J-term class teaches the art of figure drawing

Story by Molly Lamoureux

The term “grading on the curve” took on an entirely new meaning this winter when Drake University students took part in Drawing the Figure, a J-term class.

Stick figures didn’t earn A’s in this meticulous drawing course focused on the anatomy and individuality of human form and the naked body.

Professor Emily Newman, 3D art and introductory drawing instructor at Drake, took on this specific course during the most recent J-term as an opportunity to challenge students of all different majors, not just those in the school of arts and sciences.

This daily three-hour studio-based class provided the students with a professional artistic environment where they learned how to translate three-dimensional figures into two dimensions on paper and canvas.

By using their newfound techniques focused on volume, shape and weight, the students tackled tedious assignments dealing with form and physical appearance of nude male and female models.

Some may assume that the models who participate in these types of classes are runway-walking, five-star, picture-perfect human specimens (and rightfully so, with pop culture and silver screens filtering nearly any other type of body out of the media).

On the contrary, these models sport “normal” bodies with curves and creases.

The talent that they bring is unlike any other — sometimes posing in one position for up to 90 minutes at a time.

The demand for these types of models is often too high for the number of trained models available.

Drake was fortunate enough to hire two models for the three-week course — a novice male model as well as an experienced female model who happened to be a Drake alumna.

Megan McQueeney, a senior theatre arts major at Drake University, signed up for the class looking to fulfill an area of inquiry that the university requires before graduation, but she also had something else in mind going into the class.

“Some expectations I had were learning about proportions and positions (of the human body). I’ve taken a slight interest in costume design, and observing the figure and seeing how different parts relate to each other is definitely useful,” McQueeney said.

Along with meeting McQueeney’s personal expectations, an important factor of this specific winter course was the unique classroom dynamic.

“A lot of people took the class as an AOI, so many of the students had little or no experience (in art/life drawing). It was very interesting how that group of people could handle awkward situations.” McQueeney said, as she went on to describe the atmosphere as “easy-going” and “enjoyable.”

The class required both elements of seriousness and determination in order to succeed, but a laugh every now and then also became a necessity.

Despite the light-heartedness of the environment, one by one, the students began to appreciate the concepts and understand the value that the course had to offer.

“The epiphanies were the best moments of the class. When the techniques clicked and the students realized the clear meaning of the assignment.” Newman said.

Newman’s first experience with the class was a success. Three weeks later, after merely skimming the surface of drawing the human figure, the students walked away with a better appreciation not only for different mediums and techniques of art, but for the human form as well.

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