Tag Archives: life drawing

Life Drawing 12/09/17 (Warning – Nudity)

The new term has begun for the Frobisher Life Drawers. I have really missed this over the summer. As always, I tried to think ahead about what I wanted to get out of the session (it is untutored and run as a co-operative). As I was rusty, I decided to concentrate on using large charcoal blocks and trying to get mass.

Thinks got off to a shaky start when our model didn’t turn up and couldn’t be contacted. Whenever I find myself early or without a model, I reach down a plaster cast of ‘Winged Victory’ which sits (with a load of death masks) on a shelf in the studio. I love this model and wish it was mine. This is drawn with my favourite Kuretake Fudegokachi pen which has water soluble ink, so it is possible to create tone with a water brush.

A3, pen and water, 10 minutes

I don’t think that I have got the angle of the shoulders right nor the wing on the left. I was about to start drawing her for a second time when the group decided to give up waiting for the model and set up a still life of the basket of fruit which someone had brought along to share.

A3, Derwent XL charcoal block, 15 minutes

The very large charcoal block precludes detail. The most detailed marks have been achieved with an electric eraser. The pleasure of these blocks is how soft and friable they are but this is also their drawback. It is almost impossible to make small, precise marks; form has to be suggested. I like that. Here the fruit are just smudges of shadow and a suggestion of stalk. The large scale marks have also captured the twist of the handle. Capturing the texture of the basket and the shadows cast within the weaving is less successful. I also wish that I had cropped in a bit harder to loose most of the support. I jumped in too fast, without considering my framing.


An alternative model was found who promised to be there for the second half of the session. In the meantime, I experimented with picking up this water-soluble charcoal on a wet flat brush to see what effects that produced. The figure is from imagination. The brush marks add interest and I particularly like how the tone disappears to almost nothing with lots of water.

When we finally had a model, I tried continuing to use this technique.

A3, Derwent XL charcoal wash

I found myself looking for edges on which to begin a brush stroke with the 2cm flat brush. This has made for angular outlines and clumsy marks, but there is a quality worth persevering for, especially where highlights have been left undrawn. I tried again on a larger sheet using two colours of charcoal. This time a drew a pencil sketch first to help with placement of the brush. I also emphasised the darkest tones by using the edge of the block directly.

A2, charcoal washes

I like the quality of the tones in the washes but the addition of the block is heavy-handed. I need to have a smaller, pointed brush for fine shadows such as under the heel or under a buttock. The proportions are all wrong; I was really struggling with the proportions after a summer away from life drawing. I decided that I need to focus just on getting the shapes and proportions right and forget about mark making. Here, I have used just a broad stick of charcoal and worked, and worked again until I have got the shapes I want.

A2, charcoal

The next pose offered me little apart from a back (there isn’t enough room to move to a better angle) but I accepted the challenge of trying to get the subtle shapes. I really am not sure how you draw a back without drawing the outline, unless you invent a dark background. This is always a difficultly for me in life class. The real background is messy and confusing with easels, people and cupboards. Creating a background usually feels contrived, though. Maybe I’ll work it out one day…

A2, charcoal

For the last couple of minutes, I returned to pen sketches.

A3, Kuretake pen and water brush.

This was a very disappointing session because we all found it unsettling to only get a model half way through the session and because the start of a new term is always challenging. It’s like going to the gym when you haven’t worked out for ages.


Life Drawing

At life drawing this week, I continued to work in graphite; pencil and soft graphite block with eraser. This week we had an excellent model who struck unusual, challenging poses.

A3, 5 mins

Arthritis in my dominant hand seems to be progressing very quickly, and I can no longer draw a fine pencil line where I want it, no matter what grip I use. My lines have become very wobbly, so using large, media seems to work much better but difficult on the smallish scale of an A3 sketchbook. This next drawing is horrible with cramped, small legs.

This pose was challenging for us and the model, with her body twisted to almost 90 degrees sideways. I just tried to capture the jist of the pose resulting in a rather abstract sketch.

A3, 5 mins

Lots of folk were moving around to try and get an angle on the next pose which gave them more than a back to draw and made more sense of the legs, one going forwards over the stool, one back, but I decided to accept the challenge of trying to draw the subtleties of the back.

A3, 15 mins

I am trying to crop into interesting sections of the body and get away from drawing outlines with limited success. Large, block media made drawing delicate folds of flesh difficult.

A3, 15 minutes

A longer pose gave me more time to consider How I could respond to the shapes with out outlines. Erasing the graphite models the body interestingly, but the eraser marks are more hard-edged than I wanted and I should not have tried to describe the head, beyond a shadowy smear.

A2, 20 minutes

What an amazing pose the next one was! How on earth did she hold this for half an hour? You can see that she gradually sank into it and eventually her left foot was also touching the floor. rather than worry about the pose changing, I have tried to capture the movement.

A2, 30 minutes

Next, a more conventional pose, and again I have cropped-in to what I hoped was an interesting composition. The proportions of the arm are too slight. I think that I have been dictated to by the paper format here and that a square format would have made a better composition, as in the photo crop below.

A2, 30 mins


It was my week to get backs, which are up there with hands in drawing challenges. The shadows modelling the anatomy of the back are so subtle and I was not able to apply my graphite in the gentle ‘washes’ that I was after. The graphite picked up the texture of the paper too much. Perhaps a makeup sponge would be a good applicator?

I used liquid graphite to wash in the dark background but not as accurately as I wanted in places, for instance the top of the shoulders are horrid, but the right shoulder blade is more what I wanted. I do find it difficult that in life drawing, you have to pretty much make up the background from the maze of tones of easels, other people etc.

A2, 40 mins

Life drawing is wonderful, maddening, frustrating and exhausting.

Life Drawing – Graphite (Warning – Nudity)

This week, I have resolved to use graphite for drawing. I have put together a drawing set of 2b, 6b and 9b pencils, powdered graphite, liquid graphite, XL soft graphite block, brushes and erasers. My plastic erasers are cut into wedges and I am also trying out an electric eraser. I love drawing into charcoal or graphite with an eraser but it is now particularly painful, so I have been bought the electric one.

This week, as usual, we started with short poses, but the model was placed on a rotating platform, so that we got the same pose from different angles for three minutes each.  I trued drawing each pose other the other to make a time sequence.

A2, graphite, carbon, 5 posses, 3 minutes each

The model started with his one arm elevated, but had to drop it after a few minutes. I have tried to use different graphite mediums (or an eraser) for each pose, but for one I used a carbon stick as it was getting so confusing. The rotation was only announced as the first pose started, and I wish I had had a little longer to plan this. I would have rotated my paper to landscape and planned my media to just use graphite.

A2, pencil, XL soft graphite, 15 minutes

Too much detail attempted

As usual, I find the quickest poses produce the drawings I like best for their spontaneity. This 15 minute drawing is overworked, especially in the face, the head isn’t sitting in the shoulders amongst many other problems. I was trying to consider ‘lost and found’ and define the figure by the tonal contrasts against the background, with very limited success.

I am still hearing my tutor from Drawing 1 telling me to position the whole figure on the paper. I am trying to override this, and focus in on details or completely fill the paper with body, not have acres of negative space around the body. The next pose was very vertical and I have tried to crop in so that the body has a presence across the width of the paper. To try and avoid drawing outlines, I brushed in the mass of the figure initially with graphite powder and then developed it with the large graphite block and an eraser. The size of the block precludes any detail in the face which I think has worked much better. I think that I should have cropped in more, and I am sure that I have made the torso too long. The softness of the graphite tones is lovely and carving out shapes with the eraser is very effective but I have to ration its use. The electric eraser makes much more mechanical marks, unsurprisingly, and was too noisy and intrusive.

A2, 30 minutes, graphite powder, XL soft graphite, eraser

Detail, the graphite block only allows soft, large marks

Trying to ‘carve’ the knee with eraser, too crude

For the final pose, I cropped in even harder to focus on the elbow resting on the knee. I could have cropped in even more but found all the negative spaces really interesting and challenging. I deliberately cropped through the hand because I wanted to draw it but didn’t want to push the centre of attention of the drawing right over to the edge. I have tried to create a composition which draws the eye right around the support.

A2, 45 minutes, pencil, XL graphite block, liquid graphite

I have used sparse liquid graphite on a bristle brush to try and describe each muscle and its volume. Liquid graphite has been used to create blocks of strong tone in the background. It has given this drawing drama. Once applied, the liquid graphite cannot be erased and my brushwork is not sufficiently accurate in places; I have lost the bottom of the heel on the right and tried to refind it, unsuccessfully, in pencil. The drawing makes a statement about the muscular strength of the male body in contrast to the soft, delicately curved, female body last week.

Setting myself clear objectives and limited media works well for me, and is stopping me getting stuck in the same rut. I hope and believe that my life drawing is progressing. I need to experiment with colour, although I know this is not my strength.

Life Drawing – Media (Warning – Nudity)

I try and give a lot of thought to what media I take to life drawing and how I might use it. I love charcoal and completely see why it is most peoples ‘go to’ medium for life drawing but I find that I get stuck in a rut, doing the same thing all the time without making progress, if I don’t challenge myself with different media and specific objectives; trying to work differently.

For life drawing last week, I decided to use only graphite but combining different sorts; pencil, graphite stick, soft graphite block, liquid graphite with, of course, eraser. I practised marks on scrap paper before I left home so that I new what to reach for in the initial quick poses. When I arrived at the studio, I found that I had left all my media at home. All I had in the bottom of my art bag was a single pen and a water brush. Folk offered me other media to try. This is an initial quick sketch made with home made vine charcoal. I found this very hard and scratchy compared with willow.

A3, charcoal, 2 mins each

I reverted to my one pen, a Kuretake, water soluble pen, used with the water brush for a bit of tone.

A3, 3 minutes

A3, 3 minutes

A3, 3 minutes

A3, 5 mins

I had lost my initial spontaneous line with the pen and was getting bogged down in complexity. For the longer poses, I added charcoal to the pen for mass and tone.

A3, pen and charcoal, 30 minutes

Our model was Jennifer, an ample lady of great grace. I find it quite difficult to get her proportions right as her feet and hands are so small and delicate, but not as small as I have drawn them here.

A3, 30 minutes

A2, 3 minutes

A2, pen with charcoal, 20 minutes

Drawing large with just a pen was an interesting challenge. I think the initial pen drawings are the most successful, but inevitably they are all about outline. I don’t think that the addition of charcoal is successful, but it was poor, scratchy stuff.

For the last six months, I have had problems with the thumb on my dominant hand. At first, this was diagnosed as tendonitis, then inflamation of the tendon sheaf, and now an x-ray has confirmed arthritis. I hoped that it would resolve but I now know that I have to work around it. Drawing with a pen is particularly difficult and, looking at these drawings, it’s clear that my fine motor control has gone. It’s wobbly lines all the way from now on.

Objectives for next session:

  • take the graphite and use it!
  • try to remember to select details
  • try not to work with outline
  • remember ‘lost and found’.


Life Drawing 23Feb17

At life drawing this week, I wanted to try and retain the liveliness of mark making and sense of energy which I had found in drawing to music in Assignment 3. I find it very difficult to go into a life drawing session with any fixed ideas, but helpful to have thought about some sort of agenda.

Whilst we waited for the model, I drew a plaster cast of ‘Winged Victory’ which sits rather unloved on a dusty shelf.


A2, Wolff carbon stick, 10 minutes

When the model arrived, we started with the usual quick poses.


A2, carbon, same pose from two angles, 5 mins each


A3, graphite, 5 mins

The next drawing was on a smallish (A3) piece of paper using a XL soft graphite stick and an electric eraser. I love drawing with a wedge of eraser in charcoal or graphite but it causes persistent pain in my thumb, so my husband bought me an electric one. It rather looks like a snail has wandered around removing graphite. I rather like it but it doesn’t have the variation of thickness of mark that a wedge gives. It is certainly less painful, though, if a little noisy in a life session.


A3, soft graphite block, 5 mins

Progressing to longer poses.


A2, carbon, 15 mins

I found this a very dull pose and even duller drawing. The model turned and we had the same pose for a further 15 minutes from the back. Luckily, in reaching another support from my folder, I found a piece of paper on which I had glued newspaper and brushed it with gesso. Thsi has made the drawing much more interesting and created a suggestion of context, which I always find really difficult in life drawing. The shape of his head is rather worrying, though.


A2 textured support, carbon, 15 minutes


A2, carbon, 15 mins


A2, soft graphite, 15 mins

The very soft graphite gives attractive if limited tones with very broad brush marks, but I rather enjoy the way it suggests form here without being too explicit and the lost and found edges.


A2, 30 minute pose, ink wash and charcoal

As an initial basis, I brushed ink in to record areas of shadow. This altered the way the support responded to charcoal and the end result is all rather crude and horrid. Soft graphite would have been a  much better choice. Persevering with the approach of starting with tone but seeking a much softer tune which I could manipulate, I wiped the support with roughly crushed charcoal and then worked back into it with an eraser and further charcoal. My difficulty with this longer pose was to keep the sense of suggestion without over description. I like the way the face is suggested but the hand is far too heavy and something quick awful has happened to his left leg, poor guy! Swiping crunchy charcoal around  creates variety of mark and drama.


A2, charcoal, 30 mins

1.4 The Human Body (Warning – Life Drawing, Nudity)

I am lucky enough to have the choice of several local life classes which offer drop-in sessions, so life drawing is something I do on a reasonably regular basis. However, these are un-tutored and it is very easy to find one’s self just repeating the same thing over and again and not necessarily progressing or being creative within the context of the class. I try to challenge myself by using different media or techniques but really welcomed this project as a way of challenging my composition. I think composition is particularly hard to manage in a life drawing class where you have no control over lighting, background, pose and often little control over your own location in the room.

The aims of this project are to create a composition of two combined body parts or limbs in a way that leads the eye around the composition and which makes a powerful statement.

At a life group this week, after the initial 1 minute and 5 minute poses, I tried to find sections of the pose which fitted the aim of the project. I also tried to think about bringing forward the parts of the pose which interested me whilst under-describing the more distant of less relevant parts of the pose, whilst still trying to be observationally rigorous.

In this 15 minute drawing, I laid down a charcoal ‘wash’, worked into it with a rubber and then added some line and tone using the side of the charcoal. I have tried to suppress the detail in the head, since we are programmed to be drawn to facial features. It is clear that I didn’t get the upper hand right and have repeatedly redrawn it; the dark lines are a dead give-away. The remit says ‘don’t leave the limbs to taper off’ which I have done with the foot and hand bottom left. This was deliberate because I don’t want the eye to be drawn too much to the corner, but want the right hand and left knee to be the centre of attention.  This drawing is full of errors of proportion but I think it is successful at a compositional level.

limbs (6 of 6)

Cropping the drawing photographically, I don’t think cropping in harder would have materially improved this composition.

limbs cropped (2 of 2)

The course method says ‘don’t be tentative’, ‘redraw and correct’ but I find these two actions in tension against each other. In a long pose, I correct and I find that this makes me more tentative. In a short pose, I feel able to take more risk, make assertive marks but have no time for correction and refinement, or time to give composition much consideration.

In this 5 minute pose, I feel that I have used much more assertive marks and drawn with a more instinctive feel for the muscles and joints, but the composition is not as considered.

limbs (1 of 6)

I feel this is a much more successful, spontaneous drawing. It has not been reworked, or overworked. If a line has been redrawn, usually the original line has just been left. It is, of necessity, a very simple drawing.

limbs cropped (1 of 2)

Cropping this second drawing photographically, I feel that a more successful composition could have been created by concentrating on the smaller area. Here the enclosed negative space becomes important and the composition triangular.

The human body is an unfailing pleasure and challenge to draw. Usually, I concentrate on getting the whole body in the frame and getting the balance and weight of the body right. It was a delight to consider cropping in and composition instead. I only wish that I had more control over the poses and was able to change my position in the studio. I would like to continue this project indefinitely at life class.