We had a wonderful model in Stroud last week, who held a difficult sitting pose over three hours. I was pleased with the way she came on, drawn entirely in pencil, but at the end, I had clearly squeezed her legs in, spoiling the proportions,and gave her a rather sour expression, which was quite unjust.
So I took her home and set to work. First, added a strip of matching paper at top and bottom so I could correct her legs and complete her head. Then I reworked nearly the entire drawing, until I was generally happy with her look. That is one of the joys of pencil and graphite. If you use good quality pencils and paper, you can rub out and rework endlessly. It actually seems to improve the drawing, giving it a deeper overall look. I thought that the studio cushions looked a bit like rocks, so went to town on them, and she quickly became Andromeda, sitting on the rocks at the edge of the sea.
But this Andromeda isn’t the poor sacrificial girl in Burne Jones painting that I copied a few months ago. She was forced to wait in chains to be claimed by Perseus, if he won, or be eaten by the dragon if he lost. My girl has got shot of chains, and Perseus, and is thinking what she plans to do next. I think she may suggest to the dragon that he goes and has a frank discussion with her parents as to why exactly they had changed up their daughter on the beach.
At Susan Kester’s drawing class this morning, we started with a blind drawing warm up. Pushing a pencil through a hole in a sheet of cardboard, which his you hand from view. You just draw what you look at. These are two sketches of a table lamp. I rather like them. Odd drift down to the lower left in both.
After two weeks in Tanzania, I have produced just one painting. Of zebras, which fascinate me. Done from a photo as it was not possible on the move. Acrylic on a small canvas.
Back home at Susan Kester’s drawing class. A fabric study in charcoal. It started out terrible, but got better.
I don’t like Burne Jones that much, but he was a superb draughtsman. His figure of Andromeda is outstanding, if questionable. Her choice is to be eaten by a dragon, or given as a sexual possession to the stranger who turned up to take that possession. I think her pose indicates her feelings about this Hobson’s choice, so maybe Burne Jones thought the same. Her hand positions seem to indicate that she knows what comes next.
I decided to make a straight, gridded-up copy of her in pencil, largely as a challenge to see if I could capture a coloured oil painting in monochrome graphite.
I was pleased with the way it was working out, so I bought myself some really soft pencils and finished her. I left out the chains, partly because they are really hard to draw, but largely because I hate the idea of chains and restraint. The rendering of her feet is astonishing, and I find feet really difficult to draw, so I worked hard to see how EBJ drew them. Cleaned up, she almost looks like an engraving.
Sometimes I doodle just by dotting with a fine tip fiber pen. Usually with inconsequential results, but sometimes it works well. This cormorant was drawn from memory after a visit to a lake. The dotting allows you to correct it as you go along. The red seals just set it off.
This shark was more considered, based on a couple of photographs. I used a grey pen for the water, which worked better than I had hoped for. This was a birthday card for a fishing son.
I went to Slimbridge two or three times a week during November and early December, and really worked on my bird drawing. Mainly dry media although I still take all of my watercolour kit with me . I find it hugely satisfying.
The drawing process itself is thoroughly enjoyable , but you also learn so much more about the birds just by studying them so closely and intently for a long period. The colour and pattern on some of the birds , such as shelduck or lapwings , is just staggering. Even drab looking greylag geese have the most beautiful feather patterns.
I haven’t used simple pencil drawing all that much, but over the last few weeks I’ve been falling in love with it. First at Susan Kester’s drawing class, where we were simply practising gridding a photograph to produce an accurate copy of it. I used a photo I had taken of Furzey island in Poole Harbour over the summer. Susan showed me a technique for skidding the pencil over the paper to produce feathery marks, and I was hooked.
I think, as for most artists , it is the range of tones you can produce which is so satisfying . Not just with different pencil grades, but with careful use of a putty rubber to knock back certain areas.
The next was simply drawing what was in front of us , in this case some basic Christmas bits and pieces on the table. The silver bauble brought out my inner Escher as it were.
Again this is all about tones and marks.
There will be more…