Friday 30 November 2012


Last Saturday's course at the Tate Liverpool Gallery was not quite what I had expected on a course focussing on 'Drawing the Line', even though it does continue the process I talked about in the post Exciting Way to Spend a Saturday Morning.  

But if you get to the final picture of this post you will see how different the last drawings are from where we started.  The post is quite long, but plenty of pictures along the way, so hopefully you will stay with me.

The morning took us in such a different direction to anything I could have imagined, and has made me think about line in a different way.  Anything that makes us re-examine and re-assess our ideas about art is a really good kick in the pants.

Stephen explained that we were going to look at sculptures of our choice and draw in our A3 sketchbooks in a specified way.  We were to draw the outlines blind using continuous drawing techniques, and keeping our eyes on the sculpture at all times.  

This is part of 'Ziggurat 2012', a strange and complicated sculpture by Matthew Monahan, and yes I did really want to walk past its difficulty, but in the end forced myself to start blind drawing.  

It's black, bronze, and a woman's figure is emerging from a jumbled background and, as I drew, I started to like it - and it reminded me of the way some of Rodin's sculptures emerge from the background.  I just hope Mr Monahan never sees the drawing.

'Agricola XIII', a sculpture by David Smith in bronze and steel.  I decided to include the outlines cast by the shadows, and even the plinth, which added to the complexity of the drawing.  

If you haven't done much blind/continuous line drawing I have to tell you it is very concentrated and (for an oldie like me) quite exhausting.

A much-loved Henry Moore sculpture, though I doubt old Henry would recognise it.  Pushing myself a bit further with this one I deliberately drew very quickly as well as incorporating all the outlines of the shadows.

It might look like a mess to you (and to Henry if he's looking down), but I was pleased with it.  When I visit galleries in future I shall be looking and drawing in quite a different way, which means the course is really having an effect on me.

I cheated for this one by drawing from a charcoal and colour painting instead of a sculpture, 'Female Bomb' by Nancy Spero, which captured my imagination.  

The smudgy background was pink, so using one of my more technical art tools I licked my finger several times to spread the lines of my graphite stick to indicate the background. 

I did make a couple more drawings at the start, but they were really not good and are not included here, but all six drawings (and walking about) were done in barely 40 minutes.  Phew!!!

Back in the workroom we found coils of wire, pliers and wire cutters laid out in our places.  Having turned the 3-D sculptures into 2-D drawings, the next stage was to make a 3-D rendering in wire inspired by one of our drawings, and then photograph them from the top, bottom and sides and if possible with shadows.

The photo above shows clearly that not only did my wire sculpture look nothing like David Smith's 'Agricola XIII', it didn't even have any possibility of looking as if it was inspired by it.

I knew what I wanted to do, the wire knew what IT wanted to do, and as you can see the wire won, and I still have the sore fingers to remind me of my epic struggle with the self-willed coil of wire.

This is the sculpture the wire decided to make, and in the fairly dark workroom with no sun and little effect from the flash, there is very little shadow cast.

I know time flies when you're having fun (which I was having), but it flies even faster when you're struggling with a material and tools you're not used to.  They also say that a bad workman blammess hiss tooolls.

I just had a few minutes of class time left to photograph the 'sculpture' on top of the drawing, and then used the left-over piece of wire to shape a fairly flat version of the head in the Spero drawing.

We couldn't take our work home - lack of a box and Dev and I were planning to go on to somewhere else - but I could at least take the Spero head home.  And we even managed a sunny day yesterday so I could photograph it, without and with shadows.

The next stage would be to draw from these sculptures, 3-D back to 2-D, and then even perhaps a sculpture from those drawings if one wanted, but that's a process to continue at home.  I did manage to do two drawings from my sculpture at home:

And, of course, I couldn't resist taking the second one into Photoshop and altering it with the Emboss filter.

Very tired at the end of last Saturday morning, but very happy and what a terrific course it is.  Looking forward so much to tomorrow and the third of the four classes.

Tuesday 27 November 2012


Several weeks ago Kristin Dudish posted some sketches she had done on an app called "Scribbler", and I immediately lusted after it and downloaded it on to my I-Pad.  

It's great fun, and produces some great results.  Thank you Kristin, it's a great way to relax. 

This was my first attempt:

Just a few straight lines to form an abstract design, and two colours to scribble with - it's always best to start simple to find out what any program can do.

Never one to leave anything alone, I opened the sketch above in Photoshop and used a filter I've not experimented with before.

This is the result of using the Liquefy filter.  I like the change from straight lines to whirls and twirls.  Doing this kind of thing always gives me inspiration for ideas to draw in my sketchbook.

After a little practice this next fishy one pleased me.

The result is always unexpected.  It takes a little experimentation to find the right amount of scribble for a drawing before you decide to stop - otherwise it gets swamped in a mass of lines.

Taking the fishy scribble into Photoshop, I used the Poster Edges filter, which gave more definition to the sketch, and adds a touch of drama.

The next one is another very simple drawing:
I stopped the scribbling process before it covered too much of the original sketch, and was pleased with the effect.

I was interested to see what I could do with another filter on Photoshop.

This time I used the Emboss filter, and fiddled with it until I got an effect that pleased me.  WOW - this really has the wow factor, a real 3-D effect.

If you are new to Photoshop and haven't used the filters very much, this is a good way to experiment and find out what they can do.

I wondered what would happen with a drawing of a face:

The face is quite an early attempt with Scribbler, again limiting the amount of scribble, and using a fine scribble line and two colours.

Taking the scribble sketch into Photoshop I tried Glowing Edges on the original, which gave quite a dramatic effect.  I have to try this kind of sketch in my black-page sketchbook with coloured inks.

For the version above I opened the original sketch in Snapseed, another of my favourite apps, and grunged it about a bit and then grunge-framed it.  Quite different, but good.

The rather startled looking chap below was quite an early sketch in Scribbler, just the basic sketch before doing any scribbling.  I saved it in my photo album so that I could try different versions of it.

That was supposed to be a mouse he's holding in his hand, but it's not very convincing!

I tried three different Scribbler versions - all put together on the image below.

Not particularly struck with any of those, so I went back to Snapseed with the original.

When I had fiddled about with it a little, using my favourite grungy thing, I was quite taken with it.

I've decided to turn it into a card to give to Stephen, the tutor, on the last morning of the Tate course, with an appropriate comment - probably something about the difficult wire sculptures we did on Saturday.  Perhaps:


Great fun, very therapeutic and very fruitful for further sketching ideas.

Friday 23 November 2012


Last Saturday was the first day of the Tate Liverpool 'Drawing the Line' course, and I'm looking forward to the second session tomorrow.

This first session was really exciting and thought-provoking.  We started with a quick tour of the new exhibition and other exhibitions in the gallery with guidance from Stephen Ashton, our Course Leader.  Back in the workroom Stephen talked about what we were going to do, and the rationale behind it, focussing exclusively on 'line'.

Then it was out to the gallery for half an hour, armed with a new A3 sketchbook and pencil - no pens allowed in the galleries - where we were to focus on a Jan Arp sculpture and render it only with line. 

Now this may look just like a page of scribble to you, but to me it was a fascinating process.  Instead of focussing only on one image per page, I drew it once quite quickly, moved my chair, drew, moved and kept moving round it in this way until I had drawn it several times and was back where I started.

This process and the way it helped me to learn about and understand the piece during the process really pleased me, and I felt I was investigating its energy.

We were free then to move around and choose our own subjects.  This 'Standing Mobile' is one I always like.

Not the correct reason for choosing it.  As soon as I had finished I realised I had selected it because it was easy to draw ... so it was rather a waste of time.

This is a section of a John Chamberlain 'assemblage' combining bits of old cars.  I really didn't want to draw it because the whole 'crushed car' shape is so complicated, but I had stern words with myself and set to with just a section in the minutes before we had arranged to meet back in the workroom for a discussion of what we had done.

Very concentrated effort, and quite tiring, but happy with the result.  Time up, and we went back to the workroom again for more discussion and viewing of what we had all done.  

At this point we were encouraged to use brush and ink to continue our investigation of line for another half-hour, but I decided to draw just one more piece from the exhibition.

This drawing by Philip Guston grabbed my attention, because it is such a simple, almost naive drawing, and yet there is such mystery and menace in the composition.  I was, and still am, intrigued by the mysterious figures and the grouping.

I do apologise for the quality of the photos above - I blame the terrible dark skies we've had for days and the difficulty of photographing pencil drawings, even with flash.

Back in the workroom to use brush and indian ink, in spite of the fact that I was wearing a long-sleeved white blouse!

All the pen and ink versions were painted from memory.  The image above is an approximation of the Jean Arp sculpture in the 'scribble' drawing.

Still intrigued by these figures - so speedily painted with the ink that I didn't even realise the central figure is balanced precariously on a chair with no leg - and lack of advance planning left no room for the last figure.

Stephen had pointed out that this Guston drawing was about the KKK - so I keep wondering what the child (if it is a child) is doing in the group, and painted this selection.

After a bit more discussion there were just about 8 minutes left of the morning.  Altogether we had produced everything in about an hour, but I decided to grab the moment and go out into the Foyer to draw one of my all-time favourite sculptures.

This is just a section of Epstein's 'Jacob and the Angel' sculpture, so much solidity and power.

By this time I was really quite tired and chose my viewpoint by managing to find room on a bench opposite this side of the sculpture.

I decided to finish the morning by doing a blind drawing - keeping my eyes on the sculpture from start to finish.  My concentration was broken by a voice with a Spanish accent saying 'Are you drawing that without looking?' 

I explained about blind drawing and its benefits to the young man and his girlfriend next to me who hadn't even come to the gallery because of an interest in art, but because it was raining and they had to wait quite a while before their train was due to leave!  But I was really pleased with the drawing I'd managed in a few minutes.

At home this week, like a good student, I tackled a few more drawings - here are two that pleased me.

 Quite pleased with this study of a terra cotta sculpture we have, because I did get some variation in the thickness of my lines this time.  The one below is a technique I've often read about but never used.

Stephen had pointed out one of Henry Moore's 'WW2 Underground Shelter' paintings, which were achieved by drawing the figure with a wax candle and then painting all over the page with black ink.  I used a white wax crayon, and in 'real life' on the paper the wax seems to shimmer through the ink quite mysteriously.

Such a happy, exciting morning - can't wait to get stuck in tomorrow.

Sunday 18 November 2012


I was looking through my "Faces and Figures" sketchbook two or three days ago. (Yes, some of my sketchbooks are devoted to a single theme.  Sad and rather obsessive, I know.)  I came across the digitally drawn image below - done using a Bamboo pen and pad.

It's probably only people in the UK (and possibly only in the North of England) who might recognise the personality the drawing is intended to show.  (I promise that after talking about him I will return to the subject of art and sketching.)

Yes, it's Ken Dodd, otherwise known as Doddy, the Nut from Knotty Ash, a quick-fire stand-up comedian and singer.  I once went to one of his performances at the Southport Theatre, quite a long time ago, against my better judgement.  

But in fact he was fantastic.  I don't think I have ever laughed so much in my life, and true to his reputation he went on until midnight, just joke after joke after joke - and he never tells  a smutty joke or repeats himself.

At 84 he was still performing .... and stayed on the stage just telling jokes until 25 minutes past midnight.  This is what Wikipedia says:

Dodd is renowned for the length of his performances, and during the 1960s he earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records for the world's longest ever joke-telling session: 1,500 jokes in three and a half hours (7.14 jokes per minute), undertaken at a Liverpool theatre, where audiences were observed to enter the show in shifts. 

Well, this post was supposed to be about art, not about a stand-up comedian, so back to the subject of drawings.

When I saw the digital Doddy it reminded me that I was taken with the idea of representing hair in a different way, but never followed it up.  Then a few pages further on I came across this sketch copied from a Monet self-portrait sketch. 

It brought to mind that I had been intrigued by the idea of how much or how little information is necessary to represent a face.  Another thing that got put on the back burner.

So I determined to play about with the two ideas, and perhaps combine them.

Whoops - not too good, though I do quite like the top image with straight hair.

Everywhere I look now I see people with Big Hair, in life and on television.  Watching the Scholti Centenary Concert on BBC a couple of nights ago the soprano came on with orange hair just like that.  Gorgeous!

Everything was linking up to get me working on this exercise.  I remembered that some of Schiele's drawings feature models with big hair, and the sketch above was very loosely based on one of his paintings.

Boing!!  Not too good, but still we always learn something from our failures.  If we could do it well without trying then there would be no point in pushing ourselves to experiment.

Even at the Liverpool Tate Gallery yesterday the big hair was present.  After our morning's Gallery tour and drawing course at the Tate we were given complimentary tickets for a talk by Anthony McCall, and I quickly sketched a woman in front of me while waiting for the talk to begin.

This first Saturday morning of the four-Saturday course I mentioned in my last post was fantastic, just what I had hoped for, and I hope to write about that in a future post.

So, after all the pencil and pen sketches, I thought I'd finish with a bit of colour and a different technique using ordinary coloured pencils. 

Keep well, keep happy, keep drawing and painting.

Monday 12 November 2012


About eighteen months ago Dev and I were lucky enough to go on two separate four-day courses at the Tate Liverpool, running alongside the fantastic Magritte exhibition being held at the time.

I was reminded of this because we have just booked to attend another course starting next week - 'Drawing the Line'.  This  is related to the current exhibition 'Tracing the Century: Drawing as a Catalyst for Change'.

So, really looking forward to this because drawing is my favourite art practice.   

Back to the Magritte course, which was based on techniques and approaches he used in his paintings.

(This is a quarter of my completed cut-out)

OK, so this doesn't look anything like one of Magritte's paintings.  The course leader, Roz, focussed this challenge on his use of cut-outs in some of his work, and introduced us to the world of cut-outs at a level beyond the paper doilies we all used to cut as children.

She handed each of us a large A1-sized piece of paper and a craft knife and said 'Go!'.  Quite daunting and certainly not an easy or speedy task.  

The next image shows my completed 'creature cut-out'.

We then glued the cut image on to a backing card - colour of our choice and I chose black - with the addition of red eyes,  and red tongues that were glued only near the upper teeth.

Whew, quite a job.  But I was (and am) really pleased with the result.

We than had to apply this technique with an A2 sized acrylic painting which had to include other elements of Magritte's work.  I chose his little puffy white clouds, male figures seen from the back, and his 'out of context' bird images.

 Another short-time-scale task, but once again I was really pleased with the result - something I would never have painted without the inspiration of the course.

As the saying goes, waste not - want not, and so I saved the pieces cut out from the card figure and at home stuck them onto a sheet of paper.  

The shapes look completely different like this, many of them seem to be animal shapes.

Then took it further to make a 4-up image on Photoshop, which I think is quite effective.

Both 4-day sessions were fantastic and quite different from each other.

So I'm looking forward to the challenges of next week's first session of 'Drawing the Line'.