Anatomy of a Class

In District 2, nude-figure sketch classes drawing attention

When Hoang Dang Khoa looked at the naked woman in front of him on a Sunday afternoon, he didn’t see a body. “I see shadow and planes. It’s confusing,” he said, searching for the right words to describe how a live person looks to an artist. “But it’s fun.”

Khoa, a 17-year-old budding artist and aspiring animator, spoke during a break at the Capturing Form Saigon (www.facebook.com/capturingformsaigon) live drawing class on October’s second Sunday. The two-hour sessions are largely unguided and offer a range of utensils, art implements and mediums by which students can capture the form. The one constant: the subject of study is generally a nude figure.

That day’s model was a slim, Western woman. Aside from the empty jug she carried as an accessory, the model was otherwise completely nude. “Being an artist, you see the shape” principally, he said. The pencil and ink drawings of the model are sketched in a miniature series on his paper. The white is like a fog out of lines and smudge shadow partially depict the model.

The body has “dark planes, shapes and structure” totally unlike a manmade object, Khoa explained. “It’s a challenge.”

It’s a challenge all the artists undertake together. Organizer Lilly Wong said artists come with different skill levels and training. She offers some guidance but is largely interested having the artists create the drawing with their own style and perspective. “Technique can be taught,” she said. “It’s about style over technique.”

Lily Wong

As an artistic endeavor, the human body appears to be more manageable as a portion than as a whole. It’s almost as if the whole body is too much to attempt at once, like the only real way to do it well is to focus on one specific aspect of the body narrowly: the back, the abdomen, the shoulders.

The hardest part of the body for almost everyone to draw? The hand, Wong said. Wong took over the Capturing Form sessions in August 2018, but the first drawing rendezvous dates back to summer 2017. Wong, an art educator, art consultant and artist herself, took over with big intentions for Capturing Form. The program has offered novel practice-cum-exhibit events, one of which featured an artist crafting a 3-D painting with an Oculus Rift.

A Capturing Form art show is being planned for next year. The program has gained a following under Wong. Some participants are longtime attendees, like Khoa. That Sunday was his tenth session.

Wong explained that the classes’ popularity is due to how foundational the human anatomy is to artistic training. Across all art education “from basic to master,” the human anatomy is a foundational piece of the curriculum, she said. Even architects have to do some kind of human drawing, she added.

Capturing form is “an opportunity for artists who can’t study the human anatomy,” she said. “It’s keeping the tradition alive.

Images by Vy Lam

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