From September to February, every term time on Thursdays, at 5 pm, Harrodian’s 15 Lower Sixth art students gather in the Senior Art studio, get out their graphite pencils, their pens or their charcoal – depending on the weekly brief – and embark on 90 minutes worth of drawing a nude model. ‘Life drawing has been fundamental to art training, ever since the Renaissance and it’s still a essential part of Harrodian’s A level course,’ explains Vic Hand, the Harrodian Art Technician – and practising artist – who is running the 2019 sessions. ‘It’s the best way of developing technical skills which every artist needs.’
It helps us to think differently. It encourages us to consider how our drawings can communicate the essence of living.
Roz Edenbrow, Art and Design Teacher
Roz Edenbrow would probably agree. Miss Edenbrow, the Harrodian Art and Design teacher, who led last year’s Sixth Form life drawing course, set out her special passion for the discipline in an inspiring, illustrated Thomson Talk on ‘The Nude’ on the 8th October. ‘Practising observational drawing helps us communicate visually in any medium,’ she told her audience of students and teachers in a presentation that ranged across nude history from ancient Greece through Gorgione to Jenny Savile. ‘It helps us to think differently. It allows us to communicate ideas or show character in the marks we create. It encourages us to consider how our drawings can communicate the essence of living.’
So what special skills do students acquire in their Thursday sessions? According to Mrs Hand, they learn the ‘craft’ that underpins their art. ‘Life drawing teaches you to really look at what you’re drawing: the dimensions and proportions, the perspective, the light and shade, how to use the materials confidently,’ she says. 'It’s about learning how to work intuitively within a set of essential rules.’
As Mrs Hand admits, keeping all these balls in the air for an hour and a half adds up to ‘an exhausting workout’ which sometimes ends in frustration. ‘Life drawing requires patience, resilience and a lot of practice. You’ve got to relax into the process, to be brave enough to take risks and to get things wrong,’ she says. ‘But one day you might just look at the page in front of you and discover that you’ve really captured the essence of the person you’re drawing. That’s the way art works. It’s a personal journey and you’ve just got to keep going.’
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One day you just look at the page in front of you and discover that you’ve captured the essence of the person you’re drawing.
Vic Hand, Harrodian Art Technician and practising artist