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If you had to choose the greatest life drawing artist ever, it wouldn't be an easy task. The same three or four names would come to most people's minds: Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, Peter Paul Rubens.
So what about the contemporary crop of life drawing artists? Who, living today, are the best artists at drawing the human figure from real life? And not just replicating the human figure on canvas, but transforming it into an emotionally compelling work of art?
For many artists, life drawing is only one feather in their cap. They may also paint in oils or acrylics, and paint on top of their original drawing or sketch.
There are many contemporary life drawing artists that deserve our attention. For example, Nikolai Blokhin, Russian fine artist who used to teach drawing at one of the best art academies of the world. There are also some other artists you might be intersting to learn about:
The British artist, Jenny Saville, is often compared to Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon. This is in part due to the way she depicts the seamier side of the human body. An artist who has studied corpses in the morgue, the figures she draws and paints are typically female, nude and obese. Known better as an oil painter, she also draws in charcoal. Her Titian-inspired 2016 exhibition, Erota, displayed large canvases of writhing, shifting female nudes. Her life drawings embody the rhythms of the human form; they reveal themselves to the viewer as emerging landscapes in constant flux.
Saville paints from a reverse perspective the traditional female form of beauty as iconized in the young, stick-thin model. Referring to herself as 'anti-beauty', she prefers honest to pretty. It's why her work not only features huge - some might say gross - thighs and bellies, but also plastic surgery scars, distorted and blemished flesh. She has painted crime scenes and morgue exhibits. Her work is visceral, morbid and anatomically direct.
Another contemporary artist who imbues rhythm and melody into his life drawings is Zin Lim from Seoul, currently resident in the USA. A maestro both with the charcoal stick and oil, Lim likens his life drawing technique to Spiccato, a form of violin playing. He has a very visual and individual style; many of his artworks are about mystery and metamorphosis from the human to the ethereal.
The bold charcoal strokes he uses in his life drawings of female nudes stress the sense of rhythmic motion and vitality. They almost appear to move before our eyes.
As well as accepting commissions, Lim teaches life drawing around the world and makes instructional videos.
Sylvie Guillot is a French artist and graduate of the Versailles School of Art. She is another accomplished life drawing artist fascinated by the female human nude. To Guillot the human body is a rich vein of inspiration which can never be exhausted.
Guillot focuses on the emotional rather than the intellectual, using postures that convey tension and movement in the human body. To find that perfect form, she first lets her pencil roam free on the paper. All that matters to her is the joy of artistic expression. Once she has a picture in her mind, she starts to draw. Her figures are often shown stretched out or huddled, the torsos contorted to maximize the feeling of movement and tension. She balances these areas of tension in the life drawing with quieter places, where the viewer can relax. Unlike Jenny Saville, Guillot doesn't dwell on the grotesqueries of the female form; yet her work retains an unairbrushed honesty.
An accomplished musician and artist, Kobrenski employs themes of cultural diversity and wildlife in his art. He has travelled extensively, and much of his work reflects the indigenous cultures he discovers.
His collection of life drawings are superb, drawn in a realistic style using charcoal, conté and colored pencil. His nudes, mostly female, are shown in a variety of stretching postures that can be balletic, gymnastic, even - such as Ayla I - drawn in mid-flight. His life drawings convey plenty of movement and tension, grace and delicacy. As such, they are more classical and pro-beauty, even verging on fantasy, as with Spring: Venus and Eustoma.
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