25 September 2006

Drawing

Drawing is a skill that can be taught and can be learned; it is not magic,
and it does not depend on genetic good fortune.
                                                          Betty Edwards

In March 2005 I become fascinated by pencil drawing. This was a little surprising as I had never tried to draw in my life. My first drawings in March and April clearly show my inability. By the end of April 2005 I had completed 50 drawings and I was starting to be pleased with the results. Other people started to make nice comments about them. The thought of keeping a diary of my experience of learning to draw was a major motivation in starting this website. I hope you will enjoy looking at some of them and possibly people in the early stages of learning to draw may learn something useful, even if just to take heart from my inability at the start.

The most recent pictures are at the top, going back to my earliest efforts at the bottom. To see the progression from the start, you need to go to the bottom of the page and read it upwards.

Thank you for spending time here. Please tell me what you think of the drawings by clicking here.

 

96 3/4/06 Hand

It's been a while since I put anything up here, but I've been going to life drawing practice and I've been trying Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. This evening after a contour drawing practice I spent half an hour sketching my left hand. For all its faults, and there are many, I quite like it (the picture, that is). I'd recognise that hand anywhere, but particularly on the end of my arm, and I think the picture has a certain je ne sais quois. I must buy myself a straight pencil...

 

 

A year of drawing

I've been drawing for a year now and this is what I think of it so far.

 

95 6/3/06 Pop

This is my maternal grandfather, copied from my favourite photo of him. My sisters and I called him "Pop"; I haven't the faintest idea why.

Pop was a lovely man. He was very calm and gentle and always pleased to see his grandchildren. He would save up 3d pieces to give us when we visited. He kept an immaculate garden and grew his own vegetables well into his 80s. His front lawn was as smooth as a putting green and was laid out as clock golf, which he taught us to play. To this day I can't drive a golf ball, but I can't half putt. I remember him playing football on the beach with me when I was about eight. He must have been at least 78. A few years later in 1975 he was awarded Maundy money by the Queen for a lifetime of service to his local church and for single-handedly caring for my grandmother who had been housebound for some years. What a man.

I like this drawing. In fact, it is my favourite yet - partly for the subject and partly for my finishing of it which is more subtle and less obviously error-strewn than any earlier drawing. 

 

94 24/2/06 Clint Eastwood

Inspired by Alan Rickman below, I tried Clint Eastwood in the same style. Unfortunately it is a bit of a disaster, looking more like Nicholas Cage in a horror film. My conclusion is that I simply don't have enough control when drawing an inverse image to render facial features that depend on subtle shading.

Nuff said. 

 

 

93 12/2/06 Alan Rickman

Alan Rickman is one of my favourite actors and this was copied from an excellent picture of him. It's a strong image of an actor who plays strong moody characters.

So far this has taken me about three hours across two evenings. I'm not sure whether to call it finished or to try to smooth out the shading. I guess I'd better try the smoothing otherwise the evidence of individual pencil marks will bother me increasingly until I'm disappointed with the picture. At the moment I'm pleased with it.

This is another inverted picture, like 79 and 83-85 below. The darkness and simplicity invited it. The smaller second picture is what I actually drew before inversion.

Michael recognised the picture as "Slytherin". Rickman plays the scary Severus Snape, head of the House of Slytherin in the Harry Potter films. Should I worry that Snape's latest job (in book six) is Professor of "Defence against the Dark Arts"? Spooky.

 

92 1/2/06 Weeping woman

There were a number of firsts here: my first A3 colour picture, my first picture in oil pastels, my first Picasso, my first investment of 12 hours in a picture. I'm pleased with it.

I've been wanting to experiment a little with pastels. There are two types: soft pastels which are like coloured chalks, and oil pastels which are like soft wax crayons. I've dabbled a little with soft pastels but I haven't been too pleased with the results and haven't yet put anything up here. The soft pastels are very dusty and messy. I can't yet control the drawing very well and my drawing environment (usually the kitchen table) isn't suited to making a mess. The oil pastels are less messy as the colour mostly sticks to the page and the sticky surplus can easily be lifted off with a pencil. But my success with this picture is probably due to it being an excellent choice for an experiment. The colours are bold and simple, and so suit a minimal palette choice, and the shapes are also bold and simple, not requiring too fine a detail.

I first produced a simple pencil outline of the picture. This took four hours over two evenings. It would have been quicker if I could have treated the thick line strokes in the picture as lines, but instead I had to treat them as areas. I then photocopied the outline picture onto cartridge paper and started to colour in. The colouring took four evenings of two hours each.

When I see my rendition or the picture I copied, I have to look twice to see which is which. They are pretty close. It sounds like boasting but I suspect if my picture was framed nicely and hung in the National Gallery most people wouldn't know it wasn't the original. There are certainly differences and problems with it: the colours are purer and brighter, the blues and purples and greens aren't quite right as I couldn't duplicate the original tones and I changed my mind once or twice on which colours to substitute, the colours in the hair are drawn too thickly, and the finish is a bit messy with specs of pastel in the wrong places and the paper showing through in places. But from a distance of a few feet the impression is that of the original and the striking composition overrides my little imperfections.

A few years ago I saw an exhibition of Picasso's work in the Tate Modern and came away thinking that he was just a psychopath who could paint and draw a bit. Studying this image closely for a week and a half has made me challenge this view. The more I look at Weeping Woman the more extraordinary I think it is, although I don't pretend to understand it yet. Apart from any technical innovation, there are few non-realistic images that generate in me a sympathetic emotional response. This does. So does Munch's The Scream. Perhaps I should try that in soft pastels. I suspect it would be a lot harder.

 

91 21/1/06 Andrea Corr

This picture reminds me of my first Jennifer Aniston picture (78 below) but I think it is drawn rather better. Perhaps I have improved. Andrea seems to be the most photographed of the three gorgeous Corr sisters, certainly if Google search results are an indication. The photo this was copied from shows very well her Irish beauty and my copy of it has captured it reasonably well, I think.

As with the Jennifer Aniston picture, I used a mixture of pencil, charcoal and black ink for the darkest details, although this time I used my usual paper (Clarefontaine sketch pad 120gsm) rather than Colotec. However, I spent more time than on any other previous picture building up the tone in the face. I was forced to do this as having first drawn the face and then the black border I discovered the face seemed far too pale. I then went through a couple of iterations of darkening it and then smoothing it with a paper stump. I think the result achieves a better tonal range and balance than I have managed with any picture before. My usual tendency is not drawing dark enough. I notice that other pencil artists talk about building up the tone in stages. Perhaps this is something I should try to do more.

 

90 8/1/06 Ella by the pool

This is a picture of my daughter Ella, at the swimming pool on our summer holiday. I'm quite pleased with several aspects of this picture, although it doesn't perfectly capture the beauty of the original, mostly due to subtle inaccuracy in the eyes and mouth. But it does capture the essence of the original and is a nice picture of her, I think. I particularly like the shadow and rubber band on the plait on the left; they give an almost photographic quality to that bit of the picture when viewed from a few feet.

I came across a highly relevant quote today, by Ernest Watson in The Art of Pencil Drawing: There is a deeply sensed intimacy between artist and object when both are part of the same scene, both immersed in the same atmosphere, as it were. Is that not why a sketch - our sketch, however slight and lacking in detail - has infinitely more meaning to us than a fine photograph of the same subject, or a painting of it by another artist? I think this explains in part the therapeutic value of drawing and painting for amateurs, although they doubtless are not consciously aware of it. The inspiration of "being with" transcends the mere ability to create a reasonable facsimile.

I mentioned intimacy earlier and this really was what I was struggling to say. When drawing a picture of someone from a photo, it feels a very intimate experience. You study their face as closely as they probably ever do, maybe more so. For a time, you feel as if you are with that person, engaged in a joint activity. Perhaps that's partly why on the whole I draw people I like or admire. Having said that, Ernest Watson was talking about sketching a tulip in his garden, and contrasting that with drawing from photos, which is what I usually do.

 

89 17/12/05 Michael

Over the months I have drawn several pictures of my children and these pictures are more special to me than any of the other pictures I have shown here. This is a picture of my son Michael, drawn from a photo I took of him a couple of months ago.

Whilst it still surprises me that I can start with a blank sheet of paper and draw a likeness of my children, I tend to be more critical of these pictures than other portraits I do. Perhaps it is because I am more emotionally close to the subject and so aren't as willing to accept anything less than perfection, or perhaps it is because I know the face I am drawing so much better. Whichever, I think this picture is a good likeness but it makes him seem a little older than his five years, and more solemn. I think the former is to do with the shape of the skin over the skull and the latter to do with the fine detail of mouth and eyes.

I find that it is difficult to capture the newness and smallness and innocence of small children. Getting it wrong tends to make them seem older. Getting beautiful women (a little bit) wrong makes them (a lot) less beautiful, but getting handsome men wrong just makes them a bit more rugged and characterful. Perhaps this is why I tend to be most satisfied with my pictures of men.

 

88 5/12/05 Paul McCartney

This picture reminds me of the Clint Eastwood, Mick Jagger and, to some extent, the JFK pictures below. It's a strong original image of an old Beatle and I think the portrait captures a great deal. You can see the old Paul McCartney as he used to be (when he was young, if you see what I mean) and you can see the old Paul McCartney as he is now in his sixties.

I like this picture a great deal, both the original and my rendition of it.

 

87 16/11/05 Cindy Crawford

I haven't done any of my usual drawing for a while, although I have started to go to life drawing classes. Here's a picture of Cindy Crawford. I quite like it although it isn't one of my best, I think.

 

 

86 19/10/05 Clive Owen

Back to a normal portrait. I'm quite pleased with this although there are details that could be improved, as always. What I think makes the picture is the middle section of eyes and ears and top of the nose which I think is quite strong.

85 15/10/05 Hooded woman

Another inverse drawing. As with 83 and 84, I drew it inverse from a normal original; that is, where I saw white in the final drawing I drew black. This is harder than the inverse Jennifer Aniston (79 below) as with that one I copied a negative image and so was drawing what I was seeing.

This picture is rather dark but it has captured the spirit of the original, I think, if a little crudely. I find that parts of the picture such as the eyes and lips that depend on shape can be drawn in inverse fairly well. Parts such as the cheeks that depend on tonal graduations aren't as easy and come out more angular and less soft than they should. Perhaps it's a system that works well for simple silhouettes but can't be expected to work with portraits.

 

84 8/10/05, Silhouette dancer

Another dark silhouette image, but with more shading and detail. When drawing 83 below I was copying a silhouette picture fairly closely. When drawing 84, the original picture was in normal lighting so that made for a bigger challenge. The detail could be more accurate (around the volume of the torso, the thickness of the arm on the left and the detail of the face) but that's being rather picky, I think. Detail can always be more accurate. Both this and 83 are images I think I would be happy to have up on the wall

 

83 7/10/05, Silhouette

I have recently been looking at silhouette images, some from studio photography and some from chalk on black paper drawings. I find them very moody and atmospheric so I thought I'd have a go. This is my first attempt and I'm rather pleased with it. It's a simple drawing but rather nice to look at.

Perhaps the surprising thing is that I didn't draw it as white chalk on a dark background, but as a graphite pencil on a white paper and I then used Photoshop to invert it. This made it slightly tricky to draw as I had to draw in inverse, the stronger the white in the final image, the darker the black in my drawing. I had the idea and the confidence to do it this way from drawing 79 below.

 

 

82, 29/9/05, Eye

Not counting Scarlett's lips (71), this is the only the second picture I have attempted in colour, and the first I feel happy to show. I quite like it as it looks broadly as I intended but I feel a bit uncomfortable looking at it as I can see some of the problems for which I don't yet have solutions.

My biggest problem was in trying to match the colours of the original. I have about seventy or eighty coloured pencils and none of them match any particular shade I try to draw. Presumably you need about a thousand before you can represent real colours accurately. **  I'm guessing this problem is inherent to colour work and the answer is either to blend the needed shade or approximate and live with it. I tried blending with a little success but I suspect blending is easier with paint where you blend your colour first and apply it afterwards rather than with pencil where you apply and apply and hope it comes out right.

I'm reasonably happy with the colours of the iris and eyeball. Ideally the green could be a little darker and the blue a little lighter but that's being pernickety. The skin colour was the big problem. Under the eye the skin was a light salmon colour and texture whilst above the eye it was a rather darker colour, moving towards mauve or purple. None of my pencils gave me this but I found that mixing my Conte Terra Cotta pencil with various shades of orange and pink gave me something close enough to satisfy me while I was doing it. Now I look at the finished scanned image I realise the eyelid should have been rather darker.

The original picture is about 7x10 inches but I have deliberately set it small here to make it more life-sized.

** (I'd seriously like to know the answer to this question - how many pencils/colours do you need to draw the real world to a reasonable degree of accuracy? I bet this has been the subject of a PhD project or two.)

 

81, 25/9/05, Andy Warhol

Until I started drawing I always considered Andy Warhol to be one of the chief perpetrators of modern art. Now exactly six months later I find myself drawing him in order to create a piece in the style of his Marilyn montage. Is this development or have I merely gone native?

Whichever, this is the third of the Warhol drawings I have done and the first I thought was strong enough to be a piece of its own. I wasn't intending to show any of them until they are all done but I like this one despite myself.

 

80, 23/9/05, Jack Nicholson

This was the second picture I started on holiday a few weeks ago. I don't like starting drawings and not finishing them (this might surprise one or two of my work colleagues). What is there to say other than it was quite an easy and enjoyable picture to do. I've thought for a long time that Jack Nicholson would make a great picture (pun unintended) and I'm sure he'll make some more.

 

 

79 20/9/05, Not(Jennifer Aniston)

This was a bit of an experiment. I took my original photo of Jennifer Aniston and made a negative of it. Then I drew the negative. It was rather weird drawing the negative as facial features I normally draw black (shadows, eyebrows, eye details) I was leaving white on the paper and vice versa.

 

 

I was curious to see what would happen when I took my picture and inverted it back again. The result is the picture left. It's rather dark but reminiscent of the original in picture 78 below.

 

I then opened this dark picture in Adobe Photoshop and selected Equalize giving the picture left. It's certainly cruder than picture 78 but I'll leave the rest of the conclusion up to you.

 

In maths and computing the Not(x) function takes x and inverts it somehow. Inverting a monochrome picture turns black to white, dark grey to light grey, light grey to dark grey and white to black. So the first picture left is Not(Jennifer Aniston) although I'm not sure I would say that it is not Jennifer Aniston.

 

78 12/9/05, Jennifer Aniston

I tried several new things in this picture. I used Xerox Colotec+ paper which is a very shiny very white printer paper. I found that although I could get a nice even tone with this, my graphite pencils came out about five shades too light. So in order to get the dark tones in I resorted to charcoal pencils (which I have previously avoided for being messy and imprecise) and a black 0.5mm Pilot pen.

About half way through it was going terribly badly. I could not control the charcoal as I can my graphite pencils and I could not see how to to get from the dark edge to the light highlights. Although the mouth and eyes seemed to be going okay the rest of it seemed a right mess. Fortunately I persisted and discovered that with a lot of work with a torchon (a bit like a paper rubber) I could produce a smooth tone in the charcoal and a graduation from dark to light (for example, above and below the eyebrow on the left). The Pilot pen was good for the eyebrows and eye lashes and the shadows in the eyes, nose and mouth.

I like the result in the same way I like Clint Eastwood (66) below. I think it's quite a striking picture, although I recognise that this is due to the original composition rather than my copy of it. It makes me think I should try to do more in charcoal.

 

77 8/9/05, Annie Lennox

I took my drawing kit on holiday with me expecting to spend my evenings producing yet more stunning masterpieces but it was not to be. Most evenings I just didn't feel like drawing and in the eight days I managed only three hours, starting two drawings without finishing anything. When I got back I finished this one of Annie Lennox.

I've been a great fan of Annie Lennox for many years and the Eurythmics songs are part of me. More recently her music has become less rock'n'roll and more reflective and there are some beautiful gentle songs. (I'm listening to Cold from the Diva album as I write this.) Her public image has become more reflective too, as this picture from the Bare album promotion. I think the original picture is very striking and my representation reasonably good. I like the eyes, although they are perhaps not quite as symmetrical as they might be, and the hand to the side of her head. However, I seem to have made her a little pixie-like. Perhaps it's the overdrawn shadow just above the visible ear. It reminds me of Harry Potter's scar.

 

76 25/8/05, Alex

Preparing to go on holiday chez Jan and Alex at www.masducantarel.com again, I thought Alex would make a good subject for a picture, and he did. Jan sent me a few possible pictures to draw and here's the result. It must be a sign of my growing confidence that I now feel I can draw a picture of someone to give them and think they will be pleased with it. (You'll have to ask Alex if he was.)

I'm most pleased with the general shape of the face which I think captures his expression, and his hair and eyes. I think I'm getting better at eyes - they seem to be more symmetrical now but my noses often look a bit bent, I think because I'm not drawing the light highlight down the bridge correctly. There are one or two other details of the picture I would like to have done a little better but on the whole I'll go easy on it because it's a picture I like and it was holiday season.

By the way, if you're looking for a quiet relaxing holiday with sunshine, wine, swimming and tennis in a beautiful part of unspoilt France, www.masducantarel.com is what you want.

 

74 19/8/05, Nude female in the style of Seurat

A number of firsts here: the first time I'd drawn the same picture twice, the first time I'd tried to draw in the style of someone else, the first time I'd used Derwent Graphite water soluble pencils.

Until I started drawing I had no awareness of Seurat, although I was passingly familiar with two of his pictures: Bathers at Asnieres and La Grande Jatte. But I have come to like his black and white misty drawings (I don't know what the style is called) and thought I'd like to try it. So I did.

Seurat's pictures are darker than this and I think he used charcoal but I don't get on well with charcoal. I don't like way it seems to scratch like chalk and I find it messy, although I've only tried it twice, in drawings 53 and 54. Perhaps I should try it more. My two Derwent pencils seemed to produce the right effect, although quite pale. They are 2B and 4B so I shall look for darker versions. The paper may not have helped here.

I found it difficult to draw as I kept wanting to draw in detail, but I like the result. It has a soft misty feel to it and it is one of the few pictures I have drawn so far I would like to frame and have on a wall. Unfortunately it hasn't scanned well and looks rather patchy on screen.

 

73 17/8/05, Nude female

An appealing original with a nice contrast between revelation and concealment, together with a look of innocence and seduction. As well as the easy and obvious curves, I'm pleased with the illusion of the backbone, although I have a feeling it doesn't quite lead to the bottom. In fact, since I have started to draw I have become very interested in backbones and shoulders and ribcages. Seeing much more of interest in the human body (of all types) has been an unexpected and beneficial side-effect  of this process. Hopefully, as I continue to see more my drawings will become more accurate.

 

72 15/8/05, Paul Newman's Hat

My first attempt at a hat and I'm pleased with it. I like the way it curves, both around the head and the tilt of the brim. But drawing a hat in space would have been a bit unsatisfactory so the owner needed drawing underneath it.

The hat creates a strong shadow, with the light coming from the above right, and this shows in the face across the eyes, across the neck and the shirt collar and jacket. I'm not sure I've drawn a  shadow across the face like that before and it was an interesting exercise. If I was feeling pedantic I might quibble about the tonal values on the left of the face in the shadow (being light)  compared to the values in the neck and jacket (being dark). But I'm feeling generous as I like the picture a lot, thinking it might be my favourite yet.

I was prompted to draw Paul Newman by seeing The Hustler for the first time recently and realising how charmante his looks were forty years ago. (I'm not sure that's a valid description but it seems appropriate.) Later this week The Color [sic] of Money is on but I think I can resist drawing Tom Cruise.

I've considerably reduced the brightness of the picture after scanning it, giving it the darker background than most earlier pictures have below. Like the Mick Jagger picture, I think this improves the presentation a lot, although I may have slightly overdone it, and I might go back and similarly improve other portraits.

 

71 11/8/05, Picture with an Obvious Title

I saw Girl with a Pearl Earring and Lost in Translation in close succession. I found GwaPE a bit slow but I loved LiT. Scarlett Johansson isn't the classic Hollywood beauty and I think her face is all the more interesting for it. I like the original photo as I think it captures the character of LiT, and I like my copy of it as I think it captures the image in the photo.

The obvious addition was an obvious addition. It's the first time I've put up any colour work on my website. The missing picture 70 was my first attempt but it was too disappointing to put up yet. This was less ambitious and appealed to my sense of something or other.

The second picture is my original finished work. I like that just as much, possibly more, as a portrait.

 

69 7/8/05, Meg Ryan

They say never go back, but surely it's worth two bites at Meg Ryan's cherry. And I'm very pleased with the result as this one captures her likeness and cuteness, particularly the eyes, mouth and face shape. The original picture comes from Sleepless in Seattle, I think.

 

68 28/7/05, Rahul

This picture took two and a quarter hours in the evening. Rahul works with me in Reading and made a good subject for a picture, I thought, even if the one I drew is his least favourite of the photos I took of him. This is a picture which works much better from a distance of about six feet (two metres in new money) than looked at close to. Perhaps they all do. From a distance you see the subject rather than the pencil marks.

I think I'm most pleased with the tonal levels in this picture; that is, the contrast between the dark tones of his hair and shirt, and the light tones of his skin. Also his hair and ear have come out well.

I seem to be finding men easier to draw than women and children.

 

 

66 12/7/05, Clint Eastwood

After spending a long time doing Migrant Mother I felt like something lighter. Or maybe I mean darker. Anyway, a low resolution picture of a young mean-looking Clint Eastwood seemed to be the answer. And it was.

In most of my recent pictures I've used about five pencils ranging from 2H to 6B to achieve the different levels of tones. This picture uses just two pencils to give three main tones, with white. The pencils were Derwent Sketching Dark Wash 8B and Derwent Graphic 2H. I usually use Cumberland Graphite.

I like the result. It's a powerful image of one of my favourite film stars. Who couldn't like Clint being mean.

Half way through, when I had shaded the dark 8B, I was very surprised at how strong the image was already, so I scanned it, even though it wasn't finished. This is the second picture left. Although there is very little detail in it, I think it is just as recognisably Clint Eastwood and I like it as much, albeit in a different way. It seems more granite like.

 

65 11/7/05, Migrant Mother

This is the first picture I drew at A3 size. The advantages of drawing larger are that it should be more accurate and detailed. The disadvantage is that an A3 drawing is twice the area and so takes twice as long as an A4 drawing. In fact it took about six or seven hours over four nights.

The drawing is from a famous and remarkable photograph taken by Dorothea Lange in a pea-pickers camp in California in 1936. The mother was Florence Thompson and she had seven children to feed. Lange subsequently said, "She told me her age, that she was 32. She said they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tyres from her car to buy food."

Two of the children are obvious in the picture. Another two are rather less obvious, partly because Lange tried to erase the fourth from the picture two years after she took it. To find the fourth you will probably need to go searching for information about the picture on the internet or elsewhere. (It's a rewarding chase, which is why I'm not telling you the answer.) When you find the answer you'll see I drew it in (albeit not very well) while there is evidence of its attempted erasure in the photo. Both original and tampered versions can be found on the internet.

Reading The Grapes of Wrath changed me. I find Migrant Mother haunts me. When I first saw it I found it striking and appealing. But the act of studying and drawing it gives an added feeling of intimacy, both with the characters and the situation.

 

64 27/6/05, Afghan girl

Sometimes I have thought that this experience is two steps forward, one step back. I'm disappointed with this drawing as it hasn't captured the power of the original photo.

The original is the famous picture in National Geographic magazine of an Afghan girl in a refugee camp. (Enter "National Geographic Afghan girl" into www.Google.com images.) It's a beautiful picture and very striking. My version has several things wrong, I think. The eyes are not quite right. The eye on the left seems a bit elongated. The original picture is really in three colours or shades. The hair is very dark, the face is a mid brown and the eyes stand out as bright white and blue. My version's hair and face probably aren't dark enough and there isn't any blue in the eyes.

Oh well, I'd probably have been very pleased with this picture a couple of months ago.

 

63 23/6/05, Love Kylie

Don't we all love Kylie? This is a promotional picture for her range of luscious lingerie branded Love Kylie. Tsk - the things I have to look at for this site. I think it's a very stylish original picture with a nice hint of suggestiveness about it. Is it based on a Marilyn Monroe picture?

I think my version is reasonably good. I'm not too impressed with the hands and I'm not quite sure if the hairstyle works. But overall I think I captured it pretty well and it's a picture I like.

 

62 19/6/05, Brad Pitt

One for the girls. I came across this picture in Hello! magazine. No, I don't normally - this was research. Two evenings work, probably about 3.5 hours. I was quite pleased with it really, especially as after I'd done about a quarter of the shading I thought it was rubbish and nearly gave up. The shading in the shirt could be a bit more subtle and there could be less contrast in the colour of the hair between the top and the sides, but I think this is a bit picky. Do you think it looks like him?

 I'm getting itchy. I want to go back and fix the hair colouring.

 

61 17/6/05, Michelle Pfeiffer

Usually, once I think I've finished a picture, I leave it alone. But there were one or two things bugging me about picture 60. So the following evening I went back and tried to improve it. I softened the lines in the eye on the left and the hairline. I slightly increased the density of the shading in the cheek on the right, to give it more balance and shape, and I smoothed the shading in the neck. Small things but I think they help.

 

60 16/6/05, Michelle Pfeiffer

A treat for the boys. This took about three hours over a couple of evenings. I think the face came out very well, and I'm especially pleased with the eyes as I find them the hardest things to get right. I think the worst bits are the hair line and the top of the head. The hairline is a bit too overdrawn, making it look a bit wig-like. The top of the head I guessed as it was missing in the original. I got it a bit wrong and I also ran out of paper. But, these things aside, it does look rather like her, doesn't it.

 

59 5/6/05, Courtney Love as Ballerina

A striking picture from the Times magazine, 4/6/05. There was a small collection of black and white pictures of actors and actresses dressed up in unusual ways. This was the most interesting to me, and the only one worth drawing. The lighting was a bit stark - very bright at the front and very dark at the back. I think mine is a reasonable rendering of it (given my capability) although I'm not overly impressed with the detail in the face and clothing. But probably the worst flaw in the picture is that I've correctly drawn in shadow the part of her leg behind the arm but the seat immediately below appears not to be in shadow. The result is to make her leg look a bit strange as if it's been cut off at the thigh.

 

58 31/5/05, Mick Jagger

A great original picture, and an interesting contrast with JFK below. Where JFK is a reflective study, the Jagger picture is about spontaneity. My versions are a little similar in that the Jagger picture left is more a sketch where the JFK picture below is a more detailed and observed representation. But something common to both is that the eyes are largely in shadow and defined more by the bags under them than by their own characteristics.

I was surprised when drawing Jagger's mouth to find myself drawing the peculiar shape you see in caricatures of him. The top lip curls out and the bottom lip drops down almost vertically on the left making for almost a rectangular mouth. It's bizarre.

I scanned this picture using a darker setting which accounts for the grey background.

 

57 28/5/05 JFK

I was very pleased with this picture and it made up for my disappointment with Meg Ryan. As soon as I saw the original, I knew it would be relatively easy to draw. The original has plenty of tonal information and the copy I was working from was quite a high definition picture. It's the largest face I have drawn and larger should generally mean more accurate. But most of all, it's a strong original picture of a strong character who evokes strong, mostly positive, feelings in people. So my effort is a drawing of a photo of an icon.

I have a connection with JFK. American presidents are sworn in every four years on my birthday. JFK was sworn in the day I was born.

 

56 25/5/05, Meg Ryan

Having been pleased with 55, I wanted to try another beautiful actress. And who better a beautiful actress to try than Meg Ryan. But I was a bit disappointed with the result: the picture doesn't have that Meg Ryan cuteness. Partly it's the form of the original picture - it isn't one where she has her drop-dead-sexy smile and the piercing blue eyes, it doesn't show her facial profile and prominent cheekbones, and the copy I was drawing was a little fuzzy which partly explains things like no eyelashes. But I can't just blame the picture as (I chose it and) my copy doesn't capture the softness of her face in it anyway. She looks a bit surprised and sunburnt in mine where she looks cute girl-next-door in the original. I must learn to balance the shading more; the face and neck are too dark in comparison with the arms and hands.

Still, I'm jolly pleased with how the arm and hand on the left came out, particularly the fingers. The fingers on the other hand look a bit weird but they're a bit confusing in the original, m'lud.

 

55, 21/5/05, actress

I think this is the first time I have drawn a beautiful actress and produced both a passable likeness and an attractive looking portrait. The question is whether other people recognise her. If you think you do, please flatter my ego (or otherwise) by typing "Drawing 55 - character/actress name" in here.

The picture took about three hours over a couple of evenings. It was the first time I used a paper torchon, to smooth the tone on the skin on her face and neck.

The bit of the picture I am least happy with is the eye on the right. It should look rather more like a reflection of the other eye than it does. Also, I don't think the scanning has done the picture any favours, making the skin tones rather darker than the original. I should probably rescan it or fiddle with it in Photoshop. But overall I'm quite pleased and makes me think I should try more famous faces.

 

54, 18/5/05, hands

I had a lot of trouble drawing hands when I started. They tended to look either like claws or paddles. But the more I look at drawings of hands the more interesting they seem. I suspect it is because I am starting to understand the structure of them better. I copied this from Life Drawing p. 110. I did it freehand with no grid or other aid and I realised at the end I hadn't used a rubber at all 1. The darkest colour is from a dark charcoal pencil and the lighter shading from a light charcoal stick, all on top of pencil guides.

I'm most pleased with the thumbs and the wrists. Some of the fingers look a bit dodgy, although the finger sizes in the original look a little unbelievable in places. Escher it isn't, but I'm reasonably happy with it. (For a wonderful picture, see Drawing Hands 1948 Lithograph in the 1941-54 gallery in http://www.mcescher.com/ )

1 Two weeks after I wrote that I realised how it might read to an American. I didn't use an eraser at all. Or a rubber, come to that.

 

 

53, 11/5/05, chess box

I was helping the children with some drawing when I saw this opened chess box on the table. I must have seen it a hundred times before in a similar way but I now noticed the contrast between the black and white pieces and the smooth finish of the wooden pieces contrasting with the rough finish of the box. When contemplating drawing it I thought that the white pieces would be easiest and most satisfying as their shape and shadow gave the most contrast when viewing. By comparison the black pieces looked very difficult as there wasn't any shadow to work with. The box shape was simple and therefore should be easy and the more I looked at the wood grain, the more patterns and difficulty there seemed to be.

The execution of the drawing turns all that upside-down. The black pieces in charcoal with simple highlights are much more striking and understandable than the white pieces in graphite. I've messed up the shape of the box, not taking enough care making the long sides appear parallel, while the more difficult wood grain is apparent from even a quite superficial treatment.

 

49, 28/4/05, Look, no lines

I kept being told (mostly in all the drawing books) that I should be drawing without lines, so I made an attempt at it. The outlines in this picture aren't lines, they're other marks which give the appearance of lines. I'm not entirely sure what the point of it is. Perhaps I've misunderstood it. Anyway, the original was a striking picture in The Nude Figure. I captured the general form quite well but the face and hair were a mess. The hair made her look like she was wearing a rug around her neck and her face made her look like a bricklayer1. I tried to tone down the hair and erased the face and left it undrawn. Perhaps the lack of detail is more in keeping with the rest of the picture.

1 No, I have nothing against brickies. I'm sure they can be very feminine and pretty. But the particular brickie she looked like wasn't anything like the original picture.

 

 

48, 26/4/05, self-portrait

My most time-consuming drawing yet, probably three hours over three evenings. I first drew the outline and completed the face. The second evening I just finished the neck and thought I had finished, leaving the shirt as a few outlines. But it seemed wrong so I spent a third evening doing the shirt. (I must fight my instinct to do hitínírun drawings. One two hour drawing is worth more than two one hour drawings.) I think the shirt is the best bit. The vertical hatching works quite well for the smooth denim and the darker angled hatching represents the creases quite well and the stripy seams seem seemly. The weaknesses are that the facial features (eyebrows, eyes, nose, mouth) arenít quite as symmetrical as the handsome model, the V in the shoulder on the right is a bit weird, and the contrast of the shading could be improved a bit. But overall, both artist and model were pleased with the result.

 

46, 22/4/05, And then I ate it

It looks quite convincing as a thumbnail! I wanted to practise shading by cross-hatching and this seems to work better than smudging if the comparison with the pear in 14 is anything to go by. But still a way to go.

 

42, 19/4/05, Teddy

Teddy is based on an exercise in hatching in Drawing for Dummies. I think it was the first picture I had used hatching on and was amazed with the results. It gives teddy a very 3D look and a rather cute expression. (The children liked him.) That said, his face isnít as round and cute as in the book.

 

 

___________________________________________________________________________

I saw a drawing of a human figure in Life Drawing which was just ten lines and it started me wondering how few lines could be used to express the human form in different poses. Here are a few drawings I did in one evening in five lines or fewer. NB The lines may curve one way but not back

 

 

41, 5 lines

 

40, 5 lines

 

38, 5 lines

 

37, 5 lines

 

36, 4 lines

 

35, 4 lines

 

34, 3 lines

 

33, 4 lines and a cheat (one of the lines curves back)

28, 15/4/05, Liberty in Chains - statue by Maillol

One Friday evening I went to Tate Modern in London. I wandered around the exhibition on the top floor, marvelling at the lack of it all. After an hour I decided this statue was my favourite piece and decided to draw it. (You have to understand that I still at this point had That's just no good, is it ringing in my ears and here I am in one of the country's leading galleries practising my "craft" in front of the critical world. It seemed pretty damn brave to me.)

The museum helpfully provide canvas stools to perch on so I propped mine in a handy corner where no-one could come and peer over my shoulder and started drawing. An hour later I had finished and had made a real live piece of contemporary spontaneous art to be proud of. I realised I had been completely absorbed in what I was doing and it had completely cleared my head of all the cares and worries of my world in a way that only one other thing can. I came down by walking back from Tate Modern to Piccadilly via St Pauls, stopping at Ming Court on Ludgate Hill for mushroom soup and crispy duck with red wine. Yum.

Two other memories from that evening. First, everyone in the gallery seemed to ignore me while I was drawing, which was a great relief. However, two separate people (a female American and a male German, I think, not that it matters) ignored me to such an extent that they stood right in front of me for about five minutes each, completely blocking my view. A tiny bit of awareness and consideration would have moved them by only six inches.

Second, the most inspiring piece of art visible at Tate Modern is the view of St Pauls from the fifth floor gallery. Is it just me? Do please let me know!

 

26, 13/4/05, Abstract nude female

There's an excellent drawing in Life Drawing (p.70 in my edition) of a seated female in which all the outlines are missing and there is a single tone of solid black for the parts of the body in shadow. It's amazing that the eye/brain fills in the missing lines to complete the picture. It's very striking. I had a go at it. In the thumbnail left look at the figure's left leg from knee up. Now click on it to get the full picture and follow the outside line from left knee past her hips up to her armpit. You know exactly where it is even though most of it is missing!

The original picture was a photo in The Nude Figure. I think this was the first time I had tried to create my own picture rather than simply draw something as accurately as I could. I was rather pleased with the result.

 

25, 12/4/05, Bikini girl

I can't imagine why I drew this. Presumably I needed to investigate the role of shadow in illuminating the human form. If so, I think it was a success as the various shadows do indeed illuminate her form rather well. The result again seemed like a step forwards and it gave me confidence that I was starting to draw pictures that really looked like people.

 

24, 11/4/05, female face

I felt that this drawing was a big step forwards. Until now, my faces were at best simple flat line drawings with no depth or subtlety. And at worst... But here for the first time was a face that was more technically correct - the features were the right proportions and in the right relationships with each other - and there was a three dimensional depth due to some successful shading. But most of all, it is a face with character, a face of a woman who has wisdom and confidence. (It's also not quite the same as the picture I copied, Life Drawing p.113, but never mind.)

If you think I am getting a little carried away in self-praise, compare this drawing with the next four below and, if you're still not convinced and you're feeling brave, the truly hideous 3. My point is not to suggest this is a great picture; merely that it is greatly better than I could achieve just two weeks earlier.

 

 

23, 9/4/05, female model

A not too bad sketch considering what had gone before: the clothing folds work reasonably well even if the buttons are terrible. The face suffers from an overly pointed chin and sharp eyes which make her look rather witch-like.

 

 

22, 9/4/05, female face

Oh, gruesome! This was copied from a particularly beautiful model in a woman's magazine. I hope this is the last picture in my Freddie Mercury phase. Move on, please, there's nothing to see here.

21, 9/4/05, female face

I quite liked this picture. Most of my faces look considerably less happy than the picture I'm copying. Not this one. It reminds me of Jane Asher which will be handy if I ever need to draw her. It's very simple but I thought the hair, eyes, nose, mouth and general visage were right. Actually I'm not sure the mouth is straight but let's move on.

 

20, 8/4/05, female face

If 21 reminded me of Jane Asher, this one reminds me of Jane Eyre. I'm not sure why. I was quite pleased with it, simple though it is. She looks feminine and pretty and intelligent. (How do these things work? How do a few lines conjure up those interpretations?) This is despite her ridiculously long jawbone which would probably permanently stretch her face if she tried to open her mouth for a dental examination.

There is an element of progress in this picture. For the first time I started to construct eyes properly. Before, I had always thought of eyes as circles in approximate ovals flat on the face. But in fact the pupil is on a ball underneath the lid in a hollow in the skull. When I started looking closely at the eye-lid and the seams of skin around the eyes, and the shadows around the eyes, my pictures started to make a whole lot more sense. In this picture I first draw the eyelids and set the eyes under the forehead. Picture 24 above sets the eyes better into the skull and gives volume to the holes in the skull through shading. There are some intermediate pictures not shown here before I arrive at 48, 55, 56 above where the eyes look reasonably correct.

 

18, 8/4/05 female torso

A simple exercise in Life Drawing, helping me understand body proportions and some simple hatching for shading. The shoulders are too wide in the back view unless she has gone on a crash body-building course after turning around.

 

16, 5/4/05, nude couple front

I drew this and 15 from pp96,97 of Life Drawing after reading about body proportions in Realistic Figure Drawing. I found the differences in the hips to shoulders ratio (4:3 woman, 3:4 man, head=2) very interesting and the variation from the Greek ideal (body is 8 head-lengths; 2 to the knees, 2 to the crotch, 1 to the navel, 1 to the nipples, 1 to the chin and 1 to the top). This man's legs are slightly shorter than the Greek ideal, being 5/11 of the total and the woman's are further shorter (is that grammatical?) being 3/7 of her body length. Or, to confuse things further, the man's legs need to be 1/5 longer and the woman's 1/3 longer to reach the Greek ideals. Which only goes to show that the Greek statues are more god than man. Maybe.

Before you point it out, I have indeed noticed how cross they both look at having me drawing them.

 

 

15, 5/4/05, nude couple rear

The rear version of 16. Of the four figures, I think the female rear is the best one**, both in terms of accuracy and shading.

 

** I mean the rear view of the female, rather than her derriere. Although that's quite nice too.

14, 4/4/05, A nice pear (no, I couldn't resist it)

The first still life I attempted. It went a bit pear-shaped (couldn't resist that, either). Shading is still brushing with the flat of the pencil.

Before I started drawing I was always totally bored looking at famous artists' pictures of "still life". What is so interesting about vases of flowers or bowls of fruit? Give me action and landscape and scantily clad people any day. Now that I've started I can see why artists practise with still life, but still I can't see why it should be interesting to anyone else. Surely the value of art, if any, is in the emotional effect of the image on the observer, not in the admiration or otherwise for the technique of the artist. Discuss!

Anyway, while I'm straying from the point, there's a wonderful cartoon by Rich Tennant in Drawing for Dummies. I'd like to scan it and put it here but I expect their copyright lawyers are bigger and scarier than mine so I'll just have to describe it. The artist is wandering along a road in a beautiful landscape. There are snow-capped mountains, trees, a lake, a mountain cabin, a church, a deer, a horse; it is a country heaven. And then by the roadside there is a cube, a sphere and a pyramid. The caption is "Brad finally comes across something interesting to draw." Well, you had to be there and you probably had to have the same bafflement about still life as me.

 

7, 30/3/05, female figure

I was pleased with this picture. I think I captured the nice feminine shapes and her face even looks a little like someone I know. It's balanced and believable and I'd go out with her. Wouldn't you? The picture came from another advert in a women's magazine.

 

6, 30/3/05, male torso

Another male torso, and I think an improvement on the previous one. The various shapes are believable and again there is an impression of volume.

 

5, 29/3/05, female figure

Another image from a women's magazine. A nice picture from an article about an ordinary woman doing something or other. I managed most of the general outlines but her face was rather more feminine than my version, and probably more on the front of her head, too. Her clothing's a bit bizarre. She should find a bra that isn't quite as lopsided and she really should have gone to Specsavers. But all that said, I quite enjoyed drawing her and I felt my picture had some femininity to it.

 

4, 29,3,05, male figure

Having discovered the extent of my talent with the female face in 3, I tried a male body, copied from an advert in a women's magazine. It's not up to much, but there's some evidence I was trying to capture the masculinity by drawing the volume in the torso.

 

3, 28/3/05, female face

Aaarrghhhh!!!! It's truly horrible to behold. I show it only to demonstrate my (in)ability at the start of this. Uggh!

The start of my drawing. I hadn't tried to draw since I was at school about 300 years ago, and I only did then because I was forced to. My earliest memory of double Art on Tuesday afternoons was the teacher looking at my portrait of another pupil, and saying "That's just no good, is it, laddie." and then verbally ripping it apart. I always received poor marks in biology and history because the homework always seemed to be draw a picture of this or that, and mine were abysmal. Quite how you understand the Battle of Hastings better by drawing it, I don't know; and there's already a perfectly good picture of it on a wall in France. So I gave up Art and Biology as soon as I could, but fortunately stuck with history and learnt quite a lot about the twentieth century.

Becoming interested in drawing in March 2005 I started putting pencil to paper. My first attempts were horrendous. But it didn't take long before something started to happen and I was surprising myself at the improvement.

 

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