Archive | April, 2012

An Older Male Model

30 Apr

Charcoal and pastel life drawing.


Well, as I’ve been posting a spate of life drawings of our younger male model, I thought it’s about time our older male model got a look-in. It’s great to be able to draw people at different stages in their lives and it makes me appreciate the beauty of the human body at all ages, not just when people are young and allegedly in their prime. I find the obsession with youth in our media distasteful; I’ve always had much older friends and mentors and we need to appreciate the experience, wisdom and confidence of our elders, not marginalise them and try to stop ourselves from ageing. It’s just stupid and vain.

It took me a long time to be able to draw this model accurately, although come to think about it, that’s true for most of the models I’ve worked with :). I’ve drawn with compressed charcoal and soft chalky pastels into my 30 x 30 cm Bockingford sketchbook, drawn across both pages.

More Male Nudes [parental guidance].

29 Apr

Ink sketch: male nude.

Here’s another of my most recent life drawings, working with our soldier model. I’ll be back in the studio tomorrow and I’ll begin working this up as a mixed media drawing. When I was doing it I was concentrating very hard on the hand and it’s a little bit larger than it appeared in real life, despite the foreshortening. It reminded me of something in Martin Gayford’s recent book of conversations with David Hockney, who spoke of how, when we look closely at something, it becomes bigger; it assumes greater importance. This makes traditional Renaissance geometric perspective a construct, it isn’t really what’s happening [according to Hockney] and it often does not feature in non-European art.

Contorted Man [parental guidance]

28 Apr

Ink sketch: male nude.

I had a really productive session at life drawing group on Thursday, getting in some good practice pieces and also some drawings that I’ll continue to work on to eventually turn into full-colour monotypes. Here’s one of them. Our model is a young soldier who poses for us between tours of duty. His army chums think he’s really brave to do life modelling; he reckons it isn’t as bad as being shot at! Because he’s very fit, he’s able to hold difficult poses, especially contrapposto – the ones that twist the body and put muscles and joints under a lot of stress. He held this for thirty minutes. I don’t think that artists’ models get the credit they deserve. It’s a hard job, much harder than most people imagine. The pay is OK but not brilliant and it’s difficult to do it as a permanent career.

I concentrated on trying to get the relationship between his head and hand right. It was tough because of the twist on the arm, which was quite severely foreshortened. But I like being pushed. Just as well really 🙂 It’s a Faber Castell Pitt pen size S into a 30cm square Bockingford sketchbook.

Head Hands and Feet

27 Apr

Ink sketch.

Went to my weekly life drawing group at Swansea Print Workshop last night and had a really good session with three drawings that I think I might be able to work up eventually into large monotypes. Towards the end I sat back and just had a bit of a practice with the head, hands and feet, always the problem areas for me. This model has a very striking face which I find hard to draw so it’s good for me to get in a bit of practice. It’s a reasonable likeness. His hands were in a very complex clasp and I’m pleased with the way they’ve turned out. I used a Faber Castell Pitt pen size S into an A3 Bockingford sketchbook.

Today I helped interview artists for the upcoming residencies for the ‘Drawn To Print’ project at the Print Workshop. We had an excellent shortlist and appointed three fabulous artists who base their printmaking practice on fantastic drawing competence. The first one starts in a few weeks and I can’t wait!

Here’s a bit of trivia – Heads Hands and Feet was the name of a British rock band in the early 1970’s.


Flappy Hands!

26 Apr

I carried on with the drawing I started yesterday. I left the hands to the last because they’re HARD! So I spent most of this afternoon twisting my left hand awkwardly in a mirror and trying to draw it with my right. I finally got one I’m reasonably happy with so I’m now ready to transfer it to the drawing. When it comes to hands and feet, there’s no substitute in my opinion for practice and academic study. You just got to grit your teeth and get on with it. And no matter how many years practice you put in, you’ll still get it wrong. I’m absolutely certain that all the greats, Leonardo, Michaelangelo and the rest of the Renaissance painters have loads of ‘wrong’ hands flapping about underneath the final versions 🙂

Drawn in HB pencil into an ‘Artbox’ recycled leather bound A6 sketchbook.

Getting Physical.

25 Apr

Drawing over prepared paper.

Getting this studio, almost a year ago now, has transformed my life. I’ve been so productive, my output has increased dramatically, my work is going in directions I’d never imagined and I’m making enough art to get into exhibitions all over the place. In the past, working from home and fitting my art in around a job, meant that for years I didn’t develop significantly or produce enough work to sell. A lot of people don’t realise that being an artist is being two different things – a manufacturer and a retailer. You have to make the art; then you have to get it out there and sell it. It’s not easy and I’m still in the early stages.

And it’s very physical. Because lots of people do art as a hobby they often make the mistake of thinking that it must be quite nice to sit around all day and potter with a paintbrush, but when you’re working at an easel all day, or at a printing press, you can be on your feet for 6, 7, 8 hours, using shoulder and arm muscles over and over again. They need to be exercised regularly so they don’t seize up. I do some small workouts with little dumbbells, a Wrist Ball and Chinese balls, when I remember, to keep my arms, hands and shoulders fit.

I’m working up a series of large drawings from smaller ones I did at life drawing group. They’ll eventually become the template for full-colour reduction monotypes too. Here’s one I started today, working in charcoal onto Fabriano paper previously primed and coloured with acrylic paints in yellow ochre, permanent rose and pthalo blue. It’s coming along nicely but still quite a way to go. I’ve left the hands til the end because they’re the hardest. I’ll work up four or five drawings and then book a few days at Swansea Print Workshop to create a batch of monotypes.


Soaking, Stretching and Dead Bunnies.

24 Apr

I spent a few days soaking, stretching and preparing some sheets of paper, Fabriano and Somerset, coating them with several layers of rabbit skin glue [smelly] and then applying random washes of thinned acrylic paint in yellow ochre, permanent rose and pthalo blue respectively, making sure they were translucent enough to create randomised colour combinations. I’m working from life drawings to create large-scale fully worked up drawings in charcoal and oilbars which in turn will be the templates for three-colour reduction monotypes. Here’s a picture of me just getting under way first thing today; I’ve covered the paper [it’s Somerset 250 gsm] with a lightly applied layer of willow charcoal and I’m about to transfer a recent drawing of the soldier who models regularly for our life drawing group at Swansea Print Workshop.

I spent ages trying to get it ‘right’ – it has to be drawn to fit the perspex matrix that I will use for the monotype, but in order to do that I had to do a certain amount of distorting, which I baulked at at first. By 10.30 I was pacing around the studio like Lady MacBeth declaiming ‘Why am I doing this? Why don’t I just stack shelves in Sainsburys?’ Then I dipped into Nigel Spivey’s most excellent book, How Art Made The World, as I remembered seeing something he wrote about how artists have always distored the human body, like Michaelangelo and Schiele, and that gave me a lot more confidence to loosen up and not worry about keeping to accurate proportions.

It’s quite revolting really to use rabbit skin glue, but I haven’t found an alternative that gives the effect I want. I know the rabbits were killed for food, but it still makes me feel like a bunny boiler.

This evening I went to a meeting at Swansea Print Workshop; we had a marketing consultant in to help us with future planning and marketing. It was very useful and we really need something like that because we’re run almost entirely by volunteers with just an occasional drip of project funding and we need to become better at making money if the Print Workshop is to flourish. So if anyone’s around the Swansea area on 12th and 13th of May there’s a terrific short course on creating artist books with Edinburgh-based Printfest Printmaker Of The Year, Kelly Stewart [click for more details]. You’ll end up with a terrific hard-bound artist book and help to support Swansea Print Workshop too. 🙂


Weird Aliens

23 Apr

Ink sketch: making pies.

We do some regular sprog-sitting [sorry I’ve been informed she’s a teenager this year, not a sprog] and it’s a chance to try and get to grips with the weird proportions of a child’s head. Their facial features are all scrunched into a much smaller area than an adult and their heads therefore look much larger, with a higher forehead and bigger skull. Like aliens. Their bigger heads then throw out the proportions of the rest of their body. I find them incredibly difficult to draw, but I need to practice.

I’ve been informed that children have bigger heads because they have bigger brains and at least they’re not pinheads like adults. You might have guessed that there’s a young alien looking over my shoulder as I’m writing this. It’s just been in the kitchen making mince pies with Uncle. It makes very good pastry. For an alien……..


Big Cushions And DIY

22 Apr

Ink sketch.

We’v had a long weekend of D.I.Y. and we’re grubby and tired so catching some relaxation with BBC’s ‘The Voice’. Iwasn’t expecting to like it at all but Tom Jones is such a legend and Will.I.Am is delightfully funny and the standard of singing is good to spectacular. Husb is chilling out on the big settee surrounded by cushions and it’s fun to draw all the patterns and textures surrounding him. It’s not a good likeness as I was too involved in drawing all the stuff around him.

It’s nice to do a drawing like this because I can go to town on mark-making, creating patterns on a flat plane and not worrying too much about perspective. I’ve been reading Martin Gayford’s recent book about David Hockney, where he discusses how artists see and represent the world, how different it is to photography and even challenges the use of European traditions of perspective and geometry. Interesting stuff.

Greetings Fur-less Monkeys.

21 Apr

Greetings fur-less monkeys. Spartapuss here. I’ve taken charge of the Pooterbox again. Who needs opposable thumbs, eh?

Graphite sketch: Sparta the cat.

The idiot she-monkey’s been at it again, with the pushing a dirty stick around on a book and making grubby marks on the nice clean paper and claiming it looks like me. Now it’s all dirty and I’ll have to lick it clean – when she’s not looking.  Or maybe I’ll get some dirt on my paws and rub them over it and show her how it should be done. I did it before. She ran around shrieking like the monkeys do when they get excitable. Which seems to be most of the time.

I don’t know what’s worse, the shrieking or the kissing. What is it with the fur-less monkeys and all the kissing, eh? One minute they’re behaving themselves reasonably well [I’ve heard there are other types of monkeys who throw their poo!] and the next they’re grabbing hold of you and their great big babboon mouths slobber all over the top of your head! I asked my fellow feline goddess, Ming The Merciless about the kissing. And the shrieking. She says the fur-less monkeys are all quite mad. That makes sense.

Graphite sketch: Ming The Merciless.

The she-monkey did this scribble while Ming The Merciless was asleep. Another nice clean white piece of paper wasted! I’ll have to lick that one clean too. After I’ve had a nap. Or two. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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