Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Life drawing week 9

3 x 5 minute poses

Another good session at life drawing this morning. In the short warm ups, pose three melted into pose one as I discovered a particular crease on the model's back serendipitously ended up in the same place on the paper in both drawings.

20 minutes

1 hour
For the long pose, I tried putting tone on the paper before starting the drawing, again to pull the lights out of the surface. Not sure how successful it was... doesn't really look like one of my drawings. That's probably not a bad thing; stepping out of one's comfort zone and all that.

I shall be even further out of my comfort zone next week however as I've promised to take oil paint... gulp.

Another grumpy self-portrait

I made another A1 sized self-portrait last week, again thinking about Auerbach's techniques. This time I put a tone all over the paper with charcoal before I started the drawing and used a putty rubber to pull the subject out of the background. Well, to pull the highlights out of the background. I think it's fairly successful though of course, there are elements that don't work - like my left eye. More practice needed.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Life drawing week 8

1 hour 10 minutes
Another good session at life drawing today; feel like I made progress again. Rather overdid the foreshortening on the 1 hour pose but actually, I think it works okay. Managed to work the paper more (thinking about Frank Auerbach still) but much more to do. ALWAYS much more to do!

20 minutes

3 x 5 minute warm ups

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Self-portraits as historical records

Charcoal on paper, A1, November 2015

Inspired by Frank Auerbach's portraits, and feeling the need to practice more with charcoal, working big (how ridiculous that I've only discovered the wonderousness of charcoal at this late stage!), I made the above self-portrait this weekend.

Self-portraits are good exercise when you don't have another model around; and made periodically over the years, they provide a useful record of the progress of one's work and skills as well as a history of ageing / personal change. I'm rather ashamed of the drawings from 2009 - didn't think I drew that badly. I can't remember... maybe they were intended as rough sketches... Nasty. The regular life drawing is definitely helping my observation and drawing skills.

Graphite on paper, A3, May 2011 
Graphite on paper, A4, August 2009

Graphite on paper, A4, September 2009

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Frank Auerback at Tate Britain

Head of JYM II 1982
Friday was a good day, despite the rain. I don't get up to London to look at art very often these days so it was good to have the opportunity to go to Tate Britain to see the Frank Auerbach retrospective.

I've been craving a good exhibition of paintings for some time; and for me, that's what this is. 

The work ranges from the 1950s to present day with the same subject matter often repeated. Portraits of the same handful of sitters, paintings of the same scenes around Auerbach's studio, views of his own studio. These provide a good sense of the way his work has developed over the years; subtle changes from thick layers of brashly coloured paint built up in almost sculptural relief, scraped back to more subdued tones on a flatter surface. The paintings lose none of the energy and movement and noise of the earlier works though.
Self-portrait, charcoal on paper, 1958

Head of Catherine Lampert II, 1985
Interior, Vincent Terrace, 1982-84
In the Studio IV, 2013-14

 I love Auerbach's charcoal drawings - from the early self-portraits (see above) to the later, more abstracted ones. The marks and the energy are compelling, though I don't understand how he got to this point (yet... I bought a copy of Catherine Lampert's recent biography of the artist so am hoping to understand his working processes better).

I think the thing I like best about Auerbach's work is that it makes me work hard. I have to look at one of his paintings for some time to try and gain some understaning of it. I don't just mean to work out what's going on in the painting... I'm not explaining this well. I guess I get sucked into the painting - the rich colours, the indistinct forms, the light and shade... the mystery of it. These works hold my attention in a way that I don't really expect or understand. Not sure if that makes sense... Anyway, I left the exhibition thinking, thinking, thinking about the work and wanting to know more. That has to be one of the signs of good work.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Life drawing week 7

3 x 5 minute warm-ups
After the half term break, it was good to start life drawing again. I missed it during that week off.

Having felt that I was getting worse before half term, I felt I made some progress this week. My measuring was better so the figures were more in proportion, and I managed to get pretty much the whole figure on the paper in both the longer poses which I was pleased about. I really like half-drawn suggestions of figures and often, just part of the form works very well in the drawing. However, I need to be able to place the whole figure properly too.

25 minute pose
 Still a lot of work to do of course, but I feel like I'm moving forward again.
1 hour pose

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Live drawing at the Mayflower Theatre

It's been an arty week, what with one thing and another, the highlight of which was a Live drawing (yes, LIVE drawing) workshop at the Mayflower Theatre here in Southampton on Friday; drawing - or attempting to draw - the dancers of the English National Ballet who are performing Romeo and Juliet at the theatre. Interesting experience.

The workshop was led by visual artist Heidi Wigmore who talked first about what we would experience, the company class that we would sit in on, the dancers, strategies for drawing movement etc. She then had us do some really useful warm-up exercises without which I don't think we would have known where to start! Goodness, drawing movement is difficult. Didn't really get any useful drawings from the session; well, nothing that resembled a human form anyway. Mostly they were blind scribbles which may have some interest in themselves I guess... as mark-making.

I spent quite a lot of the time just watching the dancers actually, as it was quite mesmerising. A very interesting experience - I would like o try it again.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Maggi Hambling's drawings

I've been looking at a lot of paintings and drawings over the last few weeks (working my way through the art books at the library) and came across these lovely charcoal drawings of Henrietta Moraes by Maggi Hambling. Moraes died at the age of 67; the drawings were made during the last nine months of her life and just after she died. 

Hambling and Moraes (an alcoholic) were partners and their short relationship weathered Moraes's rapid decline including spells in a psychiatric hospital. It must have been an intense, tempestuous time; the drawings Hambling made of Moraes after death - from her dead form and later from memory - suggest a strength of the emotion and longing.

There's a great sensitivity in the drawings and a vibrancy that denies the fact that moraes was dying. I find them really quite moving.

Hambling M (2001) Maggi & Henrietta: drawings of Henrietta Moraes by Maggi Hambling, London: Bloomsbury

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Week 6 - got to get worse before getting better

3 x 5 minute poses
Again, another week of duff drawings - but I've worked out what's going on which is a relief. Apart from being tired from teaching printmaking the previous evening (I always enjoy it so much it takes me quite a long time to wind down because I'm buzzing; don't get to sleep until the small hours), I think I'm going through a 'have to get worse before you get better' phase. There's been a lot of new stuff to take in over the last six weeks. I was drawing more intuitively at the start and now I'm thinking about all the things I've learnt and am trying to apply those so thinking a lot more about what I'm doing. Lots of mental processing; looking, measuring, drawing with much more awareness. At first it's a bit of an overload but hopefully he more I draw, the more naturally these things will come and my drawings will be better. More accurate, placed better, better tone. That's my theory anyway...

1 hour pose

Friday, 16 October 2015

Week 5 - the mother of all stinkers

3 x 5 minute poses
 Oh dear. It wasn't a good week in the drawing studio for me. I was quite happy with the quick five minute starter drawings I did but it went down hill from there. The 20 minute pose was not good but the hour pose was a stinker. REALLY struggled with that one.

1 hour pose
20 minute pose

Don't know what to say other than I feel my progress has been something like this.

All must have data.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Ben Johnson, Spirit of Place: Paintings 1967 to 2015

Patio de los Arrayanes, 2015, acrylic on canvas, 220 x 220 cm

Went to see the Ben Johnson retrospective at  Southampton City Art Gallery this week. Many large, detailed, perfectly stencilled paintings, some of which are reputed to have taken 17 person years to make over a period of 18 months. 

I have to confess that largely, the photorealistic style leaves me cold, though I can appreciate the skill, concentration and sheer dedication to perfection and intricacy Johnson achieves in these works. This is extreme painting. Extreme painting.
Poolside reflection, 1984, acrylic on canvas, 159 x 217 cm
There are a couple of paintings of pools I like... they are a mass of layering of reflection and light and pattern which borders on abstraction. These are less straightforward representations of what the artists sees.

I won't beard on. Instead, listen to Johnson talking about his work here.
The Unattended Moment, 1993, acrylic on canvas, 184 x 243 cm

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Life drawing - week 4

24 minutes
Feel slightly reluctant to post this week's offerings... not such a good week. I really enjoyed the session but am not particularly happy with what I produced. My sense of proportion seems to be getting worse rather than better; not helped by the fact that I got so engrossed in today's long pose that I didn't step back to look at the drawing from a distance. Therefore proportion ALL over the place. They're not finished drawings of course, which doesn't help, and I'm tempted to continue tinkering with them to try and resolve some of the bits that are bugging me. Probably not a good idea though as I'm no longer in front of the model. Too much drawing what we think SHOULD be there rather than what's ACTUALLY there.

With the composite drawing of three short poses overlayed for the warm-up, I am trying to think more about how each image relates to the other, rather than drawing them over each other indiscriminately.

3 x 5 minute poses to warm up

40 minutes

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Dusting off the oil paints

I'm always saying I want to paint but manage about one painting every couple of years. I have actully dusted off the paints in the last couple of weeks though and have started to tinker using one of my life drawings as source material. The results of my tinkering are here. Not at all a good painting but I enjoyed fiddling with washes and layering the paint. Also trying to mix a convincing flesh tone - that's going to take some practice.

I think I like the earliest, roughest stages better than the later, more worked effect. This isn't a finished piece, just a warm-up exercise so I don't think I'll do any more to it. It is pretty awful really but there are bits which are approaching okay and I've learnt some things from it. Onwards and upwards. Just another 9,995 hours to go before I become an expert...


Tuesday, 29 September 2015

More life drawing - week 3

3 x 5 minute poses
Yes, it's all I'm doing creatively at the moment. I'm really enjoying it though, more than I've ever enjoyed life drawing before. I love working so big and loosely with charcoal. Was never able to get on with it at college but I just love it now. Need to get some fixative before the drawings vanish though.
15 minutes
Some good exercises in foreshortening today. Quite pleased with the arms and hands in the 15 minute drawing above.
1 hour
Getting to grips with creating tone with the charcoal; some nice tonal areas on the longer pose. Proportion issues though - that foot is way too big. I've discovered that my drawings get bigger as I work further down the page... Could this be because I'm tall and the lower sections of the paper are therefore further away? I extend the easel as high as I can but they never seem to be quite tall enough...

Looking back over my drawings from the last three weeks, I think I am improving. Lots more work to do of course; there always will be, but I think I'm heading in the right direction.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Life drawing week 2

1 hour 10 minutes
And here are today's offerings. We started with two two-minute drawings with our other hand (left in my case). Didn't get a lot down but it was fun to do and I quite like some of the marks.

Next came three five-minute poses (back to drawing with my right hand) starting with a crouched position and rising to standing. Well into it by the third pose as you can see from the shading. I enjoy layering my drawings though easy to get confused. I quite like the sense of movement in this one.

Finally a long pose of about 1 hour 10 minutes. Not a bad drawing though there are some serious proportion issues going on; the model's head is too small and I struggled for some time with the lower leg in the foreground. I'm beginning to get back into the swing of it though after all these years.

2 x two-minute poses drawn with left hand
3 x five-minute poses rising from crouched position