life drawing blog

Life Drawing at Bar21, January Re-cap

Since starting Bee Creative Studio back in December we’ve continued to grow, with more artists coming to our workshops each week. January when we first began to notice that our hard work and effort to offer the very best in life drawing classes to the artist was paying off. As you may be aware our life drawing workshops are untutored, meaning they are self-directed, informal drawing classes. Although we plan meticulously for each pose, we encourage the artist to experiment as the draw or paint with their own choice of materials at their own pace. In general during breaks or after each session has ended I will talk to the artist about their work, how they felt their approach to the drawing went and if appropriate give some advice on exercises that can help them to improve.

Our January workshops offer a great example of how different techniques can be applied to produce different drawings and how these can be used to improve your skills as an artist.

Here is a brief description of each of our January life drawing workshops. For each of our life drawing sessions we always start with gestural poses, these typically last for 1, 2 or five minutes. They are meant as warm-up poses, they are spontaneous and immediate; the artist will aim to produce rapid sketches of the figure based on careful observation of the model. Gestural drawings are an important exercise for all artists as they enable the artist to quickly assess the form, posture, and composition.

However, due to the short time frame for each pose there is a sense of urgency on the artist to produce a portrait of the nude figure almost in a state of emergency; encouraging him/her to produce a drawing that is both intuitive and accurate. If you are new to life drawing you will find that the gestural poses are not intended for the aesthetic outcome, this is secondary in purpose. The main purpose of the quickfire poses are to enable the artist to express structure, posture, and action. For this reason when we plan for the gestural drawings we aim to provide poses that are challenging and dynamic.


In January we also used other exercises to challenge our artist such as using draping to partially cover aspects of the figure. You can read in full about drapery in life drawing here and how it supports the artist to recognise more easily anatomical regions of the body.

For each of our workshops we aim to use a new model, rotating between male and female, all with very different body shapes and abilities. In January we used three very experienced models; Veronica, Andy and Kim, whom each brought something unique to the workshops. Whether your intention is to draw realistically or abstractly, an understanding of the anatomy can be of immense importance. The body is made of bones, muscles and fat that structure the figure and how we see lines and shapes when drawing. Life drawing classes offer the artist the opportunity to observe anatomy, by enabling them to think about what is underneath the skin.

We hold weekly life drawing sessions at Bar21 in Manchester, check out our upcoming dates or email us directly at : to attend.

Tonal Drawing Technique in Life Drawing

Tonal Drawing

When we look around our environment, to the objects that make up the space we are in, we see the world by perceiving colour and tone. Tone, also commonly referred to as value, determines how light or dark we recognise something to be. Understanding the properties of value perception, although not extremely difficult, is immensely important for all drawings, whether you aim to create a realistic or abstract depiction of your subject. This is because a wide range of tones will turn a mediocre drawing in to a vibrant one.


It is for this reason figure drawing presents the artist with a complex arrangement of tones that need to be selectively interpreted into drawn marks. However it takes practice and lots of it in order to judge accurately how light or dark a relative value/tone is. One way to develop our understanding of tone is to begin by categorising the values we see; looking for the lightest of lights, the mid tones, and the darkest of darks. The beginner artist may wish to practice observing value on a still life object, this will allow the artist to observe how light shifts, casting shadows and bounces off of a form. However you may find you will have more success with this exercise if you have one primary light source; allowing you to properly control the value.

When it comes to life drawing tone is extremely important, the easiest way to simplify this task is to use toned paper rather than working from white paper. With the mid-tone already present it is easier for the artist to then establish a variety of values to make up a dynamic drawing. Black paper and white chalk also offers another option, the darkest tones are already present with the black paper and the white chalk can be blended with the paper to create midtone greys.

However to fully gain an understanding of tonal perception it is beneficial for any artist to undertake the exercise ‘Tonal Drawing’, as it is not about creating a realistic drawing but trains the the eye to expertly observe value. The exercise ‘Tonal Drawing’ involves creating a figure drawing based on the principles of applying a mid-tone to the paper first, erasing away parts to represent light, and adding darker tones to serve as shadows.


Step one, start by rubbing the side of your charcoal over the entire sheet of paper to create the mid-tone.

Step two, find the basic form of your subject by using a rubber to erase parts of the charcoal to reveal the basic figure.

Step three, use charcoal to create shadow and a rubber to erase where you observe there to be light.