Taking part in Figuary 2020

My drawing of a Figuary model (taking my time by freezing the frame in the Vimeo video).


I took part in Figuary 2020 throughout February 2020 although it has taken me rather a long time to post about it!

What is Figuary?

Figuary is a month-long figure drawing challenge that takes place in February, hence its title: Fig(ure)+(Febr)uary. It’s run by Kenzo and Mayko at www.lovelifedrawing.com together with Larry Withers at vimeo.com/croquiscafe. Kenzo and Mayko produce a daily life drawing tutorial on their Love Life Drawing YouTube channel while Larry Withers hosts daily recordings of life models on the Croquis Cafe Vimeo channel.

The idea is that each day throughout February you watch a short tutorial on YouTube then draw the life model of the day from the Vimeo video. Most days the life drawing session is a series of short poses as follows:

  • three one-minute poses
  • two two-minute poses
  • one five-minute pose

The tutorial and life drawing session together take about twenty minutes. Not too much of a commitment each day.

The organisers like participants to post their drawings on Instagram so they can comment on them during the tutorials. I didn’t feel that I’d produced anything worth posting at the time – that is, none of the drawings that I completed within the allotted times of one, two or five minutes were worth posting.

Timing of the Poses

At first I found the one-minute poses went by much too quickly to get much down at all on the paper. The two-minute poses allowed me time to capture a few more lines and the five-minute ones were a similar length to “short poses” I’ve drawn in real life sessions. Overall I felt rushed and there was no time to measure and check proportions.

As time passed I did get quicker and it’s surprising that two minutes does seem to stretch out after struggling to get something down in one minute. I learnt something about “gesture drawing”. That is I tried to go for the most important gesture lines of the pose while ignoring fussy details. Although I also found that drawing smaller than normal allowed me time to get in more of the figure.

One day the timings of the poses were very short indeed – 15-seconds, 30-seconds, 45-seconds. That day was frantic!

Very fast poses: 30-seconds, 45-seconds, and one-minute.

The Croquis Cafe Models

The men and women modelling at Croquis Cafe were excellent. Some managed to achieve imaginative, dynamic poses – balancing on stools and so on – that made interesting shapes and were challenging to draw.

Tutorial Videos

I especially enjoyed Kenzo and Mayko’s tutorials when they brought in guest artists. Richard Powell‘s bold sketches are used as examples of gesture drawing. At the other end of the scale, Lane Brown‘s sensitively shaded sketching style is also studied.

There is some mismatch between what we are told to concentrate on in the tutorials and the very short poses presented in Croquis Cafe. These short poses are only suitable for gesture drawings. You would have to pause the video if you want to attempt some of the techniques discussed, such as different values in shading.

Other tutorial content is what you would expect from a life drawing class: ‘look for the negative shapes’, ‘find the larger shapes in the figure’, ‘exaggerate the pose for dramatic effect’, and so on. Towards the end of the month we had a tutorial on improving line quality that I would have benefitted from nearer the beginning.

Overall

Croquis Cafe is probably the closest you can get online to the experience of being in a real life drawing session. In the film the models move slightly and sink down over time just like real life. Disadvantages are that your viewpoint is the viewpoint of the camera, you can’t choose it; the size is limited by the size of your screen; and you feel disconnected, unlike actually being there. However, a big advantage is that you can freeze the screen if you wish.

Overall I think that Figuary is really good practice. It helped me to get faster and to make better quality lines. I think my drawings slightly improved in line quality and gesture. I want to go back and redo some of the poses more slowly to improve proportions and shading.

I enjoyed Figuary 2020 so much that I’m doing last year’s Figuary 2019 which is still available. I’m drawing alongside my partner who hadn’t tried life drawing from a model before. His drawing and observation improved noticeable over the month.