Assignment 3: Response to formative feedback. (Written notes of video tutorial).

Feedback on project work, sketchbooks development leading to assignment

(1) Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity.

When I’m drawing I like two things… solving technical problems in how to observe and draw better (to see, understand and reproduce what’s in front if me – a lot of my annotations are about this) and to engage with what I’m drawing… (which is also, I discovered, helped by on site notes)… that can be by forgetting myself or an emotional attachment.

For me it was interesting to hear from Doris that my most finished drawings were from the sketchbook walk. These were done on site over several hours (a couple of hours for each sketch) and without – in a conscious sense – thinking about what I was doing. It’s like I was having an unself-conscious conversation with the paper fully engaged in the moment. Looking and drawing.

She compares the garden picture to a Lucien Freud etching of his garden… a little!


Lucien Freud, The Painter’s Garden, 63.5 x 88.6 cm, 2004


My Garden, 2017, A4

There’s a lot less detail on mine but it has a similar feel.

So, I’ll take that!

She also said a couple of the drawings from the sketchbook walk should come out of the sketchbook, which had never occurred to me. This made me think how they then become stand alone pieces. And the energy and life that needs to go into a stand alone piece is no different to work in the sketchbook… you just take it farther. Rather than thinking of it as a stand alone work, as a completely different thing, and risking it being stiff and still-born!

And that they didn’t need upscaling. It hadn’t occurred to me that a sketch so small could be complete or have value.

This lead to a discussion of how to translate that freedom to a stand alone piece. I think it’s a bit like acting… you do all the preparatory work and when the director says ‘action’ you totally relax and switch yourself off, you listen to the moment and react.

In contrast when I’ve thought of a finished piece of art it becomes something I’m trying to make as good as I can from the outside. Like a test… and it stiffens up. I’m focussing more on what people will think about my drawing than on what I’m drawing.

Which is the total opposite to professional acting and the opposite to my sketchbook work.

So anything… notes… objects… from the real world I can take with me to help me connect are useful… as is the actors imagination putting myself in a scene.

Assignment development:

Doris liked and thought my initial sketches were promising. She commented on my double page spread with annotations and said this could become a format in its own right, drawing attention to Dick Whall’s Return Exhibition.


Apart from the level of complexity (both of the drawing and the notes – mine being much simpler) and both drawings using notes there are some fundamental differences.

His drawing is much more architectural and finished with most of the notes bounded round the edge. He finishes the bushes and the two men whereas I have no finished drawing.

But the fundamental difference is intent. Reading a comment underneath his drawing I’m struck that this is about using drawing as a means of coming to terms with his death – it is religious as well as academic covering botanic, art historical, literary, archeological and a zest for life. It is erudite and poignant.

Mine is a practical process working composition (both meaning and visual) on the paper… a sort of external version of what was going on in my head.

Bot are unities is as far as my comments are not observations after but part of a process that involved language and drawing. His picture is a unity too… but I suspect his was composed and controlled whereas mine was frantic and exciting!

She then comments on my charcoal sketch:



… saying she enjoyed the energy, that the drawing unified architectural features with organic foliage and abstract patterns on the river. The tension between the military architecture and the unruly boats making the composition challenging and interesting… which is good, as that’s what I was planning.

And says there’s a far-fetched connection with Jeff Wall’s photographic retake of “A sudden gust of wind” which I might be able to see.


It’s a feel… maybe it’s the connection of the unruly array of boats in my picture with the unruly paper fluttering out of control in the wind. And the men in suits standing for the order of the colleges. Both in a natural scene.

Dorothy then comments on our chat about the final piece. And the problems of translating the freedom and looseness of the preparatory drawings to the finished piece. She picked up on the building which I struggled with – pastel is not a good medium for military precision and straight lines. In retrospect I should have used mixed media – black ink lines loosely filled with pastel. But at the time it didn’t occur to me as I was still locked into this being a finished piece in pastel.

The result is the college is stiff and wooden.

I had more fun with the bushes and she says these a reasonably translated. The hedges and trees were technically difficult and I discovered the most effective way as I went along. The difference is I have a connection with trees having been brought up in the country and didn’t lose interest.

The most effective and inventive part of the drawing was the handling of the water surface and boats. Here I had a total ball – and basically danced on the paper (not literally, with the pastels!). I didn’t feel confined by any limits and used the pastels in different ways and made marks intuitively. As an actor I love character so doing the people was a joy.

Doris said the two parts of the drawing don’t integrate and I agree.

This is partly because I’d made a mental divide between collages and town. And feel much freer in the town… this psychological/emotional state affected my drawing. A bit like acting – how you feel and think – consciously and subconsciously – affects your voice and posture… and it must be the same for art.

Whereas when I did the charcoal I didn’t approach them as two separate areas but as one.

She points me in the direction of John Piper’s prints of buildings and landscapes, specifically the, “… marvelous lithography of the Dordogne”.

Besse, Dordogne 1968 by John Piper 1903-1992

John PiperBesse, Dordogne     1968

I love his work and prints – thank you Doris!!!

This is a screen print – I don’t know anything about printing but am saving up for a course as I like the images they produce… so I don’t know how it was produced. But it’s bold, organic, loose, characterful… yet has weight and shape and form. It’s imposing and strong and the drawing works as a whole in its natural environment.

It’s brilliant!!!!!

Research/Learning Blog:

Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis

Doris likes that this section is full of critical enquiry – assessment of artists with reasons – and that I engage with art works through comparison.

I find this almost as useful as the drawing… assessing my own and other people’s work honestly helps me to realise what I’ve learnt and apply it. I often don’t realise what I’ve done until I analyse it… it helps me to see mistakes and strengths, and things I might be able to use.

This then puts me in a different position to start the next work. So it’s like a continual evolutionary process.

She likes that I’m reading an art primer on early 20th Century art.

I love it and it’s giving me a sense of what art is – and it’s possibilities – in a wider society/world context. Art is almost a thing… a sea… full of corals and fish, sharks and turtles… pollution and drag nets.

Suddenly to become aware of this is wonderful – and is already radically changing the way I look at the world around me (and I now see ‘art’ in the strangest places… and all around me) and how I view art in a gallery.

It’s different to the acquiring of skills, like drawing what’s in front of you in a life class… but will, ultimately, inform my art and help me find a voice.

Suggested reading/viewing


The recommendation here was Ruskin’s Elements of Drawing Volume 15 which I downloaded as a PDF and skipped through the drawing section.

Very interesting… what I got from a brief look was the importance of the shape… that he recommends an outline even if none exists in ‘real’ life  (though I would think that depends on the context of your drawing)… how you can break a tree down just as you would a body…

Sketch the trunk, branches, leaves… and then put it all back together. Understand how a ‘tree’ works.

And that every tree and every leaf is an individual. You can’t just draw generic leaves to order, it will look dead. Which (in as far as you can’t study every single leaf on a tree or indeed that a drawing in not necessarily a copy like a photograph). That the ideal is to draw several leaves on and off branches and then be aware that each is living and individual as you draw – and this will inform your practice.

Pointers for the next assignment

To work in series and extend the course… and think of the final drawing as an extension of the preparatory work not separate from it – as I did with the last exercise!

In acting you do all your prep then when the director says action you turn off yourself and time stops. You are in the moment. It is not a performance or a test… you’re not aware of anything… it’s more akin to being somebody else outside the restrictions of your own personality.

It’s real.

But is based on all the work you’ve done to that point building the character, understanding where he is in his day/life… how he comes to that scene.

Never ever is it a judgement. It is living.

So too, with my final pieces I need to do enough work so that I live the drawing and am not thinking of it as a test to see if I can pass this module.

I think that’s a very important point.

Timed drawings were also suggested.

I think it depends on the purpose but I’m certainly going to mix in timed drawings to my practice as they focus the mind and capture different qualities.

She also suggests longer poses in context (and mentions Emil Bonnard – who is one of my favourite artists!!!!)… it helps gets the foreshortening right and also says something about the sitters personality. (Depending how posed it is!)…

Finally Doris says that longer poses would give me a good chance to use pastels – I think that’s what she means by continuity of learning – and suggests I buy pre-coloured Ingres paper A1 size.

I hadn’t thought of this but it might be a good idea for my final piece?

Cost of materials is an issue so I’d have to be well prepped as I bet A1 shaded pastel paper costs a bob or two!!!!

Great feedback and very useful.










Part 4: Project 3: Exercise 2: Essential elements

All these are A4 in my sketchbook – the paper is smoother than my drawing paper (with less bite, consequently the pencils look grayer). I’d, sort of, thought all paper was roughly the same… but charcoal and pencil work radically differently on this than my loose drawing paper. So the supporting medium is nearly as important as the drawing medium because it affects the tone, colour and characteristics of the drawing medium.

Driving on a motorway is totally different from driving on a country road – and drawing on different supporting mediums can be equally different!

The exercise asked for shape and tone without detail.

I went beyond this… focusing on shape and relating the different elements – then sketching in the darkest tones. But then I went on adding tones till they (almost) became detail. So, I did the exercise and then added to it.

It was a great learning experience and I definitely got much better at capturing the shape, and really enjoyed adding the tone to sculpt 3D.

Anyway, starting with the first, here are my six drawings:







Before I answer the questions I’d like to make two comments.

(1) My favourite is the grey fine art pen with hatching. There’s just something very appealing about the medium. I can’t quite workout why, but I love the effect it has.

It’s not the best sketch (in terms of accuracy) but it is the one that ‘affects’ me most.

(2) Technically, what I’m most pleased about with these is that they look sold, grounded, like he’s got weight and mass.

Were you able to maintain a focus on proportion at the same time as creating a sense of weight and three-dimensional form?

Yes… proportion is a funny thing. It changes depending on the position/pose of your subject.

So, you need to draw what you see, which is all about finding where the weight is and the lines of energy go. Where the negative shapes are and how the different parts of the body relate to each other in space.

It’s not about a shape… and then giving it weight. They come together – it’s difficult to explain but in my head there’s a weight to the limbs as I draw them… feel the flesh hanging. It’s almost tactile.

And, luckily, I think this translates in my sketches. At least where I’ve had time to develop both beyond a quick sketch.

Which drawing gives the best sense of pose and why?

The final byro drawing of the seated man.

Partly because the proportions and foreshortening are right. So there’s nothing to distract me from the pose. The grey Graphik pen drawing is a good pose but the far hand is too small and it looks like the model is wearing glasses!

In the byro drawing I can ‘feel’ him sitting there before I think of him as a structure, I go straight to his face, not his body. Just as I would do in real life.

If his posture was wrong I’d be searching the body to find the fault.

I trust my intuitive sense of the real… nothing odd strikes me about this – I accept it.

Therefore it’s a good posture.

Was there any movement of gesture away from the model’s central axis? If so did you manage to identify this and put it into your drawing?

Yes, in two of them.

In the first he’s raising his arms and taking his energy up, out of his body in anticipation; in the fourth there’s a lighting hard stab of energy down his arm and out of his finger, focused it pins the viewer.

I didn’t think of it while I was drawing.

So, I didn’t identify it as a gesture away from the central axis.

However, I feel I’ve put it in the drawing.

Weakly, in the first one. Partly because it’s a weak gesture and he’s merely holding his arms in a position… he’s not a dancer (or actor) taking the meaning up through the gesture to something else. There’s no intent or energy.

Which, in a sense, I’ve captured as the arms are just held. However – although it’s partly skill (I’m only just beginning) had I been aware of it as a gesture [instead of being totally fixed on drawing what I saw] I could have emotionally imagined the situation. Put myself into it (I’m an actor) then used that emotion to draw the pose.

The pointing finger is much stronger. I think because you immediately focus on the finger (the threat) and react to it. And strangely all the energy seems to be in the arm. The body, though accurate, seems neutral.

What this has taught me, when drawing people, in anything other than a mechanical sense. Is to emotionally get inside them and paint the feeling and energy rather than just the form.



Part 4: Project 3: Exercise 1: Basic shapes.

Again… there’s a problem in not having a handy model… or the money to pay a model (fully clothed) to sit for me. Let alone all the possible complications of having a stranger in my house or going to theirs.

My solution was to use a life drawing group to practice – even though the poses are shorter I can use: basic shapes, angle of the central axis and any twists or bends, planes of the body and whether they are receding or coming towards me, whether they are parallel to my picture plane and use a measure.

It’s harder with different poses but not that different form having the model in one position and moving round her.

Sadly, I will lose the sense of the model as a sculpture in space that I can walk around – but if it’s the same model her body doesn’t change, so that will help.

I’ll also draw a longer pose from art to practice using the techniques.

A4, pencil, sitting… in sketchbook.


Foreshortening: No foreshortening.

Line of movement: 30 degree tilt in torso – no twist – vertical support from the legs.

A2 paper,compressed charcoal on board on knee.


Foreshortening: No.

Line of movement: Vertical upper body taking weight. Horizontal thigh and 45 angle below knee. Feet were missed but would have carried line of movement out in elegant little curve.

A2 paper on board on knee – 4B pencil.


Foreshortening: Leg and arms.

Line of movement: The back makes a strong line there’s a circle with the arms and hands-the leg directs movement towards us – the held knee takes movement and weight back into the body – the hanging knee downwards is loose and lacks movement and energy.

This is quite a dance with interlocking lines of movement.

Never considered that before!

A2 paper,compressed charcoal on board on knee.


Foreshortening: Hands, arms,upper body… trailing foot.

Line of movement: It’s quite a solid pose – triangular and rooted – not that interesting. It’s sort of squat and solid and stationary.

A2 paper,compressed charcoal standing at easel.


Foreshortening: The bottom being neareris bigger.

Line of movement: Interesting… the curve of the back,arms and legs take the energy and movement intothe body. But the head is aware it has a different lineof movement which is very interesting.

A2 paper,compressed charcoal standing at easel.


Foreshortening: Slight foreshortening elbow to hand.

Line of movement: Strong line of movement with the head and back but the body is confused… the circle of the arms is broken… the nearest leg is not connected… the up-drawn knee and long arm… are (again) separated from the rest of the body.

And my longer drawing copying a Lucian Freud painting:

A2 paper, fine black artists pen, on table with Lucian Freud book propped up on table lamp. Two 45 minute sessions.


Foreshortening: Horizontal so body foreshortened knee pulled up so thigh full value.

Line of movement: What a fabulous pose!!!!!! It’s so dynamic it’s like music… where to start…

The torso and arms are symmetrical with movement going down the slightly bent arms and out of frame. The movement in the bent knees echoes each other and is like a jazzy clashing chord. There’s also a circular movement head – torso thigh – and through space to head which unifies the core of the body.

Finally the eyes have a line of movement slightly up and out to the viewer and forma triangle with the arms.

And there’ll all this is happening all at once!!!

Like a symphony.

So, what I’ve discovered is that lines of movement create energy which give the drawing structural dynamics, or energy… a bit like music behind a film score.

Part 4: Project 2: Research point: draw foreshortened body.

Compressed charcoal, A2 drawing paper, standing at easel…15 minute sketch.

As you can see this isn’t my body.

I don’t have a spare mirror so I took the opportunity at my life drawing group at Anglia University to draw the foreshortened model. She’s lying down so her whole body is a sort of foreshortened cylinder with a blob on the end.


This was fun to draw and I used the relationship of the different parts of the body to help.

The legs are about the size of the bottom! … And the torso is foreshortened so it’s shorter than the shoulder to elbow.

It seems tone that foreshortening does two basic things:

  1. It makes things look shorter when angled towards the viewer. Just imagine drawing a shut door horizontally across your paper, then draw the same door when it’s fully open and the edge is facing you.
  2. Anything nearer the viewer (by the laws of perspective) is bigger than it would be if it was further away. So a plant pot at the end of a two metre stick (roughly the length of a body) is suddenly much bigger if you reverse the stick and put the plant pot in front of your eyes!

So… most of the time we see bodies vertically with everything ‘in proportion’, but if a limb is pointed towards us (like lifting an arm and pointing a finger at our face) the limb would appear shorter and the hand bigger.

However, we often see bodies from unusual angles… like when we’re lying on the beach or someone passes us an ice cream. And we take foreshortening for granted. It’s only when we come to draw someone with foreshortening and impose our knowledge of proportion (instead of drawing what we see) that there’s a problem.

The point then is why would we choose a foreshortened image?

A dead body lying on the ground could be from the head/feet at ground level… or vertically above (which wouldn’t be very natural) the body.  So foreshortening is an artistic choice.



Foreshortened figure of Jesus Christ, The Mourning over the Dead Christ, tempera on wood panel by Andrea Mantegna, about 1475; in the Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, Italy.

Here the feet are bigger (because nearest to us) and the body shorter (pointed towardsus).

In this painting it has the effect of highlighting the wounds in Christ’s feet. It forces us to focus on the manner of his death.


An Ironman poster.

Here we get foreshortening of the fist and arm.

Which emphasises the power and punch of Ironman.


Saint Eulalia exhibited 1885 by John William Waterhouse 1849-1917

John William Waterhouse
Saint Eulalia exhibited 1885

The opposite to the dead Christ… here the head is closest.

It makes us focus on the crucified woman

To conclude, we take foreshortening in everyday life for granted (we don’t ‘see’ it) but because we so often draw what we know rather than what we see we tend to impose proportion on foreshortened figures and then they don’t look right.

Foreshortening is a tool to help us see!


Part 4: Project 2: Exercise 2 – A longer study

2 hour pose from Croquis Cafe – I froze the screen on my TV.

A2 sketching paper with 4B pencil. Standing up at an easel with the wide-screen TV like a model in the centre of the room. 4 @ 30 minute sessions.


As this was a longer pose and the longest pose in the life drawing class is 30 minutes so I used a model from Croquis Cafe on You Tube (No. 261 – 2 minute pose). I chose a sitting model as that was recommended in the notes.

This was really difficult – I won’t do it from the TV again as the model was too small to see properly without my distance glasses (and I need my reading glasses for drawing) so I had to keep walking over to the TV. Then walk back and try and remember what I had seen… which is very slippery.

Remembering shapes and tones is a lot harder than remembering words.

So, even though I went over my time I probably only had 1 hour drawing time.


How well have you captured the characteristics of the pose?

I think I’ve captured the characteristics of the body in the chair very well.  (I say ‘body’ because the head is wrong – she was looking down and more towards her knee)

You can see my original lines for the knee and buttock.

This might sound silly but it’s actually difficult to know what you’re seeing because your brain changes it so much.

My process was to draw the shape… stand and look at it – I’d know straight away if it was wrong. Then use a combination of relating the different parts of the body to each other and trying to draw a 3D structure in my head. She has foreshortening on her far leg which is easy as long as the top bit looks like a knee…here the shape at the end is critical.

But the nearer leg is much trickier – it’s at a 45 degree angle. Side on there’s no foreshortening as the calf stays the same length as it bends… straight on it’s like a door opening towards you. But at 45 degrees in space it’s somewhere in the middle!

I had a day and night bending my arm and looking in the mirror to try to work this out!!!!

I think  I’ve also caught the twist of the torso.

All in I’m pleased with the characteristics of the pose but disappointed with the head.

Does the body have sufficient weight and presence?

Yes, even though the chair is only sketched in it looks like she is sitting in something and ‘connected’ to it.

I’ve been trying to workout why this is and think it’s the position of the body and weight of the flesh. If you think of the skeleton as a sub-structure and the flesh as hanging from it, where the ‘structure’ is supported will determine how the flesh hangs. And where it touches the chair it will spread.

So, I think it’s a combination of position, reaction of flesh, and shadows. But I don’t think shadows on their own would do it.

The idea that weight and presence is determined by posture and the reaction of the ‘body’ to it’s support (as well as by shadows) is a new one for me.

Do the proportions look right? If not how will you try to improve this?

The proportions look right apart from the hands which are tiny.

In simple terms… in future I’d re-draw them.

I think it happened because they were so difficult I focussed in on them before the rest of the body was drawn correctly. I then spent ages piecing them together. So as hands they roughly work, which I’m really pleased about.

But they should be twice the size!

It’s just that I’d already spent two hours on this and need  to forward if I’m going to finish  the course in my 24 months!!!!!!!!





Birmingham Museum/art gallery

There’s a little bit of a walk into this before the serious art stuff but this visit was quite a significant experience!

So, I was lucky enough to find myself in Birmingham shooting an episode of Doctors… by 10am on the final day we’d finished up my last scene and I was back at the station. Should I get on the train and head for home – no, this was too good an opportunity to miss.

And there’s a handy left luggage office.

I’d determined to visit the art gallery in every town I filmed/auditioned in. I live 12 miles out of Cambridge so a trip to an art gallery is quite a big investment of time and money. In the past I’d have just come home but now I’m studying art I want to use every opportunity I can to see art in the flesh. To stand face to face with the ‘unique surface’ as John Berger might say.

It was exciting!!!


Birmingham’s city centre is lovely, it’s got lots of cool public art, buildings and very friendly people – I even saw the Birmingham School of Art.

Just 40 years too late!


And statues old and new…

Then into the museum.


There was one big change from visiting art galleries before… in the past an art gallery has been a pleasant bonus (I was quite happy to look and read about art in books) but this time it was different.

The real paintings were so rich and impactful, the colours very different from the photographs, the ‘physical’ impact of the painting was unique, details leapt out from the canvases that I’d totally missed in the books, the brushstrokes and finish made it like you could be standing with the artist.

They had a physical presence that was totally missing in art books.

It was the difference between reading a magazine article about a famous person and sitting down for a coffee with them. If you can make eye contact over a table and have a chat you’re going to get something of their humanity that you can never get from a photograph and an article. Those things can help you understand but the painting themselves affect you emotionally.

I hadn’t realised this as I haven’t been to a gallery for ages but since I started this course paintings, for me, have radically changed.

Another thing…

As I went round four paintings really leapt out – like meeting somebody you have an instant connection with. It’s a bit (probably ten years?) too early to start thinking about a voice. But I thought I’d start making a note of paintings I liked as that might give me a clue as to what I might eventually like to do.

John Melville’s ‘Aston Villa’…


This is much better in real life… to me it has a slightly Van Gough/Gauguin/expressionist feel. I love the way the colours work and how it captures the feeling of being there without having to show us lots of detail.

We’re ‘seeing’ the experience not looking at a frozen visual image.

The others pictures I particularly liked were woodcuts/prints:

One called ‘Inner Ring Road Birmingham’ by Gabriella Oliver (which I can’t find an image of.)

‘Canal Bridge’ by Tessa Beaver:


It doesn’t work 100% for me but I like the visual impact of the patterns and blocky shapes.

The white is too much and makes the supporting surface stand out… tells me it’s a print when I want to lose myself in the moment.

And a Picasso linocut:


Toros. Vallauris 1958 | Picasso, Pablo | V&A Search the Collections

I love the fact it’s two colours, that it uses words, how it pulls you in… and the patterns are delightful. I’m not a huge fan of the cubist element but it works, for me, despite that. Again it has visual punch and instantly works as a whole.

To the rest of the exhibition…

I made notes as I went along:


Which I’m now struggling to read!

Note to self, I need to slow down and maybe have a notebook? And ask if I can take photographs without a flash.

I’m almost tempted when I have a day to take a sketchbook and copy some famous paintings/details.

So, very briefly… I didn’t like the tempera 19th Century art/art and craft paintings. The colour and life seemed to have been sucked out of them. And they were not as technically proficient as the earlier paintings, yet in a similar style. And they did not have anything like expressionism/psychological realism or other elements to make up for the losses.

There was a Pre-Raphaelite exhibition which was great as I’ve never liked these in books. And could never see the point. However, face to face, they were much more appealing and had something beyond the finely crafted photographic surface.


The two things on this that particularly struck me were the colours – the orange, purple of the dresses, contrasting with the lemon green of the grass and the sky picking up the purple of the girls dress made it work like a Matisse (in colourist terms). And the clothes sprang to life… the poverty… and at a glance I thought she’d books on her lap, but it’s a squeeze box.

On the other hand the details and static stillness distanced me. There was no air, movement, breeze or scents… no distant birdsong.

It was almost like there was a passionate man locked in an ideological cage struggling to escape the confines of the overworked (my judgement – sorry!) surface.

In a similar vein the eyes worked here…


They capture something of Rosetti’s soul. It’s not dry, religious… ascetic… flat and dead. But has a passion and a fire which belies the controlled picture surface and outer ideology of the group.

I liked the simplicity of the introductions in each room giving an accessible entry to the paintings.

The 18th and 19th century art (room 23) seemed strangely dead. Nobody was alive and the group portraits were disconnected. Like somebody had cut and pasted the people onto a backdrop – and they had no relationship with each other.

Arthur Hughes (1832-1915) – A Christmas Carol At Bracken Dene


What struck me about this was the little girl with the misletoe. She could be straight off a 1930’s poster – or rather the other way round! The 1930’s poster people used these kind of dead over emotional images. Disney emotion – feeling without content – emotional manipulation.

There was a room considering portraits which got me thinking. It said how portraits were the preserve of the landed gentry… then the upcoming middle classes… and now everybody can do a selfie. They had examples of ‘social’ portraits showing local ‘ordinary’ people around Birmingham in the 19th century.

Too big a subject to go into here but ticking away in my brain as I complete Part 4.

A final picture was:


What struck me about this was that the models sat in the open, in the freezing cold, to get the sense of light in an open boat. And how, generally, the artists painted from models… copying meticulously. And how this must affect their art… make it static and detailed… photographic like.

And how this differs from a portraitist who might have five 2 and a half hour sittings for a painting. I forget who that was – he painted straight onto the canvas.

But in a portrait you’re capturing the presence of a person – as well as in the past his wealth and possessions, so the person in front of you is part of the painting. But in the Ford Maddox painting you have a dramatic scene. Spray would have been flying, it would have smelled salty, the travellers would be full of fear… the boat would be rocking and tossing. And yet you’re painting a friend or wife for hours sitting in a field dressed up in costume.

However good the painter the process is going to affect the outcome.

Would a press photograph capturing the same scene – then reinterpreted through the soul of the painter work better. Not an option he had… but modern cameras can capture (freeze) a moment… it’s not how we ‘see’ but could be useful?

The Ford Maddox Brown has lovely details such as the child’s hand beneath the cloak. But it’s detached… and doesn’t capture anything of the imagined moment. It is more like mannequins in a museum (I was reminded of Yorvik where life like mannequins are dressed up and put in a ‘real life’ viking village) than starving, freezing cold people being tossed about in a small boat – latter day Syrian refugees escaping poverty instead of war – facing an uncertain future and leaving behind everything they know.

But another painter might take you there… like John Melville took me to the football match!

All in all a brilliant 3-4 hours… and a great deal for £4.95 in a little cafe (though she didn’t have any change and I ended up with 16 £1 coins!) for a sandwich, water and crisps!


Research for Assingment 4: Pointers from my tutor on life drawing

Doris gave me a few pointers… I’ll list the ones I’ve used here and update it as I go along.

(1) Tate Gallery masterclass recordings on life drawing

16/08/17 These were a series of four or five short 3-4 minute videos of famous artist from different disciplines taking a life drawing class with art students.

Interesting for an overview – there was no instruction as such but seeing the different approaches was fascinating and much more helpful than I thought as it gives you a wider perspective.


Measuring: Have a look at Vetruvian Man

20/08/17 – I followed the link and printed this out – transferring the article to pages so all the images displayed properly. I’ll read it and leave a brief comment later.

So, I downloaded this and had a look…it’s great if you’re drawing somebody from the front, standing up, facing you. Which is good to know, but most of the time that’s not what I’m drawing!

And, as I’m discovering from my life drawing class… it’s an ideal (again , good to know) but most people don’t match this. Either in basic shape or because of weight/muscle/fat.

It’s only really useful if I were drawing an idealised person from the front.

(3) Euan Uglow blog.

Very interesting… a funny combination… he uses plumb lines in his studio hanging from the ceiling and marks his drawing to get the shape right. And leaves the marks in his painting.

He then paints an idea [not the ideal (or the real)] of the model in front of him … filling his canvas with controlled emotion.

As a strategy to help me, rather than a voice or a style, sketching the room and adding markers to the body is a good idea. It links the model to the surroundings from the start and gets basic shape right, I can then use the internal shapes/negative shapes within the body to get that shape right.

Although it begs the question as to just how much I want a body as I see it/embodying expression… or the ‘real’ shape in space.

Most of the time I want to get the shape ‘right’ (otherwise it’s a distraction to the viewer – unless obviously distorted) and then do something with it in HOW I render the actual drawing/tone/colour.

(4) Watch Youtube: Using Measurements in Figure Drawing   (4 minutes, 24 seconds)

I’ve just watched this and wouldn’t say it’s entirely useful… the concept of maybe taking a central line through the eyes… measuring and boxing off seems very distant from drawing a person, more a mechanical exercise.

So… I would adapt this by using the principle but letting the drawing grow organically as I relate and measure different parts – and drawing by eye wherever possible… and constantly looking at the original.

When you get enough pointers in then you can really draw without the box. And the more I do it the less pointers I need.

Plus I want to stay connected with what I’m drawing as much as possible all the time.

I’m not copying a shape… I’m capturing a person. And my reaction to them.


Doris suggested some exercises.

Memory drawing: 

Good fun and I’ve done it in the past.

I try to incorporate this into my sketching by being aware of it and trying to visually remember more each time I sketch.

Blind drawing:

This must have a good theoretical basis but is something I’ve done, and though it creates some interesting drawings and makes you aware of how ‘finished’ some of your drawing is.

It’s not something I’d want to do load of.

Cover a whole sheet of paper with charcoal and pull out the highlights of the human form with an eraser: 

I’ve done this before and it’s great fun… but you need A1 or A2 sheets of shiny paper so the charcoal slips around and lifts easily. I’ll try to apply the principle to my drawing – and it is sometimes frustrating when the paper has so much bite the rubber hardly lifts and charcoal off.

Draw with a brush:

Did a little of this capturing ‘energy’ with watered down acrylic.

But I didn’t do the corrections which would have been a big help.

I loved the freedom of it… but wet mediums seem to have different qualities to dry and I’d need to master these first before I got the full benefit of this.

Build up mid-tone and flesh tones with limited palette:

This sounds great but more painterly?

Colour mixing is more easily done with paints…

But this is something I’d love to try at some stage!!!!

There’s lots more including blogs and video links (I like the colour theory in the Gaugin pastels) but I need to crack on just to get through the course so will save these up for later.