lifedrawing class manchester

Drawing Mediums and Becoming a Life Model.

When we started Bee Creative Studio in December, we hoped our vision of high quality life drawing classes would we successful. As a team we invest much of our time and energy in to providing what we hope is the best service possible. Although we are now half-way through March, if we look back to February we can confidently say our hard work is paying off. Every week have new and returning artists coming to our classes, with many choosing to branch out from pencils in to other media and materials, such as watercolours and charcoal.

However, if you are new to figure drawing, and thinking of trying out our life drawing classes for the first time, you may be feeling overwhelmed by the wealth of drawing materials to choose from. In this case it helps to know the difference between the various medias. There are three main materials predominately used in life drawing; pencil, graphite and charcoal.


Pencils offer a wide range of tones across the HB grading system, it is for this reason pencils are generally considered the simplest tools, and are typically good for those new to drawing. However pencils offer only light smudging, meaning you won’t be able to eliminate your original lines in this way, and they may even feel quite unforgiving unless you use an eraser. Similarly, you can also find woodless graphite pencils or graphite sticks in a range of tonal value. Chucky graphite sticks allow for larger strokes, that feel more free-flowing and expressive than the precise nature of a pencil. For some, graphite can bridge the gap between the control of a pencil and the ability to blend and build colour in a similar way to carbon. Although graphite won’t give an intense black, it will give some sheen to your drawings which you may find can add to the realism.


For some the idea of using charcoal can be un-nerving, its loose powdery composition and intense black colour can be off pointing to those new to life drawing. However charcoal is not one-dimensional, and is in fact a wonderful, playful medium to use for drawing the nude figure. Compressed charcoal is made from powdered charcoal, and gives a very deep black. Its powdery texture means it can be smudge very easily by gently rubbing it with your fingers, the side of your hand and a tortillion/blending stump. In this way it is perfect for creating soft marks of varying shades of grey and for creating bold black lines.

Being a life model:

Every week we aim to bring a different model into the studio, as everyone’s body is individual it create new challenge for our artists to draw. However we are always being asked what we look for in a life model. So if you are thinking of giving this a go here are some of the things we think are significant to becoming an excellent life model:

  • Be prepared for the different ways in which each life drawing class works, there is no ‘right way’ some classes are very structured with the principle artist not only asking you to pose in a certain way but they may also ‘rearrange’ you. So be prepared to be touched. However, some classes are unstructured, and they will expect you to come up with your own poses to fit in with the given time limits. In this case you will have to think on your feet and be inventive with your poses.

  • Have a good attitude, this goes without saying really. If you turn up in a bad mood or act in a way that leaves the principle artist or customers feeling uncomfortable you will not be asked to work again. Your attitude matters not only on the day but from the initial contact too.

  • Arrive early, punctuality is extremely important for life modelling. You will be asked to arrive early (10-15 minutes) before the class begins, this will allow us to check the poses with you for the upcoming session, check the lighting and props, as well as give you time to change. Being a life model is like any other job you are required to be there on the time stated and to make us aware if problems arise and you are running late.

  • Be confident, although you are not going to be participating in a naked catwalk, you will be nude in front on a group of strangers. However there is no perfect body, and life drawing is not about drawing perfectly defined nude figures. On the contrary life drawing is about people from all walks of life, all ages, and all abilities. When the artists are drawing they are looking for your unique features such as the lines on your face, the curvature of your spine, the scars or tattoos.

All in all being a figure model for a life drawing class is a wonderful thing, not only are you enabling artists to understand the anatomy of the human figure, you are contributing to someone else’s art.

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.

Drapery Technique in Life Drawing

We are always looking at how we can present new challenges for the artists that attend our Life Drawing workshops in Manchester, and it was with this in mind that we used draping on our model Andy. If you have never drawn the nude figure while partially covered with drapery, then I would highly recommend giving it a try, this is because it provides opportunities for studying aspects of volume. For anyone unsure, when we talk about volume we are referring to the surface area within a space; the exhibition of height, width and depth, resulting in an implied three-dimensional shape.

Drapery adds so much to life drawing, as it is an ideal tool for accentuating the shape of the human figure. If we look to the sculptures of ancient Greece and Rome, in a paradoxical way it actually enhances the nudity of the model by minimising some areas and accentuating others. And it is in this way draping can also be used as a compositional tool; helping the artist when arranging the placement of the visual elements that make up the pose. When there is draping on the model the artist will consider the following: the direction of the folds and the shadows they produce; how the body underneath supports part of the fabric; how the fabric may billow out or adapt to the figure; and the way gravity influences how the fabric falls towards the ground.


When arranging the study of the draped figure, we considered how the fabric weight, and density determines the quality and direction of the folds, while also allowing us to ‘see’ the anatomical figure underneath. It is for this reason we choose a light flowing fabric, allowing the forms of the nude body to ‘show through’ to an a extent. We also considered the placement of the fabric, placing it so it only partially covered the body, enabling the anatomical regions to be easily recognised by the artists.

We hold weekly life drawing sessions at Bar21 in Manchester. Check our our upcoming dates or contact us to reserve your seat.