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Making Progress in Life Drawing (or at least trying to)

January 25, 2011

I’ve been doing pretty regular life drawing for a few years now. At first I made progress relatively quickly, having done quite a lot of life drawing when I was in my twenties.  But in the last few months I just couldn’t seem to do any decent drawings, and found my mind wandering, my interest waning.  It`s easy to find excuses – I don`t like the model, the pose times don`t work for me, it`s too hot in here….Of course I never actually bought into any of those things, but they do sort of float through your head when the drawing isn`t going well.

One thing I`ve tried to push forward is posemaniacs – last year I filled pages and pages with 30-second figures  – and this is an excellent way to get your speed up if you are disciplined enough to do it – which I haven`t been this year.

I also tried working through several life drawing books – most recently figure drawing by Michael Hampton. I filled pages with hands and feet (the hard bits for me) but again, I lack the discipline to work through it systematically.

And then, one evening as I felt myself wondering how long to the break, I decided to switch to my left hand.  This has been the most useful tool yet.  It forces me to concentrate, which focuses my interest – I find myself really enjoying myself and I like my drawings so much more.  They have a certain truth to them, even when they`re not  particularly accurate.  Here are a couple of 2-minute poses – not much time for drawing with the non-dominant hand.

Here are a few of the longer ones from the last three sessions – mostly 5-minutes but sometimes as long as 10 minutes. Once in a while I switch back to my right hand, but I`m not sure anymore which are which.  I didn`t always have time to finish, as you can see. While the drawings may not look generally better than what I was doing before, I can see definite improvement in things like hands – and I`m having so much more fun doing it, which is the main thing for me.




That`s what`s been working for me – and you?  I`d love to hear about what`s been working for you!

17 Comments leave one →
  1. January 25, 2011 12:25 pm

    Drawing with the left hand is my favorite thing to do to freshen things up. And to see things more clearly.

    I haven’t been doing it at all lately because my left thumb is injured, but maybe I can figure out a way to hold a piece of charcoal or a pencil and give it a try today.

    Your drawings are beautiful and inspiring.

  2. January 26, 2011 12:02 am

    Your drawings always looks so wonderful to me. I’m envious can you tell? Also, your cats sound like the two that own me … the huge male is so intimidated by the little female, its pathetic *grin. Your cat drawing are perfect. Love them.

  3. January 26, 2011 12:15 am

    Hi Casey, A few weeks ago, or a month ago, I tried doing a blind contour drawing with my left hand. I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. Maybe it’s the focus. Your drawings are wonderful; and I very happy to hear you’re having fun!

  4. January 26, 2011 1:27 am

    I think these are excellent drawings! Excellent! I can’t believe you did them with your left hand. (Maybe I should try that – I’ll become Rembrandt). I was very interested in the history of your struggles. I am the same way. The discipline for these things just hasn’t been there. I have books I start going through on figure drawing, but don’t do it consistently. I started with posemaniacs but stopped in a hurry. So don’t be so hard on yourself. Be hard on me instead!

  5. January 26, 2011 9:55 pm

    These are fantastic for short poses! I know – I’ve been doing a class on life short poses (20 sec, 40 sec, 60 sec) for the last 6 months. Mine look like deformed mutants, not necessarily human at that :D. When I hit a snag, like the one you describe in this post, and my teacher notices, he has me draw with my non-dominant hand for a time too. So it seems to be a known method. When I get back to my dominant hand – things look visibly better. Keep at it, this is training for the brain, not rendering a perfect image in a few seconds. This is good for you, it will show up in your other slower works. It did for me.
    Thank you for your comment on my Sketchbook project, you are too kind!

  6. January 27, 2011 12:58 pm

    Interesting post Casey…and reassuring to know that drawing the human body, no matter how amazing, can become a little tedious if done the same way time and time again. A good reminder to always mix it up. I’d say that I’m trying to do the same these days with my own work…really evaluate my process and try to tweek my methods here and there for new results. This post inspires me to push it even more. Thank you!

  7. January 27, 2011 2:41 pm

    Wow–Casey, these are beautiful! and what a great idea, to switch to the non-dominant hand. I’ve never thought of doing that, since I can barely do things WITH my dominant hand, but that sounds like it really would exercise the brain to be thinking and observing more. Love this idea and I’m going to give it a go when I get a chance!

  8. January 28, 2011 8:31 am

    Casey I’m really impressed!!! These sketches are absolutely stunning! I had heard of this “technique” of drawing with your non dominant hand, always promised myself I would try, and never did. This makes me want to try it immediately!
    As for your drawing practise, don’t be too hard on yourself! I’m already impressed by the number of sketches you do! You don’t have to sketch 200 hands and feet in one go; you must take breaks, and even if you sketch a hand just once, it’s already a good exercise and your brain will remember it, and it will remember that a hand and a foot is just another form to draw, not much more difficult than a pot or a jug. And that is the important thing I think.

  9. caseytoussaint permalink*
    January 31, 2011 8:57 pm

    Thank you all for the encouragement. Last week I was tired, and even drawing with my left hand didn’t work. Sigh. My husband seems to go through the same thing with golf, I guess it’s just the way things go. Your experience as well?

    • miroki permalink
      February 13, 2011 11:48 am

      It was the same for me this weekend, not one good drawing from art school. I seem stuck. I will try the left hand next time, I remember doing it last year when my right shoulder was hurting. Drawing with the left hand feels more relaxed. Keep up the good work.

  10. February 2, 2011 6:56 pm

    J’aime beaucoup la dernière série, et j’envie ton coup de crayon !

  11. February 6, 2011 5:40 pm

    I love the hands and feet page – I have such difficulty with them! I think I may have to try left-hand drawing too; your last couple figures are gorgeous.

  12. February 7, 2011 7:49 pm

    We are always on the lookout for foot art so if you have any you like please consider submitting to toemail!

  13. March 6, 2011 9:21 pm

    Left hand! OMG, I can’t even do that with my right! Figure drawing is the black hole in my art repertoire so I am just glad to have some ideas you shared to try out. For me, it’s something I know I have to do but because of my fear, I haven’t done much about it. Joining the Julia Kay’s Portrait Party has helped to pry apart my hesitance to do portraits. Maybe I’ll try your left hand trick! Thanks!

  14. Linda permalink
    April 15, 2011 10:01 pm

    Casey, Your drawings are wonderful tomwe, I’m teaching myself and have noclasses in my area, want to do drawings like this and need advise on books or better yet dvds to learn can you please give advise? Thank you so keep up the great work.

  15. October 19, 2011 11:54 pm

    Hello Casey! Greetings from Scott & Susan Forman of Boca Raton, Florida. We met last month at an outdoor cafe in Amboise and you were both so very helpful in getting our meal to the table. I thought it was rather kind and will always think fondly of that night. Just thought I’d say a quick hello and provide you with my email address. Sue and I were quite serious about giving up our home in beautiful sunny Boca Raton for a month or two to spend time freezing our keester’s off in Amboise. So let’s keep some dialogue going and if you know anyone who is intrested, send them our way. And if you provide me with an email address I can send photos. Thanks again for being a really cool person and send our regards to Michel. All the best, SF

  16. Apprendre à dessiner permalink
    March 22, 2012 12:46 am

    Posemaniacs is the abolute way to draw like life drawings but at home.
    I love this website, even in 2012.

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