Thursday, 28 November 2013

Drawing Day 2 - Sarah Bernhardt

Nipped into the National Portrait Gallery before class to use the loo, and realised I'd found a good source of people to draw.

It's more fun to draw real people but paintings (or in this case, woodcuts) don't mind being looked at. This took about 5 minutes.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Drawing a day - day 1

After the Life Class of Doom, and having some struggles with direction and frustration on the course, I thought what I really need is just to practice. A lot. And not worry about classes or formal learning, but just to draw, and keep drawing, until I get better.

Successful artists (and probably, successful people in every field) are real grafters. They work and work and work at it. They produce shitloads of work. We went to the Tate Britain 'house-warming' and had a wander through the Turner galleries. There are a lot of them. They represent hours and hours of looking. Drawing teaches you how to look.  It also teaches you visual memory, which I really need. 

Inspired by this, and by the printmaker Ann Lewis on Twitter, who posted a beautiful little sketch a day for 'Draw October,' sometimes of Welsh landscapes like the beach or the mountains, sometimes just a little mundane item like a bar of chocolate or a mug on the draining board, I'm going to try and produce a drawing a day. Hopefully it will become a habit.

I went to Paperchase at lunchtime and in my 15 minutes grabbed a coffee at  Cafe Nero, and sat down with my little pad and pen (no 3B pencils, so pen had to suffice.) I drew the woman sitting on the next table .  I wish  drawing wasn't such a suspicious activity in public places, I love drawing people but they get nervous when you stare at them. This took about 3 minutes.

Fortuitously she was on the phone and didn't notice my shifty glances over at her.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Bad teachers

In contrast to this post, sometimes in life you will come across them.

A consequence of my past working life that I hadn't reckoned on is that every time I'm in some kind of classroom/learning situation now, my inner teacher sits in judgement.  This is usually fine because the tutors at the City Lit are uniformly excellent.

Today I came across one (not at the City Lit) who was DOING IT ALL WRONG. Luckily now I'm an adult with teaching experience behind me I can look at this dispassionately and not be affected. It made me cross though, as it was in a class of mainly young teenage students. I so remember being that age and how very easy it is to damage their confidence and self esteem, just when they need it to be boosted.

It is not an auspicious place for me. It is an art college set up by HRH in Shoreditch. I got rejected for a job there before, and it's also around the corner from another book arts class that I dropped out of because the class was way too crowded and I thought they'd booked too many students out of greed.  I kept dragging myself out to this class in the freezing cold after work last winter until I realised that I really wasn't enjoying it and nobody said I had to go anyway...

Tonight was a drop in life drawing session, free for art students. A boy in the lift is chatting to me, he came last week.
"Do they give you guidance...?"  (They often don't at drop in sessions.)
"Sure, if he thinks you can do better, he'll let you know..." Hmm, I think. That's not teaching.
"Where do you study?"
"City Lit."
"Oh, fair play." he says.
"How about you?"
"St Martin's".
"Well done!" I say, thinking, holy shit, I'm out of my depth already. 

 It's a different tutor this week, an older woman. She is relentlessly negative.  She starts off moaning about people turning up late and moans at every latecomer. There is an easy solution to this, I think. Tell the receptionist downstairs that people can't come in late. Or position yourself at the studio door and don't let them in.

Then there is a stream of critical, negative comments as she circumnavigates the studio.  This isn't helpful, I haven't done any life drawing in about 2 years and have forgotten everything I ever knew, and am surrounded by young kids studying art full time.

"If you're not finishing the pose, you must ask yourself why...? What are you doing so that you can't complete it?"

"It's interesting to me, looking at people who perhaps  haven't had much drawing experience... You can tell because they can't tell the difference between illustration and art..."

"Why are you here? You're not here just to add another drawing to your portfolio. Find something in the drawing, maybe the structure or the mood, find an angle. Otherwise, why not just take a photo? What makes it a drawing?" 

This is not teaching. It's as if I'd stood over my 5 year olds, mocking them for not being able to read fluently without giving them the tools or helping them to do it.

Most of the students are here to practice their life drawing skills. Maybe, like me, they don't have the opportunity to do it on their courses. Either bloody teach them or shut the fuck up, I think (but don't say.)

After the first half hour of short poses, I make a run for it at break time. I can't stand the hour and a half of the long pose to go by with her nag, nag, nagging and stream of negativity.

St Martin's boy is outside having a fag. "Are you going already?"
"Yes, she's awful. She's doing my head in."
"Yeah, it's not great. Aw, that's a shame. Can't you just tune her out...?"
"Can't concentrate."
"Come back next week, there'll be a different tutor then."
"Yeah, I'll give it a try. See you next week."

I'll peep around the studio door next week, and make a run for it if I see her. I wish I'd caught her name as some of the classes there look great.

short poses (1 or 3 minutes) trying to tune out nagging harpy woman. 

Most women don't like their big bums but when you are life drawing you can see their appeal.

Friday, 8 November 2013


This is from our sketchbook project, aka "mucking about". Take some source material

And then experiment  with it using different resources - ink, charcoal, photocopy, scalpel, scissors, glue, collage, decollage, felt tips, paint... and with formal elements like scale, colour, texture, line... The challenge was to make it 3D in some way too.

(Apparently, I shun the colour. Everyone else's sketchbooks were beautiful jewel-like colour symphonies. I seem to be channelling my inner 15 year old Goth.)

This is a different way of working for me. It is strange not to start with an idea of what to make but see where the process takes you.  This is what they tell you it is all about. Not the final product, but the process. Like life, innit?