Category Archives: Part 4: Project 2: Exercise 1 – Quick studies

Part 4: Project 2: Exercise 1 – Quick studies

Okay… so I managed to find a local life drawing group in King’s College Cambridge called Cambridge Sketchers. They hire a room and a professional model and have timed poses. But no teacher and no sharing or comment so this is all my own work.

However, I have no control over the length of poses so had to go with what’s on offer which was: 1 x 5 minute pose; 4 x 1 minute poses; 4 x 5 minute; 2 x 15 minute; 25 minute; 20 minute.

1 @ 5 minutes pencil on A4 in sketchbook on my knee


I tried to use my idea of shapes starting with the hips as a sphere and building outward.  Plus using a line to roughly connect the head with the heels and then relate everything to that.

There are lots of things wrong with it (as with all of these… so I’ll just pick out a few things for each – and then try to find something that works… ish!!).

The curve of the shoulders is too great… though roughly divided into arms, legs, torso and head there’s no real definition of limbs… the model had more weight… the head’s a tiny bit small.

But the overall shape doesn’t make me gasp. It’s roughly human and in proportion.

1st of 4 x 1 minute poses, pencil in A4 sketchbook on my knee


Barely had time to look (I like looking before I draw) and no time to block off the body. Just had to be bold and go for it!

The legs are much too short for the body and the stomach is much bigger.

But… there are things I like about this more than the other one.

The quality of marks on the torso and head are much looser. And the arm crossing the head captures the feel well… in fact the shoulders up is the best bit!!! They work aesthetically and capture something of the model.

2nd of 4 x 1 minute poses, pencil in A4 sketchbook on my knee


This time I decided to spend some of my sixty seconds looking and then try to draw the model in a few lines getting the proportion right.

The good thing is it looks like a person and the shape (for a human) is just about right.

But… it’s not the model!!!!!

What I’ve drawn is some ideal that must be in my head?!

3rd of 4 x 1 minute poses, pencil in A4 sketchbook on my knee


I liked the idea of looking, and I thought fewer lines worked but this time I thought I’d better try to draw the model in front of us… and still try to get the proportions and shape right.

I didn’t have time to do the head or legs…

Again, I think fewer lines works better and it’s nearer the model. The breasts and foot are the simplest lines and most effective. And the proportions look about right.

The bit I worked on (if it can be called that in 15 seconds) using shape – a sphere for the bottom – starts to work but is dead and wooden.

4th of 4 x 1 minute poses, pencil in A4 sketchbook on my knee


I started with shape (rectangle for the torso) on this one determined to fit the whole body in but lost both the head and feet.

There’s nothing I like about this… maybe her right knee?

The legs and bottom half of the torso are in proportion but nothing like the model.

1st of 4 x 5 minute poses, pencil in A4 sketchbook on my knee


I went back to trying to use shapes to construct the form and then add detail on top of that.

My main criticism – there are lots of things to criticise! – is that it feels heavy and overworked. The lines laboured.

The legs are too small (again!) and the attempt at detail doesn’t add anything.

Her left foot is beginning to work.

2nd of 4 x 5 minute poses, pencil in A4 sketchbook on my knee


The same fault with the legs (too small) and the back leg is in some weird position… splayed back and sideways!

Three things I like about this: the elbow foreshortens towards the viewer and is beginning to work; the hand falls nicely on the body; and the right foot is roughly in the right position.

I have attempted a face – even if I’ve managed to lose most of her bunched hair!

And again it’s very wooden and heavy.

3rd of 4 x 5 minute poses, pencil in A4 sketchbook on my knee


This is all relative… but I really struggled to get the left knee bent and the foot on its toes… and didn’t succeed. The shape of the thigh is all wrong, but I’m not sure how to mend it.

Again I used light geometric shapes and then added human detail… I don’t think it’s very effective… the legs are still too short (a little better), she carried a lot more fat, her left arm looks disabled below the elbow!.. and the marks are heavy.

However, the right hand wrapped around the body looks accurate.

4th of 4 x 5 minute poses, pencil in A4 sketchbook on my knee


It’s strange but 5 minutes I found harder than one – it was time to think but not time to do anything!!! With one minute at least you had to be intuitive… look and draw. And the marks were looser.

Apart from the legs still being too small I like this the best of the 5 minute drawings. It has a tiny, tiny bit of looseness even though the lines are heavy. And has captured the feel of the model much better.

Ignoring the proportion to the rest of the body the left leg is starting to work. It’s got a curve on the back of the thigh and the foot, though lost, is in the right position. And even the squiggle for the knee suggests the folded skin well.

I like the hand too.

Fewer better marks would be my note to myself!

 1st of 2 x 15 minute poses, pencil sketch on A2 drawing paper standing at an easel


When I got this home and looked at it it was a shock… it is grotesque. Like some German Expressionist painting of the 1930’s…

Only I was trying to be real!!!

I had enough time to draw and focus on some detail, and enjoyed it. I moved from one point of view to another and wasn’t aware of the distortions of the whole body till I finished, and even then it just looked poor… not laughable.

At home it was a fresh look.

However, having got over the shock and a little laugh at how ridiculous it looked I thought I’d have another look and try to learn something.

So… there are three drawings here… the head, the torso and the legs. Which matched my three points of view/field of vision. I could see the head, I could see the body… and I could see the legs. But only one at once… not all three at once.

Individually, I think they’re quite interesting with the face/head the weakest.

I like the shape of the body – it captures something of her. No internal details but the folds of flesh and hanging breasts look real, in terms of shape. And the crossed legs bend away into space nicely.

So, for my next sketch I decided I would try to match the body up… and if I was going to complete this exercise I’d better use some different media. It also occurred to me that different media have different voices (like instruments) so might change my style of drawing. Maybe there was something about the pencil work that was restricting me – I still felt this was fairly tight.

I decided to try charcoal. Specifically a new stick of compressed charcoal that I’d found the night before as I liked the creamy blackness it left on my fingers. And the only ‘hard’ black I’d used before was conte – I thought this might fall between conte and soft wood charcoal.

 2nd of 2 x 15 minute poses, compressed charcoal sketch on A2 drawing paper standing at an easel


Wow… I like this much better… and I can smudge. The paper has quite a fearsome bite so it won’t go far, but it’s an extra tool and very freeing.

I loved working with the charcoal. A gorgeous black line that could draw, smudge and spot… made lovely flowing lines.

I’m just going to say nice things about the body… I think it’s in proportion, the foreshortening on the leading leg works well (I particularly like the flap of skin under the thigh), the bottom is nicely dimpled, the arm and knee look right and the head’s about the right size.

There’s not much internal detail and the model was bigger than this. But this is the first sketch that as a beginner I’d say… yes, that gives me something to work on.

My thought now was I hadn’t got any background and the textbook said to sketch background so in the last few seconds I invented the skirting board!

 1 x 25 minute pose, fine grey art pen on A2 drawing paper standing at an easel


It’s come out black on the photograph – but is grayer in real life.

I really, really like the guy on my right by the door… and the woman sketching on my left. It may just be me, as I’ve shown friends and I think by their polite nods they just see a messy squiggle!!!!

But for me – it’s captured the quality of him drawing and some of his focus. So, till I get professional objective feedback I’m going to give myself a mini star. Not for the physical accuracy (there is none) but for the looseness and how it’s captured (for me) something of his attention. I’ve never really captured anything other than ‘visual reality’ before so that’s quite exciting!!!

Of course, as it’s so objective I could be horribly wrong!!!!!!!

I thought this would be hard to use – but it’s like talking to a bubbly but incisive and flowing friend. It’s lovely to use, gentle and accurate at the same time.

What I’m beginning to realise is how different the personalities of the different media are!

Anyway… I like the background… her leg’s a bit wrong and her hand is too small even though it’s furthest away… her bottom’s wrong.

But I’ve attempted some detail in the body which adds a lot to it being a person.

And I like the fact she’s in focus and the sketchers (who are actually very focussed) are out of focus. I know we’re not making preparatory sketches here, and it wasn’t planned, it just made me smile.

  1 x 20 minute pose, fine black art pen on A2 drawing paper standing at an easel


Different from grey… sharper… more acidic!

And it’s produced a different sort of sketch.

The neck is too long but the body’s beginning to work and the flesh, though not wobbling, has finally got some weight. The flappy skin under the forearm, the leg turned out and even the size and position of the foot all feel right.

The face is a tad too small and I could spend a whole 25 minutes on the face. So it’s weak – but it’s recognizably a face.

It’s strongest feature is that the model has a presence and the drawing a slight spookiness.

So even given all its failings technically it’s beginning to capture something else which I like.

I also like the girl in the background who I moved from another part of the room and put in. It’s starting to dawn on me, emotionally inside, that I don’t have to copy reality. I can compose the picture…

Obviously, the main learning, is drawing people so I’m always going to try to draw them as accurately as I can. But they are so much more than a physical shape and I’d like to put humanity into them. To make them alive.


I think what I’ve learned most is that life drawing is a different way of looking. You can stare at a tree but staring at a person is qualitatively different. Even though a stranger… drinking somebody in for two hours is a weird process.

I’m going to call it artistic looking.

It will greatly help all my drawing – especially people – as I think it will help me draw the whole person not just copy the mask they’re wearing.

Allowing it could take years to find the technical skill to match the aspiration!!!!

Talking of which – I’m going to try to go to this group on a regular basis as even though there’s not a tutor I think I can move a long way just by practising. And two hours a week would be a good start.