The Passionate Pedagogue

My third semester of giving life drawing classes starts today … and people don’t pay for me to tell them, “Draw figures for 4 years and keep up the daily practice.” (Although, I do mention that in the breaks, if somebody is so foolhardy to ask.)

That’s why I attempt to set up a curriculum every semester.

As last year I heard quite often (even if only from a few individuals) that they had been expecting more anatomy, I’m introducing more anatomy (even if I’m not the expert). I may have a few clever insights for the one or other and we can learn from each others mistakes.

Here’s the plan for the 10 week course:

  1. Explore proportions
  2. Gestural drawing, finding rhythm
  3. Ribcage and pelvis
  4. Shoulders, arms, hands
  5. Legs, bottom, feet
  6. Perspective for life drawers
  7. Portrait, the face, the head
  8. Light and shade
  9. Blind drawing, contours
  10. Facial expression

The topics currently fit very well to the models I’ve managed to get in advance and every session has a different model, which I think is grand.

To finish this post off, here are some of my latest gesture drawings, I have now drawn gestures for way over 500 hours. I started slowly in August 2014. I now often draw longer (90 second) poses, but this morning I tried out 45 second poses again.

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).


Going in circles … and ellipses

Tomorrow night I’ll be introducing “circling” to the life drawing course participants.

The goal is to practice the “airplane line” and break out of habits and/or introduce new, well-balanced line making skills. The “airplane line” is when you land slowly and gently on the paper with your pencil/crayon, start making a thicker line in a controlled fashion (as if the plane is leaving skid marks) and then decide to take off gently again. Always consciously picking the point of landing and take-off.

By deciding consciously to only draw in circles and ellipses, you need to watch yourself carefully first to make sure you’re not drawing potatoes, bananas and sausages, I found this to be a very hard exercise actually, I had to remain fully concentrated to keep my line from going off in all directions. Once you have reached a kind of flow or zone, the ellipses and circles start coming naturally and more and more can be found by just opening up to all possibilities.

You can stick to the contour or you can find circles which are much larger than the entire pose, but define the pose nevertheless. Some circles can go through the figure, some just sit on top of the planes of the figure. Additionally, while searching for the best fit, you are continuously testing, measuring and comparing sizes, form and orientation. The whole process should be non-stop, the thinking process occurs during the skating of the page and searching for the correct fit. This is like an eagle circling over its prey. Once you have your “prey” (i.e. size, form and orientation) you can press down harder and commit to the line. Then, without leaving contact with the page, go on search for your next prey.

The evening will begin with us identifying the 16 major groups of the figure as circles and ellipses and we will then move on to a sequence of 5 and 3 minute poses where we will attempt to draw the figure only using circles and ellipses.

As tools we will be using a medium soft graphite if available. I am currently in love with the Faber-Castel PITT oil based pencil (medium).

Here are a few of the poses I drew last week while testing this circling method. I believe this short practice has already helped make my line more controlled and has increased my attention to the value of the “airplane line”.

3 weeks, and then there was Life Drawing

Well, we managed to order two models today, and I kept the one company while the first one posed for 30 minutes.

Then I got the chance to do some drawing too (four 10 minute poses, one 15 minute pose and five 2 minute poses).

And this is after 10 days of Tenerife (our annual holiday on the Canary Islands) and 5 days of Rotterdam (Sketching workshop in The Netherlands). I’ll post something about those two events later.


Tomorrow I sign my new contract as a Life Drawing tutor, I’ll post what I’m going to be up to in a later blog post.

Fünfundneunzig Minuten

Gerade wieder nach Hause gekommen, nach einem langen Tag auf Dienstreise und mehr als zwei Stunden beim Aktzeichnen.

Insgesamt 95 Minuten haben wir heute Abend gemeinsam das Modell gezeichnet.


Beim Vorzeichnen habe ich mit einem stumpfen Bleistiftstummel den Rythmus der Kräfte in der jeweiligen Pose gesucht. Danach habe ich ziemlich locker die Konturen mit einem “S” oder “XS” PITT Fineliner gezeichnet. Wobei ich besonders auf die kleinen “Unebenheiten” die durch prominente Muskelgruppen oder durch das Skelett direkt verursacht werden. Als letzter Verarbeitungsschritt verbringe ich noch einige Minuten damit, die Form, bzw. das Volumen des Modells mit Buntstiften herauszuarbeiten. Dabei achte ich darauf, mich (so gut es geht) bewusst auf eine Lichtquelle zu reduzieren.

Acht 10-Minuten-Posen und fünf 3-Minuten-Posen = 95 Minuten. Danach war mein A3 Blatt ziemlich voll gezeichnet.

And on the fifth day …

Who would have believed it? I didn’t draw for four days. No gesture practice, self portraits, nothing … not even any hatching exercises.

… then I went to Tuesday’s Life Drawing Session, for which no model arrived …


I began the evening on the stage … three 10 minute poses for my fellow life drawers. The next hour of drawing, I attempted to use my meagre FORCE knowledge to make those poses more believable. What I’m really surprised about is the true to life likeness of the faces I drew tonight and I can only guess it’s coming from all the quickly sketched self portraits I’ve been doing in front of the mirror. Of course, I’ve also fed my brain with loads of information over the last 3 years (perspective, anatomy, mnemonics, tone, volume) and it was sure to pay off one of the days, wasn’t it?

Now That’s Life

Just back from Life Drawing. Many short poses were called for tonight. I still managed to call a few 10 minute poses.

Some dialogue from tonight (I’m the time keeper):
[5 minutes into a 10 minute pose]
Stuart: Ok, only five minutes left
Drawer 1: Oh!
Stuart: Yeah, incredible, isn’t it? So much time left.
Drawer 2: No, no, where’s the time gone?
Stuart: Really? I spent the first 5 minutes writing my shopping list.
Drawer 3: Show off!
[Stuart smirks]

Anyhow: pencil, PITT artists pen (S and XS) and a limited selection of Polychromos coloured pencils. 1 minute, 2 minute, 3 minute, 5 minute, 7 minute and 10 miniute poses. All on one A3 sheet of paper (190gr/sqm).

I was having a blast tonight!


Getting serious again

I came back from one of my life drawing sessions  …. (yes, I have more than one each week … privileged, little, snotty boy, right? Hah! Jealousy will get you nowhere!) … where was I? right, life drawing … and I’d moved back to lines again, which is kind of getting on my nerves a bit, but this is what that evening brought about:


So, that’s … pencil marks first (finding the basic lines, 1 minute max), fineliner directly afterwards (to commit to the lines, 2 minutes or more) and then a reduced set of coloured pencils (10 to 15 minutes of cool Zen-ness). These are all on the same sheet of A3 190gr/sqm “1584” paper. The paper is great for me and my selection of tools.

Note: I must admit, I’ve been spending some time with a new book I’ve been given as an early birthday present from my gran, it covers Figure Drawing in a refreshingly modern but also academic manner, I may mention it in a future post. The studying of books is starting to pay off, if I’m allowed to say that myself at all.

In the meantime, because I can’t go to life drawing more than twice a week (can I?), I’ve been posing for one or two daily self portraits in front of a mirror. 5 minutes per sketch, all in an A6 Moleskine diary with a fineliner and with limited success. Here’s one of the better ones, if you ask me:


Note: Probably I should also mention that I’m currently taking Paul Heaston’s latest Craftsy course, all about making lines and crosshatching and all that stuff he’s famous for.

My daily gesture practice was interrupted a day or two, which is ok once in a while. But I feel I’m not stretching myself enough here, so I’m going to be cranking up the seriousness and attitude in the next few weeks. Here’s an example of 30 second and 90 second gestures using :


And to end the post, here’s a little painting I did on a very windy day at a sketch meeting in June (I haven’t posted this yet, right?). It’s just lovely knowing you’re painting and sketching surrounded by other painters and sketchers. Good to get out, mingle, feel like you’re sharing an experience, not just stay shut away at home, drawing cups, shoes and selfies:


Good night!

Back On Track

What happened?

After nearly OD-ing on my regular diet of FB, I’ve now managed 12 days without Facebook and Instagram.

The first few days:

itching to look at FB, IG or even twitter … even considered reinstalling the Sktchy app.

To be honest with you and especially myself, I wasn’t actually missing other people’s posts, but I did get the urge to bring my USk books back up from where I banned them: the cellar. But I didn’t succumb to it.

To feed the “gobble gobble urge”, the first few days I watched a lot of videos by Michael Matessi and a few youtube videos on keeping a sketchbook. Ninja Sketchbooking. Or something like that. Not too much information there, actually. Certainly time consuming and certainly nothing to get addicted to.

I’ve been preparing this blog post now for days by taking notes on my phone, which – after about a week –  actually seemed to help quit the online habit. Just chatting with myself instead of putting “my shit” out there. (Which I am actually still doing by posting this, but there’s just you and me reading this.)

I considered starting some more obsessive drawing habits (additionally to my daily gesture drawing obsession):

  • Self portraits, daily
  • Drawing every day objects

I started with the self portraits but I actually ran out of motivation and enjoyed a few days watching Chinese films and reading Elmore Leonard novels.

On the weekend I treated myself to a “handmade” fountain pen (handle is turned from two different types of African wood and the nib is German made: Bock). I also bought a handmade sketch/notebook with Italian paper and used it all tonight at this weeks first life drawing event.

The Sweet Spot

There was a time when I drew once a week. I’d come back from my weekly Life Drawing Session, rush to my scanner and upload everything to my blog.

Since being the owner of a sexy smartphone with permanent access to my Facebook and Instagram accounts, and basically drawing daily, the blog posts have become less and less.

However, I’ve been down in the dumps lately. I’ve been dependent on too many outside influences and have been negligent of my own feelings and goals. On top of that, I’ve lately spent a few hours raiding the last remnants of my previous 3 years of drawing and painting. I’ve done away with about 80% of that stuff now, but it left me feeling like the past three years hadn’t made much of a difference.

This feeling of frustration had been growing in me for some time and may have helped me to move to a different style which seems to be keeping me from being too tidy but also from being too sloppy. I actually think I may have reached a temporary sweet spot. I’m not sure if I want to stay in this very spot, but it’s allowing me to break out of my usual line making activity and I’m additionally no longer afraid of painting before drawing.

I look, I paint and then I hold a coloured pencil pretty firmly and draw very focused but fiercely, making unforgivable lines and curves.

I used it just now at Life Drawing and this is what came out.