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  • Writer's pictureLinka Lipski

Is life drawing about practising art or practising the mind?

Updated: Jun 15, 2020

I sometimes would go to the Hackney Wick Life Drawing classes, here in London, to practice life drawing. It is a hard practice. The practice is about 2 hours long with breaks, and the models are varied in terms of gender and shapes, which is great.

I found 2 hours to be very long and I usually lose momentum after an hour.

I also tend to compare myself with others and so I lose morale, motivation and confidence.

Hence I have been avoiding going to the practice sessions for a long time.

Also because the hours didn't suit me: during dinner time and with the commute, I either had to eat too early or so late, and it messed up with my sleep (which in turn affects my mood).

So now I am glad for the confinement and lockdown because the classes have moved online (Hurray!). The session now run for an hour, which is plenty enough for me! I can now attend the Monday session at 2 pm, and I don't get to see what others are doing until the end, so I don't get to compare myself until then.

One Minute Poses

(session of 27th April 2020)

The class starts with 1-minute sketches. When I was younger, I used to feel like it was the hardest part and favoured the long hour poses. Now it's the opposite. I love the warm-up of the quick poses. It is an opportunity to grab the essence of the pose or the shapes of the body. One minute is a tiny spec of time when drawing, so you have to be quick. No time for indecisions! Here, I am recycling paper that came with deliveries and its crumpled state means that I worry even less about the final product and can really loosen up.

(session of 20th April 2020)

Ten Minute Poses

Then the class moves on to two 10 minutes poses. In the past I have tried exploring different techniques (e.g., drawing with my left hand) and lately I enjoy exploring different mediums (e.g., markers, pastels, pens, etc.).

I have this big bag of supplies I accumulated some years ago when I was subscribed to an art supply box. It comes in handy now!

This is a time for me to have a bit of fun with it and see what can come of it.

(session of 20th April 2020)

Thirty Minute Poses

Then comes the long pose of 30 minutes. I usually struggle a lot with making one finish drawing. My intentions are there, but eventually, I see all the misproportions and mistakes and lose patience. Often, I will try again and draw in a corner to understand the geometric shapes of the pose. I can quickly end up with a mess of a page of anatomically incorrect figures. I often lose confidence very fast, so sometimes I just move on to drawing irrelevant things (displacement) or see if I can try and have fun again with it (mindset reappraisal). Sometimes I just stop drawing altogether (avoidance).

I can see my mistakes but awareness is not always enough to correct them. I can get quickly disheartened as I am sensitive to feelings of failure. I am used to constantly being told what next I should be doing, how to improve or compared with what others are doing and I have no time to rejoice in the small accomplishments. With time, things have turned to constant dissatisfaction and a pressure to be better which in turn affects my artistic self-esteem ('What I do is not enough as it is').

(session of 27th April 2020)

Art has this ability to point out those things to me and give me a chance to explore it in a different way. Hopefully, by making the most of the online life drawing sessions, I can gradually build a tolerance to feeling insecure about what I produce. One thing I can try is to ditch the artistic goals and replace it with a cognitive goal. Perhaps I can choose to practice self-compliments towards my work and the things I did well. Or even just practice positive reinforcements for the act of drawing and do my best to push out the negative thoughts.

Simply being mindful of my thoughts of insecurities or judgment will give me an opportunity to practice letting them go. Like mindful meditation, where you refocus your mind on your breath, I can practice mindful drawing and refocus my mind on my drawing every time I notice I am going into my head too much.

Perhaps it is time for me to reappropriate the injunction of 'Practice! practice! practice!' I hear so often about my art practice, and make it my own. Practice my mind to let go of judgment! Practice my heart to welcome feeling joy and satisfaction as to what I create! Practice my mind in blocking out the opinions of others!

I have no doubt this mental practice will be harder than the actual art practice in itself. I endeavour to do my best though.

(session of 27th April 2020)

This Monday life drawing class I have attempted to reframe my mindset. For the 10 minutes and half an hour pose, I ended up writing some of the judgmental thoughts on the paper. Sometimes I caught the thought straight away and sometimes I wrote afterwards so I exaggerated the thought or created it to match what I remember thinking. I don't know if it was just the different mindset but I had more fun on my last session than I did in the last one and I'm rather pleased with some of the drawings I produced :).

(session of 27th April 2020 - 10 minutes poses)

Making art, in whatever shape or form, brings so many aspects of myself into awareness and I'm sure it does for many others as well.

Art is a form of therapy. Let's pay attention to the patterns of feelings and thoughts that come about and we will see ourselves a little bit more clearly.

We will make art out of those patterns.


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