Life Drawing Lessons

[image: 5x 3 minute left-handed poses, without taking pen from page]


Use left hand to stave off the spiral of anxiety > hypercontrol >anxiety etc

Trying to do tonal drawing in pastels – 3 colours of pastel + putty rubber plus trying to work in tonal panels rather than line is really too much for me. Too much thinking and I struggle with proportion. And seems to require too much looking about the page rather than looking at the model and letting my hand move.

But I am starting to be able to deal with carving the image out of pastel/charcoal with putty rubber. Like dragging a ghost out of the page. Use this for spellbound work?


Successes: used mixed media oil pastels + charcoal (at Laura’s suggestion, and she said the result was very expressive), as well as more practice with the compressed chalk. Could immediately see how the oblong and ellipses exercises were helping me to see body and proportion better.

Paul looked at my oblong+ellipses drawings and said if I can draw that well at my age then I should be considering teaching – I haven’t stopped thinking about this since.

I want to put more practice into faces, and want to bring my hoop and try stitch sketching next week (we’re also doing watercolour).

Also, the easel broke on me so I drew from the floor and discovered I liked that a lot more than from the easel last week – I have a lot more mobility from the floor.


Successes: using charcoal and compressed chalk and smudging them with hands and not hating it, starting big even from the warm up, using the easel (feeling exposed), discovering using water with compressed chalk

Self notes: stop thinking of pencils etc as the more timid versions of pens. Start applying my rules of penmanship to pencils (don’t erase mistakes just draw over them or work with them, confident lines). This is the issue I was having before: approaching pencils and charcoal timidly rather than fluidly. Maybe also I’m now over the initial shock and that’s why it’s less stressful.

Laura: find what works for you and develop it, build on it

I tried 2 different approaches to the compressed chalk: starting darker and adding lighter for highlights, or starting lighter and adding shadows after (because the poses were darker and lighter respectively). I much prefer the starting darker and adding highlights. Starting with highlights feels like drawing in negative which is counterintuitive and uncomfortable (but since it’s uncomfortable maybe I should keep trying it?)

Positive feedback: Laura said I should keep working at mixing media because it suits my style, and with that my style can look really contemporary. Need to look up Tracy Emin, and Egon Schiele documentary.


This week I tried working bigger like Louise suggested last week, and found at least with my warm up sketches that they expanded to fill the space I gave them: I didn’t end up drawing full figures with space around them, I drew my usual parts of figures up to the edges, but bigger. Think I feel good about that.

I also tried working with charcoal, putty rubber, pencils, graphite stick, and pastel pencil (not all at once) – partly because of past advice, and partly because charcoal+tone was the task of the week. I found I really hated charcoal, I mean a really emotionally visceral negative reaction. I think it’s a combination of I hate how it feels on my hands, it’s too unpredictable and easily smudged, and it was really hard to follow the task of drawing with light and shadow without drawing lines. BUT, the good news is that with the pencil I did start to see what the point is, and started to practice making different kinds of marks and blending the shading a bit. I struggled to be comfortable with the texture of the pastel pencil – too scratchy somehow? and hard to build up really dark areas – so Laura suggested I try with red/brown compressed chalk instead. Now THAT I could get on with, gonna get some more for next week..


Louise: work bigger, and use wet media, like ink


I have an anxiety about not being capable of drawing people, that frequently for a long time has kept me from trying. Now that I’m going to life drawing classes and practising loosening my hand and eye, using my left hand, using birds-nest lines, drawing very quickly – I’m finding that with these techniques I am capable of drawing people, even capable of drawing faces sometimes.

But I’m very quickly falling into these techniques as a way of still hiding from drawing people: I can draw a person, but only if I make the lines very busy and rough. I can have confidence in drawing a person, but only if I root my confidence in a drawing hand loose and rough enough to draw right over mistakes, a style that makes mistakes just look like part of the line. I still don’t have confidence in drawing people clearly, either with few lines or precise lines, no matter how bold I try to make them.

It’s harder to do birds-nest lines with a pencil, because it’s softer than my preferred biro and feels like it smudges together. I think this is why I’m responding with resistance to Laura directing me to move away from free biro lines and towards incisive pencil ones: I have a two-fold lack of confidence in my pencil lines. Firstly because I don’t have confidence in a line that can be soft and loose in a gentle sense rather than a rough and birds-nesty one. And secondly because I don’t have confidence in pencil in general (see Permanence vs instability vs fluidity). I guess I also just have more practice with a biro.

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