Figure Drawing – why I do it


©Candace Sanderson, Seated Female (c). Charcoal and conté on toned paper.

I love sculpting – in an obsessive, driven sort of way – but drawing brings its own kind of pleasure. 

In particular, the human form, the sweeping curve of a hip, the voluminous shadow cast by a breast, or the bright highlight on a forehead and cheek.

All are reasons enough for a sculptor whose work has been typically non-figurative to draw the human body.

Luckily for me, our local Centre for Creative Arts  offers a weekly drop in drawing night with a live model.  It gives me the chance to draw the human form without having to resort to using myself as the model.  (Trust me, that awkward self-portrait is very different from all those selfies we seem to love to take.)

Most of the time I use drawing as a tool, sketching line and volume that are then translated into three dimensions. How I look at a subject intended for sculptural work is very different from how I see it when I’m drawing for the sole purpose of making marks.

Drawing those two-minute warm-up sketches and twenty minute drawings from the live model forces me to focus on the immediacy of the moment.  To look – really look – at what is in front of me without any other considerations.


©Candace Sanderson, 2 Minute gesture (k). Charcoal on newsprint.


©Candace Sanderson, Seated Female, front (a). Charcoal and conté on toned paper.

To focus on the light, the shadows and the interplay between them.  To identify negative space, to decide whether I draw the full form or a specific area and try to capture it all in a single twenty-minute composition.

Then go through the process all over again and again and again.  Its two hours of hard work that leaves me simultaneously exhilarated and exhausted.

Drawing night is my break from the regular day-to-day of sculpting.  In those two hours of intense concentration the rest of my world fades away.  Whatever else has been rattling around inside my head goes silent.  Even the project currently on my workbench takes a back seat to what’s in front of me.

There is another aspect of drawing night that brings me back week after week and serves to feed my creative appetite.  It is the comradery of drawing with other people.  To be in a room filled with the sounds of mark-making, pastel and conté scratching paper, hands blackened by charcoal and everyone focused on that single, lit human form.  There is an energy so palpable that you can almost taste it.

Drawing night is always a late night.  Where sleep is reluctant to come as part of me continues to ride the high of drawing the human form until well past bed time.


©Candace Sanderson, Seated Female, back view (b). Charcoal and conté on toned paper.