Life Drawing – Something Different

After a break, I was back at lifedrawinghappenings this week in Hemel Hempstead, now in a super new venue in Leverstock Green.

andy and becky (1 of 1)

60 secs



andy and becky (5 of 5)

‘Wrong hand’3 mins


Always keen to challenge us, Kelly had two models. As always we started with  60 sec poses and the lovely lady did some terrific yoga stances, followed by three minute poses in really dynamic positions. Then we moved onto longer poses with two models. It was really difficult to work out how everything related and to get the pose drawn in the time. At one point I realised I had two people with only three legs between them!

andy and becky (2 of 5)

Plenty of pentimenti here…

andy and becky (6 of 5)

The final pose was 60 minutes, and, as usual, I vastly over worked my drawing. All the previous drawings were in Conte A Paris, but this is Derwent XL graphite in Prussian Blue.

andy and becky (4 of 5)

It was great having two models, though I wish they had related to each other more with the poses. It seems to me that two models allows for a narrative and this seemed lacking. Perhaps looking at each other is distracting.

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A Fresh Approach

After a friend recommended Emily Ball’s ‘Drawing and Painting People, A fresh Approach’, I was inspired to try something different in a life class.

031214 (7 of 7)031214 (6 of 7)031214 (3 of 7)

We started off, as usual, with short poses and ended with an hour pose.For the longer poses,  I coarsely crushed charcoal in a small jam jar, and used it in the class to rough out my shapes. The powder and the shards created interesting broad sweeps with linear elements which I could then work into with more charcoal or a rubber. I found this very liberating, and I think it helped me to get broad proportions before being tempted to any detail.

031214 (5 of 7) 031214 (4 of 7) 031214 (1 of 7)

The final one hour pose was an eternity for me, especially as, due to transport constraints, I was working small on A3. I think this forced me to slow down and really analyse. I do wonder if I should have filled the background with dark tone, or whether the spontaneous drawing, just as it emerged is better?

031214 (2 of 7)

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The Figure in Colour

For life drawing at lifedrawinghappenings this week, Kelly banned charcoal and made colour the order of the day. I used coloured inktense pencils last session in homage to Kokoschka, so I decided to really challenge myself with coloured paper and pastels and watercolours used straight from the tube.

life drawing 250714 (2 of 11) life drawing 250714 (3 of 11)

Inktense pencil, inspired by Kokoschka, previous session.

We started with quick, wrong hand drawings, 1 or 2 minutes.


For one pose, I cheated and used my dominant hand, but dipped my finger in watercolour paint, straight from the tube and drew into a water wash on w/c paper.


We moved onto longer poses and I moved to pastel on coloured paper. I used Derwent pastels which are thin rectangular blocks and quite hard, and later, Unison pastels which are stubbies and very soft.


I consistently make the legs too short. Gr$*£h!

Kelly also set us the exercise of using the side of a block and just drawing the negative space. A great exercise but I completely lost my way with the breadth of the figure and added some internal features to help work things out.


In a half hour pose, I decided to draw the same pose with my finger in watercolour, which is necessarily very quick as the paper dries, and then in pastel. With the watercolour, I was again trying to map the negative space around the figure. This was only ever going to work so much because of the way the paint spreads. I like the way the nature of the mark changes as the paper dries. This approach was perhaps over ambitious for a folded-in pose.


The same pose in soft pastels.


This clearly shows the difference in the quality of the pigment load in the soft pastels, but I found them difficult to use at the relatively small size of A3, the pad size for my coloured papers.

I tried the same exercise again for the final long pose but this time added some linear elements to the watercolour for increased definition. I don’t think this is as successful as the softer, looser painting above.


The same pose in soft pastels.


I tried to find the nuances of warm and cool light but just ended up making a mess. I find it hard to go from using pastels for line work to broader areas without ‘colouring in’. I would like to try this again but using at least an A2 support. I felt really constrained by the paper size and my proportions have really suffered here. If I take larger paper and materials to treat a final long pose as ‘something special’, I really freeze up. My quick sketches are almost always freer and more successful.

I love the way that Kelly sets up challenges which you can accept at whatever level you want. The class is only 2 1/2 hours with a half hour break, but we really crack through the work. I was so tired at the end of this class!

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Art In Action – Homage to Morandi

Last week saw the wonderful annual Art in Action at Waterperry near Oxford. This four day festival of the arts features painting, printmaking, textiles, ceramics, glass, metal and wood work, performance and sculpture. The emphasis is on artists demonstrating their artistic processes.There are also opportunities to have a go at various arts oneself through workshops and the Big Draw with life models available throughout the four days.

I visited for two days, in order to attend several workshops and to get around all the exhibits (I failed).  One exhibitor drew me back several times though the days. Sarah Spackman paints deceptively simple still lifes in a cool, restrained  palette. She is, of course, clearly influenced by Giorgio Morandi, who obsessively painted and drew the same collection of every day items for many years.  In both their hands, the bottles, jars and jugs assume a presence beyond their simple function, becoming a landscape of sculptural masses.

Watching Spackman work was fascinating. Although her palette is limited and tightly constrained on the canvas, her physical palette is ringed with oils in quite bright colours which she mixes to create her cool tones. She uses soft pastels to search out for the definition of an edge or a highlight, and then subsumes these marks into to her painting with subsequent brush strokes. The pastel is fixed in by the oil paint and may or may not be evident in the final piece.

I completely understand the seductive power of painting still life in this way for the artist. The infinite variety of inter-relation of shape and tone never becomes boring to explore. It seems an artist’s equivalent of an intense spiritual retreat.

In the Ceramics exhibit, I meet Akiko Hirai who creates wonderful tactile stoneware pieces. She too is influenced by Morandi, and creates bottles reminiscent of those in his paintings. I bought two, just to draw. They are asymmetric, with a facets and smooth curves, and carry the history of their throwing and firing.

Morandi bottles

I have been drawing them since:


I have entered an International Print Exchange as a challenge and decided that a drypoint of the bottles would  be a good subject and have the repeatability to produce the necessary edition of 10. This is an artist proof:

akiko's bottles (1 of 1)

To make the image more repeatable, I used two different blues rather than blue and green, although I prefer this colourway.

The view of the bottles from above also prompted a print, this time a collagraph using carborundum and sticky tape. Mapping the tones has produced a rather cubist image, but Morandi flirted with cubism, so that’s OK.


I am really enjoying where this thread is taking me.

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Life Drawing

Another good morning, life drawing in old Hemel Hempstead with Kelly of lifedrawinghappenings. We started off with very quick poses, all on the same piece of paper:

2 to 5 minute sketches

2 to 5 minute sketches

Kelly then suggested that we draw a slightly longer pose, just in tone, no line:

terry (2 of 5)

The next pose was slightly longer again, and I wanted to get away from charcoal, so I used a Tombow felt tip and a brush and water. The proportions of this are truly terrible.

terry (4 of 5)

The model had a wonderful sculptural head and shoulders and I decided to concentrate on this for the next half hour (?) pose. Foolishly, I forgot to make a note of the length of the pose, which I always find useful to know later.

terry (3 of 5)

Derwent XL graphite, grey

There was a highlight across the top of his head, but as the tutor, Kelly, said, it looks as though I have sliced the top of his cranium off!

The final pose was much longer, about an hour, and again I cropped in on the head and shoulders.

terry (5 of 5)

Derwent XL graphite

I think the proportions of this are better, except for the arm in the left. This gradually rotated through the pose, and I think I lost it by trying to adjust. I also don’t like the way I have treated the shadow behind the head – too lumpy. Lovely strong face to draw, great morning.

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Messing about on The Broads

I have just spent ten glorious days on the Norfolk Broads;  England in May is truly wonderful if one has good weather! I took lots of sketching materials and cameras with me but in such good weather, mostly sailed, rowed and bird watched. At the end of the holiday, the weather finally turned and we got interesting skies. The wide open hoirizons called for wide angle lenses and I thought I would play with the four third experimental lomo lens kit on my Lumix GF-1.

broads collection (6 of 9) broads collection (7 of 9) broads collection (8 of 9)


The wide angle lens was good for skies and sunsets.

broads collection (9 of 9)

One evening, we had a spectacular double rainbow, reflected in still water.

Lumix 20mm lens

Lumix 20mm lens

Lomo fisheye lens

Lomo fisheye lens

I have never seen the inside of a rainbow illuminated like this before.

I got just a few sketches done too.



Derwent XL graphite in blue

Derwent XL graphite in blue

Inktense, low clouds at sun set

Inktense, low clouds at sun set





A common tern, 2 seconds

A common tern, 2 seconds


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Life Drawing in Hemel Hempstead

My first session this morning life drawing with lifedrawinghappenings at the Friends Meeting House in old Hemel Hempstead. I have unhappy memories of working briefly in Hemel thirty years ago in a particularly grim modern industrial estate. The old town of Hemel is a surprising gem, by contrast. Quaker Meeting Houses seem to have a special ambiance, and I found the group very friendly and welcoming. We had a cracking model and started off with very short, two minute poses, building up eventually to a half hour pose and a long pose of an hour. Kelly set us objectives such as using unfamiliar marks, and drawing without fully resolving the whole figure.

I started off with some compressed charcoal, but, in an effort to stop myself being to fiddly, I try to  progress to working with chunky media. Today, I tried Derwent XL graphite in Prussian blue for the first time. It can be used dry or with water, and I really enjoyed it.

My drawings, warts and all:

hemel (2 of 6)

30 sec sketch

30 sec sketch

hemel (4 of 6)

On the left, the legs are far too short! On the right, the balance of the figure looks all wrong, he was leaning back, but I think my guy would just fall over!! I was trying to capture the mass of the muscles, and I think I have succeeded to some extent, but at the loss of proportion.

hemel (3 of 6)

Here the model was quite bent over and his head was down at the level of his elbow, but it just doesn’t read right here. Think those legs are still too short!

hemel (1 of 6)

Again, trying to capture muscle mass, especially in the rib cage. I think the buttocks are too slight and the upper arm too short. Bit better, though.

hemel (5 of 6)

Final pose, one hour, but I had run out of big paper, so this is just A3 using the XL graphite, water and a felt tip pen. I quite like the mixture of block and linear media, and the colours. The model fell asleep and the leg gradually swung around. I know you have to expect the model to relax into a long pose, but I am never quite sure how you are meant to deal with it in your drawing. I am not convinced those arms are attached to the same shoulders, and the hands are far too small. Good feel but so much wrong with this. It took about half an hour so I tried again.

hemel (6 of 6)

I think this is probably a bit better proportion, but the hands are still far too small. My objective was to do a reference drawing from which I could work up a print. I have lots of information but not sure its good enough… Hey ho. Better to have tried…Great session though.

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