Livin’ Large

I’ve noticed that while large paintings are fairly common, large drawings are less so. I wonder why? Sketch group after sketch group I see the majority of artists drawing on 11 x 14 inch paper or smaller. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! People should work in the scale with which they are most comfortable. But I think that artists who tackle large scale drawings display a kind of “just go for it” fearlessness, and their generous longer lines appear freer, bolder, more uninhibited. Maybe there is truth to the phrase “size matters”. Wait, are we talking about drawing? ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ˜‰ ย Sorry.

Rose is a student in Nicki Orbach’s class at the National Academy. I posed there a few days ago and she was working on big sheets of paper, mounted to a board, secured on an easel. With charcoal in hand, Rose just went for it, rapidly laying down broad sweeping lines imbued completely with the model’s movement and gesture.

This sketch was only a ten minute pose. I was sitting backwards on a small wooden folding chair, arms propped on the back, shoulders arched and tense, my hips practically falling off the seat edge, with one leg crossed under the other and shifted to the side. If that pose description sounds awkward that’s because it was! But for a brief ten minutes it was dramatic, curvy, and expressive – well worth the seat slat cutting into my thigh. Rose’s sketch is approximately 25 x 30 and she used the entire paper right up to the edges. Also, notice that she didn’t use a clean sheet. Instead, she worked right over a previous quick pose, so you can see parts of me reclining underneath. If you’re going to use expensive large paper, better not waste it!

The master of large drawing is my dear friend Fred Hatt. But Rose’s 25 x 30 is nothing to him! Fred draws so big he works on the floor on huge sheets of black paper. One of my favorites of Fred’s large pieces is this one titled Sky.

13 thoughts on “Livin’ Large

  1. Jennifer says:

    Def agree with the benefits of ‘drawing it large’. Nice dramatic pose above and Fred’s ‘Sky’ – wow! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • artmodel says:

      Jennifer, thanks! Large drawings are so much fun. Glad you appreciate their merits.
      And I echo your sentiment of “wow!” for Fred’s. An amazing piece.


  2. Bill says:

    Don’t see that it matters whether it’s large or small — only that it’s good. (But I do agree that these drawings are really good.)
    I think there are probably a number of reasons why drawings tend to be small. Most people seem to break out the paints for any pose longer than 15 minutes — I’ll often draw at long pose sessions, and I’m often the only person who isn’t painting. Medium is another reason — many of the people I know who draw prefer pencils or pens — creating a relatively thin line that doesn’t fill up a large piece of paper very quickly or effectively.

    P.S. Recommendation: after fighting the crowds at the Met’s blockbuster Picasso exhibit, check out their drawing exhibit “An Italian Journey: Drawings from the Tobey Collection . . .” It’s up until August 15th. Both are great — but in entirely different ways.

    • artmodel says:


      Thanks for bringing up the issue of medium choice. I know that many artists like to use graphite pencils, pens, etc, which probably don’t work well on large surfaces for short poses. Since Rose used charcoal in her drawing, she was able to create those dark, dramatic lines and smudge, all in a quick few minutes.

      Thanks for the Met recommendation! I’ve already seen the Picasso show but I’m going back again this weekend for a second viewing, so i will definitely check out the drawings exhibit you mentioned.

      Appreciate your comments!


      • Bill says:

        You know, it’s funny that no one mentioned transportation as an issue. Size doesn’t matter if you’re working in your own studio or driving to a life session but, if you’ve ever tried to carry a large drawing board or canvas onto a packed subway train or bus at rush hour, you’ll know what I mean ๐Ÿ™‚
        Hope you enjoy the exhibit.

  3. Fred says:

    Thanks for the plug, Claudia!

    Large drawings are difficult for several reasons. I don’t work that large in the classes at Spring Studio and Figureworks because space is tight. There I usually use paper around 18″ x 24″ to 20″ x 30″. I’m used to that size but sometimes it feels restrictively small and I rarely get the whole figure on a page. You have to have a smooth backboard behind the paper because any texture under the paper will affect the drawing. In my own studio, when working with a model, I draw on the floor with a big piece of foam board under the drawing. I have to look up to see the model, and looking at standing poses gives me a neck cramp. Working directly from life in a large size can make it difficult to maintain proportions and you can get distortions because you’re seeing the paper at an angle. And a large paper or a large canvas is difficult for working from the model because it blocks your view!

    I think the Studio School encourages making very large drawings.

    Rose’s drawing is really nice. The drawing underneath and the extra lines and half-erased lines really make it work for me.

    • artmodel says:


      You’re absolutely right about the Studio School. I worked there for two years, and the students did indeed do tremendous drawings, especially during the school’s famous “drawing marathons”.

      While space is tight at Spring Studio, Minerva does provide a couple of spots for easels, as you know. But I’ve noticed that many drawing session spaces are geared toward “lap drawing” (that’s my phrase) and sitting positions. Rose’s piece was done at the National Academy where the studios are quite spacious and have an atelier feel. So there’s a lot of easel drawing going on there which I assume is better for larger work? Rose stood throughout the entire class.

      Thanks for your comments, Fred!


  4. robert bent says:

    “Large format” work is something I appreciate and the example you post is wonderful. I often put lines upon lines; 20×30 or so is a sheet I prefer; all of the lines on that work are wonderful! (In my humble, only having lived my own experience sort of way/opinion).

    • artmodel says:


      One can only live their own experience, and yours is perfectly valid, even if humble.

      20 x 30 is a nice size. Keep working on that. And I agree with you about the lines. Makes the drawing so interesting to look at.

      Thanks for commenting Robert! Great to hear from you ๐Ÿ™‚


  5. There is a young lady from China who often comes to our drawings sessions. She works fairly large, at least 18 by 24 inches or so. She places her paper (pad) on the floor, kneels and sits back on her calves, her feet stretched flat behind her. She can reach all of the paper from that position, sometimes rising just a little. This is the way she was taught to draw at art school in China. I think the artists need be as limber as the models there!

    Like, very much, Rose’s drawing, for the same reasons as Fred.

    • artmodel says:


      I am trying to envision that young lady’s drawing position and, as an art model, I’m very impressed! Sounds difficult, but obviously it works for her. She is “limber” indeed!

      I’m with you and Fred about Rose’s overlapping and partial lines. They just work so well in the whole composition.

      Thanks for your comments!


  6. Andrew says:

    I would think a larger format would lend itself to long, loose lines whereas a small format might encourage tighter, more constrained lines. A large format probably makes it easier to draw with the arm, rather than the wrist.

    I must echo the “wow” for Fred’s Sky drawing!

  7. Chris Miller says:

    Hi Claudia,
    Glad to find your blog is busier and more thought provoking than ever.

    Here’s a book that one of our models has written, and I thought it might interest you:

    “Live Nude Girl : My Life as an Object” by Kathleen Roomey

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