney’s always pointing out, the
single viewpoint of camera, as opposed to how we see things, is a very
different perspective. The thing that mostly affects me is that the dynamic
range of a photo is nowhere near as good as what we see . With this,
you’re able to see the tones and highlights and within the shadows, the range of colours
that don’t usually come up in a photograph. [Jonathan talks to a member of the class] You’ve got used to things coming in and
out of focus –”Five minutes down” – as a shorthand for depth and distance so things
look out of focus, some things look sharp. That’s not how we see things, we see the
parallel lines of something that’s a different distance away rather than it being massively
blurred. So that’s also part of why, when you’re working fast and you have to take
two or three goes to get the line right, it actually resonates with the way a brain
takes in visual information in a way that we’re not necessarily conscious of, as
we’re so used to seeing so many photographic images in a day.
Movement’s the same. Movement’s also parallel and the fact that he’s very still, with
a little bit of movement. He’s moving a little bit, we’re moving a little bit. There’s
subtle changes in perspective there. I always think the interesting thing with
portraits is the way you get time passing. The exhibition upstairs, the Jeremy Deller
Iggy Pop life class installation, I don’t know if any of you’ve seen that, but there’s
actually quite a nice version of that here. It’s good to see lots of different
interpretations of the same thing and it’s like getting lots of fleeting glimpses of
something and no one complete picture, but through all of them you get actually
an incredibly rounded and varied picture. It’s a good exhibition, by the way, you
should see it. To people watching at home, I’d say
try and not worry about getting any mark particularly right. Try and get as many
marks down as possible, get as much information down as you can,
then emphasise things afterwards. [Class leader speaks] “It’s interesting to think about the negative
space, in between the arm and then down.” Exactly, that’s the advantage of having a
dark backdrop. You can draw the shape pretty much entirely with the negative
space, i.e. the areas that join the figure rather than on the figure itself. Someone taught me an interesting
exercise, when I go straight into painting, which is rather than drawing the actual
person, because sometimes you have to do it in a hurry, it makes you look
at the figure as areas. You often find you don’t need to worry about
the detail as much as you think you do. [Jonathan asks the class leader]
Is the room ever used for painting? “It is used for painting, yes. Lots of portrait
courses and acrylics, but we can’t use oil paint in here because of the
historic nature of the space. But lots of painting, lots of watercolour.” What’s the shortest poses you do for the
painting? “Two or three minutes, it doesn’t really matter
what medium they’re using, I suppose. The whole point of the short pose is more
about the person drawing, to loosen up. It’s more about gestural marks, I suppose.
In a lot of ways, having a paintbrush is better, because it allows you to be looser
with your gesture than with a pencil.” And rubbing things out? I don’t think
people have been doing much of that, I certainly try and avoid it but it’s very
frustrating, if you know you’ve done something and it’s wrong and you’ve made
it too definite but as a general rule, it’s better to just keep going,
rather than trying to correct things? [Class leader replies]
“Yes, I think the general rule is that rubbers are not allowed – although we have
given everyone a rubber!” “Three minutes left, guys!” “One minute left!” “Stop!” Hi, welcome back.
We’re pretty much halfway through our first live life-drawing class and I feel a bit
like Gary Lineker with a halftime update. We’re going to do a longer pose in a minute,
but Andrew will have a break or stretch. Maybe go and shower off somewhere, listen
to some music. I am going to look at a couple of things
you’ve sent in and answer some questions. So, I don’t know which we’re going to do
first? Oh pictures, great! It’ll be interesting to know which of
the poses? I should know from looking at it. Was that one of the short poses or the
longer pose? That’s a short pose. That’s exactly the sort of thing which you
want to be doing. It’s nice when you get a sense of the shape, but the lines aren’t
too precise. It’s where the mistakes are, where you correct something
with another line or get it a bit wrong which actually somehow relates more
to how we see things than what we’re used to seeing from photography. When you
see an image that’s totally frozen, it’s very different from looking at something,
even someone like Andrew, trying to keep still, but moving a bit, and you’re moving
a bit, looking at whatever you’re looking at. Same again with these, they’re more
geometric. That’s one way of tackling it is to break it down into shapes
and I often find myself doing that, certainly the first stage of something.
It’s a great way of getting a sense of the proportions and that kind of thing.
Nice to see a bit of shading there, clearly a consistency of style. It’d be nice to see
people who’ve done things which started off very one way at the beginning of all this
and have gone through a few different variations of style and approach.
This one again, another nice outline and I think that there’s a bit of shading. The
main thing I would say having seen these and everyone’s here, is try and do a few
things you wouldn’t normally do and if you want some more ideas about that I would
certainly think that to try and block areas of shading and try and get a sense
of the three-dimensionality of the figure you’re drawing, rather than just the outline.
I know it’s hard sometimes, especially when there’s a very dark background and a
well-lit subject so you’re seeing the outline, but even then, as Mary was saying, one of
the things you get taught to do is to look at the negative space, i.e. try and suggest
the shape of the figure from the colours and the shading around it. So, keep going
and this is the chance as we’re about to do a longer pose.
I’ve got to answer questions, sorry. Ok, let’s have a look at the questions. My daughter would like to know if you have
any advice for an A-level student focusing on the human form? Well yeah, just do lots
of this. Look at the human form a lot. I know it sounds obvious, but I think
drawing is like a muscle. I find when I haven’t done it for ages I’m really slow
and bad at it and then you just do it consistently for a few days and it speeds
up and up and you catch up. It’s more like a language in that point of
view. You get back into it very fast, it’s also something which you can hone
your skills at really fast, but looking at things is the way to do it and trying to
constantly question your assumptions about what you think you’re seeing and what’s there
in front of you. Hands are a good example. Hands actually are different-looking to
how we imagine them being and how we look at them when we’re looking at our own and
they are very much constructions. You can break them down into plains and
it makes it much quicker and easier to do. Ok, let’s have a look. What do I do if I make a mistake? Well, that’s good because we were just
talking about that, too. In some cases rubbers are banned in life rooms, because
the idea is mistakes are all part of it, it’s the way you’re seeing it and it
doesn’t matter. Part of the reason, I was just saying, is the way we see things
is different from how a camera sees things and whereas a camera might see things at
different distances away as one thing being sharply in focus and one thing being
blurred. Whereas the reality is the way our eyes see things is that things are,
you know, there’s two of them – this doesn’t really work because obviously
this is on a camera – but the point is that the parallel lines…
if you do two or three goes at getting a drawing right on an outline,
then actually, that can make for an image that resonates more with how our
brains take in an image than how a camera would. So, there’s no such things as
mistakes and mistakes are what you learn from them, as all the old clichés go.
How do you get the proportions right? There are various ways of doing this, one
easy analogue way of doing it is to measure with your thumb or pencil or brush and
just see if points of the model measure up to the others and then look again on the
piece of paper. When you’ve been doing it a long time you sometimes just get used to
certain proportions being normal, but then people are all shapes and sizes, so it
can vary a bit. It’s slightly a practice thing. There are ways to extend your arm
so it’s not a different distance away and see if his head’s the same sort of distance
as his pants to his nipples, and so that can be a thing that you measure other
things around the picture with. What is a good part of the body to start
drawing first? I would say start with a different bit each
time, probably. Because you don’t want to have too much of a formula for doing these
things and I think that’s, particularly the point of doing this sort of thing, is to
try out different approaches and if you get too comfortable in doing things
I think that can stop your development in lots of ways in life. Do we have
any more time for these? Or are we going back into it?
We’re here at the historic Life Room at at the Royal Academy, where Turner and Van Gogh
and Leonardo and, maybe not Leonardo, Reynolds all worked… and Gainsborough.
And we are going to now… Oh, one more question?
Last question for now. Is continuous line drawing a good or bad
idea for life drawing? It’s a great exercise, I think. Because,
again, if you set yourself parameters and do things which go slightly against how
you naturally do things then, again, it forces you to come up with solutions for
it which might then inform other things you do. So, I’d say all these things are
great exercises and just ways to kind of free up your thinking and observation a
bit. But, I would say, unless it works particularly well for you, it’s not
something to do every time. Anyway, I’ve got the sign going on behind
me so I’m guessing we’re getting back into it now. This is the last one, so this
is a 25-minute pose and it should be a chance to bring together several of
the things you’ve been doing already. So in theory you could do a shape and the
shading with this if you want to, but I would certainly encourage, if you’ve
started looking at things from a different perspective to normal, I would certainly
continue that if you can. We’ll look at some of the work as we go along. We’ll
look at a bit more at the end if we have time and answer some more questions.
Thank you for joining us. [Jonathan talks to members of the class]
Alright gang, you’ve got time here so it’s not a race with this one. Now that you’re
loosened up you’re probably working instinctively much quicker anyway, but
actually you’ve got time with this one to think about it for a moment
before you start as well. That might make it harder, it often
does when I try and do it. “25 minutes… going now!” [Jonathan talks to a member of the class] “Halfway there!” [Jonathan talks to a member of the class] “Six minutes left, guys” “Two minutes left, guys” “30 seconds!” “Stop!” That’s it, that’s your time up. I feel
a bit like an examiner here, saying “Got to stop now!”
I dare say you can probably do a screengrab and carry on at home though
if you wanted to, I’m guessing. So, actually could we thank the model,
Andrew, who has been unbelievable, holding that pose for so long.
[The class claps] We didn’t just freeze-frame it and keep it
there for ages, he really was staying motionless for that much time. We’re going
to have a little look at some things from the class and also some things that you guys
have sent in from home and there may be some time for one or two questions after
that. Well, anyone who’s been joined in since the start, well done for doing it and
we’d love to get your feedback about what this was like. It’s hard to imagine
we could do it better in the future, but obviously we’re up for hearing any
suggestions – obviously I’m joking. That’s nice, so is this one from the class
or from home? This is one from the class. That’s great and it’s nice seeing
– what you’re not getting at home is the fact that everyone
in the class is doing the same thing, but from different angles. So they all look a
bit different and this is a nice example. It’s actually – I love the style of it.
I love the sort of, the top half is beautifully done. I like the way the lines
are doing what I was saying earlier and missing a bit and also having trouble with
the legs in the way I slightly imagined. That’s great, and that’s a different thing
again, that’s using more expressive marks and it’s suggesting the movement of it
and the flow of it, rather than being concerned with getting things
precisely right. It’s almost a caricature. This is… aha, some colour!
It’s great. Is that a pastel? It must be. That’s great, it’s got more of a Francis
Bacon thing going on. Again, it’s a nice way of dealing with the speed with
which you have to do things, is to reduce things to a slightly more elemental,
almost abstract approach to it. This one – are these all from the class
still, or are these from home? Another one from the class, wow, what a
talented bunch of people. Notice that I studiously avoided doing it myself today
to avoid being shown up, of course, in any way. This is great. I think this is what
I was getting at – not trying to spend too long on any part of it. It looks
like it’s been done with fast marks and the advantage of that is, of course,
it gives the thing energy. Probably a lot of you’ve had the experience that you
can work very long and hard at getting something precise and somehow it becomes a
more static, heavy thing and actually it’s one of these things which, I think
this is exactly where you learn these things, just by doing things like this. It
forces you to look at things quickly. On which note, I should mention that the
Royal Academy – you can actually come here and do this with other people, their
classes are open, even short courses, you don’t have to be good at it, you can
look up on the Academy’s website and see how to come and actually come and do
exactly what we’ve been doing today. This is one that has been sent in,
that’s good, someone has been reversing the colours. So drawing with
light colour over dark and that is something which I meant to say is another
thing you can do. So, well done! You’ve been working it out, but it’s a way of
looking at the sort of shapes, rather than the outlines. Because when you try and
draw outlines with a lighter colour it doesn’t always work. That’s nice, Helene.
Thanks for showing your perspective on that one. Nice drawings too.
Wow, they’re going too fast! This is great. That’s good, using the
background colour to pick out the shape and that’s actually a good example of what
I was talking about. I personally also like seeing the foot and the way it’s done in a
different manner. It feels a bit more like an editing process your brain does when
you’re looking at things. You don’t give equal weight to different areas of your
field of view. It’s good. There’s a bit of colour, but it’s reduced to
suggest the other colours. This again, they’ve picked out some green
in his pants, which is great. Glad to see Andrew managed to avoid
having anything hang out of his pants all the way through that, we were a bit
worried about that at the start, we had emergency services on standby. This is really nice actually. It’s exactly
what I was talking about, constructing it using shaded parts only
and hopefully some others of you have found that you’ve ended up experimenting with
that a bit if you don’t do it normally. Whatever you normally do, hopefully you’ve
tried something new, that’s all there is to it. It’s just about doing it and
observing, really. We do get, I’ve said it before, but we do tend to retreat to doing
things as we think they look, rather than as they actually look. I don’t do
enough of it. Whenever I do go back to painting from life, you always find things
and think “How did I not see that before?” and I think that’s the great thing. There
can be years in between doing it and you still can come back and pick it up again.
So, plug the Royal Academy life classes, we’ve done that. ‘From Life’ exhibition
upstairs, full disclaimer, I’ve got work in the show, but it’s a really good show.
And this place, you know, is here. It’s been here 250 years, which
is the amazing thing. It was the first art teaching establishment in the world,
I think? In Europe? In the world? In England, well that’s in the world. Well anyway, thank you very much for
joining in this. This is, as you can probably tell, I’m not a presenter and I’ve
never done this before, none of us have. But, thank you all and thank you for
joining in and, you know, maybe we’ll be able to do this again one day. Thank you all!
[Applause from the class]

26 thoughts on “Life Drawing: Live!

  1. Fantastic, really enjoyed the session; I've not life drawn for years, really appreciate it. Please think about doing another one soon…;-)

  2. This has been brilliant to take part in.  Thank-you RA for doing it and what a fantastic model for this first on-line session.
    Congratulations
    Wendy Head

  3. hello, do you have by any chance the complete record of "love motion" by chrys coren? it would be great to hear it again..

  4. Only found out about this later so didn't see it live. But having gone through it (fast forwarding) over breakfast I look forward to trying it with my materials at hand. You did a great  job being spontaneous and funny while also giving encouragement. I echo Wendy's comment on the model. Super lighting and technical squad: well done all behind the scenes.

  5. Excellent session.  The model does excellent work and I like the instruction.  The posing strap for the model was distracting.  I'm hoping you can move past that, but understand if you can't.  Thank you for making this resource available.  The model does great poses.

  6. Excellent idea which I hope will be repeated. Superb model. Great that it's available after the live-stream. Many thanks.

  7. Please please please do it again. That was amazing, and for someone who lives out in the sticks in the north of Spain, with little or no chance of 'real' life drawing, invaluable. Thank you.

  8. Hi ***there at studio RA/ I am associated by Kings' College Cambridge. But, My Father was a Famous Artist 1928-1980 When he died. He was associated in Opera with Benjamin Brittain, costume and design. Then he painted all through his life, and became famous with portrait painting. His work is permenently on display in (The National Gallery in London) I am always proud of my Father, and celebrate him. He worked so hard !…….Art ? Creation of the exiting beautiful life we have !…Art: Create and make. I try and be an artist ? But my work speaks the word by itself, and I am unable to express it all in words. Keep your imagination alive !!!!!!! Oli

  9. Like another commenter, I hadn't done any life drawing for years (40 years!), this was a great way to dip my toe back in. And off to the RA exhibition in the morning. Appreciated Jonathan Yeo's un-slick style. Thanks!

  10. Thank you for uploading this. It was a nice experience. Hasn,t been in drawing class for a year. It was nice to get this experience again.a teacher talks to some one in a distance. sound of graphite on a paper…
    THank you. Hope you willl make more of this type of video

  11. I've only just had the chance to catch up and actually get down to drawing from this! Thanks so much, it was really good to have the chance to concentrate and I felt as though I was back in life drawing class at art school in 1968…please do one again. And thanks to the model, he kept remarkably still in very awkward poses, which were excellent for drawing, I imagine he must be a dancer? I'm in France so it was marvellous to have this class on video.

  12. Thank you so much for posting! The model and commentary were wonderful. Drew along after the fact. Lighting showed the form. Look forward to more.

  13. We're excited to announce that there's going to be a second #LifeDrawingLive! It's on 28 February: https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/event/life-drawing-live-anatomy-class

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