The Last Post (on life studies)

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Nine weeks of life-drawing sessions have gone by in a flash and mostly my experiences were happy ones. I had hoped that we would repeat the charcoal (outside in) method of shaping the figure (see August 4 post), but no. I’m showing a few sketches I quite like from the last two classes. There are always reservations to what could have been done better, or differently, and the five images below show different mediums and time taken for various poses.

15 minute sketch: 6B graphite with diluted black ink/water wash on Hahnemuhle paper.

This seated pose came after a raft of fast ink sketches using a thick brush on newsprint, which I DO NOT enjoy doing. I was pleased when the longer poses came, and I switched to a lovely cream 140g Hahnemuhle paper, which works well with many drawing mediums and handles a light wash well.

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If at first you don’t succeed …

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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.

Another life drawing experience

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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

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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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From the back of a cupboard …

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Whale: gouache on illustration board

Some years back, and before writing took hold of me, I illustrated several children books. One was Save Our Seas, by author Maria Gill, who tells a story about the marine environment in New Zealand, based on logbooks from Sir Peter Blake’s New Zealand voyages. I was especially pleased to be asked to illustrate this book, as I love wildlife. And I had around fifty separate illustrations to do.

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Stormy skies

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While walking, on the lookout for something I could sketch, I looked no further than the sky. It was both fantastic and rather terrifying, as the brooding clouds looked ready to empty their heavy load on me. So, before the anticipated deluge I took a photo, and continued on my walk, expecting to find myself racing for cover at any moment. Weirdly, those clouds kept on brooding and finally wreaked havoc in the middle of the night. Wind thrashed the trees, streets, and whipped up the sea, but our region was relatively unscathed, fortunately. Not so, further out west where floods drowned cars and wrecked homes and businesses.

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What did I do this for?

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water-soluble graphite, aquarelle pencils, pen

I decided last week to take up the challenge of sketching 100 people in a week. Day one was Monday. It is now Tuesday, and I decided that I would write about this experience as I go. I first saw the challenge advertised on Suhita Shirodkar’s site and knew that she and many other sketchers had taken up the #oneweek100people# challenge a few times in the past. I thought ‘well, why not give it a go’.  It would make me work fast, not allow me to get bogged down with too much detail, so I joined up to do this crazy thing.   Continue reading

From a novel to film to performance

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I read Owls Do Cry by New Zealander Janet Frame (1924-2004) when I was in my twenties. Not that that is remarkable. What is remarkable is her personal story, which translates into fiction through much of her work, and this novel is no exception. The setting is the coastal town of Oamaru where the ‘Withers’ family face many hardships, including money problems, mental health issues, a disabled child, death, and grief. It is a profound book, touching and disturbing, for when Frame writes about ‘Daphne’s’ experiences in psychiatric hospitals, she is speaking of herself. There are passages which float between the lucid and the wild but Janet Frame’s writing carries the reader into these worlds using  unique and brilliant prose. Continue reading

Experiential Learning

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The week started well. I kept to the deadlines I’d set myself regarding my story: meeting with the editor, sending her the ‘almost ‘finished’ manuscript and continuing to write, write, write. I set my deadline for finishing the entire MS too, just eight weeks away from the day of meeting. After a week of writing I decided to work on my painting;  just for a day. I opened the ‘how to’ art book at the page which suggested ways to achieve tonal values. The best option for beginners was to use one colour, mixed with white.  I chose Sap Green, mixed it with white and thinned the paints with linseed oil. The addition of Phtalo Blue was a personal inspiration. Continue reading

A return to the art classroom

ink flower sketch

Ink & watercolour sketch

As I’ve mentioned before, I can get stuck with what I know when it comes to sketching, but nothing beats joining an art group from time to time and just going with ‘the flow’, literally.  On the last two Saturday afternoons I attended Tony McNeight’s class in the teaching block close to my home. Centre table was a large striped vase filled with silk flowers and dotted around were a bundle of twigs, and numerous pots of coloured ink. ‘Mm’ the class said. Continue reading