Warp Speed Ahead!

I couldn’t believe my luck when I noticed early this year that a Tapestry Weaving course with the lovely Caron Penney had been scheduled at West Dean College for my birthday week.  Well, it would have been rude not to so off I trundled armed with tapestry frames and images from recent life drawing sessions hoping to use Caron’s expertise to find a satisfactory way of interpreting the latter into the former in a way that made good use of the uniqueness and sensitivity that this particular medium has to offer.

"charcoal gesture drawing"

Charcoal gesture drawing

This warm up gesture drawing has been haunting me for a few weeks now but I hadn’t quite worked out what I was going to do with it.  I had considered knitting it but would have had to change the character of the image away from line to form.  Embroidery would have worked well but that would probably have been too close to the actual drawing so what would be the point? So weaving it had to be, but due to the enormity of the scale required to achieve the sensitivity of the line in a woven form for the whole image Caron suggested that I used a view finder over sections to see if anything took my fancy.  The result: a whole new body (no pun intended) of work is now planned!

"woven tapestry"

Woven tapestry

I managed to finish this first piece during the workshop and was pleased with how it came out. However, I think I will probably do another version, perhaps with a bit more blending to soften the lines a little. I also have some appropriately coloured mohair in my stash somewhere which might prove useful (but don’t tell Caron as I am sure this is probably cheating!). Frustratingly though, after warping up and starting the next image in the series, I have had to put the weaving on the back burner while I attend to more immediate commission and exhibition entry deadlines (oh and the small matter of the day job) but I am itching to get back to it. If only there were more hours in the day!

"Charcoal drawing enlarged on a photocopier"

Charcoal drawing enlarged on a photocopier

An unexpected positive to come out of this workshop for me was a realisation of the design potential of the good old fashioned photocopier. Not having used one of these beasts for more than 15 years and having only bad memories of paper tray jams and toner issues I think I might now be a regular at the local Rymans after discovering how wonderful charcoal lines on sugar paper look blown up. I am starting a coin collection as we speak for that very purpose.

What Valentines Day?

Despite my star sign (and for fear of being controversial, possibly my XX chromosomes!?) suggesting otherwise, I’m not the romantic in my marriage so February 14th didn’t really ring a bell when I booked a Saturday life drawing workshop at Peter Symonds college. Luckily, despite the long suffering husband having previously been diagnosed as “Romantic” during a style and image consultation, he also had some bike maintenance to do so was not terribly miffed at a Saturday home alone (actually alone would have been preferable to the reality of being left in charge of a hyperactive Weimaraner and a noisy Jack Russell but hey ho we can’t all get what we want for Valentines Day!)

Anyway over-commercialisation of folk traditions aside, I thought it would be really worthwhile to have a whole day to practice some of the skills and techniques we had been learning in our weekly class.  So, along with a friendly group of mixed life drawing experience, Andrea our lovely and hardworking model, and under the expert guidance of Michelle Buhl-Nielsen, a really indulgent and productive day was had.

The morning was spent limbering up using exercises to isolate gesture, mass and contour, giving me another opportunity to revisit our weekly sessions.  I rather liked this superimposed seated pose.

"seated life drawing"

Chalk mass drawing then graphite contour on top following a repeat of the pose

The afternoon was then spent on a long pose (probably three hours in total) so we could really meditate on our drawing. Michelle has been encouraging us to move out of our comfort zones and practice a way of working that perhaps isn’t instinctive for us.  So with this in mind, and after mapping out in pencil, I put down the graphite and picked up the dreaded watercolour tubes and much to my amazement thoroughly enjoyed myself. I was even pleased with the end result. Next time I might even commit at the outset and use watercolour paper!

"water colour supine nude"

Water colour on cartridge paper

I came away from the day thoroughly inspired and most excitingly with a few gesture drawings that are just shouting at me to be translated into textiles.  I have a few exhibitions to prep for and had been getting a little anxious as my usual habit of immersing myself in drawing until something jumped out at me hadn’t been forthcoming.  Now, with a sigh of relief, I can relax and start playing (once the current knitting commission is finished that is!).

"1 minute charcoal gesture drawings"

1 min charcoal gesture drawings

"1 min charcoal gesture drawings"

1 min charcoal gesture drawings

And the life drawing journey continues…….

A couple of posts ago I blogged about how much I was enjoying my new weekly Life Drawing class with fab tutor Michelle Buhl-Nielsen at Peter Symonds college in Winchester. After looking at gesture and form in the first few classes (see previous post) two weeks ago we started to look at contour, kicking off with my favourite exercise the blind contour drawing. Do give this a go if you’ve never tried it, you’ll love it!

"blind contour drawings"

Blind contour drawings (and no he wasn’t wearing a santa hat, not sure where that came from!)

I love the way these drawings confuse the human form but we can still clearly make out elements such as nose, feet, knees etc. When asked to draw the same pose again but this time looking at the paper, I was disappointed with the result and much preferred the energetic and playful blind version (although one lady in the class couldn’t work out which was which when she looked at my output!).

The next exercise saw us highlighting change in external contour using straight lines only.


Luckily we had a mesomorphic male modelling for us during this session which really helped. I’m guessing a curvaceous female model would have been very difficult to interpret in this way!

Finally we started to look at cross contour.  This I found quite difficult and was pleased we revisited it during last week’s session where one of my colleagues had helpfully created an LED gadget which projected lines across the model.  I need one of these!

"cross contour in life drawing"

Beginning to explore cross contour

During the last class we also began to combine some of these elements by creating a watercolour form first (no line allowed) and then adding contour during a repeat of the pose.  Of course the model was unable to exactly replicate the position which resulted in a lovely displacement of the layers. This reminded me very much of how I approach my knitted life “paintings”, creating an intarsia form first and then adding embroidered and couched linear elements on top. I have also since used this idea with mono-printing (more of this in another post).

"seated life drawing in watercolour"

Watercolour layers: form and contour

This week’s class equipment list has now arrived in the inbox and it looks like it could be more development of this type of layered drawing as watercolours are again required.  So, I’m off to Hobbycraft to purchase some more watercolour paper and perhaps have a cheeky little coffee and cake while I’m there (well it would be rude not to!) Anyway, watch this space as I’m sure another update will be forthcoming in due course.

Renewing my Lust for Life

The last few months of 2014 got a little crazy what with the Knit and Stitch Shows and Christmas doggy head commissions and as a result the drawing side of my art practice took a back seat. So, New Year = Renewed Commitment and following an internet search to check what the local colleges were offering, I found a space in a weekly class at Peter Symonds in nearby Winchester. Just two sessions later I am already reaping the benefits of a structured class format, an excellent teacher (Michelle Buhl-Nielsen) and a welcoming and supportive group. The result: my love of Life Drawing has been well and truly re-ignited.

Each week, rather than trying to create the perfect drawing, we have been concentrating on one aspect at a time. This approach I have found to be both liberating and great fun and at last I have found a suitable and satisfying approach to tackling those frustrating 5 and 10 sec warm up poses which tend to be the start of every session.

Week one was all about gesture and here are a couple of my favourites from this session.

10 second gesture drawings (six superimposed)

I love how gesture drawings can be so full of energy (possibly because the model is able to hold more dynamic poses for this short period of time?).

Gesture drawing (15mins)

This seated pose was an example of how a slightly longer gesture drawing could be pretty accurate from a proportions point of view despite no measuring being involved. The tutor handed out rectangular grids at the end of the session for us to check this and I was pleasantly surprised at the result.

So on to week two and “mass”. The brief was to create form rather like we would a sculpture, working from the inside out, keeping it solid, no lines allowed and ignoring light and shadow. Having spent much of last year working in 3’d’ and having recently visited and been inspired by a Henry Moore print exhibition at the Winchester Discovery Centre, I found this technique particularly satisfying and loved the outputs.

Creating solid mass using a back and forth technique

Creating “mass” by lifting away charcoal

This is definitely right up my street and I am already excited about experimenting more with this approach.

Next week is about contour and I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime here are my attempts at putting a few of these techniques together in an untutored session last weekend at the Art House in Southampton. It’s early days yet but I am already feeling a new (playful) Me coming out of these pictures and I kinda like her 🙂

10 min warm up poses, clothed model

30 min pose, pencil on paper

30 minute seated pose, pencil on paper

In search of the perfect torso

Regular readers of my musings will be aware that a common theme in my work so far this year has been exploring form, both how to effectively depict 3d in 2d, as well as 3d work itself with my textile sculptures.  The Blackwork Rabbit embroidery workshop the other weekend got me thinking about the use of pattern as a tonal medium and has started me on a series of experiments using one of my charcoal torso drawings as the starting point.

"charcoal drawing of a female cast"

Charcoal drawing of a female cast

I have just finished experiment number one which uses patterned fabric, hand pieced together (quite therapeutic but sooo fiddly) and some hand stitching through three layers (I won’t offend any real Quilters out there by calling it quilting!) to give the torso form.

"patterned fabric torso"

Patterned fabric torso

I am happy with the end result although lots of colours and patterns makes it somewhat busy for my personal tastes.  I would have preferred a black and white version (maybe next time).  Overall though, lots learnt during the making of this piece:

1. U tube is your friend when you have no idea what you are doing

2. An ironing board is not just something that sits in a cupboard providing hanging space for dog leads

3. Don’t put the nose of an iron too close to your fingers when you are pressing, that steam is HOT!

4. Freezer paper has nothing to do with food or freezers (i.e. you can buy it in Hobbycraft but not in Sainsburys)

5. A hanging sleeve is not the latest feature of fashionable sweaters

6. Those magnifying lenses that you can buy to clip onto your glasses are not just for comedy effect

Overall, I quite enjoyed this brief foray into “quilting” and woven fabrics but will be happy to return to the far less dangerous sport of knitting (the needles are less pointy and the ironing less fiddly).

And while posting, just to let you know that I have recently started a Facebook page where I post more regular updates on work in progress, along with links to exciting stuff that inspires me, so for any of you who use that particular form of social media please do give it a visit.



Painting with Charcoal

After another challenging session at the Real Art Academy today, I think I might have reached a new stage in my resolution to get to grips with the craft of drawing.  Our ever  patient tutor, Martin, refers to charcoal as a painting medium and I think I might finally understand what he means.  The last two sessions I have had there I have been trying to break the habit of a lifetime making a conscious effort not to draw any lines and throwing myself straight into the shadow shapes once I have the proportion points on board.

"Charcoal drawing of hooded female cast"

Charcoal drawing of hooded female cast

This was the drawing from my March session, unfinished despite allowing myself three hours on it.

"charcoal drawing of a female cast"

Charcoal drawing of a female cast

And this is today’s drawing, and yes unusually for me it is pretty much finished (although I did have a whole morning and three warm ups practising it!).  Hoping this aha moment is a turning point in my drawing journey.  I guess we’ll see in a couple of weeks……

This little Piggy……

So the focus of last Saturday for me at the Real Art Academy was feet, or more accurately, a foot.  The morning poses weren’t too bad as I was looking at back/side views.

"Charcoal drawing of a foot"

90mins, charcoal on paper

But after lunch toes were introduced and the challenge was really thrown down!

Charcoal drawing of a foot"

Those pesky toes! 120mins charcoal on paper.

It took me some time and numerous attempts to get the proportions on the toes and while it still isn’t quite right (I gave up in the end after two  hours for fear that my proportion measuring squint was starting to be permanent), looking at it a few days later at least it looks like a foot.

And talking of pigs, (a seamless link for these otherwise unrelated events dontcha think?) the original art work for my Grimm themed printed illustrations can be seen (and purchased!) at this exhibition at the Oxmarket Gallery in Chichester this month. Do go along if you are in the area as I am sure it will be an interesting and eclectic mixture of work.

"Oxmarket printmakers exhibition"

Should be well worth a visit if you are in the area


Saturday life drawing, March 2014

This weekend I spent a thoroughly enjoyable Saturday, life drawing at Southampton City Art Gallery.  The usual tutor was unable to be there so we were treated to a day with the lovely and talented Melanie Rose.  A whole spectrum of poses was covered, provided by Jilly our hardworking model, and judging by the atmosphere in the room a very productive day was had by all.



"seated life drawing pose"

45 min pose (unfinished): charcoal on paper 

Putting to use the methods I have been learning at the Real Art Academy, I think I can see a change (hopefully for the better!) in my drawings.

"seated life drawing pose"

60 min pose: pencil on paper

My favourite image from the day has got to be this superimposed set of 90 sec poses of Jilly unfurling from a crouch.  This is destined to become something knitted so watch this space…….

""sequential 90sec life drawing poses"

charcoal on paper





Learning the Craft of Drawing

A couple of weeks ago a friend asked if I would like to join her on a Classical Drawing experience day at the Real Art Academy in Boscombe.  We had a fantastic time and I was so excited by their approach to teaching that I joined up on the spot.  I have now completed three of my eleven, three hour sessions on their introductory drawing and painting course.  Based on an Atelier approach and taught by the wonderfully enthusiastic Martin, I can see the improvement in my drawing already.  Better still, the mix of experience in the studio at any one session helps you to see what you are aspiring to without leaving you feeling like you are the only one in the room who can’t do it!

"charcoal drawing of female bust"

Charcoal drawing number 1, my first session



"charcoal drawing"

Charcoal drawing number 3, my third session

So, three sessions in I am confident that with Martin’s great teaching style and encouraged by the camaraderie of the Academy, 2014 is going to be the year that I finally get to grips with the “Craft” of drawing!  Watch this space…….



Portraiture at West Dean College

I am exhausted, enthused and inspired in equal measures following a great course at West Dean college this weekend.  I was really impressed with how our tutor, Andrew Fitchett, managed to cope with a class of 12 people, all with different experiences and objectives, ensuring that each of us got the maximum amount of help and direction.   On Andrew’s suggestion I used charcoal for the first day experimenting with different ways of creating form through tone.  My favourite was this drawing which attempted to divide the subject into dark and light.

"charcoal portrait"

charcoal on paper

On the second day I was persuaded to move into colour and after a quick practice run before coffee break, this was my first proper attempt at a pastel drawing.  It took about 90mins and I think I am encouraged enough by the end result to use colour again!

"pastel portrait"

pastels on paper