Life drawing! Ah, what a treat! Alas, there'll be none in April, so hopefully I can fit another in this month – they're the highlight of the month, a few hours when I'm doing what I do best, even if I could be better still. Again, it was a really enjoyable session, with my output ranging from that's-going-straight-in-the-bin to HAPPYHAPPYJOYJOY, with some so-so in the middle.
We started off with 2 minute poses, which I again approached with black ink and brush after it went so well last month. I quickly thought "balls, this isn't working", that such sudden brush strokes were better for depicting a taut male figure than a voluptuous female body. This was, of course, nonsense – but it took a few goes before I acclimatised (if that's the right word) to this different body and how best to capture it in so little time. Funny thing at the start of life drawing, it's almost like you need a few minutes just to really 'see' the body, to adjust to it, to know it well enough to do it justice on the paper or canvas in front of you.
So it was – after persisting through a few clunkers going right in the bin, the next few turned out fine – and this one left me bloody delighted. It's the first time I've done a life drawing/painting that's come close to reflecting the principles extolled in Henry Yan's staggeringly good Figure Drawing book (along with Mike Mattesi's Force figure drawing book). By adding swathes of black around the body as well as just within it, there's a much greater sense of unity and drama, although there's probably a bit too much ink on the left side of the figure. Still, even though it was only painted in 2 minutes, I can't overstate what a boost it is for me to actually produce an image like this, a real progression from where I was. Not that there's any guarantee I could maintain this level, or that every piece at my next session won't be appalling, but it bodes well.
With some longer poses I gave the watercolours a shot for the first time in years (god knows how many, but the bag I was keeping them in is biodegrading into shreds). The results weren't great, mainly because I approached them like oils or acrylics, when obviously they're very different beasts. By putting down thick, dark paint far too soon, the results quickly became a dark mess. It'll take more work, and sense on my part, to get back to work like this that actually makes the most of the properties of watercolour paint.
For the last 50 minute pose, I changed tack again, opting for black chinagraph on textured cartridge paper. Nothing revolutionary but satisfying all the same, making the most of the limited range of tones that chinagraphs provide without overdoing it (as I've done so many times before). Turned out nicely, I thought, proof that I could still produce a damn good full-length figure drawing if I put my mind to it. Funny how I'm increasingly drawn to paintings for the shorter poses and drawings for the longer ones, when I'd always assumed it would be the other way round.
The three of the best are now up for sale at the shop. Go! See! Buy!
Soundtrack for the session – BBC 6Music to start with, then And So I Watch You From Afar's blistering Gangs and Byetone's unsettling electronica SyMeta. Both worked nicely, Gangs pushing things forward with thundering drums and cheers, only to be followed with the unsettling precision and super-tight beats, if a bit too chilly.