Category Archives: sketchbook

Strict French Art Class


I started these very classic art classes in November, moving gradually from HB pencil to charcoal and finally to charcoal AND white conté crayon. Hurrah!

What I learned:

  • the grey paper is the mid-tone – it’s quite hard to use it as mid-tone – to just let it be
  • work with charcoal and grey paper first. Add white last.
  • blending the charcoal and white makes a flat grey – avoid!
  • however it is possible to go over the charcoal with the crayon to some extent (with a sharp tip)
  • don’t be frightened to go in quite bold – laying down a lot of charcoal – it can always be taken away
  • don’t bother with a very detailed drawing – you are sculpting the drawing from the charcoal


gate-crashing the life class

I’ve got in to this over-subscribed life class more times than I’ve been turned away now, beginning to feel more adopted and less gate-crasher.

Two more sketches of the same pose as last week, from different angles.


A2, charcoal

I spent almost the entire time trying to get the slight twist and sag in the torso. The model’s weight was on her left hand and it was a struggle for her, she was moving about quite a bit. I’m still not convinced. I gave the leg and foot much less attention – not sure they are big enough – same old story – I did measure up but considering the leg is coming this way, it does look small.


Similar struggle here – the arm with weight on it. I hate to blame a fidgety model but it was really hard to get the position of arm against torso right. She was holding the pose for long periods on account of the oil painters in the room and it was clearly tough.

In hindsight I probably should have kept all my lines in place – from the different positions she took – it may have made for a more satisfying sketch than this with its tentative sausage of an arm.

Gate-crashing the life class

Ok so last week I was left at the door and didn’t get in but this week yay! I got in, though being on the B-list I take the last seat, in this case right behind the model. Which was OK, but there was very little nuance of light and shadow, she was essentially all shadow. Two identical poses of 25 minutes – I’ve put the better of the two here.


Charcoal on A2

What I learnt:

  • the back was in one tone of shadow – I could barely make out a spine, let alone shoulder blades – and without them I found it difficult to ‘feel’ my way around the shoulder attachment. It took a great deal of time to get this in place.
  • the area viewed under the arm is a tangle of thigh, knee and arm. I think I should have simplified and suggested rather than trying to depict what was going on
  • the hand! It’s not great, but at least it’s there – I’ve learn that it’s best to put down the blocks of the hand, almost like the hand is wearing a mitten – rather than going straight in with fingers.
  • i have a tendency to go too small with hands, feet and head, but I think I am finally all in proportion here.

This drawing lacks interest and expression, but I went in determined to get it ‘right’. I was also quite anxious  – I’m the English woman who stands at the door with a stupid grin on her face hoping to get in – I need to get over this.

Next week I know I have a place while someone is on holiday, it’s the same model in the same pose (there are oil painters in the class). Now I know I can pretty much get an accurate body on the page, I am determined to loosen up. Determined is probably the wrong approach – maybe ready? I am ready to loosen up.





very strict art class

What I had called my ‘back to basics’ art class is now getting more serious so it’s become my ‘very strict art class’.  I’m done with finding the axis of pears and drawing the outline of teapots. Today I did my last still life in pencil. Next week it’s landscape in charcoal, quite a leap but good timing for part three: expanse.


pencil HB, 2B and 6B on paper

This was a culmination of the past several weeks of study: axis, form, tone, texture. For the first time I went in to this with some confidence, got the composition down fairly quickly, worked quickly to create form. I struggled a little with the shell – getting the pattern and shine across on what is essentially a very dark, almost black object. The horizontal line of the table against the wall  isn’t right but I can fix that. Best of all I felt I knew what I was doing – progress!

drop in life class


pencil followed by white and black crayon on red paper.

25 minutes of which most was spent trying to get the lower leg and feet right. This is always my problem area (that and faces…and hands…) I let them tail off into nothing – this time I measured and measured and think they are in proportion. The next struggle will be to get them looking three-dimensional.


pencil then red and white crayon on grey paper

25 minutes again. I wasn’t thinking about time and I’ve run out – really evident under the thighs – I wish I had fixed the shadows here so she doesn’t look like she is hovering. I also avoided the right hand.


pencil then white pastel and black on grey paper

25 minutes and I ran out of time – the head and upper body are far from done – and I think the head needs to be a tad bigger. I also think the white pastel is a bit of a mistake. This looks like a woman turned to stone – though perhaps I can take some out now if the fixative wasn’t too strong. I’ve been too heavy handed with it especially on the hip and thigh which doesn’t help with the perspective.


The first ten minutes sketch, though the model continued to stand pretty much in place so I got more time to try and fix those lower legs and feet. I think I am beginning to see what needs to happen with the feet:

  • get them sized correctly – surprisingly long
  • get the angles that join the calf to foot down correctly – there is a certain width at this point and a couple of angles.
  • think of the bones that make them up
  • consider adding toes

Life Class

In view of Part Four coming up (the figure and the head) a frantic search for life classes turned up just one that my schedule allows – but it’s full. Thankfully I’ve learnt the French way of pleading insistently and the teacher has allowed me to stand by. Quite literally, I turn up and if there’s room I can stay. Needless to say yesterday I got in!

The following sketches were 5 minutes long.


And two of 25 minutes:



Things I learned:

  • this was the first time I used the principle of axis to begin the drawing. Usually I faff about for ages trying to get the proportions right but this time it was easier. Not sure if that is growing experience or the axis helping.
  • using the axis seems to help get across a relationship between body and ground – to understand where the weight of the body falls from head to foot.
  • once the main axis was in I looked at the angle of hips and shoulders. I found hips fairly easy, but there were some poses where it was extremely difficult to understand the angle of the shoulders.
  • Years back I did study some anatomy but when drawing I forget what’s under the skin – how a shoulder blade is attached, the shape of the ribcage – a proper blind panic.
  • I still have big problems with the size of heads and feet. I seem intent on letting the lower calf and foot tail off into nothing.
  • I prefer my 5-minute sketches to the longer ones. This must come down to the pressure of the longer time slot. Next time I plan to convince myself it is just 5 minutes, get the pose down and then enjoy the time left to fix things.
  • my favourite pose above is the most abstract. The pose was truly awkward, it was very hard to see what was going on so I ended up just trying to see in lines- but that seems to have given the sketch seem movement. I think there was a point where I couldn’t make this work as a body anymore, I couldn’t untangle arms from breasts from thigh. I had to find a different route in and somehow it worked.

Most of all I learnt that I really enjoy life classes. I will continue to go and standby at the door, fingers crossed that there will always been someone who can’t quite manage to leave their sofa and make it out of the door.



l’atelier indigo – work from the weekly art class I take locally


Just about had a breakdown over this piece. It’s done with gouache and a palette knife – absolutely no paintbrush allowed. There’s a great deal wrong with it, but I’ve learnt a lot along the way:

  • make sure perspective is right before you start painting – see metal bars
  • have a plan as regards the colours – maybe figure them all out in advance and have a palette (with notes) to refer to. I did this painting over many many weeks, and Christmas in between. I essentially mixed up new paints for each limb and it shows. I think if I’d had a plan with sample colours it would have disciplined me.
  • don’t forget to add a little water. Sometimes i got so engrossed, and even though I was struggling with the consistency of the paint, didn’t stop to think about how I might improve it…sounds idiotic, but true.
  • the technique of using the palette knife I’m sure will come wth practice. I think the number one thing I could have done to improve this is plan the colours. Next time.