Figure drawings

I started figure drawing classes again two weeks ago. These sketches from the first class were done with a big Chinese brush and ink and we had to make as few marks as possible. It was only to be black and white calligraphy lines and marks. I was a bit overwhelmed by all that dark ink and don’t think I grasped it completely,  but it was an interesting exercise and it at least got me loose in as much that I couldn’t fiddle – calligraphy doesn’t allow for fiddling and I was forced to go with  continues lines. I also found that the big brush loaded with all that ink had me go even bigger on the paper, so much so that I cut off the model every time…either the feet or the head had to be sacrificed. And we already worked on very large format, 46 x 55 cm (18  x 21″).  These sketches took about 5 minutes each.




Last week we had a professional artist for our instructor and I loved every minute of it! He is quite a character, as interesting as can be and I would love to paint him! He walked around and looked at our work and he repeatedly named the things we needed to keep in mind, to look at, the whole time…And because he had such a lovely nature, it was almost like background music, not disturbing at all. I even dreamt of it that night. And it did sink in. This model was a bit fuller than the normal, but she had “beaucoup de caractére“, strong personality and  presence. She was positioned in great light and did simple, yet elegant poses.

Things I’ve learnt last week:

  • Compare, compare, compare! A line/shape should always be placed on the paper in relation to another line/shape. Compare the horizontals, the diagonals, the verticals all the time.
  • Always start with the biggest and most simple shapes first.
  • Keep it simple, see shapes and forget about details until the last minute.
  • Decide beforehand what it is that is striking in a particular pose and concentrate on capturing that…the light, or the emotion, or the expression or a gesture.
  • Don’t be afraid of mistakes!!
  • Don’t concentrate on making a beautiful drawing!!
  • Draw what you see, not what you think you should see.
  • Enjoy the process.




Sketch book and palette

My palette has arrived, I have finished making my first sketchbook and I painted my “homepage”.


The brass palette is handmade and engraved by Craig Young in England. Not cheap, so it meant saving seriously for a few months, which I did religiously. It folds open to hold 16 colours, with mixing pans on either side and at the bottom(not seen), is a ring to hook your thumb through. A brass container to hold water hooks onto the side.


My colours I put in there for now are(from left to right) Naples yellow, Cadmium yellow, yellow ochre(apology, I painted raw umber instead of yellow ochre in the picture!),  raw umber, alizaron crimson, cadmium red, burnt sienna, burnt umber, olive green, hooker’s green, ceruleam blue, kobalt blue, french ultramarine, prussian blue, payne’s gray, ivory black. I do play with other colours which I’ll just drop onto the mixing pan. I don’t need a big mixing area, since I prefer mixing directly on paper.


My sketchbook is 19x25cm, which I find ideal for me…big enough to do landscape and architectural sketches and I can do a few quick smaller sketches all on one page and it fits perfectly into my bag(see photo above). I also decided not to cut the paper, but to tear them(See photo below) – I like the ruffle edges they make, it  resembles watercolour sheets. I love the rustic, handmade look for a sketchbook.


Along with my palette, I have in my sketchbag a pencil, a rotring pen(.25) a tiny spraybottle to wet the paint, and a travel petit gris brush, size 0. I also got a great idea from Mel Stabin(my favourite watercolour artist)..and started using an old kitchen spatula, with the handle broken off to lift out some whites, which works great, along with an exacto knife which does the same thing, just much sharper highlights.



And here is my “homepage”. I covered my hard outcover on the inside with watercolour paper(Arches CP,185g) as well and painted my “homepage” over the whole of the two first pages. The scene is the back of our home and part of the neighbours, painted from the terrace. I thought it would be a fitting opening in my sketchbook. Now off to start making the rest of my books, with an alteration here and there…maybe embossing my name on the cover and adding an elastic that folds over from the back(like the moleskine)