Tag Archives: ink drawing

Hiding Behind A Hand

7 Dec

Ink drawing: Hand and Face.

Portraits are so often a way of the wealthy and powerful showing off their wealth and power and so they usually show the entire face of the person paying, hopefully, a great big wad of cash to the artist. Egon Schiele did a lot of drawings and paintings of hands covering faces and I like the way that the presence of a hand alters the whole image, from one of confidence in a full facial portrait to an image that is far less confident and assured. The hand gives an impression of guardedness and uncertainty. I also like the way that the digits sink into the flesh and distort it. This sketch took me 25 minutes in Faber Castell Pitt pens into a spiral bound sketchbook. The hand took loads of time – they always do, but also the way the thumb sinks into the cheek is unfamiliar and took a lot of cross-checking.

In the life drawing studio.

6 Dec

Ink drawing: In the life drawing studio.


Sometimes during life drawing it’s nice to focus on what’s around the model and we have a terrific old bentwood chair that we use as a prop and it’s good to draw as well. The drawing studio has large mirrors on one wall and this gives a lot more depth and perspective. What I did here was draw the chair as it is in reality and the model and another scribbler as they appeared in the mirror. I used Faber Castell Pitt pens into a strange bamboo-covered sketchbook filled with paper made from banana skins which gives it a mottled yellow appearance.

Speed Scribbling!

20 Oct

Ink thumbnail sketches.

There’s always a temptation when you’re working with a model to make the most of the time you have and launch straight in to a formal detailed drawing but sometimes it pays to try out some quick scribbles first, putting the models in a variety of poses and making some very small, scribbled sketches. A lot of classical artists worked this way, doing thumbnail sketches and when they decided on the composition they liked, they drew a line around it to mark it out as the one they’d develop.

I worked with an older male model for these thumbnails and he’s drawn in Faber Castell Pitt pen onto Bockingford paper. The sketches are only a few inches high and were done in minutes but it’s surprising how much detail you can cram in when you’re not concentrating too hard and it encourages very loose and free mark-making which gives the work a lively, dynamic feel to it.



The Pavement People

12 Oct

Ink drawing: Pavement People.


Working from photographs can be controversial for many artists and causes a lot of lively discussion in our local Life Drawing group. I take a pragmatic view – I do whatever needs to be done to get the image I want and that sometimes means using a photograph as my starting point. This ink drawing started life as a digital photograph taken outside our local ‘soup kitchen’ where the Pavement People gather around 8.30 am for breakfast. I wanted an image to incorporate into a much larger mixed-media piece. I used Adobe Photoshop to turn the colour image to black and white, then I passed it through an Artistic Filter, the Cutout one. This reduced the amount of grey tones and gave a slightly abstract edge to the figures. The process also blurred some of the faces, which I like because the Pavement People tend to slip into the background and become faceless members of society.

I printed it out and drew a grid over it, scaling it up onto a sheet of tracing parchment in pencil. I then drew it it ink, using mainly Faber Castell Pitt pens and Indian ink and brush. I emphasised the blurred, faceless quality of the figures. The next stage is to rub out the grid marks and transfer the image to a photographic silkscreen to print over the mixed media piece I’m currently working on. I might also print it up as part of a series I’m planning, using a number of photos I have of the Pavement People,  along the lines of William Hogarth’s serial engravings.

The Man With Huge Hands and the Cholesterol Special

18 Sep

We put up the next exhibition in The Brunswick this morning – 8.30am start on a SUNDAY!!!!! It’s looking fantastic [here’s a link to it’s Facebook site if you want to see more – http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=130341270397734 ].  Anyway, we finished just before lunch and after heading home to dump the tools and have a cuppa with Mike, who’s one of the exhibiting artists, we went off to our local greasy spoon café and ordered a couple of Full Cooked Breakfasts – proper cholesterol specials. I know we’ve shortened our lives by a decade or so but what the heck! Sometimes you just got to have some comfort food.

While we were waiting for our full-fat-feast to arrive, I did this sketch of some of the other diners. The man who is the main subject has the biggest hands I’ve ever seen. They look particularly large in the drawing because of foreshortening, but they’re still huge. I’ve seen him around for years but have never spoken to him. He has a very sad face. After I draw people I often wonder if I should have chatted to them but when I’m drawing I’m so absorbed in what I’m doing that I’m totally cut off and it never occurs to me until later.


Ink drawing: The Man With Huge Hands.


We headed home for a bath and a nap to sleep off the humungous FCB and then I prepared a rice pudding and put it in the oven on a very low heat while we went to the allotment and put in a couple of hours. I planted 150 onion sets, 30 potatoes [hoping to get some for Xmas] and a dozen garlic and then netted the onions and garlic to stop birds and rodents from pinching them. I checked the recent plantings – spinach beet, pak choi, stripy beetroot, Autumn carrots, winter ‘Spring’ onions and mooli radish and they’re all doing fine. I have to use slug pellets but I cover the beds with old net curtains and weight them down at the sides so wildlife can’t eat the few dead slugs that get through the barrier.

Digital photo: My Rice Pudding.

Then back home for this gorgeous rice pudding, made the traditional way with sultanas, butter and loads of nutmeg. We scoffed it all.


A Skeleton in my Studio

13 Sep

Ink drawing: a skeleton in my studio.

This is Felicity and she’s borrowed from another artist; she’s living in my studio at the moment and looks out into the street over the bus stop, scaring passengers who look up.


Why do I draw from a skeleton? It’s partly technical, to understand the beautiful mechanics of the human body which helps me with my life drawing. As an artist who works mostly with the human body, particularly with nudes, studying anatomy helps improve my artistic practice as I can better understand what’s going on under the skin, proportion, movement, foreshortening….. I’m lucky that I can share my studio with a skeleton as I can do a bit of anatomy whenever I want.


But there’s more to it than that. Having Felicity here constantly reminds me that we are ethereal creatures, here for such a short time and that all too soon we’ll end up just like her. It also reminds me that we are very alone. Our bodies are barriers to the universe, keeping ourselves inside and everything else outside. We can never really know what anyone, or anything, is thinking, feeling, experiencing or even if they see, smell, hear the same things as oneself. In a world teeming with billions of people, and even more billions of other life forms, each of us is essentially locked in to our own tiny fragile body. It’s a source of wonder to me that we manage to form societies and civilisations; that we put aside our separation and isolation to interact with each other and the world around us.



The Balloon Flower at Ground Zero

11 Sep

Ink drawing: Jeff Koons' balloon flower.


I’ve never had much time for Jeff Koons’ work, I had thought it superficial and cynical until one of my visits to New York City when I finally made it down to the World Trade Centre. It was difficult to see the construction at Ground Zero because of all the fencing and the crowds of people milling round, but then I walked up onto a bridge above the area and I was shocked at the hugeness of the site and the depth of the hole in the ground.  What I’d seen on television didn’t prepare me for this, for the extent of the destruction.


I walked around the area and there was a small plaza with Jeff Koons’ massive red polished steel sculpture, Balloon Flower [Red], reflecting everything about it. I’d only seen Koons’ work before in magazines or TV documentaries, never in context and in this case, context is everything.  The sculpture is beautiful, uplifting and fun and is a wonderful antidote to the sadness that you feel when you see Ground Zero and remember what happened.  If we allow ourselves to remain sad and not experience laughter and joy then the tiny minority of fanatics in our species will have won.


This ink drawing was done in Faber Castell Pitt pens into a Tate ‘landscape’ sketchbook. The World Trade Centre construction site is in the background.





Sketching My Way Round NYC #1…the disabled man in Grand Central.

7 Sep

Ink drawing: homeless disabled man in Grand Central Station.


I’ve been to New York City a few times and it’s a great place for drawing people. One of my favourite places is Grand Central Station. There’s a large Dining Concourse with a beautifully painted ceiling and little stalls around the edge selling all sorts of food – Middle Eastern, Jewish, Italian, Chinese, Indian, American…… and you buy what you want and sit in the middle to eat. It seems to be a great leveller; you’re as likely to sit next to a smartly turned-out executive in an expensive cashmere coat as a homeless person. I loved drawing there as people were really interested and friendly and came to chat.

I went back quite often and there seemed to be a lot of people who stayed there all day, possibly homeless and I drew some of them. They sometimes fell asleep and security officers would wake them up but rarely moved them on. I saw this man several times. He was very clean and tidy but was usually sleeping in his wheelchair and had one leg amputated and wore a very basic prosthetic; the other leg was heavily bandaged and he wore an orthopaedic shoe. I wondered what his story was but I was too shy to ask him. This drawing was done on Easter Sunday and although I’m not religious, I found it even more poignant to see someone in such a sad situation on that day.

I was very shocked at the amount and condition of street people I saw in NYC. I know we have problems here but it seemed to be on a much larger scale and of course, there’s no National Health Service in the USA. We should be grateful for what we have. The drawing is done with Faber Castell Pitt drawing pens into a small Cotman watercolour sketchbook.

Bauhaus and the Bates Motel in New Jersey

6 Sep

Ink drawing: the Bauhaus apartment.

A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to visit friends based at the Princeton University Institute of Advanced Studies in the USA. I was expecting New Jersey to be a cross between a Bruce Springsteen song and The Sopranos but I had a surprise because it was beautiful. The university campus is an odd mix of all sorts of architectural periods; rich benefactors endow buildings and seem to prefer historic styles, even to having mature trees transplanted in front of their buildings so they look very old and well-established instead of newbuild faux Victorian or whatever. I’m a keen gardener so I know how hard it is to keep a large transplanted tree alive and to stop it from falling over. That’s REAL money.

Our friends had a wonderful Bauhaus style apartment in a development of similar units set in parkland. The layout was a piece of brilliant modern open-plan design, spacious and airy with a vacuum cleaner that sucked dust into the cavity wall. Cool. We’re so used to modern architecture that it’s easy to forget that how revolutionary this stuff was when it was first built and this complex is one of the best examples I have seen.

While I was there my friends drove me up to visit the Printmaking Centre of New Jersey, about 45 minutes through beautiful Autumn countryside that reminded me of Powys back home except the houses were mostly made from wood. Eventually a tall rickety wooden building came into view that resembled Bates’ Motel from the film Psycho. It was the printmaking centre and it looked very sinister. I told my friends but as they’re Danish and Pakistani, they didn’t get the cultural reference and thought it was quaint. It spooked me out at first but inside is lovely with loads of printmaking facilities and a gallery.

I did this ink drawing in my sketchbook of Melvyn, my husband, looking out of the Bauhaus apartment through the large picture window onto the parkland in Princeton. You can see electrical cables clearly; I was surprised to see so many wherever we went; most cabling in Britain is buried. It was also the first place that I saw black squirrels, but they’ve now arrived in the UK.



Babysitting the Art at Bus Stop Cinema

25 Aug

I volunteer regularly to babysit exhibitions at Elysium Gallery and it’s a chance to catch up on admin on the laptop like cataloguing photos and writing artist statements. This week it’s Bus Stop Cinema, featuring 13 films from international artists, an eclectic mix of art, drama, animation and parody. It’s fun babysitting in the dark and mostly I’m on my own with people popping in and out but no-one yet has had time to watch the whole cycle, so they watch one or two, have a bit of a chat and then off to carry on with their Thursday afternoon activities.

First in was an older local artist during ‘River of Mud’ by Jacob Dwyer and he showed me a small original oil painting he’d bought in a second-hand shop for four quid. The painting was a conventional but pretty landscape in a lovely old-fashioned, well-made stretcher.


Ink drawing: a corner at the old Elysium Gallery.


Another artist came in during Melvyn William’s first Downfall parody, ‘Jaffa Cakes’. We discussed the call for the forthcoming Venice Biennale fringe exhibition of work in vending machines and talked about the different ways of presenting artwork in a sphere with a ten centimetre diameter – folding, crumpling, digital imagery on a memory stick, tiny art……. which took us through ‘Interior Day’ by Elina Medley.


An older woman popped in during Jayne Wilson’s ‘All That Mighty Heart’ and told me about her skateboarding lessons and the disapproval of her neighbours that a woman of her age had taken up the skateboard. She’s learnt five manoeuvres; getting on, getting off, moving in a straight line, going up, going down. She left during ‘Dress, Cover, Interval, Distance’ by Lindsay Foster to go and finish re-pointing her garden wall before it rained again.  A photographer of a certain age asked about opening times next week and we chatted about the Simulacrum exhibition that’s coming up and I gave him flyers for it and the Artawe website for local artists. That took us through David Marchant’s ‘Love Boat’.


Three people, also of a certain age, watched the animation ‘Re-Toiled’ by Sean Vicary and got right into it – it’s fantastical and a bit disturbing. The two men thought the second Hitler parody, ‘Self-service Tills’ , was hilarious but the woman found it quite difficult to get beyond the evil that Hitler stood for.  No young people this afternoon, maybe because the students have gone home. All the visitors have been 40+. Like me. Nobody but me saw David Theobald’s ‘Greensleaves’ which is a pity because it’s really funny in a weird way.

The drawing is an ink sketch in my sketchbook of a corner of the last incarnation of the Elysium Gallery when it was situated in a large semi-derelict ex-brothel in Mansel Street. I used Faber Castell Pitt drawing pens.


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