The Aging Body

The aging body in life drawing offers us an important opportunity to make us aware of issues concerning identity and representation but also offers us the chance to see and draw the effects of gravity on the nude figure. Gravity forces objects downwards; acting through the centre of gravity. When the position of the centre of gravity and the figure are observed the body’s equilibrium can be considered. That is the equal balance between the force of gravity and the power of the body to withstand this force by holding its self in positions.

Although the force of gravity does not affect the internal structure of the body, its affects can be seen on the soft tissues of the outer body. In the older figure the changes are perhaps most obvious; the loose skin that compresses or expands with positions the nude figure is in. This offers the artist an important opportunity to draw the figure, showing the changes to the body when laying down, bent over, laying on one side, or standing upright, as the soft tissues are easily observed in how they support another part of the body they are in contact with.

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As we age time leaves its mark on our soft human bodies, the wrinkles, lines, scars and marks each a symbol of a life well lived. Yet when we speak of the aging body in art and the mass media it is still shockingly under-represented.

Arguably this absence of the aging body in mainstream culture is to create a distance between the defining characteristics of old age; grey hair; sagging, wrinkled skin; age spots; and a translucent complexion, with the undiminished youthful symbol of beauty.

Of course this transformation from youthful existence to old age is not optional, the passage of time happens to us all, so why is it largely invisible in art? Is it to disqualify the changes we see as problems we would rather not lay our gaze upon? Is it because we perceive age as being absent from sexuality? If we look to art history the youthful figure is depicted as a sexual existence full of opportunity and fully abled, whereas when an old person is finally depicted in art it is often to serve as a metaphorical symbol of time, mortality or wisdom. Life drawing is more than just a depiction of the nude figure, it challenges our perceptions of beauty, by enabling us the view another person in their most vulnerable state and therefore questions our own identity.