How to Keep Up Life Drawing (without the commute)

A couple of years ago, I discovered an amazing resource for life drawing. Life drawing is one of these things that many illustrators do as students but have a tendency to drop later in their career. I’ve talked to so many of my colleagues that haven’t done any life drawing for years and the story is always the same: work commitments, the hassle of getting to a studio at a specific time, and a host of other reasons prevent us from doing life drawing. The irony is that life drawing is an incredibly useful way to practice. It never ceases to be challenging and there are always new lessons to learn.

I myself lost the habit of life drawing. After I relocated to Sacramento from the Bay Area, I lost connection with many of the groups that made life drawing easy and practical. Slowly, the habit disappeared. Then I discovered Croquis Cafe!

Croquis Cafe is an online resource of highly produced life drawing videos filmed specifically for artists practicing life drawing. I’ve never found anything else like it on the web. Several hundred videos of a wide range of models allow for many hours of drawing practice. Is this is a different experience from drawing a model in a studio? Absolutely. There is no actual replacement for that, but Croquis Cafe is the next best thing.

I stopped quibbling over the differences when I noticed my drawings slowly improving through practice with Croquis Cafe at my home studio.

Here’s a study from a life drawing session, live in a studio.

Here are two other studies, done at home using Croquis Cafe. For me, these are both filling the same need. I treat the Croquis Cafe videos exactly as though I was in a studio drawing from life – I don’t stop the video, or backtrack. The fact that the poses are timed is essential to finding the most effective use of gesture – and what keeps it from being a drawing of a photograph.

These days, I am using my iPad Pro with Procreate to warm up for 15-20 minutes before my work day. It’s a really great way to loosen up. By doing it before I get to my assignments, I can actually make it into a repeatable habit. Drawing from these model videos also is a great way to brainstorm new ideas for poses, characters and attitude.

Another feature of Croquis Cafe that I only discovered recently is an amazing resource of royalty free photography in their Model Index. While I have yet to scratch the surface of this library, I am thinking about using it for my anatomy studies. This kind of image database is really a gold mine!

If you do end up using Croquis Cafe, make sure to drop them a donation. I try to make a habit of it whenever I am able. Websites like these depend on donations and its the best way to tell them: hey, you’re doing something awesome!