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.
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
Thank you for spending
time here. Please tell me what you think of the drawings by clicking
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
A year of drawing
I've been drawing for a year now and
this is what I think of it
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.
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
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
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
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
** (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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
I was prompted to draw Paul Newman by seeing
The Hustler for the first time recently and realising how charmante
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
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,
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
I seem to be finding men easier to draw than women and
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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/
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.
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
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,
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.)
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
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
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!
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
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
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.
Before you point it out, I have
indeed noticed how cross they both look at having me drawing them.
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.
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.
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
while I'm straying from the point, there's a wonderful cartoon by
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
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
truly horrible to behold. I show it only to demonstrate my (in)ability
at the start of this. Uggh!
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
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.