Elissa seated

I’m of two minds about the thirty minute poses that we do in life drawing class. Every time the buzzer goes off, I seem to be not quite finished. On the other hand, if we went on for another thirty, then maybe I would start to paint finicky and unnecessary details. If you have only half an hour, you really have to paint fast and try to get colour and value right on the first pass. I suppose I could work smaller (I’m working on quarter sheets of watercolour paper) but that just seems like it would be too tight. Do you go to life drawing class? I’d love to hear what you think the ideal time for a pose is.


16 Comments on “Elissa seated”

  1. Linda Daily says:

    For some reason I am not receiving your posts?? Just checked in and I love your figure studies.
    The colors are just so soft. May I inquire how you mix those lovely pink skin tones?
    I recently went to a life drawing session after some 20+ years. Very humbling. Next time I will try WC. I like like the half hour sessions best. Longer and I think they are over done.


    • Hi Linda. It’s always great to hear from you. Did you change email addresses? If so, then reenter your address in the “Follow this blog” box.
      These days I use a Raw Sienna, Alizarin Crimson mix with some Cerulean blue for the cool tones. I was using Cad. Red Light and Cad. Yellow Light but that made the flesh look like a plastic doll. I prefer this mix.
      Yes, life drawing is very, very humbling, but I love it. I am already dreading next semester because if I teach on Mondays I won’t be able to attend.


  2. miatagrrl says:

    I go to life drawing as often as I can. My favorite length is 20 minutes, but I am usually using only ink and a water brush, not watercolor. 30+ minutes is definitely too long for me — too much time to make things worse. 😉

    – Tina


  3. Dominique Gaillard says:

    It all depends on what your goal is and what type of person you are. Some people are satisfied with as little as their current knowledge allows them to do. Some get impatient with themselves or their limited abilities. Some don’t know enough to push themselves into more challenging techniques, so they are content with what they can achieve. It also depends on the medium and the technique. You can work very fast in wc or oils if you have advanced drawing skills. On the other hand if you need to spend more time on getting the figure right you will also need more time to add colour. From experience I find one minute poses fairly useless, I begin to get some fun around at least 3 minutes. However if I want something with a more finished look, today I need a minimum of 1 hour, but 3 years ago I would have said I needed 3 hours. If I draw in inks I’ll need less time then if I use colour pencils. It all depends on what you want to achieve, on what you’re satisfied with. It’s also a wonderful feeling to take your time and think about what you’re doing, observe more, experiment, work out problem areas and learn from the experience, which is why I prefer longer poses from 3 to 12 hours. But that doesn’t exclude shorter poses as long as it doesn’t become superficial or an easy way out.


    • I loved reading your response Dominique because you have so much experience with this. I agree about the one minute pose and find the three minute is just great for a warm up. Something I hadn’t really considered was the experience level of the person drawing. The more you draw, the more accurate you’ll be and the faster you will get. So maybe in a few years time I will find that 30 minutes is just perfect because I’ll be better at drawing and I’ll have more experience about mixing the right flesh tones for light and shadow. I certainly wish my schedule allowed me to go to the Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon sessions that you organize. Now that I have a bit more experience I’d like to see how much I get done in one hour.


  4. TonyU says:

    Hi Shari. What you’ve produced in 30 mins looks great to me. Using pen / brush pen and quick washes for basic form my favourites are the 3, 5 and 10 minute poses – they allow me all the time I need to capture what I want in the way I want. Even 20 mins tempts me into overanalysing and overworking instead of being intuitive and spontaneous. But that’s just me … if I had a better eye, more skill / technique and more patience I suspect I’d enjoy and make best use of some longer poses. I certainly envy those who can and the more refined work they produce as a result. But then they wish they could do what I do. Each to their own I guess … and those lucky enough (or who have worked hard enough) to have all the skills simply adjust expectations and / or technique to the time available. Best, Tony


    • HI Tony. It’s been fascinating to read all the comments on this one. I’m so new to life drawing. Seems you need to work at it for years before you get really comfortable with it. Going back to the illustration/painting discussion, maybe with a limited amount of time, it would be better to work on more of an interpretive approach rather than a perfectly anatomically correct (and illustrative) one.


  5. Michael says:

    Hi Shari. I go to a workshop in Ottawa that has been running for over 30 years and usually has 40 to 50 people in attendance. The format has never changed: 5 gestures of 90 seconds, followed by a 20 minute pose, a break, and then three more poses of 30 minutes with breaks in between. I like the 30 minute poses because I have just enough time to finish a small 8.5 x10 inch watercolour and ink sketch. I find that the 20 minute pose is just a little too short for me and the 90 second gestures are a waste of time for me. (I guess that they act as a warm-up exercise.) I admit that I’ve never done longer poses but then I probably wouldn’t be interested in producing a fully completed painting. 30-minutes is fine for me.


    • Thanks for writing Michael. It’s interesting to hear how all of these different sessions are run. Wow, there are so many people in your group. How do you even see the model with that many people? I certainly agree about the 90 second poses and I would definitely find 20 minutes too short. Good to hear that you get a lot accomplished in 30 minutes. Gives me hope.


  6. Jeff Gold says:

    Hi Shari,
    I like what you did on this one. The head (as a focal point) is well defined and the rest of the figure is well enough finished to feel complete. The values work very well. I think you’re right that it would get too fussy if you went much longer. The group that I attend usually starts with 5 or 6 5-minute warm up (gesture) poses. After a break, we do one long pose of one and a half hours. What I will do on the long pose is one 18 x 24 pastel drawing (fairly complete) or if I’m using pen and watercolor, I’ll try to do a warm up drawing (in pencil) and then a more complete watercolor on 9 x 12 or 11 x 14 paper which takes about 30-40 minutes. It leaves time to do another short drawing from another position using the same pose. I think around 30 minutes or a little longer works well for me using watercolor.


    • Hi Jeff. I know you do a lot of life drawing too.It’s interesting to hear what you can accomplish during the long pose. I do see people in my group moving around the room during the pose, doing some quicker drawings. The people who do pastels seem to get a fair bit completed because they don’t have to wait for washes to dry, but I’ve never been tempted to try that.


  7. Hi Shari!
    In my life drawing class we do five one minute, five three minutes, two ten minutes and then the rest is 20 minutes poses. The one, three and ten minutes are great fot warming up. We have to go to the essential. Twenty minutes are perfect for me since I am not going for a piece of art, I am only practicing proportion, expression and feeling of the model. In that way, Elissa is one of the best model I have drawn. I frequently draw with a twig, Chinese ink and a little bit of watercolor during the 20 minutes pose.


    • Jean-Pierre, I think that is a great way to work. After reading all these comments, it has made me want to try something different next week. I think I may do a series of small watercolours during the 30 minute pose. It will allow me to be more experimental.


  8. jose luis says:

    Hi Shari, I go to life drawing clases and I like the sortest poses (5 minutes), but the 15 minutes are my favourites, there are 45 minutes too, but they are bored for me, then I draw the same pose in diferent ways, I call it “one pose three drawings, or one pose two drawings…) its funny, you can check my blog http://tamodetinta.blogspot.com.es/.
    I like very much your drawings, congrats.
    Sorry for my bad english


    • Hi Jose,
      Thanks so much for writing and don’t apologize about your English. It’s perfect.
      I looked at your drawings and I love what you do with the one pose, three drawings, as well as how you use those red and blue pencils. Thanks for sharing them here. It’s a perfect idea when you have that extra time.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s