From Sketchbook



I sketched this plant right at the beginning of this course, so wanted to see how things have changed since then. I don’t think any of these has really succeeded but I could sense that my approach was different – my drawing was more confident and I was looking at what I had to say about the plant, rather than trying to replicate it on the page.

I’ve just taken first steps with watercolour – what a slippery medium! – though my second attempt (top right) is way better than the first – I took my time to test colours and tried to benefit from the transparent qualities of the paint where light fell on the leaves.


I’ve take two life classes and the biggest difficulty has been getting heads to sit on necks – so I’ve been practising: sketching people from my window, using the oca drawing figures supplement, trying out the real-time life class Croquis Cafe online, and finally my boys revising. Just trying to get proportions right. The head seems to be the hardest bit to add on! Either too big, too small or not really attached to a neck. Sometimes I get the head right but make the face too small…



Pigeons – inspired by George Shaw’s Payne’s Grey series. I don’t have Payne’s Grey in my tiny Cotman box but Shaw describes it as a mix of ultramarine and sienna, first put together by artist William Payne. The Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna of the box gave me perfect pigeon grey. After watching another based guide to watercolours online, I experimented with paint on dry paper and paint on wet paper.


Figure drawing resource #145, Croquis Cafe

More of my home-made Payne’s Grey and though this poor woman looks as though her skin has actually been painted with grey emulsion paint I’m really happy with the face and the foot so I’ll try to keep them as a reminder that I just need to go in more delicately. I tend to rush – always trying to cram something in to a 10 minute slot of time.

Bather Stepping into a Tub, Edward Degas, c. 1890


I’m not crazy about all those pastel ballerinas but I like this a great deal. Particularly the yellow and the blue and those shapes made by leg, arm and breast. They’re so deliberate, so important. Without them the whole piece would be flat. The shadow in front of the knee, the reflected light on the inside of the tub. By contrast her upper back is almost disappearing into the yellow wall. And the colours on the body: green, yellow, pink,   blue, grey, the lower leg in the bath a dark pinky red.


Sketch copy in situ

Naked Man, Back View, Lucien Freud 1991-1992


Often a painting known online and then seen in the flesh can take my breath away – but this had been hung in such a way that all I could see was reflection. Maddening! It is huge, and the presence of all that flesh is disconcerting. His back is almost too much for me, I find my eyes flitting between head and leg rather than get lost in that expanse of flesh. Looking at it again online, the overall shape is surprisingly compact, the naked rectangle of body with shortened limbs – just like the naked footstool he is sitting on.

I wonder if it is more the pose that makes it disconcerting. Here’s a man – a flamboyant exhibitionist – who seems to be wanting to make himself smaller, to hide away. I can almost imagine him wrapping his arms around his legs, resting his head on his knees to block out the world a while. The size of the painting (182.9 × 137.2 cm) creates such a contradiction –  the already huge physical bulk of the man made larger still and yet he shrinks away.

I’d like to know how much Freud directs his poses because this feels very much like “leave me alone”.


Sketch copy in situ

This man was a performer, he danced, and despite his bulky torso his legs look strong, fit for purpose – and yet those feet, while strong, show the pressure they are under – flattening out under the heel.

I haven’t done a great job here, the calf too big,  knee too small, but I get such pleasure from copying these strong and confident lines.

If the kids ever leave home and I stop working I will do this all day!


Life Class

My second life class – slightly less intimidated but still having to quieten my nerves before that first mark on the scary expanse of white. Two minutes for the first poses, five for the next three.


We finished by drawing our poses over a series of pre-painted splodges of paint. The idea is to use a white crayon for highlights, over the purple paint. I didn’t find the white really shone out enough to look like a highlight, but the challenge of incorporating the splurges while still trying to fit all the complete poses on one sheet was interesting enough.


The teacher taking the art class pointed out that I use quite a consistently heavy line – my aim for the next class is to try to vary that line. And as I write I realise this is a familiar comment from my oca feedback….

I’ve enjoyed my first two life classes enormously. Infuriating and exhilarating in equal measure.

Things to work on next time around:

  • I almost always start out too big and very often can’t get the entire pose on the sheet. I’ll try to map out the scale of the figure first.
  • I find the hardest part is getting the head in scale, on a neck, and in position. I will make time to practice heads on necks in advance.
  • Though I enjoy drawing hands and feet, when they are attached to limbs I seem to fudge them, and definitely make them far too small.
  • Vary the line


From Sketchbook



Wooden carving of angel

Having another go with watercolours – I started out making the same mistake as first time around – trying to get the paint to do everything for me, and it ended up a total mess. I’m getting more used to how the paint works, but I don’t seem to be able to do anything except use it with a black line drawing – anything else quickly becomes unidentifiable!



Plastic toy flamingo

Got myself a tiny box of Cotman watercolours and really enjoyed using them on this plastic flamingo, found at a car boot sale. I’ve been daunted by the thought of using any kind of paint, let alone mixing colours, but these are the colours straight from the box – surprisingly simple and enjoyable! Colours: Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red, Sap Green.


Not very exciting but I spent ages drawing the soles of these boots to get the perspective right so I put the best sketch on here.


From Sketchbook


A favourite view. These bare branches with their berries that look like musical notes. Almost perfect spheres they each hang off an individual stem and the whole thing is like manuscript against the sky. It’s the view from the kettle and I am forever ducking my head to frame the view in the window just as I want it. A very quick sketch in minutes that weren’t really going spare, but one that has been on my mind.

From Sketchbook


I had just done Project 3.1 on perspective and wanted to have a go at the rooves outside. This is a first stab, and I will have another go, but try to take a different approach. It was very early morning, the light was low and to the left of this viewpoint, so the buildings all had the same flat tone and there was just a sliver of brightness on the very left edge of some buildings.