It's that wonderful time of the month again, or at least it was last Sunday when I shimmied magnificently over to Wasps in Leith for three hours of figure drawing. In recent sessions I'd settled into a bit of a charcoal-for-fast oils-for-slow rut – leading to some nice results, sure, but I've learned it's best to keep your art on its toes. This month, for the fast poses, I eschewed the XL charcoal in favour of oil pastels. I've had them sitting around in my toolbox for well over a decade without being touched, damn near forgetting what the use of them is. What better way to remind myself than by bashing out A3-size sketches in under 120 seconds?
They worked nicely for the short poses, giving strong dark marks with more control than charcoal and laying down nice consistent tones. I tried using a rag dipped with turps-substitute to smudge the marks at points, with varying levels of success/coherence, and there was a definite sense of me scrabbling around to work out what did and didn't work best with this medium. I don't think I found the answer yesterday, but I'd like to keep trying at the next session – I think oil pastels have the potential for some good vivid, energetic drawings without the mess of charcoal or brush-filling-faff of inks. Whether I should keep trying with the smudging or just leave the marks well alone, I don't yet know.
With 5 minute poses I carried on with the oil pastels, switching to red. Went nicely with the thoroughly aggressive music barraging my ears at that point (see below).
For the 10 minute poses I shifted over to white Conte soft pastels and focused on the model's head. I'm trying to get better at capturing people's faces with as few marks as possible, so this was a good chance to try and catch some character in the drawings.
Long pose – well, 45 mins, hardly the 4 hour poses of yore (I'd need to return to Leith School of Art for them) – and after some umming & ahhing on the numerous materials I'd brought along I settled on a pot of Quink ink. And why not? Quink's got a nice semi-opaqueness to it, and in wash it's got a distinctively blue tinge which I quite like – not as absolute as Indian ink, even if it's just as permanent once on the paper. I worked large, A1, to avoid the mistakes of March's last piece, and I think it paid off. Not a personal best by any means, but it takes a few chances even if they don't all pay off.
Soundtrack? The fast poses were fuelled by the latest (and reportedly last, but who knows with those guys) release from Death Grips, Jenny Death. I've still got issues with some of their lyrics, but when they're on form – as they are with this album – then they're nigh-on unstoppable. The opening track is a particular highlight, I Break Mirrors With My Face In The United States, which sounds just as you'd hope.
Mid-way, it was over to Lonelady's superb new album, Hinterland. Quickly becoming one of my favourites this year, and this track damn near triggers a terminal case of dad-dancing every time I hear it.
For the long pose, it was over to 8:58, Paul Hartnoll's solo project. Inexplicably, I don't seem to have heard about this anywhere online except Emusic, yet features the Unthanks, Ed Harcourt, Robert Smith and Lisa Knapp, not to mention Cillian Murphy (yes, that Cillian Murphy, he of the blue eyes) giving it some spoken word over thonkingly wonky techno, the lyrics guaranteed to throw petrol on that urge in the heart of every commuter to go somewhere other than work. The video's suitably barmy in a Mr Benn style and features Mr Murphy gamely throwing shapes in the final minute. Punctuality.