Life drawing 05/10/14

*blows away dust*

Blast! I never intended to let so many weeks pass by in bloggy silence, but these have been… interesting times of late, pulling me away from arty stuff and gradually sending my creative confidence into a nosedive. Still, I've been there before, and it can always be turned around by filling that empty page, screen or canvas.

That last post (from July? Gah!) covered my life drawing session for that month. I did subsequently go in August, but the results were no great shakes (the least-bad pieces are up on Flickr, if you're interested). September barged past, life drawing missed amongst all the noise, and it's only now we're into October that I've been able to a) get back to life drawing and b) produce something I feel is worth sharing. Progress! 

image from www.paddysbooks.comI've mentioned Henry Yan's Figure Drawing before on this blog, and really should write a proper review of the book sometime (in the meantime, feel free to buy it from Paddysbooks, it's worth every penny). It's a book devoted to drawing the figure (fancy that!) in charcoal, showing how the talented Mr Yan captures so much with deceptively little. I've struggled with putting his lessons into practice thus far, but this session marked a perceptible step forward in trying to find my inner Yan.

Key to making this happen was a stick of Derwent XL Charcoal. I was given this as part of a birthday present from my splendid in-laws earlier this year, but haven't been able to work out what to actually do with it. Inspired by Yan's book, I decided to give it a shot, mainly to try and block in the figure quickly, working on newsprint paper left over from the last time we moved house. It turned out to be a perfect match for 2 minute poses.


2 mins, charcoal
2 mins, charcoal

2 mins, charcoal

2 mins, charcoal

It didn't work quite so well as the poses moved to 5 minutes – predictably, my drawings ended up overkilling the tone.


5 mins, charcoal

Blah. When the poses moved on to 10 and 15 minutes, I switched medium completely to oil paints. I used just three or four tubes of paint (in retrospect, still one too many) and worked quite small. Although I don't think either of the pieces is particularly great in its own right, they both feel like steps in the right direction and I'd like to push that a bit further next time – here's the better of the two:


15 mins, oil paint

Coming to the longer pose, I ended up with two pieces – first, a small oil painting (A5 size) painted over 20 minutes, then a longer (40 minutes) vine charcoal piece, trying to learn lessons from those quick pose drawings from the start of the session. The smaller piece is easily the best of the two – while there's aspects of the long charcoal drawing I like (the tone on the leg is spot on) as a complete drawing it doesn't really work – proportions look a bit off, for one thing. The tone's too heavy, inconsistent, and the hands are pretty much ignored with a squiggle. Good mistakes to learn from, as long as I do learn.


20 mins, oil paint
image from

40 mins, charcoal

The soundtrack? I started off with the brutal second half of The Bug's Angels and Devils – the three tracks featuring Flowdan absolutely lit a fire under me and helped contribute to the (relative) success of those early quick drawings. GET ON THIS!


With the longer poses, I went with tracks from Aphex Twin's recent Syro (quickly becoming my favourite of his albums, being pretty much unskippable). Cracking stuff, with nice long tracks to get lost into.