Sunday, 27 February 2011

Gesture Drawing

Feeling Down
Gesture Drawing - 24 February 2011
Graphite Pencil on Paper
28cm x 25.5cm (11" x 10")

Some more strange drawings from The Natural Way to Draw.

A Gesture Drawing is a scribbled study drawn in a minute. The instructions for the initial exercise are to draw what the subject is doing rather than what it is or what it looks like. The instruction in a later exercise is to draw why it is doing what it is doing. The objective is not to draw the outline or the shape of the subject. The aim is to experience the pose and to identify with the model – to draw what if feels like to be in the pose.

The drawings I have posted may not be good gesture drawings because in both of them, the form is clear, but they are my favourites.

In Feeling Down, I can see sadness in the position of the shoulders, head and hand.

In Lighting the Blue Touch Paper, I can see someone that is stretching out to light a firework, but at the same time is trying to stay as far away as possible and is ready to run for it.

I am not sure I am making much progress with Gesture Drawing, but I am getting a lot of practice - 65 drawings a weeks. I sometimes struggle for enthusiasm, but I feel sorry for Elaine. She is doing 65 of these poses a week. Some days we struggle for ideas. Initially we tried groups like the 7 dwarfs, the 7 deadly sins, yoga positions, letters of the alphabet – the list goes on. Now we tend to go through the alphabet drawing an emotion for each letter. Who knows what we will try next.

I’ve already roped Rachael into doing some poses. If I come to visit you or you come to visit us, you are going to get stung for 25 poses. Before I started this course I may have been too shy to ask, but now I don’t think any excuse will be accepted.

Lighting the Blue Touch Paper
Gesture Drawing - 24 February 2011
Graphite Pencil on Paper
25.5cm x 28cm (10" x 11")

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Away From the Crowds

Away From the Crowds (Parco delle Rimembranze)
Watercolour on Paper
36cm x 26cm (10.25" x 14")

The Parco delle Rimembranze is a peaceful park on the Venetian island of Sant’Elena. Elaine and I visited Venice in October 2009. This painting is based on some photos that I took from the vaporetto as we returned from the island of Burano.

I am not completely happy with the results, but I am challenging myself to try different techniques and subject matters - the results are bound to be a bit mixed.

I first tried this painting at a workshop hosted by Tony Slater ( The subject for the day was Placing Figures within a Painting. Tony offered a lot of useful suggestions about painting figures and then circulated around the group offering people advice on their paintings. He greatly improved the composition of this piece. In my initial drawing, I had a large house towering above the trees. Tony suggested that it distracted the eyes away from the figures and the shadows between the trees, which are the centre of interest. He also suggested painting the dark shadows between the trees as a mixture of different dark colours.

At the end of the day, Tony offered a critique of everyone’s paintings. My original effort was a bit of a mess, but Tony was very encouraging. He pointed out the figures were quite good and this gave me the motivation for this second try. I really focused on the three central figures and the mixture of dark colours in the shadows. These are the bits of the painting that I like the most.

I’m looking forward to showing you the painting that I've been working on today. It is quite different to my normal style, but it is looking good.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Sunday Papers

Sunday Papers
Contour Drawing - 13 February 2011
Graphite Pencil on Paper
53cm x 33cm (21" x 13")

I am putting the finishing touches to a painting that I will post next weekend. In the mean time, here is my latest and favourite contour drawing.

It is Elaine lying on the sofa, reading the Sunday papers. (In case you missed the last post - contour drawing involves not looking at the paper while you are drawing. This is why Elaine doesn’t really look like Elaine and the proportions are a bit crazy.)

I like the composition and the simplicity of the lines. The composition is pure chance. It is a result of not looking at the paper while drawing. I wouldn’t immediately think of cropping Elaine’s head and feet, but it sort of works.

Elaine is suffering for my art. I though she was having an enjoyable Sunday morning, but she was freezing cold and developing a stiff neck. Next time, I will remember to enquire about her comfort.

This is my last drawing from Section 1 of The Natural Way to Draw. I am a day behind schedule, but I should catch up by the weekend.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Contour Drawing

Contour Drawing - 20 January 2011
Graphite Pencil on Paper
33cm x 40.5cm (13" x 16")

I know what you are thinking - it looks a bit odd.  It doesn't look like me either.

Welcome to the weird world of Contour Drawing, which is the topic of the first exercise in The Natural Way to Draw.

Contour Drawing involves not looking at the paper while you are drawing. As you finish each shape or contour, you are allowed to glance at the paper and decide where to start the next, but when you are actually drawing you must only look at the subject.

One of the key elements of the technique is to imagine that the pencil is touching the object and you are slowly moving it along its edges and contours. As you move the pencil you can feel the surface of the object underneath it.

I first encountered Contour Drawing in Betty Edwards’ Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. I hated the exercise and really couldn’t see the point, but now that I’ve read the explanations in The Natural Way to Draw and done a few hours of practice it is beginning to make sense and I really enjoy it.

The most obvious benefit is that it emphasises the need to look at the subject more than the paper.

Imagining that we are touching the subject encourages us to involve our other senses as well as sight.

The exercise requires undivided attention and provides a workout for our powers of concentration.

It also helps us to develop an innate feeling for the relative proportions of what we are drawing. The book stresses that we shouldn’t try to get the the proportions right, but with practice the skill develops.

It is not always easy, but I like the marks I am creating. There is nothing timid or fussy about them. When you look at a Contour Drawing the marks look intentional. It looks like some crazy artist is deliberately trying to make a point by messing with our perceptions.

I’ve dug out a sketch of a running shoe from last year to compare with a recent Contour Drawing.

At the time, I was pleased with the sketch, but now I prefer the contour drawing because it seems more energetic and expressive.

Running Shoe
17 June 2010 
Graphite Pencil on Paper
21cm x 30cm (8.25" x 11.75")

My Right Shoe
Contour Drawing  - 15 January 2011
Graphite Pencil on Paper
35.5cm x 38cm (14" x 15")