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The Art of Figure Drawing at Miami University (WARNING: Contains Graphic Content)

Intern Katrina writes about her experience of Miami University Hamilton's Introduction to Figure Drawing class, taught by professor Jennifer Purdum.



Light and Shadow. Charcoal and conté on toned paper.

Even though our in-person studio time at MUH has been cut short, I have still been enjoying my figure drawing class! (My most recent assignment is shown to the left).


This studio would take place every Wednesday morning for roughly 3 hours. During that time, we would be introduced to a new technique, see it in a demo, and then begin drawing.


Once drawing began, we would start by doing short gesture warm-ups; the goal was to get your arms moving and exercise your view of the model, always trying to capture the essence of the human form as quickly as possible. The human form offers so much information, so it's important to only seek out the important elements first; such as full body length, intersection of limbs, light and shadow on the figure, joints, etc.



Gestural Figure 8's. Charcoal on newsprint.

After we were sufficiently warmed up, we would begin to practice the new technique that was introduced to us earlier . We'd watch Jen draw for a few poses, and then she'd challenge us to try and replicate that style from our viewpoint. I found it a great challenge to learn a different technique every week. There would be some that would come very easily to me, and then others that I felt I could never get just right. That's why you practice and why the studio's last so long! Once you've been drawing for 10-15 minutes, you become immersed in your task. The pages fly by, you become messy, and you're just sitting in a room early in the morning covered in charcoal with 15 other students, struggling right alongside you.


Shadows. Charcoal on newsprint.

Once we've been practicing for a while, we move into longer poses. Around 10-15 minutes long. This allows us to calm down a bit, and just focus on every detail of the model. Really getting a grasp of the pose. Making it come together. Have a sense of unity on your newsprint in front of you.


The studio environment that MUH creates for their students is very comforting. Even if you are struggling with a technique or certain body part, the students around you are always so supportive. Jen is always there to help guide you, and offer up a new way for you to approach the technique. Even when you're frustrated, you're supported and encouraged to keep trying.


The art of practicing figure drawing has been very helpful for me in seeing art in a new way. It allows you to understand lighting, depict space, the importance of mark making (and the many variations), getting loose from restrictions in your mind, and to always keep moving.


I have thoroughly enjoyed my time taking this class, and even though we can't learn in a studio setting, my class has been able to continue virtually by completing one or two drawings a week after watching my professor demo it! This has been one of my favorite classes I have taken throughout my college career, and I hope to be able to take it again next Spring Semester, and be able to take advantage of the studio time the whole semester!


(All images of art shown are my own work)

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