9/100 — Trying new things: life drawing

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I think it was January 2015 when I wrote my first “to do this year” list. It had items such as ‘try a swing dance class’ and ‘read Sylvia Plath’s diaries’ and ‘visit Paris’. It also listed ‘try a life drawing class’.

Lists like that are great reminders of all the things you’ve been meaning to do for years. I’ve stopped doing them, because I know Sylvia Plath is still on there (that book is so enormous and feels so special). Other items I was able to cross off eventually, such as the swing dance class and the visit to Paris. But life drawing had been at the back of my mind for a really long time.

A few weeks ago, new in town with nothing to do, I was browsing through Meetup when I came across a life drawing class that was due to meet the next day. On a whim (as most things I do), I cancelled the writing group I’d booked that day and signed up for the art class.

Reader, I loved it.

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To be in a room full of strangers who are all collectively staring at the one stranger who’s naked is an odd situation. I’m someone with a strong sense of propriety (and shyness), so I generally avoid looking at people, especially those I really want to look at. It takes some getting used to, having that freedom to study someone like this.

Now, I have no artistic aspirations. I let go of drawing as a hobby around the age of 15, and ever since have been flirting with the activity maybe once a year. But the impulse to capture something wonderful is constant, and with me almost every day. Those two hours per week I’ve been treating myself to are purely for my own enjoyment: I get to look at one of my favourite things, the human body, and try to capture my favourite parts of it in pencil, ballpoint pen or even digitally. (I hope to add colour one day. A girl can dream.)

When I lived in London, I went to the Victoria & Albert Museum a couple of times to draw statues there. Drawing a living, breathing human being is a different thing altogether. A person doesn’t stay in one spot for fifteen to twenty minutes; often I’ve been so busy with a detail such as a hip bone or shoulder blade that when I come back to, say the legs, the model’s position will have moved away from what I’ve already sketched. Or, even worse, I watch them struggle in a difficult position – during Wednesday night’s session the entire room was sketching furiously five minutes into a 20-minute pose, as if our drawing faster could somehow ease the obvious pain he clearly hadn’t anticipated.

I’m glad I finally got around to doing this, and I don’t know why I never did before. To get to satisfy my curiosity like this, to explore things I’m able to do with a pen and learn something along the way is a wonderful thing, and I look forward to the next class.