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

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

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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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The nuance of line

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pōhutukawa in Devonport

This week I shall show you why it is best to use a knife, not a sharpener for your drawing pencils. I shall use our native pōhutukawa tree for my first example, as they grow in abundance here in Devonport. They love living by the coast (who doesn’t?). But seeing it is too early for their famed scarlet flowers, I’ll show you the branches and bark instead. I went walking yesterday, and took close-up images of some lengthy limbs, as thought these would be great for me to sketch, and show you what I mean by the nuance of line created by one pencil.

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The meaning of pencils

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I love sharpening pencils, as it reminds me of sitting on the back step as a child, and watching how my father sharpened pencils – always using a knife. He was never without a pencil, which he kept behind one ear, whether for jotting down sales in his bookshop, or sketching a scene for painting. ‘A sharpener doesn’t give nuance to the lead’, he told me, and I only discovered the value of this statement when I became an artist much later in my life.

one of my boxes of colour pencils

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Well I never

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Many of you will know that I put out a book a few months ago. I was involved with two book launches, a radio interview and two library talks before the end of last year. I was extremely busy organising the advertising and the events, getting the book into bookshops around the country, as well as posting copies to those who had ordered from me. Yes, being the writer, publisher and distributer proved to be a job and a half. And, because of Covid delaying events in many libraries last year I still have more author talks lined up to do. I am really looking forward to these talks, as they are the fun part in the process. It really is a joy to speak about, read from the novel and share the experience of writing it with others.

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Mixing it up

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continuous line

With Covid19 locking us in our homes for weeks it was good to finally get together with our art buddies again. We started the class last Saturday with several very quick pen sketches using a model.  The aim being to keep the pen moving constantly on the page. This method is called continuous line, or contour. Although contour usually refers to the outline, continuous line allows you to move around and across the form. With both methods it is usual to look at the model and then the page. Blind contour, is when you look only at the model while you sketch. A challenge, as it’s so compelling to look down at your sketch. Continue reading

Gaining perspective

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Jetty. Pen, soluble graphite, watercolour

Last week in art class we did an exercise on one point perspective. We were to practice  the rudiments of  eye-level-line / horizon line, and the point to which other lines travel. In short, perspective drawing. The word perspective may intimidate new sketchers. But perspective is really just a word which suggests that there are different ways of looking. And as artists, that is the most important thing we can learn.

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