Yesterday was the second of my Drawing and Painting classes. I learned my lesson from last week and took a change of clothing with me, as I'd be going from coolish and monsoony conditions outside, to overheated (due to the previous Life class) indoors, so a t-shirt and sandals came with me. I needed them too.
But onto what we learned. Today was a series of quick exercises based around a still life. The tutor put together a group of objects - there was a large cylindrical earthernware jar/vase, much in the shape of a wastebasket, in front of it (as I was facing it) were two tall thin stone bottles with a third, Victorian, stone bottle to the left. On the right was a squat, round black glass vase and in front of it a polystyrene sphere.
The tutor (Kim O'Neil - a professional artist trained at Central St Martins) started by showing us how to use a photographic frame/mat to look through at the still life and decide which bits of it we wanted to draw. I decided to just focus on the three bottles and the large vase. Kim said we were going to do a series of quick exercises and we'd use about half a dozen pieces of paper. A word of warning - I'm about to show the world the pictures that I created even though they're rubbish really but I figured it might be interesting to keep a record of any progress that I might actually be making! The exercises she made us do were actually really interesting and not something I would have done if I hadn't been told to, so - here we go!
The idea of these quick drawings is not to produce anything particularly proficient but to start to look properly at a group of objects, with more of an artist's eye for composition, proportion, relationships between objects, that sort of thing.
To begin with, Kim asked us all to just do a quick 10 minute drawing of the still life without any input from her. This was mine (the paper is A4 size):
The first exercise she made us do was to position our easels so that we couldn't look at it, and to draw the same still life but without looking at the paper. Yes. Without looking at it. The idea being that, actually, we'd all be surprised at how much improved our proportions would be and how much more accurate it would be. An interesting idea but anyone with half a brain cell could see there's no way on God's good earth that a drawing could be improved by not looking at the paper. And, indeed, so it came to pass. These were my three attempts which got progressively worse!:
The next exercise was the opposite. Kim made us look for a minute or two at the still life to try and memorise it because we would now be drawing it without actually looking at it - drawing it from memory. This was mine - not too bad although the bottle on the left needs to be further back:
The next exercise was similar - the pencil had to stay on the paper without being lifted off at all - but this time it had to be kept moving, even when we were looking at the objects and not the paper. Remember we were having to do these as quickly as possible as well. I quite enjoyed doing this exercise and thought the results weren't too awful:
The penultimate exercise was, in many ways, the most interesting and most challenging. We had to hold the pencil in the other hand. I'm massively right-handed, to the extent that even my right shoulder is bigger than my left. Kim said that it often happens that when she gets her classes to do this for the first time, there's usually one or two people who find that, because they're now activating the other side of their brain, something happens and the scale and proportions in their drawings are more accurate. She said that one of her previous students found this happened so profoundly that she now blocks out her drawings with her left hand to get proper proportions, then switches to her normal right hand to add tones, shading and detail.
I found this quite uncomfortable because, as I said, I am so right handed and I have such little fine control with my left hand but it was interesting. This was my effort - I think there was a difference, albeit slight:
Finally, Kim got us to do a last, extremely quick 5-minute drawing, using any of the techniques, to see how it compares with the very first one we did:
It's much better, I think, although not brilliant. Not only is it bigger on the paper but I felt more confident using the pencils and graphite stick, and in just using the space.
Next week we've been instructed to bring in a picture of a face. It can be from a magazine. This is so we can start to look at portraits and facial proportions. Apparently, at some point, we're going to end up doing a self-portrait. I may or may not show you that one!
City Views, Country Dreams
3 hours ago