Real life stories: Life drawing

Creativity comes in many shapes and forms, much like the human body. Often we think of being creative as an individual pursuit, but it can be a social activity too. A couple of months ago, my friend Lizzie held a life drawing class in her home and invited a group of us along.

Life drawing involves drawing or painting a nude model posing in front of you, the artist. They typically strike a few different poses so the artist can capture different angles of the body. At Lizzie’s, the model did a few 10 minute poses, two 20 minute poses and one pose for half an hour, so we could draw her in differing amounts of detail.

Amongst my group of friends were a mixture of creative types and those who felt they ‘couldn’t draw’ or were ‘no good at drawing’ but everyone turned up. It was the first time we had all been together since Lizzie’s wedding so I was intrigued to find out everyone’s motivations for going and how they felt during and after the class. I also got the low down from Lizzie on why she held a life drawing class.

As we’ve covered in a previous blog post, some people find engaging in creative activities stressful, particularly the pressure to complete an artistic task to a set standard. If you feel this way, hopefully Sophie and Hannah’s answers below will give you some reassurance and confidence to give creative activities a go.

What motivated you to hold a life drawing class?

…you concentrate so much on doing one thing that your mind isn’t cluttered with anything else, so it’s very mindful.

Lizzie

Lizzie: I’ve found it really calming when I’ve done it previously and good for managing stress and wellbeing, basically because you concentrate so much on doing one thing that your mind isn’t cluttered with anything else, so it’s very mindful. And I was really keen to share those benefits in the hope others get the same experience, as well as take an opportunity to see my friends of course in the comfort of home.

What motivated you to go to the life drawing class?

Sophie: I wanted to try something new, experience something I’d never done before and test myself by doing something that wouldn’t typically be ‘my thing’.

Hannah: To be honest, my main motivation for attending the class was that it was a chance to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen in a while. I was intrigued by life drawing but given my lack of artistic ability I expected that this would almost be the side event of my evening.  

Lizzie: Perhaps less a question for me since it was at my house (!) but normally I go in order to combine switching off in a peaceful environment as well as catching up with good friends. I used to study art but once I stopped it academically I hardly did it anymore, when actually it’s so enjoyable when you do!

How did you feel beforehand?

I noticed feeling some anxiety about my own ability, or lack thereof.

Hannah

Sophie: I actually felt a little anxious before we got started. I think the prospect of doing something so different combined with the feeling of not being good enough really played on my mind.

Hannah: I had quite a busy day prior to the class and so hadn’t thought much about it. When I arrived the host began telling me about some of the other people attending who were ‘serious artists’ and I did begin to wonder what I had let myself in for. I noticed feeling some anxiety about my own ability, or lack thereof. However, Lizzie was a great host, as always, and having time to mingle, eat and drink beforehand helped to set a relaxed vibe.

Lizzie: A tad frantic getting everything ready and leaving work with a mass still there to do!

How did you feel during the life drawing?

Being able to sit, and simply be in the moment, with no other thoughts cluttering up my mind gave me a feeling of real freedom.

Sophie

Sophie: I felt incredibly relaxed during the life drawing which was not what I expected! Being able to sit, and simply be in the moment, with no other thoughts cluttering up my mind gave me a feeling of real freedom. I felt detached from my usual worries.

Hannah: Initially I noticed myself being quite self-critical which got in the way of me being able to enjoy the experience. Having a life model means that if you get it ‘wrong’ you could end up offending someone to their face. I found it really helpful having the artist there to give some hints and tips to improve my drawing. After this I really began to enjoy the experience and found that I was able to really focus on the activity, forgetting the things that had been on my mind that day. I was surprised at how quickly the time went and how much I ended up enjoying it.

Lizzie: In flow! Calm and concentrating.

How did you feel after the life drawing?

After having a busy day, this was a great activity to help me feel relaxed.

Hannah

Sophie: Afterwards I felt a sense of achievement. Not only had I tackled something I’d never done before but I realised I found it both easier and much more fulfilling than I had expected!

Hannah: After having a busy day, this was a great activity to help me feel relaxed. So much so that I nearly fell asleep on my train home. It has made me interested in doing more drawing as a way of relaxing.

Lizzie: I felt like I’d had some rest and recuperation for my brain, and fed my soul a bit of creativity. I was also super happy that everyone seemed to enjoy it.

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I share wellbeing-related research, news and stories on twitter and Instagram in between weekly blog posts so do follow @15minwellbeing on both platforms to keep up to date.

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