If at first you don’t succeed …


Paint brush and black ink from previous class

I am talking about art classes and my sketches again. The previous week, I didn’t enjoy sketching using a paintbrush loaded with black ink on A1 sheets of newsprint.

I had, in the past only used paint with a brush that size on board, or heavy paper. Normally I would have sketched using a dry-brush effect. But that day, and many sheets of newsprint later, I knew that the combination of thick brush, ink and heavy application didn’t like me. Or, maybe it was me that was thick?

This week, we had the same model. Fortunately we began with charcoal. Ye ha! As stated before, I think charcoal works well on newsprint and its ease of use is perfect for fast poses. In fact, it glides across the page.

Better luck today I thought.

Two minute charcoal sketch with focus on line

I love the way you can move charcoal on the paper, and get very grubby fingertips in the process. It helps that we were using large easels and A1 paper, as it gives the arm room to move fast to catch the pose. It’s important to gauge the shape of the model and the spaces created with the pose. For example; the triangular shape between the stride, and the negative spaces created around the figure too. Using the paper’s edge as a guideline helps, as you visually judge the distance between the shape and the straight edges. Then it’s look/sketch/look/sketch… until the time is up.

More charcoal, aiming for line and moulding the form.

It was suggested we lie our charcoal stick on its side for the next sketches, and I did attempt one of two with varying degrees of success. But that is to be expected, when the pace is fast and you are presented with doing something in a different way from usual.

It is my natural inclination to sketch line before moulding the figure, and these were a combination of the two.

I didn’t think you needed to see the bottom half of the page. Nor the drawing which followed, where the proportions were off.

And then, it was into line again!

Two minute charcoal sketch

Gosh, I was spinning, as next we were onto ink sketches, using our implement of choice for a fifteen minute pose. Ha!I I chose my trusty pen with a long refill cartridge and sketched wildly. I decided to add colour wash near the end and duly applied it with a size 7 brush. Oh no. I hadn’t realised I had the soluble ink refill in my pen, so I quickly left that sketch alone, knowing I could work on it at home. Onto another fast pose to get at least one ink sketch done…

Very quick sketch using water-soluble ink, with light water wash

I like using this ink, if I’ve remembered it’s in the pen! The line is more forgiving, as it is made movable by the water brushed on. The water does need to be used sparingly for best results.

All in all I had a very enjoyable morning. Next week, I hope we’ll get to use some colour again, as it is the penultimate life drawing session.

Back to the written word


The heading is a double entendre, I believe, although I didn’t realise the link until later. After viewing the sketches from last week’s art class, there was no way I was going to advertise them, and with my novel now back on track, I thought a post about its progress might be more inspiring than looking at the worst drawings I have done in some time. The old learning curve at work again! However, I am pleased to be making progress on the novel, coming on the heels of readers’ praise for my recent short story collection.

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Another life drawing experience


Wednesday was art class day, and I really should have stayed home. Not because I did bad work, which was surprising as I’d hurt my back and felt very under par. But, since I had been enjoying the classes so much, I headed down to the ferry at 9am. It was on time, which meant I could easily make the early bus from the waterfront up to the art school. That bus never came, and I arrived late to class. The studio door was shut and a notice said KNOCK BEFORE ENTERING. My tutor greeted me grumpily, and then, I needed his help to erect the large easel (grovel, grovel). It took me ages, to collect paper, peg it to the board, and get out my drawing gear, which meant there were just a few seconds left to sketch the first pose. “Try and capture the model’s emotion,” the tutor said. I think I captured my own splendidly.

I used willow charcoal stick here.

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A model with difference

Shutterstock image

More from Life class. This time our model was in costume, a là Charlie Chaplin: black top, pants, a boater and long cane. Her point of difference were blue socks and Doc Marten shoes. We didn’t use willow charcoal to start this time, although we were to sketch on A1 sheets of newsprint as usual. A 6B or softer was the order of the day, and contour was the expectation. I loved the way the model had a good sense of her body and how to place it. She stood for the first half of the class, and we began with short poses. The idea with the first sketch was to try and keep the pencil on the paper and make as few lines as possible to form the figure. Our tutor is keen on putting pressure on the lead, so the line is as dark as we can produce. My instincts are for a softer line, but I was keen to try something different.

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Life Class Week Two


6B graphite pencil and soft stick pastel

This week, the group were asked to focus on line rather than form for the quick sketches. I was working on A1 newsprint, pinned to board on a painting easel. This was a rather different approach from the previous class, where I sat straddled on a wooden artist’s Donkey. In that situation I could rest my arm when I chose. With all the poses for this week’s work, I was standing, using the arm and fingers stretched and moving the mediums quickly on the page. The first sketch is in the middle, superimposed by the blue pastel sketch, and last, the pencil sketch of the seated model. We did several more quick poses, using charcoal until the break.

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Back to class!


5-10 minute pose using stick charcoal, rubbed with my fingers.

Today I began my first Life Drawing class for some time: one of nine. I guessed that I’d be somewhat rusty; but when the stick charcoal began to side across the newsprint paper, I was in my happy place. I have always loved sketching the human form, and with a very good model it is about as good as it gets. This morning I chose a ‘Donkey’ bench to use, which for the non-arty is a narrow bench, with a stand at one end where aboard rests, and where one clips on paper to use. The user sits astride. Mm, some years have passed since this was may preferred seat for such sketching purposes. Next time, I’ll grab an easel to stand at, and have a Donkey nearby as back-up.

5 minute pose using stick charcoal, rubbed with my fingers

Our tutor guided what mediums we should use for the session, and was I pleased he’d selected stick (willow) charcoal for most of the poses. Charcoal is my favourite drawing medium when it comes to figure studies, and I was pretty happy with these first quick sketches after some absence from the drawing board. Several years back, figure drawing, tutoring and exhibiting was almost a full-time occupation for me. I used to engage models when readying for an exhibition, and grew to know just how vital the connection between model and artist is, to have a successful association. This takes in the models’comfort, giving the model space, and ensuring plenty of breaks throughout. The model needs to feel part of the group, to be shown respect, and not be left feeling ‘it is just a job’. Without the model there would be no life drawing – and for one, I wouldn’t be happy with that scenario.

I am posting just two sketches today, as I have yet to pack my bag for a trip to Christchurch to spend time with my sister. Don’t worry, I’ll be back in time for my class next week, and I shall be posting each week, all going well. I’ll mix the media up over the weeks, and that will be fun. Until then, stay well and keep posting. Vivienne.

Caravaggio revisited


From The Soul and the Blood advertisement

Two weeks ago I took myself to see the film Caravaggio: The Soul and the Blood, which was part of the Italian film festival showing in our local cinema. I am a big fan of Caravaggio, and three works in particular, which appear in the movie. To think that I almost missed seeing these works in the flesh when visiting Rome some years back. The accidental way this came about is quite funny, I think, and why I’m reposting the story I wrote in 2018 about this experience.

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The sketch that almost wasn’t.


The since discarded sketch

Before I got caught up in the book hype, I had begun a sketch of two granddaughters that I wished to give as a gift. Luckily I had planned this well in advance of the birthday for the intended recipient. This sketch, like his birthday, is a surprise, but by the time this post goes out, my son should know that his parents and sister from New Zealand are part of that surprise. We have waited two and a half years to get back to Melbourne, and as you read this, that’s where we’ll be, celebrating my son’s birthday. But, back to the sketch… This is the initial sketch of the two girls, where I messed up the younger child. Soon after I started a second sketch of the girls. But instead of completing it quickly, I kept drawing a little then leaving it alone.

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Hundertwasser in New Zealand


Friedensreich Hundertwasser photo: Gerhard Krömer

Most art lovers will already know of Hundertwasser (1928-2000), an Austrian artist who lived in Vienna for many years of his life, and many will have visited the Hundertwasser House and museum opened in Vienna in the 1980s. But fewer will know of his link to New Zealand. In 1973 he travelled to New Zealand for the first time at the invitation of the Auckland City Art Gallery, where Hertha Dabbert had organised a travelling exhibition of his works. He visited the Bay of Islands during this time, and was so affected by the area that he returned a few years later and bought a farm. An impassioned environmentalist, he lived simply, off the grid if he could, returning from trips abroad, planting thousands of trees, establishing solar systems, and recycling as much material as he was able.

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I may be able to write about more than books soon!


Before everyone arrived

Saturday evening was the local launch of my recently released book Pocket Money and Other Stories. As this is the only decent photo taken on the evening, I can’t show you the audience listening to my readings, or me signing my books for the said people, so you’ll just have to take my word that the event occurred. It took place in the Devonport Returned Services Association rooms, in case you’re wondering about the Commonwealth flags and the photograph of HRH Queen Elizabeth 2nd on the wall behind me. On reflection, I was pleased that my first reading included mention of the grandfather who’d been killed during WW1, as it befitted my surroundings. A great venue for introducing my book to local people.