De­vel­op­ing Sto­ry­telling Skills From Life

Artist and teacher April Con­nors gets you to let loose in a quest to find the char­ac­ter lurk­ing in­side your draw­ings

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Whether they’re held at an evening class or at col­lege, most life-draw­ing classes fol­low a fa­mil­iar pat­tern of stu­dents grouped around a model, busily mea­sur­ing pro­por­tions and try­ing to en­sure that their draw­ing is as close as pos­si­ble to what they see. If that’s what you’re used to, April Con­nors’ video for The Gnomon Work­shop will shake up your ap­proach and tech­niques.

April works here with a sin­gle, fully dressed model with a cou­ple of cos­tumes: a Ghost­buster-like jump­suit with a ri­fle; and a vam­piric gothic num­ber with a sword. Rather than try­ing to re­pro­duce what she sees, though, April feels her way through each of the model’s poses, creat­ing an im­age that brings out at­ti­tude and per­son­al­ity. Draw­ings of the sci-fi solider be­come car­toony and en­er­getic, while those of the vam­pire are more ethe­real and glam­orous. In both cases, it’s April’s re­sponse to the char­ac­ter, not her im­pos­ing her pre­de­fined style on the pic­ture.

The tech­niques April em­ploys come from var­i­ous cre­ative gen­res: proof that it’s per­fectly ac­cept­able to mix and match to form your own artis­tic vi­sion. One minute she’s us­ing char­coal to es­tab­lish mood and move­ment be­fore lay­ing down lines, like a fine artist; the next she’s talk­ing about find­ing the main ges­ture lines in the pose, just as an an­i­ma­tor would. The con­fi­dence of April’s nar­ra­tion comes from years of teach­ing: you’ll feel like you’re in good hands, no mat­ter how novel these ideas are to you.

These are the sort of exercises that are ei­ther great for loos­en­ing up be­fore a long ses­sion, or for ex­plor­ing new di­rec­tions in your art. And, of course, you’re not ex­cluded just be­cause you don’t have ready ac­cess to a model will­ing to play dress-up. Just pull up some fash­ion pho­tos or film stills from the in­ter­net, and see where the mood takes you.

April uses of a va­ri­ety of me­dia, so that her char­ac­ters are en­hanced by her ma­te­ri­als of choice.

An­i­ma­tion in­flu­ences come to the fore in this sketch, which be­comes a sci-fi ac­tion shot.

In her video, April Con­nors en­cour­ages you to bring out the char­ac­ter be­hind the model’s pose.

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