The harsh art critic

“Please don’t draw me Mum, you’ll mess it up and make me look weird”.

He has a point. Also, aren’t iPads great for keeping your kids immobile in one spot?!



Life Class

Life class is one of my favourite things.  For a start, it builds skills, lawd knows I need them.  And I think my contour drawings really have improved.  

I find painting easier than drawing, but I love both.  For those of you that are curious about how the whole nude-person-in-a-room-where-does-everyone-look- conundrum: there simply isn’t one.

For a start, the model knows what she’s doing.  She knows which poses will work for longer poses, which poses are challenging for us artists, and which of those are best for warm up or quick gestural poses.  So, she’s professional, it’s her job.  She’s not embarrassed at all, nor does her confidence make anyone feel uncomfortable.  When it’s break time, she puts on her dressing gown and chats in the kitchen whilst we have tea and biscuits.  She’ll take a look at our work, but not be horrified if you’ve not been very flattering.

It’s a very quiet, serene environment.  Apart from when we’re arriving and setting up, tea break and home time, there’s really no talking.  That’s not a rule, or at least not one anyone told me of, but we’re all just concentrating on what we’re doing.  One of the artists brings music to play, another brings her dog.  By the way, there is no teaching at my life class.  If you’re a beginner and thinking of doing a class, you might want to think about one with a teacher to start off, but it’s more usual that they’re untaught.

Though I don’t paint figures or portraits, life drawing very much has it’s place in every artists repertoire.  A friend of mine told me that at the Glasgow School of Art, regardless of what discipline you were studying, everyone was expected to attend life class.  That’s because you learn to observe and see:  shapes, relationships, spaces, light, dark and colour.

In practice, for me this means a constant internal dialogue where I’m saying things like…what angle is that, what negative shape is made in space between where her hand touches her head,  is that line there longer than that one over here….and a lot of squinting!  I am going to get more a lot of wrinkles from all the squinting.  It’s a small price to pay.

7 min, 10 min and 30 min poses, sanguine, sepia and white chalk on toned paper


30 min pose, charcoal & putty eraser on paper

Light (and dark) bulb moment

I just watched a really interesting article about drawing the human face:  it focused on what made a face recognisable.
Most folk, when drawing a face, overly focus on the particular characteristics of each feature, the eyes, nose, etc.  In this article, the author demonstrates by showing some old black and white photos that were lit so that there was a high contrast between light and dark on the faces.  He was able to show that actually it’s more about overall shapes and proportions that the fact that someone has almond shaped blue eyes.  By looking at the shapes the light and shadows make on a face, we can capture a true likeness of someone.  This makes perfect sense, as rendering any 2 D form to give an impression of 3 D requires the correct use of value to convince the viewer – light and dark.
I had a rifle through my photos and pulled out one of my daughter on a sunny day, where her face had significant shadow on it.  I found this approach so easy, and anyone who looks at this knows exactly who it is.


PicMonkey Collage

This was the first piece I did using the “encajar” method, which means to encase.  I’ve also heard of it as the “envelope” method too, but I prefer encajar – it just feels nice when you say it!  It is an approach to drawing where you start by boxing in your subject: that is, to encase it in a box of the correct proportions, and then carve away the angles.  Always working with straight lines, which are easier to measure with the eye than curved, you can then place your landmarks accurately before moving on to defining form with contour lines and value.
Annoyingly, I didn’t take photos with the encajar lines in place!