Sunday, 23 January 2011

Left Luggage

Left Luggage
Watercolour on Paper
24cm x 34cm (9.5" x 13.5")

Dunster Station is on the historic West Somerset Railway. I painted this view from some photos I took last year. Elaine and I visited the station on one of those rare British summer days when the sun is so bright it hurts your eyes. I was planning to sketch the station but had an attack of stage fright even though there was no one else on the platform. Instead, we had a cream tea and I took some photos before catching a steam train to Watchet - where I took some more photos and went to the pub instead of sketching the harbour.

I had a clear vision for how the finished painting should look. So, I drew it straight on to the paper without doing any preliminary sketches. In retrospect, this was a mistake because it took a few tries before I was happy with the trolley in the foreground. By then I had covered the paper in graphite and rubbing out. Fortunately, I was using Arches Rough paper (140lb / 300gsm). It is incredibly robust and stands up well to rough treatment.

I started the painting by covering the paper with some watery washes that I left to blend and settle. It is not something that I do very often but in this case, it worked well. It provided the out of focus background that I wanted and unified the luggage with the rest of the painting.

My initial plan was to put some more darks into the foliage, but I decided that they weren’t really needed and there was more chance of spoiling things than improving things.

I cannot finish without recommending the bed and breakfast we stayed at in Dunster. Spears Cross is a 5 star bed and breakfast in a comfortably furnished 15th century house.  The breakfasts are excellent and the service is perfect. (

Sunday, 16 January 2011

The Natural Way to Draw

Welcome to my blog. It is a record of my progress as I follow the exercises in The Natural Way to Draw by Kimon Nicolaides.

Being able to draw is one of the keys to success in any visual medium. It doesn’t matter whether the work is representational, impressionistic or abstract. We can tell whether someone can draw by the confidence and precision of their mark making.

I’ve chosen to follow the Natural Way to Draw because I want to develop a more spontaneous and confident drawing style.

I’ve previously followed the exercises from the Keys to Drawing. It is an excellent book, but I have reached a plateau and need some more guidance to help me advance.

I read reviews for a number of books on Amazon’s US and UK sites. The Natural Way to Draw seems to most closely meet my desire for a drawing course that is similar to what is taught in art school. I am daunted by the amount of time it is going to take, but I know that what I need most is practice.

The course is supposed to be followed over a year. It is made up of 25 Sections each containing 15 hours worth of exercises - which are broken down into 5 lessons of 3 hours each. I don’t have sufficient free time to complete the course in a year. I have set the target of at least one of the 3 hour lessons a week. This means I should be finished in 125 weeks or about 2.5 years.

Kimon Nicolaides suggests not caring what the results of the exercises look like and not showing them to anyone. I intend to respect the first bit of advice and not worry about the results, but I will post some of the drawings on this blog.

The main mechanism that I will use to track progress is by posting paintings and sketches that I do outside of the course. This is where I am hoping to see improvement.

As a starting point, here are a few of my favourite paintings and sketches from last year.

Brixham Trawlers
Watercolour on Paper
34cm x 52cm (13.5" x 20.5")

Number 43
Watercolour on Paper
24cm x 34cm (9.5" x 13.5")

Venetian Window
Watercolour on Paper
24cm x 34cm (9.5" x 13.5")

Comfy Chair
Watercolour and ink
Moleskine A4 watercolour album