‘LIFE DRAWING’ – perfect for honing observational skills.

During the last few years it’s been great to see that life painting/drawing is back in vogue.

Some of the images in this post are from a life session I tutored in Chester, UK.

To warm  up I painted this rapid watercolour/gouache portrait of David, the model.   I like to get to know my models a little this way before beginning the days work.      20161207_142829There have been periods during my career when I was fortunate enough to begin each day with a two hour life session.       I can’t think of a better way to get the creative juices flowing.

Twenty minute – full sheet watercolour and felt tip pen study – 


I love short poses – preferably five to 20 minutes max.     This enables me to capture the energy, movement and gesture of my subject….

five minute watercolour study – male dancerp1160967I was fortunate to go to art school in the early sixties when the first year was dedicated to  life drawing.      Observation, observation, observation……

Twenty minute watercolour study on full sheet…(all the white is dry white paper).  the negative space shapes are vital in the overall composition.     20-11-15-1-432I believe that a strong foundation frees an artist to explore their work with confidence.    

Regular life drawing sessions help to build self confidence and most importantly build a strong foundation. 

Ten minute full sheet study of Scarlett, one of my favourite models  p1160922Along with nude models I also enjoy working with ‘costume models’ learning how to capture the human form beneath the drapes of fabric  – again it’s all about honing observational skills.

This man modelled for me in Paris….a beautiful dancer.   I often do quick portraits of my subjects in a life painting session. 


In this instance one of my favourite models arrived with her new born baby….It was a magical session.     In the warmth of the quiet studio both mother and baby completely relaxed…..20-11-15 - 1 (780)Focusing on the loving and gentle hands of the mother.      A  few years ago I gave a weekend residential workshop in Herefordshire where we only painted the hands and feet of our models.   An excellent exercise. P1160912Capturing the gesture and seeking out the abstraction of the shapes produced. – ten minute full sheet study. 20-11-15 - 1 (50)

Happy painting


32 thoughts on “‘LIFE DRAWING’ – perfect for honing observational skills.

  1. Ka Malana - Fiestaestrellas.com

    Back when I was 15 I enjoyed doing life drawing with nude models at a nearby college. I had no instruction and I produced my best work. It cost only $5. Now I’m 40 and I haven’t done anything like that in a very long time. I love these, especially the mother and her baby.

  2. davidjrogersftw

    Thank you for this guide Janet. I am not a painter but I could enjoy your lovely work as you share your insights. In my early twenties I had occasion to spend many hours in the School of the Art Instute of Chicago–(a girl friend painter)–and so enjoyed being amidst creative spiritual and physical activity and beautiful colors. and the odors of paint. Your post brought those memores back to me.

  3. Liza

    I am very drawn to the painting of the young man from Paris. Your quote “I believe that a strong foundation frees an artist to explore their work with confidence,” is certainly illustrated in this incredible painting. Although it is free and fluid, it also captures the mood or thoughts in his eyes without the details of realism. I am so delighted to see this….it’s quite powerful!


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