Group drawing in the gallery


In the AGO life drawing courses the approach is to balance learning about artists and the masterworks of drawing in our collection with learning how to see, how to experience and how to relate to the world around us. We focus on both traditional and contemporary approaches to drawing from observation, and offer in this course the foundational practice useful for all young artists to learn and to reinforce their drawing techniques such as gesture, proportion, contour, foreshortening and tonal value. Students consider the relevant anatomical structures that support the drawing of human form, and learn to draw from live models, as well as through demonstrations and historic examples of drawings in the AGO collection and beyond.

Every season, we offer projects inspired by artworks in the AGO Collection, including new acquisitions as well as special exhibitions where indicated. Instructors also develop personalized approaches to their teaching techniques focused on student interests and needs. Students are encouraged to discuss their learning goals with their instructor.

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Week 1: Figure Studies. This week we will look at the tradition of figure studies as an integral part of the artmaking process. We will draw from museum examples of sculpture and of master drawings, with an emphasis on exploring the techniques of positive and negative space, contour lines, and the ways to harness light and shadow to describe the figure’s volume. 
Week 2: Live Model Action Poses. Working with a live model we will look at how to capture a human figure in various short length poses. We will learn about action lines and how to observe the human figure utilizing the important landmarks of the skeleton. We will explore drawing techniques of gesture, massing, contour, movement, proportion, and foreshortening. 
Week 3: Live Model Portrait. We will work with our model in longer poses, for a full figure study as well for a portrait study. Our emphasis will be on developing techniques for accurately depicting both figure and facial features, and we will see some great examples of drawings from artists working in the 20th century.
Week 4: Expression and Self-Portrait. Learn about the proportions of the human face and the positions of head and hands. We will study facial features in smaller detail and related anatomical knowledge will be explored in this class. We will look to the work of artists for examples of expressive, meaningful and sensitive self-portraits, and we will begin our own self-portrait studies. 


  • Cream drawing paper: Manilla Paper Pad 12x18 100 Sheets. Alternative – newsprint, or 11 x 17 inch printer paper.
  • Drawing pencils: At least a 2B (or regular HB) and a 4B (or soft 6B), or wider gradation range.
  • Compressed drawing pastel sticks (Conte drawing sticks): 1 Sanguine, 1 Black, and 1 White. For example: an assorted set of 4. 
  • Pencil sharpener (or blade)
  • Paper towel, tissue, Q-tips or a stomp 
  • Fine point pen or fine point felt tip marker 
  • Colour markers or pencils (optional colour pencils: 1 carmine red and 1 light blue)
  • Eraser 
  • Oil-based modeling clay (plasticine), 1lb (block) in warm or in neutral colour. For example: grey, terracotta, or brown.
  • A couple of wooden toothpicks.

For week 4: A mirror that can be propped near the working area, for your self-portrait. 

Optional: Sketchbook any size.(For most days we will use the drawing paper listed above, but you may want extra paper.)

Some suggested retailers for purchasing your art materials:

Aboveground Art Supplies (discount code: AGOSTUDENT10), Curry’sDeSerresGwartzman’sMichaels, or any other art supply or discount craft store.

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, delays are very possible.


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