Check and log – Project Structure

How accurately did you depict the overall proportions of the figure?

Though I am still struggling to be able to consistently draw proportions accurately I think that overall there are signs of improvement. At the moment, the quicker the pose, the less accurately I tend to draw it, particularly often drawing the head either too big or too small. Body proportions tend to vary quite a lot as well in accuracy when drawing the figure quicly or the same figure several times in succession. With a lot more practice hopefully this aspect will improve.

Did you try to imagine the sitter’s skeleton and muscles? Did this help you to convey the figure’s structure and form?

I found trying to imagine the sitter’s skeleton and muscles under the clothes helpful but surprisingly hard at times. The research point was very helpful in giving me a much better understanding of how anatomy is affected by movement and sitting etc.

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Exercise Three drawings

Aim of the exercise: Using different drawing tools to do three drawings, one of the model standing, one sitting and one laying down. Spend between half and an hour on each pose. Make general observations in sketchbook of centre of gravity, angles of limbs, foreshortening etc and also some two minute sketches of the model before starting the longer pose.

Completed 23/10/13.

On 21/10/13 I started with the sitting pose using the preliminary sketches in my A4 sketchbook to help me to get a feel of the pose and decide on position to draw it from. I would need to concentrate a bit more on the chair next time as in the top right drawing in the sketchbook particularly the chair looks decidedly odd. I then used A2 paper for the rapid sketches doing one in line and one in tone.

sitting_NEW sittingline_NEW sittingcharcoal_NEW

sittingfinal_NEWFollowing these I drew the final drawing on an A2 piece of mid-toned pastel paper, using charcoal and white chalk. I tried to keep in mind what my tutor had said about trying to be less reliant on line and utilised light against dark tones and lost and found edges where I could. I worked on capturing the foreshortening as best I could and found trying to visualise the structure and anatomy underneath the clothes helpful for this.

On 23/10/13 I started working on some preliminary drawings of a standing pose. I did some quick sketches in my sketchbook to get a feel for the pose and any foreshortening. As in a previous exercise, my model found it difficult to stand for more than a few minutes, even with leaning on something, so I have shortened the time for this drawing and will return and draw a longer standing pose when I can. I drew several quick sketches on A2 paper using various media: charcoal, conté crayon, pastel and pencil. 

standing_NEW standing1_NEW standing2_NEW standing3_NEW standing5_NEW standing4_NEW

I found that I remained looser with soft media such as charcoal and tightened up considerably when I used pencil. I tried to capture the uneven distribution of weight through the hips and general pose. All are very linear and even with the last pastel drawing, where I tried to use tone more, there is still, very much, a linear element.

standing6_NEWInitially, with my model only being able to stand in one place for a few minutes, I was going to do a rapid tonal drawing, using a soft media on its side, for the final drawing. However, after looking at the preliminary drawings I decided to actually go with line, aiming for the challenge of avoiding my pretty flat outline that I often draw and trying to show form with a continuous line drawing. I chose to use a felt tip (stabillo point 68), a medium that I would just have to go for it with, while being smooth enough that it would not catch on the paper, using A2 paper and with my model choosing the colour of the felt tip to draw her with. I enjoyed giving this a go and, in the time available, I feel that it has worked quite well, although more line strength variation would be better for another time.

Later on in the day I started on the laying down pose. The instructions for this were that we were to position ourselves at a slight angle to the head of the figure so that we were looking down the model. I drew a sketch in my A4 sketchbook to help me to get a feel for the pose and then drew a couple of quick sketches on A2 paper, one in tone with line added and one in continuous line drawn with a Uniball eye pen.

laying_NEW laying1_NEW


I had taken longer with the sketchbook drawing than the rapid A2 and it appeared to give a better indication of the pose than the rapid drawings.

layingposefinal_NEWAfter a break my model got herself back into position. For the final drawing I decided to experiment with A2 black pastel paper with white pastel/conté crayon and added grey pastel. I drew initially with a white pastel pencil to establish structure and foreshortening and then tonally with white conté crayon and a conté soft white pastel. I found this a challenging pose to draw but enjoyed giving it a go, although perhaps I should have positioned myself further round to have increased the sense of foreshortening.

What I feel went well: I think that I am showing a little improvement in capturing the stance of a pose. I also feel that there is some improvement in my ability to understand and show foreshortening, although I still have a long way to go with this. What I have learnt, while doing the research point, was helpful in helping me understand better the structure of the body and what was going on beneath the skin, even though I found it more difficult to imagine under the clothes. I am pleased that I am continuing to try and work on larger sized paper and I am also trying to get used to working at an easel so that the paper can be more upright to help reduce distortion. I enjoyed trying the continuous line drawing and feel it worked quite well.

What I do not feel went well: I found it very difficult to place the figures on the paper, particulary when doing the rapid drawings, where I have tended to start right at the top of the paper. I am still finding it difficult to draw more than the basics for an hour pose. Even with having done the preliminary drawings I am still finding it difficult to draw enough in the hour and the backgrounds are only very sketchily indicated because of this. Hopefully this is an aspect that will improve with more practice. In the sketchbook preliminary drawings for the sitting pose the top three look as if the chair is tipping the model out. I will need to draw the chair and its relationship to the model much more carefully next time. I feel that I have not been very successful with the shading on either the sitting or laying pose, being particularly heavy handed and clumsy when I worked on the laying pose. I am still struggling to get proportions right and you would be hard pushed, in a lot of the drawings, to even know that I was drawing the same person. I am also often drawing the head size either too big or too small. My mark making could have been much more imaginative and my use of tone much more effective.

What I would like to do following this exercise: I would like to look at how other artists have used mark making within figure drawing, as well as their use of tone and line and practice some of the methods. I will need to work on not rushing in with a 2 minute drawing, but take a moment to consider placement on the paper. I will also need to try a wider range of approaches to the rapid drawings so that I start to utilise a variety of methods for line and tone, rather than the outline line that I am tending to draw at present. I am still finding drawing the model quite stressful and will need to work on finding a way to relax more with this. I tend to enjoy attempting the rapid drawings but find it harder to relax with the main drawings. As good natured as my model is, I do feel that there is a limit to the number of times that I can draw her badly. I will need to work on finding ways of coping with this aspect better. I have just started reading Drawing and Painting People The Essential Guide which is edited by Jeffrey Blocksidge and Mary Burzlaff and it has some good information of the use of both line and tone in figure drawing and I think it will be very helpful in addressing some of the difficulties that I found while doing these drawings.

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Tutor report – Assignment 3

Tutor report – Assignment 3  14/10/13

Overall Comments

Well done Chris, you have clearly worked very hard on this assignment and your sketchbooks show how well you have responded to each exercise. Your work is neat and well presented.

Your drawing style is careful and meticulous, however, I feel you are too heavily reliant  on line at times and I wonder if you could achieve better results by using tone to create definition (light against dark and vice versa).

Your work on statues shows that you are beginning to branch out and think more experimentally and creatively, and this is to be encouraged. Taking risks and making mistakes is part of the process – don’t be afraid to try working in a different way and experiment with style, working habits and materials – it’s a vital part of the learning curve and of finding your own voice.

Some of your most effective work has been in your sketchbooks where you are more loose, rather than the finished pieces, where you might have felt under pressure to get it ‘right’.  This is a very common issue! Try taking the pressure off by not thinking of any particular piece as ‘the one’, but keep trying different things and see what happens – you might find one works better than the rest.

Try working on a different, much larger scale and see what happens – charcoal on A2 for example, to try and loosen up. Set yourself a time limit for a drawing, and then try it once again in half the time (and then once more in half that time again if you want) – you’ll be surprised how much you can get down. Remember – you already have the observational and mark making skills, you just need to build up more confidence!

Project: Landscape Drawing

A sketchbook walk:  Using a variety of marks you are succeeding in capturing the elements of the scene without getting too fussy, and you are capturing a sense of distance.

Tonally I think you could go even bolder in places, but on the whole these are a really competent set of sketches.

360 degrees: Again you have created a sense of depth, particularly on the pencil drawing. The skies could have been blended a little more (although not really possible in pen, of course) to suggest the fluffy weightlessness of the clouds in contrast with the more defined marks of the landscape features.

Clouds: You have made quite a number of interesting studies and have responded well to the work of Constable that you have studied. With the softer mediums (pastel, charcoal) there could have been a little more experimentation with smudging, blending and using a rubber to draw with; however this is a comprehensive set of studies. Well done.

Plotting space:  As far as the landscape goes, there is great depth of field and you have skillfully created interest and texture in the foreground which gives way to just the right amount of faded marks in the distance to suggest aerial perspective. However, again the work as a whole is overpowered by competition from the heavy handed mark making in the sky.

A wet on wet technique would have served you much better – wet the area of sky and then add the ink with a large soft brush, allowing it to flow and blend.

Project: Perspective

This is not an easy exercise but you have tackled it well. It can be very difficult to gauge angles by eye – a transparent grid can help – and drawing very straight liners is not, in fact, easy, but you have made a good effort here. Drawing built structures might not be everyone’s first choice but do keep practicing now and then.

Project: Townscapes

Using line: These are all to scale and the perspective looks right. You have successfully created a sense of depth on the larger A3 drawing by rendering the building in the distance more faintly, however I think you could have brought the foreground in even further by even darker crosshatching and lines.

Townscape drawings: These are strong tonal works; the lights and darks have a real sense of drama, particularly the graveyard scene. I prefer the small sketches in the A5 book to the larger ones – the mark making looks more loose and assured and you have not relied so much on line for definition.

Limited Palette: This is a careful drawing but does appear a little stilted in places. You have a good range of tonal values here – these (light against dark and vice versa) could have created definition without the need to outline everything.

Drawing Statues:  You have used a wide range of mediums here with some really interesting results. I am really pleased to see you are beginning to branch out – the white on black is very striking and the experimental works on the crumpled watercolour background are very striking and give it a surreal sense of narrative.  As I mentioned in my initial comments, this is the sort of exploration and creativity that will ensure you do well at assessment and help you to find your own voice.

Drawing trees: You have made an impressive number of studies here: I think you have a real feel for this subject and have responded to shape, colour and texture in a sensitive way, using a variety of materials.

Feedback on assignment Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

This is a very well executed piece. Your numerous studies have paid off and you have carefully observed and described tonal and chromatic differences using a variety of marks to give the foliage texture and visual interest and prevent it from merely being too busy – you have distinguished the varieties of foliage without getting too bogged down in detail. The greens are contrasted nicely with the reds of the roofs and the shed, and the perspective and scale are correct and give a sense of depth.

Compositionally it is fairly well balanced, although it’s a pity that the roof in the background is so horizontal as it segments the picture somewhat – straight horizontal lines in a picture tend to slice up the composition and block the eye from traveling any further.

You have clearly worked hard and given a great deal of thought in your approach to this assignment – well done.

Do remember to spray it carefully with fixative before assessment as it was still quite loose when I took it out.

Sketchbooks Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity

Your sketchbooks are exemplary – you have worked very hard and really got the most out of all the exercises. Well done and keep up the good work.

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays Context

Your written blog is interesting and I am sure you would get a great deal out of an art history module. Remember (and in answer to your email question) you don’t have to write about everything – you don’t need to concentrate too much on biographical details for example, unless they had a impact on the work.

The main thing is to respond to what you have seen in the light of what you are trying to do. – Specifically looking at how other artists have tackled the issues that you have faced: looking at composition, light and shade, colour etc can be an effective ‘way in’ to understanding their work.

Base your questions and responses on basic questions such Who? What? Why? etc: What did they choose to paint / draw and why? Did they follow a convention or ‘school’, or were they pioneering and experimental? Why do you think they worked in the way they did? Where does their work ‘sit’ in the general scheme of things – is it part of a movement? Etc etc. It’s also important to compare and contrast – look at the artist in comparison to another from the same era, or movement, or who tackled the same subject. What are the differences?

Suggested reading/viewing Context

You are probably well under with this by now, but as the next assignment is about figure drawing you will know that there is a wealth of artists who have concentrated on this subject. You may have your own personal favourites, but I would suggest taking a look at the work of Jenny Saville, Lucien Freud and in particular Paula Rego, who works mainly in pastel and drawing mediums so would be ideal to look at for a drawing course.

As well as looking at how various artists have described the figure, think about the mood that has been created, and how the character of the sitter comes across. What has the artist done to achieve this?

A book on figure drawing will be useful to help you understand proportions and may help with choosing the right colours. Look at the figurative work of other artists and see what colours have been used to describe flesh.

Pointers for the next assignment

I hope you have had some luck finding a model – it’s not easy, but as the book suggests, a live clothed model is better than a photograph of a nude one.

Looking at a book of anatomy for the artist will really help, and there are several websites with online resources for artists including images of life model poses, which are good for practicing. The temptation is to work from photos if you don’t have a model handy, but try and avoid this if possible, as you will then be getting a second hand image.

It might help to some separate studies of things like eyes, hands and feet as well, to build up confidence and competence when approaching drawing the figure. Be careful with proportions – measuring is the key to this, as well as looking at the negative shapes made by the figure. Again, a good book on figure drawing can help you understand the proportions of the body.

My thoughts following my tutors report:

My tutors report was very helpful in pinpointing the areas that I am still finding difficult and highlighting things that I need to work on during the next section of the course:

  • My tutor highlighted “…however, I feel you are too heavily reliant on line at times and I wonder if you could achieve better results by using tone to create definition (light against dark and vice versa).” I will need to work on trying to be less reliant on line and having the confidence to use tone more for. I will also need to continue to work on improving the range of tones that I use within a drawing so that I can achieve more tonal contrast.
  • My tutor highlighted that  “Taking risks and making mistakes is part of the process – don’t be afraid to try working in a different way and experiment with style, working habits and materials – it’s a vital part of the learning curve and of finding your own voice.” I really enjoyed experimenting with the later statue drawings and will need to try and be brave enough to do more of that. I would very much like to be able to draw more creatively/expressively with my drawings and the only way of being able to develop that is to be much more prepared to take risks, and to allow myself to make as many mistakes as I can along the way. I think that it will also be helpful to me to think of whatever I am trying as an experiment rather than trying desperately to master it. By thinking of it as an experiment it opens something up for exploration and joyful investigation rather than desperately trying to ‘learn’ it.
  • My tutor felt that “Some of your most effective work has been in your sketchbooks where you are more loose, rather than the finished pieces, where you might have felt under pressure to get it ‘right’.  This is a very common issue! Try taking the pressure off by not thinking of any particular piece as ‘the one’, but keep trying different things and see what happens – you might find one works better than the rest.” When I first read this I felt quite despondent as it is the final drawings that are the ones that will be marked if I did go for assessment. Unfortunately, I really do find it difficult to shake the fear of ‘failing’ an exercise or assignment drawing and never really feel that my drawing skills are up to the task. Not surprising, therefore, that I find it difficult to relax with the drawings. My tutors advice on how to tackle this is very good and also ties in with the previous point of experimenting as well. It is going to be hard to let go of the fear over an exercise/assignment drawing but this approach should certainly be very helpful in starting to overcome that.
  •  I also found it very helpful where she said  “Remember – you already have the observational and mark making skills, you just need to build up more confidence!” I generally feel very lacking in skills yet it is a fact that I have gained a lot of observation and mark making skills already throughout the course. I didn’t know how to do any of these things before so I have come a long way from that. So I need to stop trying so hard to get it ‘right’ and start, as already discussed, using the above points to help me experiment and joyfully discover more and that in itself will help me to gain more confidence. I know that this is going to be easier said than done when faced with an exercise/assignment  drawing but using the above to help me will enable me to keep taking steps forward with these.
  • I have found it difficult to know the best way of approaching looking at other artists work and what to write. I look at a wide range of work but find it hard to put into words following doing this and asked my tutor on the best approach. Her advice in the report is very helpful and will enable me to engage at a deeper level when I look at other artists.
  • I am looking forward to looking at the artists work which my tutor suggested in her report while keeping in mind the following that she wrote “As well as looking at how various artists have described the figure, think about the mood that has been created, and how the character of the sitter comes across. What has the artist done to achieve this?”
  • I am finding individual features quite difficult to draw and will certainly be taking my tutors advice to do separate studies of these areas.

I will be working on all of the above as I tackle this next part of the course

Posted in Assignment 3, Part 3 Drawing outdoors, Tutor Reports | 2 Comments

Check and log – Project Gesture

How well have you managed to capture the poses? What could be improved?

I think that I captured the poses reasonably well. Though these were quick poses and I was trying to capture the stance/energy/movement quickly over the two exercises I can see, when I look back at the drawings that I have relied on line too much, and often, with the line, too much of an outline. This is something that my tutor picked up on in her report for assignment 3 (which I received a few days after completing these exercises) and is something that I will need to work on.

Do you think that your figures balanced? If not where did you go wrong?

On the whole, I think that the figures do look balanced.  I do feel that I need a better understanding of the central axis and what happens as weight is distributed to different joints in different postures. A better understanding of this will enable me to capture stance better.

How did you go about conveying a sense of energy?

Before drawing each pose I did the movement myself at the same time as my model to get a feel for it and then air-drew above the paper to get my arm movements loose and flowing and in sync with my model as she moved. Initially I was still trying too much to capture the pose rather than the energy of it, but particularly in the later drawings, I think that as I relaxed more my marks became much more flowing this helped me to try and capture the energy more than the pose. The drawings that have directional marks showing the movement of the limbs and lighter marks showing the previous positions of limbs as they move have conveyed the sense of movement more strongly and more successfully.

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Exercise Energy

Aim of the exercise: To ask our model to adopt a dynamic pose and to hold it for about 5 minutes. We were then to quickly sketch the figure trying to convey the sense of energy each pose creates. We were not to worry about details, instead concentrating on the sense of movement in the figure.

What I experienced:

Completed 11/10/13. Maria kindly agreed to model for me again. She did, however, find holding a dynamic pose uncomfortable and was clearly not enjoying the experience, so we had a bit of a think as what we could do. In the end we settled on playing some music and I tried to draw her while she was dancing. We did try freezing some of the movements but she still found that uncomfortable so I just carried on drawing her while she was moving.

I tried various media, using charcoal, conté crayon, felt tip, and 4B graphite pencil on mostly A3 paper, with some drawings on A2 paper. In the book, Drawing Projects an exploration of the language of drawing by Mick Maslen and Jack Southern, one of the projects uses two pencils taped together and for a couple of the drawings I tried two felt-tips taped together which gave quite an interesting effect. I found it very difficult to try and capture the figure while it was moving and I will need a lot more practice at this. I will also need more practice at proportions as I also found this more difficult on a moving figure.

dancecontegest_NEW dancegest_NEW


pencilgesture_NEW movingdance_NEW

After a break Maria came back and carried on, but this time she was wearing a dress that had quite a full skirt. It was interesting to try and capture the movement of it as she danced.

gesturecharcoal_NEW dancinggesture_NEW

contegesture_NEW twopengesture_NEW_0001

It was interesting to attempt this but I will need a lot more practice at trying to capture gesture, energy and movement. It is somewhat beyond me at the moment but it was fun to try.

What I feel went well: It was fun to try this and I think that some of the attempts do capture a sense of movement to a certain extent. I think that I improved a little as I loosened up. I think that the softer media captured movement better on the whole, particularly charcoal and conté crayon. I enjoyed trying the two pens taped together and feel that it gives an interesting effect, that almost visually vibrates, and I will return to this at a future date.

What I feel did not go well: I was concentrating so hard on trying to capture what I was observing that I did not think enough about varying my line, and will need to try and do this another time. I think in some of the poses I have captured a certain amount of movement, I am not so sure that I have managed to capture the energy of the pose. This hopefully will come with more practice. I found it very difficult to keep the correct proportions while drawing fast and with the figure moving. The drawings are very sketchy with a lot of inaccuracies.

What I would like to do following this exercise: I will need to continue to work on understanding proportions better. I also need to work on understanding the proportions of the head better as well, and how these change as the head tips forwards or backwards. I need a much better understanding of what is going on beneath the skin and how that is affected by the movement and position of limbs, torso, head etc, and the next research point should help me with this as it is on anatomy. I will need to work on increasing the amount that I draw people, as the more that I can manage to do, the more I can put theory into practice and the more, hopefully, my skills will improve. I will continue to work on gaining a better understanding of capturing gesture and it will be interesting to then try and return to this exercise at a future date.

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First experiments with gesture drawing

The next exercise involves gesture drawing where we need to be able to show the sense of energy and movement in a pose. Gesture drawing seems to be quite differently interpreted by different artists, all still showing gesture but by different means, some using a very scribbly line, others very few lines, while others produce drawings that have such beauty, life and movement to them, that even if you had never drawn it would desperately make you want to pick up a pencil and try. I have covered these artists elsewhere (due to copyright restrictions). In this post I am just going to concentrate on my first experiments with gesture drawing.

gesture1_NEWI read the chapters on gesture drawing in both Learning to Draw A Creative Approach to Drawing and Experimental Drawing, both books by Robert Kaupelis. One aspect that fascinated me was that everything has a gesture. I found that I could imagine a figure moving having gesture, but a lamp? On 06/10/13 I tried a series of drawings in my A4 sketchbook of various objects. Kaupelis said that a gesture drawing should be done looking 98% at the subject. I think, that rather than gesture drawing, I have ended up almost doing blind contour drawings instead, and somewhat scruffy ones at that. This was clearly going to need more work. I also tried to draw poses from of various models in various poses, trying to capture the gesture of the pose. Once again I seemed to be actually drawing outline or contour drawings instead and didn’t manage to show the feeling of gesture.

poses1_NEW poses2_NEW

gesture2_NEWOn 07/10/13 I tried again, but this time using my hand and holding it clenched or in tension and tried to express that with drawn marks, using a Uniball eye micro pen. My marks seemed very messy but they did seem to have a certain amount of energy to them and perhaps suggested a little of the tension in my hand.

gesture3_NEWI then tried drawing myself in the mirror going arrrrgggh and tried to show the gesture of that. I have never attempted anything like this before. It doesn’t look anything like me and I am not sure that I managed to show the gesture very well but it was good to try. I think that it does capture the gesture of arrrgggh a bit even if the actual drawing isn’t very good.

On 08/10/13 I tried again to show gesture. This time using a soft 4B sketching pencil. Once again I tried to hold my hand in tension and then capture the gesture of that. I also tried to draw my hand holding a ball and then throwing it up in the air. The drawings are very scribbly but I think that they do show some of the gesture.

gesture4_NEW gesture5_NEW


gesture6_NEWI also had another attempt at drawing the gesture of a lamp. I started far to far up the page for some reason and ran out of room. I tried to show the weight of gravity pushing down on the lamp, down to the floor and some of the gesture of the ceramic base being made. Again, I did not do very well with the actual drawing, and I am not sure if I have managed to achieve any sense of gesture. I am certainly finding it difficult to show the gesture of an inanimate object.

I will need to continue to look into this. Kaupelis stresses that you are drawing the gesture, not the object. Yet gesture drawings by artist such as John Singer Sargeant or Rembrandt are far from messy and perfectly capture the object that they are drawing. They capture movement and life beautifully, without the scruffiness of my drawings. Lots more to learn with this, and I also definitely need a much better understanding of the gesture of an inanimate object. It has been good fun to try these and it is really good to be trying to think in a different way. I am going to try the next exercise and then that will give me a good idea on what would be good to work on next.

Posted in Part 4 Drawing Figures, Project 3 Gesture | 2 Comments