Speed Drawing with a Model

Red spike heels and a black beret and strong light and three minutes. 6B pencil on Rives BFK paper, 11" x 15"
Red heels and black beret and strong light and three minutes. 6B pencil on Rives BFK paper, 11″ x 15″

I recently hired a model for a gesture-drawing session. It was the first time I’d ever done such a thing, and it made me feel like a grown-up artist: in control, entitled to set the lighting, the poses, even the music.

6B pencil on Rives BFK, 11" x 15"
6B pencil on Rives BFK, 11″ x 15″

Artists are notoriously childlike. Anyone who draws the figure should hire a model at least once, just to know, briefly, how maturity must feel. So, I hired a wonderful model, and invited a few friends who also love to draw gestures. We crammed into my Main Street studio one warm afternoon a couple of weeks ago.

6B pencil on Rives BFK 11" x 15"
6B pencil on Rives BFK 11″ x 15″

I’ve drawn this model before; she projects impish charisma and can strike- and hold- dynamic poses, one after the other. I asked her to bring a few accessories for fun. For the first hour, she wore red high-heeled pumps and a black beret.

Almost casual, stretched out with one foot kicked back. 6B pencil on Rives BFK 11" x 15"
Stretched out with one foot kicked back. 6B pencil on Rives BFK 11″ x 15″

A wool rug and orange chair served as the model stand. A dark green bedspread draped the wall for a backdrop. A single lamp cast light from an angle, making shadows. Each pose lasted three or five minutes, long enough to catch essential movement. It became a dance: model, chair, paper, pencils, light.

Just three minutes; only enough time to get the gist. 6B pencil on Rives BFK 11" x 15"
Just three minutes; only enough time to get the gist. 6B pencil on Rives BFK 11″ x 15″

Sometimes, when you work fast, you tap into something unconscious- something almost biological. You draw like blazes and crackle with adrenalin. After nine or ten speed drawings, you might even hit that coveted state of “flow”. When you do, keep up the pace. And try to get out of your own way.

I was going so fast I didn't notice that I was drawing on the back side of the paper, and the watermark was in the image. There's a backward "S" between her eyes. 6B pencil on Rives BFK 11" x 15"
I managed to draw this one on the back side of the paper. Note the watermark between her eyes. I wish I could say it was deliberate. 6B pencil on Rives BFK 11″ x 15″

Happy Friday.

2 thoughts on “Speed Drawing with a Model

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