The mortal veil, at Lysnar House

'There is no better test of your drawing ability than drawing the human form'

'There is no better test of your drawing ability than drawing the human form'

Michelangelo, Study for the Libyan Sibyl, ca.1510-11

A moustached nude male poses with a bowl of marbles in his lap for a life drawing class in a Hale and Pace comedy skit. To the comic’s horror, his marbles bounce onto the floor when a buxom artist enters and leans over to preen herself. Although this sort of caper almost never happens in a Gisborne Artists Society life drawing session, society co-ordinator Chris Smith is keen for more people, experienced or not, to try their hand at drawing the human form.

“There is no better test of your drawing ability than drawing the human form,” says Smith. “I look around my house and there aren’t that many things to draw that are interesting. Life drawing helps develop your drawing ability. People are welcome to come along for one session to get a taste of it.”

The life drawing evenings at Lysnar House are not classes, says Smith. They are an opportunity to develop drawing skills by focusing on the human form. Life drawing challenges and inspires the artist to explore techniques such as foreshortening, shading styles and the exploration of positive and negative space.

Youth hostels are good source of models, says Smith. Backpackers make a little cash for taking their kit off and Gisborne artists refine their drawing skills. There is nothing salacious in life drawing though. The artists view the form of the body as no more than living form.

“I’m oblivious to anything other than the form in life drawing,” says Smith. “You become unaware of the model’s nakedness.”

The gender split of models for the Gisborne sessions have been about 50:50 but the group is trying to get more female models in, says Smith.

He made no mention of the bowl of marbles issue with male models.

The society runs two eight-week sessions a year.


Life drawing sessions are held at Lysnar House (behind the museum) Wednesdays 7pm. Cost: Gisborne Artists Society members $8 per session, non-members $10.

A moustached nude male poses with a bowl of marbles in his lap for a life drawing class in a Hale and Pace comedy skit. To the comic’s horror, his marbles bounce onto the floor when a buxom artist enters and leans over to preen herself. Although this sort of caper almost never happens in a Gisborne Artists Society life drawing session, society co-ordinator Chris Smith is keen for more people, experienced or not, to try their hand at drawing the human form.

“There is no better test of your drawing ability than drawing the human form,” says Smith. “I look around my house and there aren’t that many things to draw that are interesting. Life drawing helps develop your drawing ability. People are welcome to come along for one session to get a taste of it.”

The life drawing evenings at Lysnar House are not classes, says Smith. They are an opportunity to develop drawing skills by focusing on the human form. Life drawing challenges and inspires the artist to explore techniques such as foreshortening, shading styles and the exploration of positive and negative space.

Youth hostels are good source of models, says Smith. Backpackers make a little cash for taking their kit off and Gisborne artists refine their drawing skills. There is nothing salacious in life drawing though. The artists view the form of the body as no more than living form.

“I’m oblivious to anything other than the form in life drawing,” says Smith. “You become unaware of the model’s nakedness.”

The gender split of models for the Gisborne sessions have been about 50:50 but the group is trying to get more female models in, says Smith.

He made no mention of the bowl of marbles issue with male models.

The society runs two eight-week sessions a year.


Life drawing sessions are held at Lysnar House (behind the museum) Wednesdays 7pm. Cost: Gisborne Artists Society members $8 per session, non-members $10.

Complex, strange and beautiful

Anatomy and the human form was of particular fascination to Renaissance artists Michelangelo Buonarroti and Leonardo da Vinci.

Michelangelo saw the structure and movement of the human body as the “mortal veil” of divine intention while Leonardo drew the human body as a complex, beautiful, and strange piece of machinery.

“He may not have understood how it all worked but he knew that the answers lay in such observation,” says Alice Roberts in The Guardian.

Late 19th century sculptor Auguste Rodin, who is said to be the progenitor of modern sculpture, engaged with the human form in a physical way. He moulded, fisted and slapped clay in a Promethean bid to invest his work, such as Agnes, Messenger of the Gods, with energetic power. On the other hand, 20th century British painter Francis Bacon distorts the human form to reveal a twisted soul.

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