Sketchbook: National Portrait Gallery

The National Portrait Gallery has free drop-in drawing classes on Fridays.  There isn’t much tuition as it is normally quite crowded, but they provide free paper and drawing materials  if you need them.  You get a word or two comment from the tutor.  Of my pencil drawing she said “well he certainly has character”, which I am taking as a positive!  It’s a great experience and good practise.  It’s also interesting to see what other people draw as they have a gallery of all the drawings at the end.

National Portrait Gallery sketchbook
A3 Sketchbook: National Portrait Gallery drawings

I have made a few notes in my sketchbook about where I went wrong with the drawings, but I am basically happy with them.  But it demonstrates how much you have to concentrate on detail to get a likeness.  By the way, if you don’t know about the subject Samuel Romilly you should look him up.  He was a very great man with a sad ending to his life.

Project 6: Exercise 3: Portrait from memory or imagination

I thought I would try one portrait from memory and one from my imagination.  I have done both in my A3 sketchbook.  I used gouache and pencil for both as I discovered that Graham Little uses gouache and pencil so I thought I would have a go.

The first drawing was a bit of a disaster (Fig.1.).

Head 1
Fig. 1: A3 sketchbook:  Disaster in gouache and pencil

I tried to remember the head of a life model I drew about six weeks ago.  I got the eye wrong so many times and couldn’t get it right.  I tried to remove some gouache and nearly went through the paper!  I actually had to cheat and Google a man’s profile so that I could see what was wrong.  And of course, if it’s a full sideways profile the eye has a totally different shape – and not one I had practices in my sketchbook previously.  At the bottom of the drawing is a rough attempt to get it right – or at least better.  I also got nowhere near depicting the likeness of the model – he had a much finer nose – and I have stuck the nose on the end of the face rather than embedding it.

This is the original drawing I did of the model (Fig. 2).

Head 3
Fig. 2. Original pencil drawing

Granted, I took about an hour to complete this as there was lots of measuring and changes.  But you would think that as I had concentrated on this lovely man for so long that I would be able to render something a bit better, even if it is 6 weeks later.  Sigh.  Still, I think this proves there is no substitute for careful observation.

Having said that …  my second drawing is one from imagination (Fig. 3.).

Head 2
Fig. 3. A3 sketchbook:  Alien wedding

I started off with diluted gouache to give main tone to the face, then added pencil lines.  I wanted to leave the right hand-side of the drawing untouched with additional lines (apart from the eye).  I may have gone too far with the “fascinator” effect on the head, but I do like the gouache and pencil effect.  Not at all like Graham Little but worth persisting with I think.  The figure looks a little androgynous too – not sure if its just the lack of hair, the mouth may be a little high (or the nose too long) so it looks like a moustache.

Project 6: Exercise 2: Your own head

I am asked to create two interesting images of my own head.  For the first self portrait I decided to try combined digital, transfer print and collage.  I aimed to work from a photograph (selfie, Fig. 1.) taken while I was lying on the bed.  This counteracts gravity and irons out many wrinkles marvellously.  Not sure I can spend the rest of my life lying on my back though.

Warning:  There is a lot of description of process in the following.  Apologies, but I wanted to record this so that I can remember how to replicate.  

Self portrait 2.1
Fig. 1. Sardonic Selfie

I was going for a sardonic look, which I think goes to my essential cynical nature.  I wanted a semi-profile with one brow slightly raised – not quite Roger Moore but something asymmetrical.

I had tried transfer printing with acetone in a drawing for Project 5 Exercise 2 Groups of figures for which you need laser prints.  For this Exercise I wanted to try a method using an inkjet printer (which I have at home).  Basically you print an image on to a non-stick paper (I used the backing paper to sticky labels but I think you can also use non-stick baking paper) and then press this on to another piece of paper.  I didn’t take a photo of this stage but I was surprised how easy it was and how clearly (more clearly than I wanted actually) it came out.  This image is of course reversed.

I then worked into the image with coloured pencil to give it more tone and interest (Fig. 2.).

Self portrait 2.2
Fig. 2. Coloured pencil on transfer print

The transfer process had taken out some of the tone so I started working on that with dots and lines – and the background.  I could have done a lot more work on this and its something I want to return to, but I also had another idea for adding to the image.

I have an entrance ticket to the Picasso Museum in Malaga that I have been keeping for years as I love the drawing on it.  I don’t know which of Picasso’s drawings it’s from but I have always loved the economy of line and the expression (Fig. 3.)

Malaga ticket
Fig. 3. Entrance ticket Picasso Museum Malaga

I felt empathy with the slightly annoyed/angry look of the model (Picasso was a difficult man) and wanted to incorporate her into my drawing.  I did this by simply photographing the image and printing it off roughly to scale and placing it on my drawing at two angles (Figs. 4. and 5).

Self portrait 2.3
Fig. 4. Picasso’s woman and me 1.
Self portrait 2.4
Fig. 5. Picasso’s woman and me 2.

It’s interesting how the expression changes with just a slight shift of the angle of the eyes.  I think Fig. 5 looked less annoyed and sadder.

I am aware of a few things with these self portraits.

  1. I have an empathy with, and feel a connection to, the eyes Picasso drew – but they are not my eyes.  But they do convey the emotion I wanted to express, so they are a reflection of the inner (if not outer) me.
  2. I haven’t actually “drawn” that much, but I am still trying to discover what drawing is and I am happy that this is helping me explore.
  3. I like the fact that the two images are different, I think that this adds positively to the dramatic effect.   I could have drawn my eyes in the style of Picasso but I am not sure that would have presented the contrast I wanted.  I like that the collaged eyes are slightly bigger too – adding to the strange effect.  My critical audience (my sisters) responses were:  “Bloody hell, that’s spooky.” and “If I look at it any longer I’ll have nightmares.”  Result!  I haven’t shown them the next images yet.

While researching Egon Schiele I discovered this self-portrait which had a similar look to the eyes (Fig. 6.)

Fig. 6. Egon Schiele. Self-portrait with Chinese lantern fruits.

I liked the world-weary expression and thought it might be an interesting exercise to try and include his eyes in my self-portrait.  I started out by cropping and printing off the eyes and just adding them to my transfer/pencil image Fig. 7.

Self portrait 2.5
Fig. 7. Me and Egon. 1.

This doesn’t work so well, I feel, as the marks are quite different, but I did adjust the lightness of the Schiele extract to help it blend more.  I then wondered what would happen if I cropped the Schiele collage a bit more with a scissors to make it less obviously a rectangular photo, and the result was Fig. 8.

Self portrait 2.6
Figure 8. Me and Egon adjusted

I like this effect better, it looks more integrated.  It has an element of the collaged eyes being a mask now, which could add all sorts of meaning – hidden identity or feelings; how we portray ourselves to the world and how we really are; do self-portraits reveal who we really are or how we would like to be seen?

I wanted to integrate this image further so I turner this photographic image into another transfer print by printing on non-stick paper (I told you there was a lot of process).  This is how it looks when it comes off the printer (Fig. 9.) which I didn’t show before.

Self portrait 2.7
Fig. 9. Fresh off the printer.

You have to be careful at this stage as the ink is wet and smudges easily.  I try only to handle the borders.  I then transferred this to a plain sheet of paper (Fig. 10.) – which again, comes out in reverse – so I am now back to the orientation of my initial photograph.

Self portrait 2.8
Fig. 10. Egon and me a bit smudged

This was on a rougher paper than the original and I didn’t pay as much attention to the registration so it got a bit smudged.  And I just rubbed it on the my hand where last time I used more pressure and a roller.  Nevertheless this is an interesting outcome.  It is a little indistinct in places but that adds to the mystery.  I feel I could do more with this but I am going to leave it for a while and have a think.

I also noticed that there was some ink left on the non-stick sheet after this transfer print.  So I used that to make a ghost print (Fig. 11.).

Self portrait 2.9
Fig. 11. Ghost transfer print.

This time I used the end of a pencil to scrub into the paper to get the rest of the ink off.  This gives some good directional marks.  It’s a little indistinct in this photo but it will make a good background for another drawing – particularly for another self-portrait as there are elements of the eyes and mouth that can be seen.  I have printed it on to A3 size paper so there is a boarder around to play with too.

All the above images are A4.


  • know what aims are with collage – to incorporate or deliberately stand out;
  • transfers – can be bold or sketchy or ghostly – work out what is needed for a final drawing;
  • consider the mood of the self-portrait, what do I want to portray?
  • is there enough actual “drawing” in these drawings?

The mask is an interesting area that has potential to be pursued for Assignment 5.  I am aware of the work of artist Gillian Wearing and her use of masks and alternative images in her self-portraits.  And Cindy Sherman who adopts a range of personas in her self-portrait photographs.  But there is potential for much more research and experimentation for me here I feel.

For my second self-portrait I wanted to use transfer printing again but I wanted a bolder drawing with more additional actual drawing and no collage.  I had made a note when drawing eyes of the effect glasses can have on the image of the eye.  I am particularly short-sighted so the lenses of my glasses are thick and distort and reduce the size of my eye.  I also thought I should attempt to get a few more wrinkles in this portrait so no more lying on my back.

I started with a close-up photo of my eye with glasses on (Fig. 12.).

My eye photo
Fig. 12. My eye with glasses selfie

You can see the distortion and my eye is not really that small.

I put the image through an app which makes it look more like a watercolour painting (Waterlogue) and then printed it off on non-stick paper as before and made a print (Fig. 13.).

My eye print
Fig. 13. My eye print

Working from my original photo (which I reversed in photoshop to make it the right way around as the print) I added marks with Woody pencils and hard pencils, and included a border as a frame (Fig. 14.).

My eye
Fig. 14. My eye re-worked

I have found that the Woody pencils can be smudged with the finger to blend into each other and the paper.  I don’t really know why I though this drawing needed a border, but it does seem to increase the focus on to the eye; as does the close cropping and the glasses frame.  It was difficult to know when to stop working this.  I probably could have put more tone at the hairline.  The hair probably needs a rethink – I kept adding lines in different colours but I could probably do with some broader marks.  Good fun though.

Overall reflection:  I am really enjoying portraits.  Even more than full body life drawing it really does call for acute observation, particularly if a likeness is to be achieved.  But even if a true likeness isn’t achieved there is lots of scope for producing interesting work.  I keep staring at people on buses to look at their features.

The whole subject of “capturing” someone essence is endlessly fascinating.  I have even had photos taken of me which people say “that doesn’t look like you” or “that really looks like you” (the more “recognisable” ones are when I am without make-up and casual – my usual state).  There is also the area of family resemblance.  I used Picasso’s models eyes and Schiele’s eyes in my self-portrait and the results were immediately strange and unsettling to people who know me.  What if the differences were closer – say I substituted my sister’s eyes, or hair, or mouth?




Project 6: Research point: artists who work on faces

Research Point:  Artists who work on the face in different ways

Graham Little:  Technically accomplished, Little’s drawings are controlled, cool, and detached.  It’s difficult to see the “fine repeated lines and marks” with on-line images.  I am not sure whether these are drawings or paintings, he worked in coloured pencil and gouache.  They are too airbrushed to be photo-realist.  It’s difficult to see behind the polished surfaces of the women he draws.  Although a few do hint at a narrative, for example Untitled (2005) which shows a woman in evening dress with her shoes off and a mug of tea looking out of a window, and one wonders – has she just got home after a good evening and is reflecting before getting ready for bed; or has her evening been abandoned and she is wondering where it all went wrong?

Elizabeth Payton’s approach is more loose and stylised and fits well with the modern images she draws (friends, celebrities etc). She works variously in glazed oil, watercolour, pencil, and etching.  Peyton’s marks you can see, even in on-line images and I must admit that makes me look more closely at the work.  She is good at capturing a likeness but I am not sure how deep into the personality of a sitter she delves – but perhaps that is intended as a comment on the superficiality of celebrity.

I recently attended the BP Portrait Awards at the National Portrait Gallery, so I thought I would select an artists from that to comment on.  They didn’t appear to prohibit the taking of photos so I took one.

Sinead Davies: The Mayor of Woolahra. Oil on canvas

Sinead Davies’ portrait of Toni Zeltzer, The Mayor of Woolahra, Sydney NSW (Fig. 1.) caught my eye because of the unusual angle, the stylisation, the colour palette and the matte planes of colour.  It shows a serious, focused young woman who nevertheless is soft and feminine.  It reminded me of the problems that women have in the workplace (particularly high profile ones such as politicians) of being judged for what they look like more than men.  The shadows on the face are subtly painted, yet add dimension to the portrait.  The use of line to depict the features is sparing but effective.  The description said that “the palette was chosen to recall the Greek landscape” where Zeltzer was born, and where Davies had once worked (one of the links the two women had).

Her use of flat, matte planes of paint reminds me a little of some of Euan Uglow’s work.

On researching further after my visit I note that the painting doesn’t look much like Toni Zeltzer!  Perhaps the artist’s style doesn’t adapt well to characterisation.

Reflection:  What I take from this is that I do like to see the process in a drawing or painting:  the marks; the interpretation; a twist on realism.  I have never been a fan of hyper-realism, once you get over the “how on earth did they do that?” there often remains little else to say or wonder about.  I also like it when I can add a narrative to a piece, as I have said before with Peter Doig’s work.  This means I should work more on getting a narrative into my own work.

Project 6: The Head: Exercise 1: Facial features

Making a start on facial features.  Mostly from on-line images and magazines, but some artist inspired.  I have tried to use a range of drawing materials as well as different aspects  for the features.  I have started with eyes and mouths.  The rest to follow!

A4 Sketchbook: Eyes

As I sometimes wear glasses myself I am interested in how glasses change the shape of the eye and face beneath the lens.  I am very short-sighted so when I have glasses on they make my eyes look much smaller and also distort the shape of the face.  There is also the reflection in the glasses themselves to contend with.  Reading glasses have the effect of making the eyes look larger.  I have noted the different shaped eyes of different races, and some women emphasise their eyes with make-up and change the shape of their eye-brows.

I have noticed that I need to pay attention to shading on the “white” of the eye in order to make it look round.  The bottom eye on the above page I should acknowledge as an attempt to copy a Ambrose McEvoy self-portrait.  It is beautifully drawn and you really can see the orb of the eye in its socket.  The shading in the original is delicate yet definite.

A4 Sketchbook: Mouths

I particularly like my lipstick mono-print.  Not sure if I could complete a full self-portrait by pressing my full face of make-up on some paper though.  Or might it be worth a try?

Update 20th July:  Noses

A4 Sketchbook: Noses

Update:  23rd July:  Ears

Sketchbook ears

Now for an entire head.

African woman drawing
A3 Sketchbook African Woman

I started this portrait without any firm ideas as I wanted to see where my imagination took me.  Rather than start with a blank piece of paper I covered a page in my A3 sketchbook with soft graphite marks and drew two eyes.

I don’t know what it was about this eyes but I immediately thought “this is a portrait of an African woman”.  So I continued shaping her features, and when it came to her hair I knew she had to have a head scarf/wrap.  I gave her looped earrings which echo the shape of her eyes.  I wanted the emphasis to be her eyes so I didn’t add too much detail to clothes and other features.  I took out some graphite with a putty rubber to indicate highlights and used a purple coloured pencil to pick out some details.

I can see now that it is complete that this is rather stylised.  The eyes and ears are at the right level (the ear was too small at first).  The eyes are probably too large for the face shape I have drawn as they appear too close to the side of the head.  A broader face would work better, and there appears to be no back to her head as she is turned slightly to face the viewer I now can see there probably should be some head shown behind her right ear.  It reminds me more of a mask than a real person, but it was an interesting exercise which didn’t take long to complete.


Project 5: The moving figure: Exercise 2: Groups of figures

For this exercise I decided to draw figures as they walked towards me rather than past me.  I thought this would allow me to capture more of the movement.  I also decided to try blind drawing, only moving my eye back to the paper after completing each figure.

Groups of figures 1
Sketchbook Group of figures

I think this is more successful as the more fluid lines capture the movement better.  Also, the different size of the figures give some depth to the image, and a sense of them moving towards the viewer.  Having some structure of the buildings also adds to the solidity of the sketch.

Desire lines transfers

As well as drawing figures I wanted to try out a techniques I had been introduced to at the Rauschenberg exhibition – transfers.  I looked this up on-line and there are a number of ways of doing this but I decided to try transferring using acetone.

I am interested in maps and how people use them to navigate.  Some people follow prescribed routes, others take short-cuts.  There is a term in town planning called a “desire path” or “desire line” where people deviate from the planned routes and pathways and over time new paths are created from the erosion by foot-fall.  The “desire line” is usually the shortest route between two points.  It can be seen as a metaphor for triumph of the common man/woman over authority.

Starting with two laser prints (open source material) of images of a local map and walking people.


I then combined them by transferring with acetone on to a new sheet of paper and added marks in graphite, fine-liner pen, and eraser.

Desire lines 3
Desire lines. A4. Ink, graphite, fine-liner pen.

I could have thought through the composition more on this, but I mainly wanted to see the effects.  Depending on how much or little acetone you apply, and how heavily you scratch the paper, the images transferred are more or less clear.  I wanted to give the impression of people randomly wandering along, perhaps heading home after work, and taking the shortest route possible through well-established desire lines.  I have contrasted the hard graphic of the map with the softer graphite marks, which I have erased in parts to indicate the eroded paths.

Project 5: The moving figure: Exercise 1: Single moving figure

My first attempt at sketching single moving figures was at Liverpool Street Station.  Perhaps not the easiest start.  I was on the same level, but sat down on a bench.  People were rushing everywhere, all I could aim to do for each figure was to catch a line of an arm or leg or tilt of a head.  I am not sure I have captured movement, I tried to get some striding legs, there weren’t many swinging arms as most people were carrying things, and a great number staring at mobile phone.  This is going to need a lot more practise.

My second attempts were on holidays.  This was much more relaxing as people were walking more slowly and in less of a rush to get places.

I feel here that I have achieved more of a sense of movement as I have captured more of the whole body.  The angles between the legs and the swinging of arms helps with this (though many people had their.

Smartphone zombies

Back to London again and I decided to try a few sketches of individuals walking along with their mobile phones.  I was reminded of this modern phenomenon when at the Giacometti exhibition (notes not blogged yet) and one of his sculptured in which three figures appear to be walking past each other in different directions, without noticing each other.

Single figures 5
Smartphone zombies

These aren’t particularly good drawings but the idea of people weaving around each other without looking could provide an interesting idea for a drawing.

I was reminded of some of Julian Opie’s paintings of people walking around in the rain.  The main subject of interest, apart from the figures, is the umbrellas but I note that some of his figures are also using mobile phones.  This image is from a flyer for a 2015 exhibition at the Alan Cristea Gallery and features Opie’s Walking in the Rain, London, 2015.  I admire the simplicity of line in Opie’s drawings, which make them graphic in quality, yet they clearly spell out people moving about in a busy, wet city.  It’s the gait of the legs mainly, but also how the figures are transitioning across the frame of the paintings.  You just know they are part of a long stream of people moving back and forth.

Julian Opie
Julian Opie. Walking in the Rain, London, 2015. Alan Cristea Gallery flyer.

Research point: The nude

We are asked to begin to consider how the depiction of the male and female nude has changed over the centuries.

Research source:  Ways of Seeing, John Berger et al. 1972.  Penguin Books Ltd.  Essay 3.

Main points of John Berger essay

This is quite a complex essay, and I will go back to it and re-read as I am sure I have missed some of the subtleties of the arguments, but for now the main points I took from it are as follows.

Written in 1970s.  Acknowledges that how women and men are perceived (in art and wider) is changing or at least being questioned.  But sets out the premise that historically:

  • The male image projects power and is external (though may be a “front”)
  • Images of women are internal – she is often observed – by herself and others
  • The power and control is with the male.

To summarise “Men act and women appear”.

Early stories about Adam and Eve – they were naked and unashamed.  When their eyes were opened to “evil” they perceived that nakedness was wrong – and Eve was blamed and made subservient.

Women often painted as if aware the viewer is looking at her.  A mirror was used as a symbol of vanity in women.  As if it is acceptable for an external viewer to look at her, but vanity for her to look at herself – a hypocrisy.  (P. 51)

Notable that in non-European art (Indian, Persian, African etc) “nakedness is never supine in this way”. (P. 53)

My note:  I believe the Hokusai exhibition (yet to see but I have a book on his art) at the Tate has some of his erotic art.  I will be interested to see how women are depicted. 

The nude is not just nakedness but an art form.  But it is/can also be sexual (P.54)

“A naked body has to be seen as an object in order to become a nude.”

“To be nude is to be seen by others and yet not recognised for oneself.” P/ 54.

My note: This is interesting.  I am very rarely embarrassed at a life drawing class as the professional models are definitely perceived as “nude” rather than “naked”.  There are all sorts of etiquette I have observed, such as not talking to the model (the individual) when they have no clothes on.  I actually came across a model at a life drawing class who I had drawn at two portrait lessons (with his clothes on).  He recognised me and before he took his clothes off said hello to me and asked me to pass his best wishes on the other art tutor.   As soon as he took his clothes off and posed he was no longer “Steve” from the portrait class, he was a nude model and I was concentrating on his shape and form.  It wasn’t until the end of the class when he had dressed again that we had a short conversation about the next portrait class.  I would never have spoken to him as an individual when he was naked, yet I wasn’t worried about studying very intently some intimate parts of his body when he was nude.

In Western Art, woman does not show passion – no pubic hair (hair = power).

P.57. Points out the few exceptions where the painter is painting an individual woman, but her relationship is clearly with the painter.  (Danae by Rembrandt).

P. 63. The European nude – spectator-owners usually men; objects usually women.


There is such a lot to think about here and I know I haven’t even scratched the surface.  Such a lot was changing when John Berger wrote his essay, and have changed further since.

Sexual orientation

There is very little discussion about sexual orientation in his essay.  Caravaggio was believed to be homosexual and he did some very fetching paintings of young men.  Was that a reflection of his sexuality?  Or his patrons?  There is a multitude of gay art in the mainstream these days, it is hardly credible that in the UK homosexual acts between men were still illegal until the 1960s.   It still seems to me though that gay art is mostly male-orientated, but perhaps I haven’t looked in the right places for lesbian art.  There are a number of major exhibitions out on Gay art at the moment which I will aim to explore.  I have already noted the work of Gluck (Hannah Gluckstein) in my sketchbook and notes.

Women artists and their art

The essay author acknowledges that women as subjects of art, and indeed women as artists (and that’s another whole subject) were changing at the time this was written.  Indeed, by the 70s women like Judy Chicago had already started to define what “feminist art” might be.  Yayoi Kusama didn’t seem worried by definitions of what was feminist in her exploration of nakedness in her New York Happenings in the 60s.  Though she had to take pains to insist that she, and her work, was not sexual. (P. 105) Kusama, Y.  2011.  Infinity Net:  The Autobiography of Yayoi Kusama.  English Edition:  Tate Publishing 2011.   (Translated by Ralph McCarthy).

Some other examples of women artists who have reclaimed the nude include:

  • Alice Neel’s portrait of John Perreault (1971) which turns convention on its head by showing the male model in a reclining, one might say vulnerable, position. However, as Perreault was gay, and a self-declared feminist, does that put another slant on the matter?  Are gay men more comfortably with appearing vulnerable?
  • Sylvia Sleigh, who also painted Perreault and his contemporaries.
  • Jenny Saville, whose honest, large-scale paintings depiction strong, real women.

Finally, I note the work of artist Poppy Jackson who is herself the artist and (nude) subject.  As part of the Spill Festival last November she boldly positioned her naked self atop a roof ridge as an action art piece Site.  It put me in mind of Anthony Gormley’s rooftop statues.  But while Gormley’s statues were replicas of himself, Poppy Jackson was allowing her real self to be seen – in all its vulnerability and courage.

Update 6th July 2017


I have been researching Egon Schiele as part of looking at portraits and I discovered that in relation to his nude paintings/drawings that “Accusations of pornography dogged him almost from the beginning of his career” (Vergo, 1981: 214).  This is another area I hadn’t considered.  The dictionary definition of pornography is that it is “the portrayal of sexual matter for the purpose of sexual arousal.” This is another area probably worth an essay on its own.  Why might Schiele’s work be described as pornographic when, say, Hokusai’s is merely erotic (which has a very similar dictionary definition)? And why shouldn’t art be “erotic” or “pornographic”, as long as neither vulnerable subjects or viewers are involved.  For Schiele “sexuality was … a vital source of inspiration” (Ibid) so his art was sexual.  It’s part of life.  Other people like to draw flowers (Georgia O’Keefe’s flowers were described as being sexual –  but she denied this was her intension.)


Project 4: Exercise 2: Three figure drawings

The aim of this exercise is to use different tools, materials and supports to work on a standing, seated and lounging model.  There wasn’t any opportunity to move around the model in the packed life drawing class but the model did assume a number of different poses which set a range of challenges.

I had hoped to work over two lessons with the same model for this exercise but unfortunately the model couldn’t make it the second week so I have included here what I managed to do in one session, and included a few from another session with a different model.


Two minute studies standing (Figs 1. and 2.)

Standing 1
Fig. 1. Standing arm raised.  Pencil on cartridge paper.  A3.  2 minute sketch.
Standing 2
Fig. 2. Standing leg raised.  Pencil on cartridge paper.  A3.  2 minute sketch.

These are more sketches than studies I think.  I only aimed to achieve line and indicate position on limbs and where the balance was.  In Fig. 1. I aimed to look at the relationship between the raised arm, the head and breast.  Fairly obvious I know, but raising the arm also lifts the breast, and from this angle obscures some of the face.  This would have been an interesting area to return to for a longer study but I guess it would be difficult for the model to keep her arm raised for any length of time.

In Fig. 2. I think that line of the shoulders (sloping) and the relationship between the head and the legs show that the model’s weight was on her right leg.

Five minute study standing

Ink standing
Fig. 3. Standing. Tombow pen and wash. Some crayon. A5. 5 minute study.

In Fig. 3. the model was standing with her weight on her left leg but it was crossed behind her right leg, giving her a slightly off-balance look (it would have helped if I had drawn her legs below her knees).  Again, the slope of the shoulders and the position of the head help to indicate where the balance lies.  Tombow pen is water-soluble so I used a wet brush to spread the ink to indicate areas of shadow.  I think that this gives an added sense of weight to the figure.  I started to add some additional texture with crayon but the time was up and the model changed pose.  There wasn’t time in the class to do a longer standing drawing.  I will have to see if I have time to do another longer standing drawing of another model to insert here.


5 Minute studies

Seated 1
Fig. 5. Seated. Willow charcoal on sugar paper. A2. 5 minutes.

I wanted to capture more of the upper body and arms crossed at the wrists in this front-facing drawing (Fig. 5).  The willow charcoal gives it a soft feminine feel and I am pleased that I haven’t overworked the facial features but just hinted at them.  The darker tone in the background offsets the delicate marks well.  I also like the hint of harder edges to the charcoal here and there.  It’s amazing what you can do in 5 minutes if you don’t over-think things too much.

Seated 2
Fig. 6. Seated. Willow charcoal on sugar paper. A2. 5 minutes.

The model obligingly turned around so that I could draw her back view (Fig. 6.) also in willow charcoal.  Again I attempted a darker background next to her face and tried to capture the slight twist of her torso as she was looking to her left.  The back and spine were interesting and would have deserved a longer study in themselves.

Thumbnails and longer studies

The model assumed a semi-reclining position for the longer studies.  I wanted to get the whole figure on the page, and fill the page up, so I decided to do some thumbnail sketches first (Fig. 7.).

Fig. 7. Thumbnails. 4″ x 5.5″

Although I was pleased I had got all the figure in the left sketch there seemed far too much background for a pleasing composition so I played around with cropping the thumbnail.  I did a separate thumbnail of the detail of the head to help me with the final drawing too.

Despite all my planning the figure in the final drawing (Fig.8.) still turned out smaller than I wanted it.

Seated ink
Fig. 7. Ink and stick on watercolour paper. A2. 40 minutes.

I had used stick and ink in still-life drawing and wanted to try it on a life drawing.  I was probably a little more inhibited than I could have been but I am fairly pleased I have managed to capture the image.  I aimed to have heavier lines to indicate weight and tone but have over-used them in places (model’s right hand foot).  The scraping marks with the side of the almost-dry stick are useful, again to indicate tone and shadow.  The foreshortening of the model’s right leg was particularly tricky but I tried to isolate the shapes.  I judged the size of the foot relative to the model’s head – though the foot may still be a bit small.

We had a break after 40 minutes and had another 40 minutes to go so I thought I would start another drawing of the same subject in a different medium (Fig. 8.).

Seated pencil
Fig. 8. Graphite pencil on cartridge paper. A2. 40 minutes.

Using pencil gives a much softer feel to the drawing and, in my view, suits the model better.  I tried a contour approach trying to keep the pencil on the paper, but I fear I have “outlined” too much.  I spent a lot of time trying to get the foreshortened right leg right.  It’s getting there but I am still learning to record what I actually see rather than what I think it should look like.  For the feet I was trying to channel Henry Moore, I think the scribbly approach works well with lighter and darker marks.  I didn’t have time to apply this approach consistently across the drawing.

I left my guideline marks in.  I drew a vertical line so I could see where the head came in relation to the knee and the torso.  The head was on a slight tilt so I drew diagonal lines to indicate this.  I had to change the model’s right shoulder position as I had initially drawn it much too broad.  This then put the bottom of the body out of kilter but I didn’t have time to adjust it.

Another model sitting and lounging

I am not sure that the model in the previous drawings could be said to be “lounging”, more like semi-recumbent.  So I thought I would include here some drawings I did of another model who is both seated (Figs. 9 and 10.) and definitely reclining (Fig. 11).  The model was of a similar curvaceous stature to the last model.

Seated 4
Fig. 9. Black conte on drawing paper. A3. 5 minutes.

I like the sharp edge to the conte stick, though I am note sure it is the best thing to depict a curvy female form.  Her arm in particular appears more muscle-bound than I intended.  Indicating the spine gives the body a sense of form.

Seated 3
Fig. 10. Charcoal on sugar paper. A2. 10 minutes.

The softer charcoal better represents this model’s curves.  I struggled to get the legs right on this one but managed to capture something of the chair and room to place the model in her setting.

Fig. 11. Conte and charcoal on drawing paper. A3. 30 minutes.

In this final drawing of a lounging figure I combined the hard edges of conte stick with some softer willow charcoal.  The biggest challenge on this was the foreshortening of the model’s left leg and the model’s head which was at an angle away from my position so I knew I had to keep it smaller relative to other parts of the body.  I drew the line of the torso (marks retained) so that I could gauge relative positions of the hand legs and face.  The model’s right foot is unconvincing.  It looks too sharply turned to the model’s right and is too small.



Project 4: Structure: Exercise 1: The structure of the human body

I have started a new sketchbook for this exercise.  I am hoping that Leonardo Da Vinci will inspire me.  I have found Life Drawing Class by Diana Constance invaluable for my learning on life drawing and many pages in this sketchbook draw on the book’s contents.

sketchbook cover

Most of my commentary is written in the sketchbook but I may add some further reflection in my blog as I add pages.

Body 1Body 2Body 3Body 4

More to add as I complete more drawings in sketchbook.

Additions 2nd July 2017.

Leg and arms bones.

Leg and arm bones
Leg and arms bones

My hand.

My hand
My hand

Quite a few discoveries looking at my hand.  First, I have so many lines and marks on my hand – the few scribbles I have added don’t do them justice.  Second – I have discovered a new bone in my thumb!  Daft I know, but I didn’t know how long the thumb really is if you count its length from the third joint which comes nearly to the wrist.  Knuckles are hard to draw.  Interesting exercise.  Who knows what I will discover when I draw my feet.

Update 19th July 2017:  My feet

I decided to try a different drawing approach for my feet.  I started by incising the outline of my feet (taken from a photograph) in my sketchbook and then drawing over with the broad edge of a graphite stick so that the incised outline could be seen (Fig. 1.)

Feet 1
Sketchbook Feet 1.

Then I worked into this with hard and soft graphite pencils and a putty and hard rubber, and added some Tombow pen for the stool (which was probably a mistake) (Fig. 2.)

Feet 2
Sketchbook Feet 2.

The graphite, smoothed out and left rough, allowed me to capture the different tones and textures of the feet.  I am not sure about the incised line though as it looks a little artificial – I could go over it with a fine pencil I guess, but I am going to leave it as it is for now as a reminder of my technique.

Research Point:  Look for historic and contemporary artists whose work involves the underlying structure of the body.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452 -1519) is an obvious place to start when looking at artists who strove to understand the structure of the human body.  Such was his passion to learn more about the structure of the human body he dissected corpses to make anatomical drawings which he used as a basis for his developed works.  (Honour, 2009:467).  His accurate drawings were unprecedented and he is said to have discovered things about human anatomy which were not independently researched until long after his death (Popham, 1973: 60).  He used this exploration to underpin many of his drawings and paintings, although he was also interested in proportions and composition (and many other things!).

An admirer of Michelangelo and Durer, William Blake’s drawings and illustrations often featured the “stripped” appearance of musculature and sinew.  Although, as Blake was most keen to portray meaning through his work, it seems to me that his attention to physiological accuracy was nowhere near to that of da Vinci, and that a great deal of “artistic license” was used.

Laura Ferguson says she aims to draw herself “from the inside out”.  She has visited medical schools to draw bodies from “life”, and her work shows how intricate and beautiful the internal structure of the body and its organs can be.  I must admit that I do wonder, however, about the ethics of letting an artist look (and even at one point dissect) cadavers if it isn’t for the furtherance of medical science.  I just hope that permission has been obtained from relatives of the deceased or those donating their bodies to science.  Source:  website:  Laura Ferguson:  The consciousness of the body.