Sunday, 28 July 2013

Studio Rousar Memory Drawing Group - Weeks 1 to 6

Studio Rousar Memory Drawing - Week 6 Day 4

Each Daily Composition (see The Daily Composition Revisited) is a reminder that I want to improve my visual memory.

I would like to be able to draw the things and scenes I have seen during the day, but wasn’t able to record at the time.

More importantly, I want to improve my visual memory because virtually every drawing is drawn from memory. The first chapter of Keys to Drawing explains this (see Keys to Drawing - Chapter 1). Bert Dodson describes the process as Look, Hold (Remember), Draw. There is always a small delay from looking at the subject and making a mark on the paper. Being able to remember more detail with greater accuracy can only help.

Studio Rousar are running a memory drawing class. It started in January 2013 and it runs for a year. Each week, they publish a new exercise. I started the course in June, so I hope they are going to keep the exercises on the website after the end of the year.

Studio Rousar Memory Drawing - Week 3 Day 3

The exercises for the first 6 weeks are outline images with 3 reference lines and 3 reference dots. If you are interested, you should take a look at

The images for the first 3 weeks are various bones, weeks 4 and 5 are vases and week 6 is an outline of a foot in a sandal – each week the outline becomes more complicated.

Studio Rousar Memory Drawing - Week 4 Day 3

The instructions are simple:
  • Copy the reference lines and dots on to piece of tracing paper.
  • Study the image for a few minutes
  • Hide the image and try to draw it on the tracing paper
  • Once you have finished drawing, put the tracing paper over the image to see how well you have done and correct your drawing
  • The next night, repeat the process, starting with a review of your drawing from the previous day
The instructions for weeks 5 and 6 include the direction not to analyse the shape on the first night – just look at it and remember it. I find this remarkably difficult because normally I would try to remember the shape by describing the object as I look at it. Perhaps I've been stopping my purely visual memory from developing by using my analytical and verbal skills as an unnecessary crutch. I am doing my best to respect the instruction and I’ve already started to notice an improvement. I’ve started to be able to remember shapes without having verbal descriptions of them.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Keys to Drawing – Chapter 1

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 1B
30 Minutes
3 July 2013
Graphite Pencil on Paper
24cm x 36cm (9.5" x 14")

Chapter 1 of the Keys to Drawing is about the drawing process. It is primarily a chapter about contour drawing and seeing the world as shapes.

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 1A
45 Minutes
1 July 2013
Graphite Pencil on Paper
29cm x 34.5cm (11.5" x 13.5")

Bert Dodson starts by discussing a basic drawing process of Look, Hold (Remember), Draw. He stresses the importance of drawing what we see rather than what we expect to see and towards the end of the chapter, he presents 4 rules:
  • Draw the big shapes first and then add smaller shapes
  • Look for enrichment shapes – shadows, reflections, highlights, etc
  • Merge adjoining shapes of similar tone
  • Draw trapped shapes (negative space)

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 1C
30 Minutes
7 July 2013
Graphite Pencil on Paper
23cm x 23m (9" x 9")

The chapter includes two important ideas:
  • Restatement - correcting mistakes without erasing the original inaccurate lines. Initially, this can be a bit demoralising, but it is an important concept for a number of reasons. In the early stages of a drawing, the mistakes can help you to work out what needs to change. Time spent erasing can be used more productively for studying the subject. Multiple restatements can add a sense of energy to a sketchy drawing.
  • Focus - in a limited time, you can’t draw everything. Once you have drawn the big shapes, focus on the details in the most important/interesting areas. The less important areas don't need the same level of attention. 

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 1D
20 Minutes
8 July 2013
Graphite Pencil on Paper
19cm x 10cm (7.5" x 4")

The chapter is interspersed with plenty of challenging exercises. After completing The Natural Way to Draw, I was expecting to breeze through these exercises, but this is not the case. These are difficult subjects.

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 1E
60 Minutes
13 July 2013
Graphite Pencil on Paper
39cm x 19cm (15.5" x 7.5")

It is interesting to see the difference in how the authors of The Naural Way to Draw and the Keys to Drawing handle similar ideas, for example:
  • Dodson recommends repeating trigger words to describe the feeling of the subject - spiky, furry, etc.
  • Nicolaides suggests you imagine you are touching the contour with the pencil and can feel the surface you are drawing through the pencil
Keys to Drawing - Exercise 1F
40 Minutes
15 July 2013
Graphite Pencil on Paper
38cm x 21.5cm (15" x 8.5")

I still have the sketchbooks from when I first read the Keys to Drawing in 2009. It is interesting to compare the two sets of drawings and pleasing to notice some improvement.
Keys to Drawing - Exercise 1D 2009
20 Minutes
25 August 2009
Graphite Pencil on Paper
13cm x 8cm (5" x 3")

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 1C 2009
20 Minutes
24 August 2009
Graphite Pencil on Paper
16.5cm x 13m (6.5" x 5")

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Line Drawing

Sarah in Ink
Ink on Rice Paper
29cm x 21.5cm (11.5" x 8.5")

Arthur Wesley Dow recommends Japanese brushes, ink and paper for the majority of the exercises in Composition.

I’ve invested in some Japanese brushes, but I’m using bottled Indian ink instead of a Japanese ink stick. The ritual of grinding ink at the start of each practice session appeals, but I don’t have room for any more art paraphernalia – especially anything with the potential for causing ink related disasters.

Line Drawings - mainly copied from Composition
Ink on Paper
28cm x 38cm (11" x 15")

The purpose of the initial exercises is to become accustomed to the tools and to “put the hand under control of the will”.  I started by copying illustrations from the book and then (for variety) copied some of my own pencil and crayon drawings.

The picture at the top of the post is based on a drawing from a Natural Way to Draw exercise that I posted in April (Another Modelling the Straight and Curve Study).

Dow says not to spend too much time on these initial exercises, so this week I am moving on to the first exercises in composition.

Sinister Eyes
Ink on Paper
18cm x 10cm (7" x 4")

You can find more information about the exercises in the post Meditations on Line: Dow Composition Practice, Chapter Two on Paul’s Learning To See blog. This is where I first learnt about Dow’s book and was the inspiration for including it in my art education.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

What Comes Next?

Sorry About the Chips
Watercolour on Paper
24cm x 34cm (9.5" x 13.5")

I am back, completely refreshed after a break from blogging. Elaine and I spent a relaxing couple of weeks in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

We saw the herring gull at the top of this post while we were enjoying a glass of Pimms in the garden of the Turks Head in Penzance. I cannot decide whether he looks contrite or like an evil Bond villain planning his next nefarious scheme.

Since we returned, I’ve been deciding on which aspects of drawing I want to improve:

  • Accuracy – The Natural Way to Draw does not offer much guidance about accurate draughtsmanship. The instructions for the Extended Gesture Study include the advice “You may use any and all methods at your command to arrive at the correct proportions and the posture”. I am going to reread Keys to Drawing by Bert Dodson as a refresher course on some of the methods to arrive at the correct proportions.
  • Composition - Composition by Arthur Wesley Dow looks like a good starting point to learn more about composition and design. Its approach seems to be learning by experimentation, which is exactly what I want. It is another old book - even older than The Natural Way to Draw. It was first published in 1899. 
  • Mark making – Dow recommends brush and ink as the best medium for the exercises in his book. I hope these exercises will also improve my line drawing and brushwork.
  • Visual memory – Studio Rousar started a memory-drawing group with weekly exercises in January 2013. I’ve started to follow these exercises, but I am half a year behind.

This seems like quite a workload. On top of this, I want to continue with the Daily Composition and Composition from Reproductions exercises from the Natural Way to Draw and find time to paint.

Lets see how it works out.