An Alternative Approach to Life Drawing
Life drawing, the practice of drawing the human figure from observation, has been a foundational part of art education and artistic practice for centuries. However, conventional approaches to life drawing can be impersonal, rigid, and hierarchical and may focus exclusively on skill or producing finished artworks while sometimes leaving little room for collaboration and self-development. There is an alternative approach to life drawing artistry that values both artistic expression and well-being.
“Radical Artistry Life Drawing,” is an approach that emphasizes collaboration, self-exploration and expression, as well as social, intellectual and emotional well-being. For instance, each session begins with a check-in, where participants, including the model, artists, and the facilitator, share something they might be glad about and something they might be sad about, helping to foster empathy and understanding among group members while setting a tone of holistic reflexivity.
This approach also encourages participation from the model and artists in composing poses and other elements of the session, such as timing and music, promoting a sense of collaboration, ownership and inclusiveness. Instead of a hierarchical structure, where the facilitator is in near-complete control, this approach aims to foster human flourishing and aligns with the ideas of autonomy and self-expression developed by philosophers such as Mark Fisher, Martha Nussbaum and John Holloway, while it aligns with Aaron Antonovsky’s Salutogenesis theoretical framework’s “Sense of Coherence” (SoC) and “General Resistance Resources” (GRRs) and Søren Kierkegaard, Carl Rogers and Kristin Neff’s ideas about the importance of honesty and humility for personal development and well-being.
Participating in “Radical Artistry Life Drawing” allows individuals not only to practice and improve their own artistic skills but also to invest in the well-being and personal growth, of their own as well as that of the wider creative community. Our approach, which values artistic integrity and optimising broad-based well-being, aligns with the idea that “the artist must train not only his eye but also his soul,” as Wassily Kandinsky put it. Through creating art that is more autonomous, we can help to bring about a better world by addressing the critical conditions for well-being that self-determination theory identifies:
- Autonomy: Research has shown that individuals who have a high degree of autonomy in their lives, including in their creative endeavours, have greater well-being and psychological health than those who do not (Deci & Ryan, 2000). In the context of art-making, autonomy means allowing individuals to make choices and decisions about the creative process, such as choosing the subject matter, medium, and style.
- Competence: The sense of competence, or feeling skilled and capable, has been linked to increased self-esteem and well-being (Bandura, 1986). In the context of art-making, competence can be achieved through receiving feedback, practising and improving skills, and experiencing success in the creative process.
- Relatedness: The need for positive social connections, or relatedness, has been linked to increased well-being and mental health (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). In the context of art-making, relatedness can be fostered through collaboration and the sharing of the creative process with others.
According to flow theory “flow state” a.k.a. “being in the zone” depends on a balance between the level of the challenge matching the level of ability, competence, or capacity to perform the task. The extent to which this balance is achieved tends to correlate with engagement, control, and enjoyment. Autonomy, Competence, and Relatedness all play a role in finding this balance.
Practising autonomy can help you improve how you choose the right challenges to focus on, challenges that you feel you have control over and that align with your context, interests and goals.
Practising competence allows you to improve how you evaluate your abilities to perform the tasks you pursue, and
Practising relatedness helps you in tuning a good balance of challenge vs. ability by for instance getting input and support from others.
When you find the balance between challenge and ability, you may experience flow-state, increased well-being, personal and interpersonal growth, as well as the benefits of enhancing the creative process.
…the artist must train not only his eye but also his soul,…Concerning the Spiritual in Art, Wassily Kandinsky, 1905
Radical Artistry Life Drawing, by incorporating elements such as check-ins, collaboration, and autonomy in the creative process, provides a refreshing and holistic approach to the discipline of observing and interpreting the human figure artistically. Our inclusion of dimensions such as self-exploration, well-being, and social connections aligns with the ideas of autonomy, competence, and relatedness from self-determination theory and flow state, which ultimately lead to personal growth, both artistically and personally, both individually and collectively.
A Summary of Radical Artistry Life Drawing
“Radical Artistry Life Drawing” is an alternative approach that emphasizes collaboration, self-exploration, and well-being in the practice of drawing the human figure. The approach is based on key concepts such as:
- Self-Determination Theory: This states that personal growth and well-being are fostered by autonomy, competence, and relatedness.
- Flow state: a psychological state of optimal experience characterized by balance between level of challenge and ability, competence or capacity.
- Salutogenesis: a theoretical framework that emphasizes the role of resources such as “Sense of Coherence” and “General Resistance Resources” in promoting well-being.
- Autonomy and self-expression: ideas developed by philosophers such as Mark Fisher, Martha Nussbaum, and John Holloway.
- Empathy and understanding: fostered through check-ins where participants share their feelings.
- Collaboration and inclusiveness: achieved through participation from model and artists in composing poses and session elements.
- Honesty and humility: emphasized by philosophers such as Søren Kierkegaard, Carl Rogers, and Kristin Neff.
- Personal growth: in artistic skill and well-being, both individually and collectively.
- Artistic integrity and well-being: values artistic integrity while optimizing broad-based well-being.
This approach allows us to not only practice and improve our own artistic skills but also to invest in personal growth and well-being, both individually and collectively, and aligns with the idea of “the artist must train not only his eye but also his soul,” as Wassily Kandinsky put it.
In Real Life (IRL)
To experience some of this and participate in developing Radical Artistry Life Drawing consider joining Life Drawing Randburg