It began many years back, when I was was helping a ten-year-old with ideas for a story. In a nutshell, her ideas fed mine, and set me thinking of my own story for children. This would of course be an illustrated story, done by yours truly. After writing many drafts, I decided on creating the first illustration; something that might work for the cover. Apart from the grandfather, who features in the story, the drawing above features all the other main characters in The Lost Civilisation. From top left, clockwise; the parrot Herakles, Penelope, Achilles the dog, Helen of Troy, the cat, and Archimedes, the goldfish, all named after figures in Greek mythology.
I’m still on the botanical track – sorry, if you were thinking I’d written a Mills and Boon style romance – although the passionfruit flower I’ve sketched is as beautiful to look at as its fruit is to eat. This particular plant was thriving a couple of years ago on a wall in my relative’s garden, and thinking it would make a great drawing I took a photo of a flower and the fruit. Alas, the plant shrivelled and died in the heat the following summer. So, I guess my sketch is a kind of memorial to that luscious passionfruit vine which died prematurely. I could have sketched this in one sitting, but decided that I’d like to take it slowly. I sketched it in three short sessions, spread out over three days, as family were visiting.
I continually sharpened my pencils and kept changing from one tone of green, or purple, to achieve the desired effects. While drawing the initial sketch I wondered how I could show the delicate white tendrils so they would show against the darker background of leaves. This was a good time to leave it alone. On return I began fleshing out the foliage and used an olive green, apple green, and a lemon cadmium for highlights. For the stamens, I used dark violet and magenta. Picking out the edges was tricky, as I wished to keep their delicate appearance, yet I needed to add depth of tone in the line, in order to have the stamens show against the green.
I applied more colour to the foliage, yet left the sketch loose around the outside, so the flower would remain the focal interest.
The significance is that the Pōhutukawa (Metrosideros), with its showy scarlet flowers around Christmas, has since shed those beautiful blooms to the wind. The Pōhutukawa comes in many forms and sizes, and it was the shrub I came across in my relatives’ garden which took my fancy on Boxing Day. This was the Pōhutukawa (Metrosideros ‘Tahiti’), a compact shrub approximately 1m x 1m with its yellow flower stalks and the soft sage green of the young leaves I thought delightful. Well, to this artist’s eyes at least. I had an immediate desire to draw it, and trimmed off a piece of branch with a pair of secateurs (with permission from said relatives).
Last post, I talked about the Heide art museum and Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture. One piece, sculpted from stone had instant appeal to me. While examining it from all sides, and peering into the carved out holes, I decided I would like to draw it once I was back home. Why draw a stone? I hear you ask, and the answer for me is simple. I love drawing texture. I would have liked to sketch in the museum, but that was not possible, so, the next best thing was to take a photograph, knowing I could work from it later. Little did I realise at the time, that I was going to be stuck indoors as Covid came to visit, and thus my promise to draw the Hepworth came to pass.
I feel a bit guilty, not having posted for some time, but not having the sanctity of my study nearby did that to me. And travel. I’ve been back a couple of days from a trip to Tasmania and Melbourne, Australia. Tasmania was new to Kerry and I, but not Melbourne, as we have visited often because of family and friends who call it home. The whole trip was eclectic, including the changes in weather and temperatures. Looking at different land forms, buildings, creatures and art. I still feel a little unsettled, but let me begin with some art that we saw.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.