Drawing from life has no match. Nothing comes close to it. Drawing from a good photograph, which I’ve done many times and love doing, can provide a rich supply of visual information from which one makes a picture. But drawing from life is to photography what looking at pictures is to being somewhere yourself. I can look at a book on France all day, but it will not compare with travel.
Drawing from a photograph is an art exercise. You can try out different techniques. It can be quite inventive. Most the drawing I do of figures I do from photography these days since it’s difficult finding someone to pose. But a drawing from life is a completely different experience. Sometimes just getting the “likeness” — or even getting the “image” — can be exceedingly difficult.
A model moves. Even a model who knows how to pose well moves subtly. But more challenging than the physical movement is emotional movement. Another human being who is sitting there doing nothing is thinking about things. And the thoughts cross a person’s face like clouds cross a sky. Trying to capture these fleeting thoughts — some of which you are not even aware you’re observing until much, much later — is as challenging as painting a sunrise or a storm.
I made this drawing a long time ago. The model was going through a family crisis, and though I was unaware as I drew, bits of her crisis were captured in the image. I was striving for something related to my artistic goals — certain kinds of lines and tones. What I found was a picture of a human being, with the privacy of her thoughts rendered more starkly than I ever could have realized I was doing.
I drew her in summer. And it is summer still.
[Top of the post: Pencil drawing of a Woman leaning back with eyes closed by Aletha Kuschan]