Tag Archives: anatomy

Saint, Sunlight And Scabby Exterior

28 Nov


St Christopher b

I did more sketching towards the end of my recent holiday in Italy, in Bologna, than earlier in Florence, mainly, I think, because making art is my profession and drawing while I’m on vacation feels like work. But after a few days I had itchy fingers and started to scribble in my sketchbook again. We visited some magnificent churches and cathedrals; this one below is the Basilica of San Petronio. The outside façade was left unfinished and in quite a rough state, which is in complete contrast to the fascinating interior, allegedly because the architect wanted to rival St. Peter’s in Rome and once the Pope got wind of it, he put pressure on to stop the project from being completed.


church b

One of the many beautiful things inside is a gorgeous painting of Saint Christopher. I managed a very quick sketch which doesn’t do it justice at all. Another fascinating thing is the longest meridian line in the world, marking out a calendar on the marble floor. We stayed and watched it in action just after noon, where a large dot of sunlight appeared alongside the date shown on the floor. It was very exciting!


The holiday was arranged by New Scientist magazine and focused on Renaissance art, architecture and science, expertly led by Andrew Spira.


The Skinless

27 Nov

anatomy b

Another quick sketch from my recent trip to Northern Italy, this one from the Anatomical Theatre in the Palazzo Archiginnasio in Bologna. The theatre, built in 1637 by Antonio Levante, is a beautiful room in carved wood which looks, to me anyway, like a classical anatomy theatre should. There are two wonderful life-size wooden statues of the Spellati – the Skinless – by Ercole Lelli and I managed to scribble one of them.

Why Life Drawing?

22 Jul


I’m often asked why I do life drawing. Partly it’s because the portrayal of the human form in European art dates back around 40,000 years to cave paintings; partly because I love to study anatomy, it’s complex and I love it; and partly because I was trained in the discipline of regular drawing exercise, which underpins all my art. Even when I veer off into abstract mark making, the practice of many years of life drawing feeds in to what I do.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I drew this with a Samsung Galaxy Note 8 using a free Markers app, saving regularly to show the different stages of the drawing.

The Nightmare Foot

10 Oct


Here’s another digital life drawing I did at Swansea Print Workshop this week. I love doing life drawing; I love anatomy and I like to challenge myself with a bit of foreshortening. It’s hard to draw though. That left foot was a nightmare.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I used my Samsung Galaxy Note 8 tablet with a free Markers app. I laid down a very dark ground first then built it up with light tones. I save frequently so I can put the different stages into a slide show to show the development of the drawing.

Head Shot

23 Jan

23 alan

Just got back from life drawing group at Swansea Print Workshop where I concentrated on doing a portrait. I’ve been doing life drawing and studying anatomy for decades but I don’t think I get enough practice with faces, so I’m going to focus on heads for a bit. This is a pretty good likeness.

I used a recycled piece of Somerset printmaking paper, approximately size A3 that I’d prepared with a grey ink wash applied with a sponge. I’d also done another drawing on it some months ago, but it didn’t work out so I drew over it. I think that added richness and depth to the final piece. I used compressed charcoal and white chalk, with white oil pastel for the highlights.

Skull Attack

7 May


Back in my wilder, younger, biker days I was very fond of a local beer, Brain’s S.A., fondly nicknamed Skull Attack. Now I’m older and wiser (?!) I like to use skulls in the development of my artwork. I’ve been at Wingtip Press in Boise, Idaho, collaborating with a group of artists to develop a body of full-color monotypes and I’ve been using my drawings of skulls as my subject.


This sequence shows the development of the three-stage process, beginning with a yellow plate, which is then overlaid with a red plate….


…..and finally a blue plate, giving a wide range of colours. The method also produces a secondary ‘ghost’ image…..




This residency received funding from Wales Arts International and Arts Council Wales.


Bones And Brown Paper

23 Apr


I like studying anatomy. I love the interface between art and science. Sometimes I get access to a skeleton and scribble happily for hours.


These drawings are on very large sheets of brown wrapping paper, using black, white and sanguine conte crayons. Working on this scale gave me the chance to focus on mark-making rather than doing a scientific illustration.

An Older Man (male nude)

19 Feb

19 older man

I like to draw older models because it’s interesting to see how anatomy changes with age. When I’m drawing, I often make mistakes and do a few sketches until I get it reasonably right. Here’s the first attempt (above) with notes about what’s wrong with it. I had another go and was happy with the second drawing, done in Faber Castell Pitt drawing pens, various sizes, onto Somerset 250gsm paper. I added colour with Winsor & Newton half pan artist water colours.

19 older man 2

OOOFFF! It’s Hard

14 Dec

14 hands

I’m working from a life drawing that I did quite quickly and I didn’t have time to draw in a hand, so I need to construct one in the mixed-media piece I’m doing. I made a start by doing some technical exercises, working from anatomy books by Burne Hogarth and Sarah Simlett. I find hands very difficult and I don’t want to get the artwork muddy so I want to get the hand right first time. Nothing else for it but a day of practice. Took me hours and I still don’t feel confident enough to get stuck in. I’ll go back to it on Monday and try out a couple more hands. It’s really hard though, it’s much easier to draw from life.

I visited the El Prado art gallery in Madrid a couple of years ago and had a good look at their collection of paintings by Velazquez. I was well pleased that when I saw them close-up, there were all sorts of mistakes that he’d scrubbed out, but you could still see them, especially with horses hoofs. It makes me feel a bit better about all the mistakes I was making today 🙂

Chalk Nude [parental guidance]

25 May

I spend a lot of time doing life drawing and studying anatomy because my practice is figurative and representational, although I take some liberties: I like Egon Schiele, Toulouse-Lautrec, van Gogh and the German Expressionists so taking liberties comes naturally. But now and again I take a BIG liberty and head towards the abstract. It happened during this particular drawing session. The model, the pose, the brown paper sketchpad I bought in New York, the set of conte crayons; all were in the right place at the right time to scribble this little abstract nude. It reminds me of petroglyphs I saw high up in the Karakoram Mountains when I visited Pakistan. They’re over 10,000 years old, picked out of the rocks with primitive tools, but they contain the essence of humans and animals, despite their abstraction. I’ve tried to work in this style since, but it’s very hard. people often look at abstracted art and say, “a child of six could do it” – they have no idea how difficult it can be.

%d bloggers like this: