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.

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.

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.
















Sick Left Hands

[Sorry, Ed (author of Six Left Hands)]

Back in the times before Paris … <interlude> … you know, I follow a few great sketching sites on wordpress … and one of those are Suhita Shirodkar’s sketchaway … </interlude> well, a few days before Paris, Suhita published a blog entry with a tonal study of her left hand.
And I thought, hey, I’ve got one of those (i.e. left hand and even a blog, too). Here’s Suhita’s left hand: hand_shadows.jpg.

So I continued running a few days with 30(!) second gesture drawings of other peoples’ hands… Then Paris happened.

Yeah, well, anyway, and then Ed published his six lefties and I thought, Stuart, the time is ripe again, are your hand skills up to scratch? … do a few more quick gesture drawings and give it a try.

Today, in every free 20 minute slot, I jumped to the challenge. Lamy fountain pen in hand. Sometimes standing in front of the mirror. So some lefties look like righties. Enjoy.


And here are some of the quick gesture sketches. You can see more of these gesture sketches in the gesture sub-menu.

Failing at Gestures

So, coming back to gesture drawing (practicing) after so long, it is really hard to be pleased with the results.

It always seems like I’m failing.

I’ve been looking at the gesture drawings of some fellow artists in the forum of I have read often enough — and I actually believe in it myself — comparing your own drawings to others’ can lead to a dead end very easily, it can make you withdraw inside and strengthen your own doubts about your skills, basically it isn’t much help at all and will only keep you back. Still, I catch myself doing it. So here I am “saying” it out loud and clear: You are you, and you should listen to your own thoughts, emotions, ideas. Make some new rules. Perhaps try out a few things the others are doing, but DO NOT COMPARE YOUR DRAWINGS TO OTHERS! (… you don’t know what background the others have, how long they have been doing this, where they went to school, who their mommies and daddies are, how long they have each day to work on this stuff, what they eat for breakfast, whether they have family or even friends (I’m not saying you can’t have a great family and many great friends, if your a good artist, just sometimes they can be a distraction, but also a good source of input and perhaps one of the days, a source of cheap models for you …))

Here goes, the collected 2 minute gesture drawings of the last 48 hours. Gals w/ or w/o weapons, men w/ or w/o underwear, and a few faces to round it up.

20150629-11 20150629-02 20150629-0320150629-0520150629-0820150629-0420150629-06 20150629-0720150629-10 20150629-09