If you live in London and are looking to get started on your life drawing journey, you are fortunate.
With over 250 art institutions in the Capital, everyone there can admire paintings, drawings, sculptures and much more.
The museums of London also cover periods spanning from the antiquity to contemporary art. Some of the most famous would be the Tate Modern and the Tate Britain both in the heart of the capital.
The city is also home to dozens of different art school, from the Royal College of Art to Goldsmiths University and the Imperial College of London.
But where to look and what to look for?
While many of the universities that have a campus in London will offer classes to students that are not enrolled with them, the city also counts numerous art studios and workshops that offer life drawing classes and figure drawing sessions.
One significant difference that you will find between life drawing courses and life drawing sessions is that the former implies that a teacher or an instructor will be there to guide and show you the way to progress quickly.
The latter implies that the session doesn't have an instructor leading the drawing class and everyone just paint or draw as they please. However, many of the attendees are life-long teachers or professional artists, and they will often be happy to offer advice to the beginners.
Below we will list the most exciting classes and session you can find in London.
UCL's Life Drawing Summer School Short Course
UCL, short for University College London, is one of the oldest universities in the country and was the first one to be entirely secular, admitting students from all religions.
Regarding enrollment, it is the third largest university and the largest postgraduate university in the UK.
All this to say that the university has proven its leading role in British education and offers top-notch courses.
They offer a two-week course that aims to introduce beginners to the elemental principles of drawing a life model.
The tutors will go through many different methods, using various drawing materials (some included in the course).
The course is full time for these two weeks (from 9.30 am to 4.30pm) and will include lectures, workshop and museum visits.
You will study how artists observe and how to represent the human body, its shapes and gestures while also working on the theory of colours and learning how to use light and shadows.
For a total of 60 hours, the course will cost you £740; you can find all the details about the course here.
The Royal Drawing School
Founding in 2000 by visual artist Catherine Goodman and HRH The Prince of Wales, the school was renamed in 2014.
It was founded as an independent, non-profit organisation that "aims to raise the standard and profile of drawing through teaching and practice".
The school offers tuitions and resources for professional artists, art students, children and the public alike. They focus on observational drawing and are trying to compensate what they call "the steady erosion of observational drawing from the study of art in higher education and in schools."
If you live too far from London, you could consider joining an online life drawing course.
They offer numerous summer public courses including:
- Drawing the Human Anatomy: studying human anatomy is crucial to be a good life drawer. This course will give any beginner the chance to learn to draw London the human form, skeleton, muscles and bones. Emphasis will be given to the torso, limbs, head and eyes and lessons will combine creativity, accuracy and expressiveness.
- Painting the Head: a four day, full-time course which, as the title suggests, focuses on drawing the head. Being one of the most challenging parts of the human body to draw, given the wrinkles, eye complexity and shades caused by the face traits, this course will give you a chance to realise sustained portrait painting over two and three days poses.
- One Week One Pose: this class focuses on exploring all the different aspects of the same pose. Students are asked to work on the same model, performing the pose, on every session of the course. This will give the artists the possibility to explore every detail of the model.
Every course includes both one-to-one tutoring but also group discussion about the work that has just been done. The Royal Drawing School course usually takes place in their Shoreditch studios, but they also have studios in central and south London.
The courses range from £275 and £325, some of them are also aimed at a younger crowd, from 11 years old.
You can find all of their public art classes here!
The Dulwich Art Group
The location is in the name, but for those new in London, Dulwich is located in south London, just south of Brixton.
This artist collective organises drop-in life drawing and painting sessions as well as the tutored course.
Every week they offer three or more life figure drawing sessions, sometimes more. No need to book either as these are dro- in meetings. However, they do not feature a formal instructor or tutor, and each artist is given entire freedom to represent the life model in whichever way he or she wants.
Nonetheless, other attendees of the sessions, often qualified artists, will be happy to help or give you guidance on some aspect of your drawing and painting.
Students will be offered the same nude model on each of the session, usually taking the same pose so each artist can either paint or sketch a complete and sophisticated piece of work or artists can decide to draw several studies of the same subject.
The studios are equipped with easels, drawing boards, chairs and lighting and if you forget to bring either paper, charcoal or pencils, the studio also sells all the drawing equipment you might need.
The Dulwich Art Group also offers tutored courses for those wanting to learn to draw and paint with advanced and established experts. These tutored courses are tailor-made so that each student will be provided with a program suiting his or her skills and needs.
And if you are not sure in Life Drawing is for you or not, the studio has Introduction to Life Drawing workshops every Thursday from 7.30 to 9.30pm. It will provide you with a quick demonstration including a series of short poses and one long pose. If you are an absolute art beginner, better starting with this one.
You can find all the details about the Dulwich Art Group on their website.
The Drawing Theatre
If you are an experienced artist looking for something different than the traditional life drawing class involving one nude model in the centre of the studio posing for you, the Drawing Theatre might just be for.
This art collective's purpose is to offer spectacular fusions of theatre and drawing where artists will perform in front of art students in "hidden spaces and beautiful architecture".
These sessions will combine performance, movement, light and sound all at once for the artists to create their own, unique and immersive work.
Some of their special events include:
- The Body Physical: a collaboration with the Life Drawing Gymnasia, "multi-model life drawing group which incorporates dance, yoga and dynamic movement to inspire artists". This session will include some very physical powerful poses from professional models in a dramatic setting. Costing £25 for two and a half hour, this session includes all the materials you might need.
- The Body Exquisite: set in the unique Crypt Gallery, this candle lite life drawing session will be filled with sensuality and physicality, led by the professional models from the Anatomie Studio. This very intimate and immersive workshop studies the relation between the body of the bonded model and the vulnerability and strength that emanates from it. Also £25, and even two and a half hour, this class will be unforgettable.
Covent Garden Life Drawing
Conveniently located in central London, this open to all drawing lesson meets every Thursday afternoon.
Being well established, this class attracts many artists every week, from beginners to very experienced artists.
The particularity of this session is that two models will pose during each class, a male and a female.
The room, very spacious and able to greet at least 50 artists at a time, is organised in such a way that you will be able to draw and sketch either model or both. The model employed there are professional artists that often take difficult poses requiring some serious sketching and drawing skills.
No better way to learn how to represent the human figure. The model will take on short poses to warm up then two different 20-minute poses and finish with a 45 minutes pose.
The artists often meet up at the local pub afterwards to discuss their artwork and give some constructive critique on elements of your work.
So if you want to improve your composition or your drawing techniques in a friendly and relaxed environment, this art studio is probably made for you.
Each session costs £15, which mostly covers the fees of hiring the models, and the atelier is equipped with easels, drawing boards and comfy chairs, given you the choice in the way you can draw.
They also sell very reasonably priced art materials including A1 and A3 paper, charcoal, pencils and erasers.
Find all the details and contact information of their website.