This Week’s Life Drawing Model

Last week I got an email from a neighbouring town’s art guild, asking if we knew anyone who would like to model for them for life drawing.

Now, I don’t know any models.  But I DO know a woman of great character, radiating warmth and beauty, who would be a tremendous life drawing model!  I replied right away to say that my aunt might be a good fit.

Fast forward a couple of weeks, and Sheila – a 76 year-old woman with no experience whatsoever in the art world – found herself in front of a group of paying artists.  It was probably nerve-wracking, to say the least.  But she was classy through and through.

Sheila Models for Life Drawing

Sheila spent the interim days researching, collecting cool hats (one of which, my Mom and sis and I carried back for her from New Orleans!), gathering her best pearls, and figuring out what, exactly, it is that Life Models DO.

Once we artists were established with our pencils, easels, and kneadable erasers, we were ready to go.  I suggested that Sheila start with some brief poses (3 minutes) and then move into longer poses.  But an overall not working timer, coupled with all of us artists loving everything she did, meant that most poses through the morning lasted upwards of 10 minutes (some of it was Moulin-Rouge inspired; way to go, Sheila!!).

Here’s what I came up with.  There are some drawing errors to be sure, but I think I can say that in these super-short poses I captured HER.

For the first time I saw the true value of preliminary sketches for a portrait (vs. just a bunch of camera shots): each of these has the mark of the artist – my emotional response to her feelings in the moment.  Although there were a lot of artists there, I felt that we played off each other a bit.  When I was drawing her mouth, she would intuitively know that and smile.  At least until later in the session, when fatigue was setting in and we saw a deeper expression.

In either case – both, beautiful.

Many thanks to Sheila for modelling, and to the Fine Arts Society of Milton for setting this up (Monica Burnside in particular!).

Yours in Charcoal,


My Life Drawings (10 min.) of my Aunt:

Life Drawing from a Model
Life Drawing of Sheila (10 min.)
Life Drawing of a Model
Life Drawing of a Model
Life Drawing of a Model
Life Drawing of Sheila (10 min.)

Further Reading

My A-HA Moment at the Academy of Realist Art


  1. First.. Shiela is beautiful, and how you capture her with feeling is very cool.
    Also.. your words on the approach of “live” art opposed to a photograph to work off were well taken. I think I understand… It makes perfect sense to me.
    If you can see your subject with every nuance as you draw it would have to be better …I think.
    I might relate it to Plein Air.
    Outside all of your senses are working with you as paint.
    In either case… Live is definitely better than any photograph. Unless you’re just practicing which is what I’ll be doing a lot of this winter …
    All in all, your insight, perception, and thoughts wonderful. You might say “Thinking out of the box”. I like that ..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Joe. I really appreciate your comments and I’m glad this connected with you.

      You remind me of a post I wrote a while back about painting people from life. If the artist is successful, then there’s a moment where suddenly they come alive in a way that a photograph can never quite replicate. I’ve actually run into moments mid-way through a portrait where I feel awkward painting their faces as they stare at me. They completely freak my kids out, lol!


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