From life, but not drawing

This year I have been trying to keep a faithful, unedited record of my work at life drawing groups. My last recap was back in May, so I’m due another recap!

I choose to publish every single drawing, to not give a false impression of the time that goes into my practice, as well as the ups and downs. I suppose I don’t like the notion of artistic brilliance being special like gold-dust, rare and otherworldy or ‘god-given’ in some way. Actually I think you might get there by time, continued effort and committment. Also asking good questions, having your eyes open and thinking about the world. Or at least that’s what I’m hoping works for me!

As I write this post, I am away from the studio, and don’t have photos of every drawing to hand. But I do have something that gives a flavour of each session and I’ll endeavour to add the full role-call of drawings at a later point. And interestingly, most of these aren’t drawings ….

001 Wire

I’ve shared some of these in my monthly newsletter before (ps. sign up here!). One day I decided to take along some wire and pliers to my life drawing group, and see what happens!  I was partly inspired by the tall angular model, but also thinking about how a wire is like a line in three dimensions. And here’s what happened:

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First of all it was tricky just trying to work out bending the wire, it turns out the plastic covered stuff is way bendier and easier! And somewhere towards the end of the shorter poses I figured out doing loops for joints and to change direction.  I also noticed that it required much more working from a remembered image of the model. I would look at the model, but then would have to look at the wire and my hands to work out how to bend the wire – so much more memory involved than usual.
I also tried a couple of more 3 dimensional figures – the first I quite enjoyed for a dangly bent over pose but the second, much later in the session feels strange and bit less successful. I think it was a pose with hands on hips and elbows thrust forward.


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But I seemed to find my groove with my ‘drawing’ with wire, developing a bit of a consistent style and approach. And as the poses got longer, having more time definitely helped!


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002 Watercolour

I took along some watercolour to life drawing for the first time ever. I have a bit of love-hate relationship with watercolour. I partly love it’s unpredictability and surprises, but sometimes I want to control things a bit more and I get impatient waiting for it dry before I can add another layer.

I haven’t yet taken photos of all my paintings, but these were all from my first session.

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These 4 were my favourites from my second session. But please understand there were lots of wobbly others on the way to these! Interestingly this was the same model as the wire figures.

And lastly when I took along my watercolours, we had a session with two models posing together. This was really exciting, but also challenging as you have two people to capture in the same amount of time. So half the time for each model!

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003 Experimental Charcoal

I was lucky enough to go to an experimental life drawing workshop, very different to the normal groups I attend. The model was on the floor in the centre of the room and we had paper on the floor, walls and tables around her. We worked with charcoal, all drawing on the same paper, changing spots whenever we fancied, with the model also choosing when to change poses. These are some of the first round of marks the group made:

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We then had a break, looked at all the marks on the papers, then carried on adding more. We also used paper towels to knock back marks and focus on the marks we liked. We all worked with each others lines and marks, in a very free way. The next round looked something like this:

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And the last few rounds as the charcoal got thicker, we also worked with erasers, to draw lines, as well as continuing to knock back marks, add new paper and add more charcoal. The next few rounds went something like this:

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One of the things I experimented with at some point in the session was looking at the model, then looking entirely away, and drawing from my remembered observation. It does something brilliant for your ‘economy of line’ and I love this image. On my list with things to experiment more with!

004 Black Paper

A while back I bought a sketch book which was one third white paper, one third brown paper and one third black paper. I’d left the black paper untouched, as I’d never had the right materials with me to draw on it. Namely something other than a pencil or charcoal!

This time I planned ahead and took a white Cray-pas oil pastel, a few bits of sanguine Conté stick and an old set of thick oil pastels I hadn’t touched since I was 16.  I knew I had to think about the highlights and work with these, but for me this also seemed to evolve into a major exercise in negative space too. Our model was in quite brightly lit space, so the lightest part of the scene was the light around her, then the highlights on her body.

I only have a couple of images to hand currently to give an idea of the challenges involved! I definitely found it hard work, like doing shape maths around the model

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And then when I ran out of black paper, I worked on the back of some cereal boxes I had taken along. Much easier going than an impenetrable black page!


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And that concludes my last life life-drawing session for a while in Valencia.