• Jess MacGregor

Life Drawing in Markham: Fun with the Sugar Plum Fairy

Last week I attended a Life Drawing art class at Winged Canvas. Every other Friday they run a three hour costumed model session. In celebration of the holidays, the theme was The Nutcracker. Songs from the ballet played in the background, and the lovely and impressively still model Anya wore a Sugar Plum Fairy inspired costume.

Our class intently drawing the Sugar Plum Fairy (Anya’s alter ego for the night)

I haven’t worked on a life drawing in years. I sometimes think that drawing is like riding a bike - you never forget how to do it. But really, it requires practice. Life drawing is also different from copying a picture. It is exciting to draw from life because a real person has way more depth and detail than a picture because they’re, you know, real. Here are some things I learned in the workshop:

Proportion: Hands are Almost the Size of the Face

I decided to draw the whole model, which was...ambitious. The background music was playing, and everyone in the class was drawing quietly - we were definitely in ‘the zone.’ I got so far into ‘the zone’ that I failed to notice I had drawn Anya about three feet taller than she actually is. After several failed attempts at drawing her hands, I settled on what I thought looked like an accurate representation. Anya took a much deserved break and upon closer inspection, I noticed I had drawn her left hand incredibly tiny. Fei (who moderates the session and provides some feedback) noticed this and held her own hand to her face, to demonstrate how the hand is only a bit smaller than the length of the face. This was a helpful reminder about proportion. I erased the tiny hand and attempted it to make it more realistic.

Here I am in the drawing zone. Just drawing and shading and WHY IS HER HAND SO SMALL?

Choosing an Area of Focus: The Study

Some of the other students in the class took a different approach and chose to focus on one part of the model. In art speak, this is called a study. A study is done in preparation for a finished piece, and is a way to work out problems with proportion, colour, light and perspective. I got so excited about drawing the costume that I didn’t end up making a study, which is something I think I will work on next time. I need to work on drawing hands (see tiny hand example above) and a study is an excellent way to improve technique.

A student works on a study of Anya’s face

It felt great to get back into drawing. When I am at home it is harder to take the time to focus on my art; distractions such as chores and updating my cat’s Instagram account get in the way. A group setting (this session had artists ranging from age 15 to 88!) with dedicated time to focus is a great way to improve technical skills, and also makes for a fun Friday night.

Sugar Plum Fairy: Oil Painting by Fei Lu, moderator

Intro to Life Drawing classes (nude and costumed) resume at Winged Canvas.

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