RCA | My First Life Drawings

When I just moved to London, my friend asked me to join a life drawing workshop, I refused, “I have never drawn a naked person, I would feel shy.  ” I didn’t expect that today I would spend 6 hours joining 2 life drawing workshops and felt “It’s not enough, I want more !”

In the morning, I joined Isabel’s workshop to draw a white woman. Before we start, Isabel showed us how to twist pencils to draw loose lines then how to draw the woman’s body.

Imitating her drawing method, I did my first life drawing. First, I used soft lines to draw the general figure, without a pencil leaving the paper, then put more pressure to draw the darkness. Isabel gave me suggestions how should I draw the hair in the right way, and how to use cross lines to draw on the body. 


Then, we spent another 15mins drawing the model without looking at out papers. Isabel told us to move our pencils on paper while our eyes moving on the model. I drew below shapes, I like them much more than the previous one,  so I highlighted some lines and draw some eyes. If I could put some colors and more drawing details, it would be very impressive. I think for my future drawings, I should use this way to draw an unlike figure.


Then, Isabel asked us to choose 2 color pencils to draw, first, we use the light one to draw the general figure, then we use the dark one to draw the shadows. Isabel was teaching me how to draw noise,  side face, and hair, to look more 3 dimensional.


After pencil practice, Isabel showed us how to do tonal drawings with charcoal. First, she used the charcoal to colored all the background into light grey, then she used puppy rubber to clean the space for figure drawing.

After her example, I still don’t know how to start to draw, so Isabel showed me how to start from the shape of the hair, how to draw the base of the hair, then how to draw the lines of the body from neck to back then arms. Following her method, I did the following 2 drawings.

In the end, Isabel asked us to use own material we want to use, I chose to draw with ink. First I dilute the ink with water and draw the general shape, then I use strong ink(without water) to draw the lines. After the left drawing, I want the figure to be looser and freer, so I distort the shapes and did the right one. 

Till here, the morning life drawing workshop is finished, but I felt that I just started to enjoy, so I asked Isabel if I could join the afternoon workshop too.

So in the afternoon, I joined Ian Ray’s workshop to draw a black man.

Without showing anything, Ian asked us to start 2 quick drawings with charcoal, while drawing the second, he started to give suggestions. I did these drawings based on what Isabel taught us in the morning.

Then Ian asked us to use color pencils to draw the third, then 3 different positions on one paper for the 4th.

Coming back to charcoal, he told us instead of drawing lines to present figure, try to use charcoal to draw shadows, then use putty rubber to make the highlight, and use charcoal to draw the dark part. Following his suggestion, I did this one.


During the break,  I looked at my classmates’ drawings, well, if there is no comparison. there is no harm. Compared to theirs, mine was like a disaster. Even if I spend the next whole month practicing, I still can’t draw better than theirs. 

drawing by classmates

For the last one hour, I felt bord to repeat drawing in the same way, so I tried to draw something new.

I used very simple lines to draw the shape of the figure within 2min. After drawing this, Ian took it and stuck on the wall, he told me later “Among all the masculine drawings in the room, yours is a soft and gentle one, it’s a turning point of your drawing. ”


Then, I tried to simplify the line and be more abstract. I remembered some cubist paintings from Picasso, so I tried to learn from him to resolve each part of the body,  exaggerate or distort shapes and forms.

In the last 30min, the model lined down on the ground, I noticed that there is a clear line in the middle of his body from neck till belly button, I drew the middle line and 3 buttons, then draw the whole body. I tried to abstract shapes of the body, and I noticed that the body is composed of lots of triangles, so I looked at him carefully to catch up these triangles. 


Here is my final work, based on all the experiments mentioned above, like exaggerate or distort shapes and forms, abstract lines and shapes, and put some colors(blankets under the figure model)


When I finished the workshop, Ian gave me a “Wow” as feedback. He told me he is very happy to see I used my own eyes to do life drawing in my own way. He saw how my drawings transformed into abstract from ‘realism ‘, he even said he saw the feminine characters in my later simple line drawings, even the model is a muscle man. 

What I learned from the life drawing workshops are:

1st, still better to learn some basic theory and methods of drawing, for example, how to draw hair.

2nd, instead of imitation, better to shape your own style with your own eyes.

3rd, drawing without ‘thinking’ may improve your technical skills, but can’t help you to understand art, so stop for a while, ask yourself “why this way? what else could you do ?”, think about it then draw.

4th, a satisfied result won’t show up directly in front of you, but step by step, after different ways of experiments.

5th, I could paint the final work on canvas with acrylic or oil, and show the heavy and messy brushes. And continue practicing figure paintings.


Royal College of Art, London

RCA | My First Life Drawings”的一个响应

  1. Hi Mowen! You produced a fair amount of work in one day. I totally loved how you presented your different approaches and it really made me feel like I was attending the same class, following the same steps. It really reminded me of our first life drawing class where we had to draw without looking at our paper or use very fluid continuous lines.

    Following that first class, I came to realise that life drawing is a combination and balance of observation of the model and also a good amount of studying and preparation before hand. What I found extremely useful is studying the skeleton and the muscles. It makes it so much easier to understand what you are seeing on your model. Give it a go and you will see that you will improve very quickly. Happy to discuss if you wish 🙂

    Liked by 1 person


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