Category Archives: structure

projects two, three and four


These three projects cover proportion, structure and form. I did the following drawings in a number of drop-in life classes while on part four, so rather than try to shoehorn them into the different projects I’ve put them together here. They are a mix of quick studies and longer, in a mix of media and poses and I’ve added them to this post with the most recent showing first.

(Exercise one of project four ‘the structure of the human body’ is in a separate post project four: structure)

What I’m learning:

  • I do much better on the quicker poses. Anything longer than 10 minutes gives me way to much time to get nervous and over-think.

Note to self: I should still try to get an overall impression down in 60 seconds, even if I know I have an hour to go.

  • I can find myself getting caught up in one area only to stand back and find the overall proportions totally out of whack.

Note to self: be wary of getting lost in an area, stand back very frequently to assess the whole

  • My tendency is to work big and I struggle to fit everything in. When I start to try to measure I often lose my way and can’t make the bits fit together.

Note to self: not sure how to manage this. Perhaps make a half way marker on the sheet and try to keep to that?

  • I would like to try out different techniques (ink on a super long stick for example) but frankly I feel intimidated in this rather rigid class.

Note to self: It’s totally daft being intimidated. Was Lucian Freud ever intimidated? David Hockney? I need a plan… next week there is a 60 minute pose I’ll do four sketches in four different techniques. 

  • Most of these drawings don’t address the figure in terms of tone – they are mainly line drawings. My lame excuse is the very flat lighting at the studio.

Note to self: do the squinty-eye thing and try to work with what light/shade there is

If it all goes a bit belly-up I look back at my early attempts and realise how much I’ve improved and every now and then I get a mini epiphany which makes  huge difference.

My most recent epiphany was that I am drawing a real 3-dimensional body. Sounds daft, but if I think about actually feeling the upper hip bone to the front and the slab of muscle that slides down to the sit bone, or simply that the leg has to slot in to the pelvis (and the sturdiness of that connection) it helps. There’s a strange link from hand to eye – my hand is guided by the eye, but I’m looking with my hand, my hand can feel the body. When I can let go of nerves and draw the body as if I am feeling it, the results are so much better.

Now that I feel more confident that I can draw a body with all the bits attached in the right places I want to be more expressive. From looking at artists that focus on life drawing it’s clear that they can all draw an absolutely anatomically correct figure should they choose too. I think it is having this underlying knowledge and this ability that allows one to be free with the drawing. I’m not there yet but I can see where I want to be, and I really really want to be there.


15 minutes, charcoal, A3

The quickest, the smallest, my favourite. I’m pleased with this, I think mainly because of the sense of light and shadow from the most rudimentary of charcoal smudges. I did this in a different one-off life class from my usual, where the set up was very professional – model against a black stage, and side-lit and everything! (Other sketches from this posted under ‘the moving figure’ as all poses were very short)


A1, charcoal and white chalk on beige paper

Probably the most challenging pose I’ve done (and not easy for the model either). One of those hours that passes in 5 minutes. There are problems with the central part of the body – I haven’t captured the ‘slump’ around the stomach. The right foot (looking at the image) isn’t big enough. But there are bits I’m happy with and it’s one of those sketches that reminds me how far I’ve progressed since 3 months back. I’m still fudging the hands, feet and face but slowly toes and noses are making an appearance.

Still not absolutely sure how to make the best use of the white chalk, though I like it next to the dark line (right leg and foot as I look at image). I was surprised at this, it seems counter-intuitive to put a dark and light line next to each other – usually the effect of a bright white line is because it’s next to a whole area of darkness.


A2, charcoal, 25 minutes

I had so many problems with this drawing, mainly around the hip. I was so taken with the curve of the hip bone that I plunged straight in, trying to fit the rest of the body around the hip and ending up with something very unlike a body, all the while refusing to believe that my beautiful hip was actually the problem. I’ve managed to salvage something from it and I quite like the end result which is softer than most of my drawings – as a result of so much rubbing out and re-drawing.

I’ve learnt from these two past drawings is that it really is OK to make mistakes – better that than be too tentative. Mistakes can be corrected and it really doesn’t matter if the old marks show – sometimes it adds to the whole. And even when I feel it’s going desperately wrong, a deep breath and a step back will nearly always help.

Above ten minutes with charcoal on A3

Above all quick 10 minutes sketches using the newly discovered conte crayon, which I really like – very soft but impossible to rub out – though I think that helps!



A1, conte crayon, 30 minutes

I borrowed this crayon, I think it’s also a conte crayon – quite dry and hard after the first one I used for the quick warm-up sketches. I’ve noticed that as I’m getting faster at the bodies I have time and more courage to try the faces and fingers  – step by step! Looking at this drawing now I think I should have been more bold with the areas of shadow.


A1, 30 minutes, blue conte crayon

I’ve done this pose before – with the thigh coming straight at me – it’s very tricky to pull off! This is better than my last try but still not quite right. There seems to be width missing in the hips though the left arm is maybe covering that.


one hour, A1, charcoal and white chalk on beige paper

I knew I wasn’t going to get the feet in but in my traditional panic I’d had two false starts and was running out of time so had to forgo them. This is the first time I’ve made a proper attempt at a face. the model had her head tilted away which left a clear shadow under her chin – I think it just about works.

This is one of the drawings I’ve done since the course work on structure and I think it has definitely paid off. I nearly always have problems with the upper body and this time I felt I could get under the skin and feel my way around the bones.

The angle of the model’s right lower leg isn’t right (it almost looks like it’s been put on backwards!). I did notice this, but didn’t correct it enough. The fingers need to be a little longer too.


30 minutes A1, charcoal and white chalk on grey paper

Above is the same pose from a different angle. One of my rare attempts to fill in the face, gutted I didn’t get more time because it was almost working.

Happy with this drawing, though it’s quite tentative. I’m pleased with the slump of the pose, the way the neck and head sink forwards. Again this is something that the anatomy study helped with – the neck sits forward of the trapezius muscles.


A1, 45 minutes, charcoal on white (!) paper

The same pose yet again, from a different angle. Something quite satisfying about having drawn the same pose from three different points. Makes me think of the model as one of those musical boxes. Or else it’s me spinning around her.

This model has very narrow hips, but even so I’m not sure I got enough sense of weight in the pelvis. I spent most time on the foot, it was a real struggle to show it’s position, but in the end I’m happy with it – getting to it in the end thereby thinking of the blocks of bones within.


30 minutes, A2, charcoal and white chalk

Quite tentative! I went in to this wanting to work on tone with some clear shadows and highlights. However the studio has very flat lighting, today it was dull and the artificial light came from above. I made what I could of it but didn’t have much confidence.

The leaning arm is very unsure and I don’t think the hand is big enough.


20 minutes, A2, charcoal and white chalk

There is a problem with the right arm attachment (this is pre my study on structure!) and with the model’s right leg (too long?) but I do like the pose and the simplicity of the sketch.


30 minutes, A2, charcoal and white chalk

Another shoulder attachment problem! I haven’t given enough width at the point where the right arm attaches. I feel with what I’ve learned since that I could actually go back and correct this drawing without the model in front of me. To do list…..

IMG_3643 IMG_3642

Above both A3, 20 and 10 minutes respectively. Happy with the left drawing though the right lower leg seems narrow, this is undoubtedly this particular model’s body. The right has problems with the upper back and shoulder area. She had twisted her body which always throws me in to confusion. I think it probably needs to be broader, or I need to find a signal to show the twist.

IMG_3644 IMG_3657

Above both A2. Disappointed with the above two drawings. I didn’t really think about how I was going to use the white crayon and I haven’t used it successfully at all. It’s a bit of a mess. The drawing on the right I’m also not happy with. I fell back on my mistake of getting too focused in one area, not keeping my eye on the overall proportions, and then running out of time. I think the head is all wrong here, maybe too small? I can’t really tell now, and her right arm is weird too.


30 minutes, A2, charcoal

A male model (very rare around these parts!). I’m happy with most of this though I struggled with the thighs and the marks are now so much harder than the rest now. Not convinced that the lower leg or feet are large enough.


45 minutes, A1, charcoal and watercolour

I’m a newbie to watercolour but I do enjoy it. I went in too heavy here with the Payne’s Grey but there are areas that have worked. I need to hold back a little, leave more white. I was very happy with this drawing, and I feel I’ve trashed it with the paint, but I also know I have to push myself – il faut oser – as the French are keen on saying – one has to dare!


45 minutes, A1, charcoal and watercolour

So I had this idea to add in some pink, but didn’t test it out first, so now my poor model has sunburnt legs. It’s a shame because I think either colour scheme would have worked well – but on the entire body! Again too heavy with the paint – it has lost its translucency.


one hour, A1, charcoal and watercolour

My second attempt at watercolour and I was too tentative, A darker shadow on the thigh would have been good, but I was so frightened of the runaway qualities of the watercolour I simply didn’t put enough. The dark charcoal outline of the thigh is a bit dominant but I quite like the resulting zig-zag of legs.

There’s some foreshortening going on and I did find that relatively easy to deal with in this instance – I just had to see the shapes rather than think about the body.


45 minutes, A1, charcoal and watercolour

First ever go at watercolour in a life class. Using very thin paper (first mistake!) which buckled enormously. Also muddied my colours a lot by layering – remembering too late what I had read about translucency being key with watercolours.


30 minutes, A2, water-soluble crayons

The first time I have added colour and the first time I used water soluble crayons. I didn’t think to test the colours out first which is a bit daft and they have come out a bit garish, but it’s bold, and it was fun to do so I should do again. On the to do list….In terms of the structure of the body – the arm is probably too short and the hands and feet too small.

Below are all drawings done in life class before I started part four, but while I’ve been on Drawing One.


I’ve only come across this model once, and I enjoyed sketching her. She was not about contrived poses – she sat, she stood – in fact she stood very straight and firmly balanced on both feet, something not often seen!

In the above I lengthened the raised arm as an afterthought – though as it was slightly behind her head so seen at a foreshortened angle I’m now wondering if the correction should have happen more at the armpit and with the angle.

Below I was really focused on proportions. My classic shoulder problem presents itself again – the right looks ok though perhaps to straight? The right seems to lack width at the clavicle.



Above – I ran out of time – a shame because it’s almost there – I think the upper body and head probably needs to be bigger. The right arm isn’t quite there. The white has shown up harsh on this photograph.


Again I like the poses this model takes. Simple and natural. I’ve cunningly hidden the hands in this sketch….but what’s missing most to me is shadow under her bottom – she looks like she’s levitating.

Three drawings of same pose above. I struggled a lot with the idea of weight on the arm – trying to get the slump and the twist of the torso. The sketch with diluted ink I really like – I worked straight in with ink, no pencil and it was exhilarating. It reminds me (in media, not style!) of Diebenkorn’s ink figure paintings. Not sure why I haven’t done it since.

These last sketches are the first I did while on Drawing Skills.

project four: structure

exercise one: the structure of the human body


In life classes I’ve been struggling with arms and shoulders and heads. Which sort of makes up most of the upper half of the body. And then there are the problems with feet and ankles.

Doing these studies I think will help – I get to test them out in a life class tomorrow. I have an idea of the width of shoulders by comparison to the head. I understand what is going on under the skin with clavicle, sternum and top of arm settling snugly in to the shoulder blade. I often lose width across the shoulders, so I need to think about the span of that clavicle.

I draw arms like understuffed sausages. Looking at the muscles – beautiful mounds layered under each other will definitely help. I’ve spent some time copying arms drawn by the masters. It’s interesting that they really seem to go to town on the curves of the arm muscles. And there other are certain features they all point out – the curve around the shoulder muscle, the dip of sternum and clavicle.



Having ago drawing myself in mirror – trying to draw ‘over’ the bones.


Drawing these reminded me how high the hip bones come at the back, they are lower in the front – the jutting out hip bone. There’s also a point on the lower hip that juts out – actually the top part of the thigh bone. As with the shoulder and arm, muscles are layered on top of each other – major ones over buttocks, front of thigh and back of calves.


Drawing my own legs and feet with mirror. I have peculiarly long toes and feel I need to asterisk that in case anyone points out an anatomical error.


Drawing my feet and doing a second version with just line, wondering how much can be said with line. I think it probably depends on the position of the feet. The best lines are under the big toe, ball of foot, arch. If these are obvious I think a line is easier to do. I’ve struggled with toes and fingers in life classes. Now I see that toes are really all about the shadow between one and the next.


Examining how the masters tackle bodies (looking mainly at shoulders). This was such an interesting thing to do. The easiest by far was Modigliani. Schiele was the weirdest. I felt I was just drawing abstract shapes, but of course the whole works. Blake was also interesting – he seemed to be really thinking anatomically – the planes of the body, the muscles mass.


Hands are definitely tricky. Things I learnt

  • using own hands as model – the nearer they are to me the harder
  • getting the angle of the nail right is importantIMG_3509
  • it helps to get the shape of the palm down first, then the angle of the fingers
  • middle finger is as long as palm
  • structure of thumb goes all the way to the wrist


Beginning to think about using something other than a pencil…here I did a really bad sketch with charcoal, rubbed it out furiously and finding the ghost of my hand left in the charcoal went in with a 9B to pick out just a few elements. The hand on the left is interesting (on the right I didn’t quite get the ghostliness) – a technique to be investigated!


I haven’t doodled with biro since those hours spent in boring meetings (in another lifetime) and really enjoyed the freedom they give.

Wasn’t sure about this to begin with. The left leg looks so much larger than the right, but when I went to check it was pretty much correct except that the right foot should be a tad longer and the right thigh a tiny bit wider. Maybe shadows on the ground would have helped explain the position better?


Using charcoal, red and black pencil. A self portrait so not a very interesting position, and tricky to keep arms still.

I’m very tall and that does come across, maybe from the extreme portrait shape of the sketch, but also the ranginess of legs coming forward, as if there isn’t quite enough room for them on the chair or within the frame.


  • little toe – something has gone very wrong there
  • forearm is way too short – I did try to fix this and consequently the hand?!
  • the hand!

Funny how I only spot these things once I’ve uploaded the photograph to the blog.

Following on from above image, hoping to correct the arm but turns out it’s all in the crook of the wrist. Thinking about Diebenkorn and Alice Neel and using blank ink with paintbrush. I don’t have much patience (or is that time?) and am delighted in the way the quickest dab of diluted ink can create shadow.