I have spent much of the spring terms life drawing sessions drawing with highlighter pens. I am intrigued by the visual impact using these pens give to the drawing. Different colour pens give different qualities with the orange and pink, perhaps, providing the most ‘trippy’ experience.
The unique quality that these pens give however does not always translate when attempting to reproduce them. Computer scanners do not transfer the luminous quality digitally, photographing the drawings seems to be the best option, however, the fluorescent colour is best reproduced in a modest light which helps lifts the colour but at the expense of a darkened paper .background
Over the years, and because it’s particularly useful in my role as an art & design lecturer, I have kept my own version of a Commonplace book, a book where I would jot down all manner of facts and information that I feel may prove useful to me at some future point. Quotations, poems, ideas, and plans- all find their way into these notebooks (I now have a good number of them) alongside which I also place information that is somewhat mundane and prosaic-notes from work meetings for example. When I began teaching as a career I quickly realised that the obligatory staff/work meetings that I had to attend were an ideal place to sketch. My work colleagues who were present and, as a consequence, being somewhat static and focused elsewhere, presented ideal opportunities for impromptu portraiture.The caricature style of the sketches are a reflection of the drawing technique that I use. I focus on the face of the person and do not look at my notebook as I draw- and I then draw quickly, in this way I avoid the ‘nodding head’ action that accompanies the act of looking at the sketchbook and then the subject, after all, I do not wish to draw attention to myself (I am expected to be attentive to the meeting after all) or to make my subject self conscious or embarrassed should they become aware of my interest. This approach allows for surprisingly accurate likenesses at times.These drawings are not meant to be ‘serious art’ and drawing in notebooks, as opposed to using a sketchbook, releases me from any expectation as to the quality of work I often feel I need to producing– I can just have a bit of fun.
These sketches have been completed over the past 15 years. Many colleagues have now retired or moved on to other jobs and these drawings serve as a record of individuals who taught me a lot about the craft of teaching.
Life drawing (drawing the human figure) continues to play a central role in both my teaching and art practice. I view the attending of life drawing classes as akin to going to the gym- a technical and creative workout. During those few hours in front of the human figure I am presented with an opportunity to practice those all important observational skills; skills acquired through the practice of giving full attention and focus to the subject. In the process I can also explore ideas around line, form, shape and tone. I also have the opportunity to experiment, and become familiar, with a range of media, techniques and technology whilst enjoying the company of like minded people both models and fellow artists.
During my life drawing sessions I have often drawn my students as they focus on the model. Their intense concentration and attentiveness has always fascinated me. Life drawing can be an exhausting activity and observing them, as they struggle with their drawing, can be quite revealing.I often witness many emotions; flashes of frustration, a suggestion of anguish, brows furrowed in disappointment and, at times expressions of wide-eyed elation on those moments when all is going well.
All this emotion! Little wonder when you consider that, as an activity, drawing the human form, challenges many pre-conceived assumptions about how we understand the human body. It also lays bare, and insists, that you face up to, and address, these limitations in both ones’ understanding and technical inadequacies. This self critique and examination is necessary if one is to progress and can be a very difficult & humbling experience to undergo.
Alongside the hard work, however, there is also the thrill of the breakthrough. That excitement that comes from the gaining of new insights, and the encouragement provided by witnessing the slow acquiring of knowledge, skill and technical competencies that were not apparent before.
Media; pencil, rubber and a small A6 sketchbook (size approx’)
I’ve included, in this post, a selection of drawings made during the summer term at my life drawing group. The group is called Lifelines. The work presented demonstrate my attempts at familiarising myself with drawing using brush and Quink ink – an ink originally developed for use with fountain pens. There are a couple of nice properties that Quink ink posses which I like. Quink ink comes in blue or black, I use the black which is more like a Paynes Grey, a warm grey and one of my favorite colours, when drying, the blue can take on a brownish hue in some areas which can add an interesting quality to the work. Quink ink can also be used with bleach as part of the drawing process which, when applied, can create some nice effects as it bleaches those areas of ink that it is applied to. I have yet to work with bleach but will do so once I am confident with the direction I am going with my current approach.
I am also preparing work for this years Cambridge Open studios exhibition that we as a group participates in annually. I hope to include the best of the drawings using this media and technique. I make no claim for the quality or success of the work on show here. They signify my honest attempts at experimenting with a new media using various technical approaches in order to see what happens and in order to learn from the process.