Battling the Sketch-Sloth

Bank holiday weekend and hardly a sketch done.

Last weekend I was in Berlin and it started quite well, nearly every minute was filled with sketching. Perhaps I overdid it … and now I’m in a sketching hang-over? More likely I was too impressed by some of my first sketches and managed to intimidate myself into not continuing.

I’ve broken my gesture practicing streak again(!) but although I have continuously asked myself whether I’m doing this practicing the right way, I am certainly convinced it fires me up and helps me start my day on the right foot. So, six ay-em, early morning gesture drawings are back on the menu.

Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, I really need to start using my sketchbook for what it was actually made for:

  • trying out ideas
  • writing notes
  • practicing the following:
    • lines (line weight, length, line gesture, texture)
    • colour rhythm
    • composition
    • perspective
    • anatomy, people drawing
  • playing around
  • sketching

If a nice drawing turns up now and again, that’s fine with me.

Anyway, to end this blog, here is a small collection of last weeks drawings from Berlin, life drawing in Bonn and Bonn itself (I actually spent a few hours in town drawing yesterday … so much for being a sloth).


The Art of Practice

I had an interesting conversation a short time ago while I was in Barcelona on an Urban Sketching workshop. I’d asked my host if anything had surprised her about me, because we had only met and chatted for 5 minutes in December the previous year.

She said, yes, there had been one thing: I’d mentioned to her during our online chats that I get up at 6am and practice gesture drawing for 30 minutes, make breakfast, and then continue the practice for a further 20 minutes. But what surprised her was that I really do what I say.

I guess we’ve all been there at one time or another, telling ourselves we practice or sketch regularly, but are we being honest to ourselves, are we really keeping to our planned routine? I noticed, half a year ago that I was giving myself a lot of slack, not keeping to my envisioned schedules, so I changed my routine and my setup at home to make it as easy and comfortable as possible to just get up and practice, and it seems to be working (even worked for a week in Barcelona).

However, the invested time and regularity of practice is just part of my way to achieving my goals.

Mindfulness is a further important part. I have to be completely present in that very moment. I have to understand or try my hardest to understand what I am doing then and there.

Gesture drawing is about a few lines and shapes that must tell a clean story. What story is the pose telling me? Which lines and shapes can be used? Where is the rhythm? How can the rhythm be tamed, accentuated, put to work for telling the story?

I have the first volume of Walt Stanfield’s Drawn To Life, which is a collection of evening session life drawing handouts and quite hard to read actually. Anyhow, I’ve been chewing myself through it and what I’ve taken out of it is a nagging, self-criticizing voice which keeps asking me what Walt would do with this pose and whether my result would please him or not. I have decided to tell myself, my gesture drawings would not please Walt, but if I put some more effort into them, they may do one day.

I believe this to be a good approach, giving in to the idea that I can’t please the teacher, but I can work harder at improving.

That has helped me understand one of the psychologies behind me posting on Facebook, Instagram and Sktchy: I’m fishing for compliments because it helps me become complacent and feel comfortable at my current skill set. Ok, I don’t want to be too hard on myself, but I think I’m going to have to consider posting on FB and IG (and perhaps even Sktchy) only when I believe I have met a milestone in my progress and even ask explicitly for feedback.

This is also coming from an experience I made on Sktchy a week or two back. I asked for critique and got some. I took it to heart and I believe it moved me on another few inches on this never ending path to mastery.

For more information on the path to mastery, take a look at George Leonard’s book “Mastery, The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment”. I believe it is legally available online in digital form.

Coping with Copics

Just returned from Life Drawing.

Tonight, I took along the few Copics I have. I am sometimes ready to accept the challenge of a new medium. I have two pink, one black and a grey Copic. These are alcohol based Japanese Manga pens with a dual chisel and brush tip. They are probably best on a nice smooth surface — of which I have none. There weren’t many poses tonight, we got a lengthy lecture on portrait drawing and it was freezing cold, so the poses were pretty short (10 minutes) and the breaks long. I was surprised to see how the Copics mix and smudge and my fellow Life Drawing students were quite intrigued about the effect and the pens as such. I think I’m going to give them another try when I go out drawing tomorrow night.


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Been doing a lot of inking lately …

Before I start, first things first … a warm welcome to you, my treasured follower!

I started this blog 2 years ago and uploaded every single picture, sketch, watercolour and gesture drawing I made. There weren’t many, I wasn’t drawing every day and I wasn’t drawing up to 4 hours a day back then. Nowadays, I try not to draw for 4 hours a day, but I must admit, this Sunday is coming close to 4. Although, I can strongly recommend putting in that much time if you are really serious about improving your skill set, you still must be warned that it should not all be practice. The practice needs to be counter-balanced with project, fun and study work.

I’m saying this because I’ve been on a downer lately and I believe it to be because I have not been balancing out my practice with some nice and easy fun assignments. I think I may have managed to maneuver my way out of it, but there still seems to be one ingredient missing … project work.

So, what have I been doing for practice? Basically, gesture drawing (here is something I wrote about it:

I am adding a picture or two for each “stream”, down below.

What have I been doing for fun? I’ve been out on Wednesday evenings with a group of like-minded sketchers, visiting museums and I’ve been to see Roman art on Sundays, sometimes on my own, sometimes accompanied by a sketcher or two.

What’s been study work? Well, I’ve been reading up on things (Walt Stanchfield’s “Drawn to Life, vol.1” and Robert Beverly Hale’s “Drawing Lessons from the Great Masters”). I must admit, I could be doing more there. And, of course I go to Life Drawing evenings every Tuesday, I guess I classify that as fun, but it “should” be study.

The missing ingredient project is actually possibly about to take off, because I’ve got interested in the competition that quickposes[dot]com is staging. It means, I will have to make up a nice scene from childhood with figures, story, action and whatnot. I’ve got a number of thumbnails on the go.

In summary, don’t just practice, and likewise don’t just try to have fun, find a good balance between fun, practice, study and project work (perhaps even take your sister up on that request to draw her dog or cat).

To finish off, here a selection of my Oktober[sic.] inks.
















A Brace of Models

Stuart: Oh, look we have two models tonight!
Torsten: No, she made a mistake, it’s ok, she’s going now.
Female Model: Hi!
Stuart: Hi, Female Model! Great, two models tonight!
Female Model: Yeah, I don’t mind. But it’s too expensive.
Stuart: Well, if it’s only about the money … we have enough.
[Stuart approaches Torsten again]
Stuart: She’s willing to stay. We can afford it, can’t we?!
Torsten: Hmm, but some of our artists already have enough on their plate with one model.
[3 minutes later, Female Model is undressed on the little stage]
Stuart: Hey, Female Model, you can thank me for this!
Female Model: Yeah, you can call the poses!

Oh, I love my Life Drawing Classes, but tonight was my last one for months. I haven’t registered for the next course, because SBS and “daily” gesture sketching is taking up enough of my precious time.

But here are the results of tonight’s “brace of models” and also a sneak peek into my second week at SBS.

So, what’s this with the paper … looks like a calendar. Yes, it is a half price Moleskine weekly calendar. I wanted something that feels and looks great, but is not too “precious” and can still, just about take watercolours (it was still expensive, for half price: 10€) .

One last pic tonight in a small, absolutely lovely Moleskine watercolour booklet (10 minutes):


OK, this is the stuff I took to Life Drawing Class tonight:


Oh, look, there’s even a picture of me in there.

Now to SBS. Well, I am absolutely blown away. I can’t believe how much of my hidden creative seam has been mined in these 12 days.

I’ll just give you something of mine to look at from this last Klass with Jill Weber … it’s all about telling stories and making books.





Urban Sketching in a group: a First

Well, I’ve found a group, or they’ve found me, … what ever.

We meet weekly here in town, in the evenings. Only ladies there today, not that I bother too much, I’m used to it. But I’m told there a at least two other men who regularly participate. I’m looking forward to more of this and hope the weather holds.

And this is what my first 90 minutes brought about.

(2B, 110gr, 21x30cm)


A still life in ink

20150609-1Tuesday again, inking away in class at my local municipal evening school.

Today, a study in still life. The goal to abstract step by step from graphical elements towards a more simplified approach.

(CLICK FOR LARGER PICS) (1st two are on Canson, 200g watercolour paper, 20x32cm, 3rd pic is on Hanemühle, Brittannia, 300g watercolour paper, 17x24cm. All pictures with a real hair paint brush and India ink)

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Plein air drawing

Well, here’s what comes from sitting on a bench for 1 1/2 hours while joggers pant past me every 10 minutes. One jogger even stopped to sit by me. It turned out he was my figure drawing class instructor asking when he’d be seeing me again at classes.


When sitting down for this (A4, 100gr, 2B pencil), I just sketched most of the objects first and then began work from left to right (I can’t keep my hand from smudging the sketch otherwise). Always returning to the left to darken parts which looked pale after using much darker tones to the right. I must admit, I thought I had taken on too much here, it took 90 minutes and I’m glad I only sketched the tree branches in the foreground. My main focus was actually the tree line on the border to the background.

Poppies, daisies and corn-flowers to my feet and bumble bees flying around like crazy.

How did it come to this?

I’d picked up the book “Pen and Pencil Drawing Techniques” by Harry Borgman and had spent a day with it, doing some of the early exercises a few weeks back.

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I would normally have just built up monotone tonal values, but Mr. Borgman has already introduced me to tonal values built up with different stroke techniques.

Also, I now have a German urban sketching journal “Ein Jahr Urban Sketching” by Jens Hübner. And he recommended a book called “Watercolour Tips” by Ian King. I’ve been trying a bit of watercolour out the last couple of days and here is my first miniature “Norwich School” painting I did just before leaving the house for the “plein air drawing” sketch above.


A Weekend in Belgium

So, just back from a few days away from it all. And this time, I not only took paper and drawing equipment with me, but I even managed to sit down about an hour each day to draw something.

By the way, this is a great idea to experience your holiday in an extremely concentrated fashion, but it has basically no social component to it, especially if your spouse is not an artist like you. So be warned, take your time, but don’t take too much of her time.

Anyhow, you will see here, a scene in a restaurant, some sketches of 17th and 19th century Flemish Masters’ paintings from the Groeninge museum in Brugge/Bruges and scene from a church bench (opposite an antique book shop which wasn’t open on any of the days we were in Brugge, unfortunately, as they had books on Raphael’s drawings and all types of other hilariously gorgeous exhibits, gahhh!). Furthermore, showing here are a few pages from the breakfast buffet and a view from the hotel room, testing my perspective skills.

Mary Magdalene, Ambrosius Benson, 16th Century:
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