Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Painting from life

My restrained palette
This post was originally published on my Drawing my way round London blog on 21 January 2013.

Last Saturday I returned to art school for the day. I went on a painting from life course being run at Candid Arts in Islington, north London. I've always felt a bit nervous about life drawing because I find it very hard work and expect my efforts to go wrong. This reluctance stems from my first efforts at life drawing when I was a 16 year old student and I have felt like a beginner ever since. I decided it was time to 'get over myself' and spend a day under tuition learning how to mix paint and apply it.

Our teacher got us to start our study with a simple charcoal sketch where we laid down the building blocks for our painting. Now, using charcoal is something else I have a hang-up about. It's always too dark, I get it in the wrong place and everything all ends up a big mess. However when our teacher pointed out to me that the I needed to hold the charcoal stick from the end and not grip it half way down, allow the movement to come from my shoulder and not my wrist I discovered I could draw with it perfectly well. Later on in the day I found it was also important to use this approach when applying the paint. From this point of view the day felt like a long martial arts lesson in relaxation.

My tentative efforts at painting
Now for the paint. I chose to use acrylic instead of oil because it dries quicker. I didn't realise though that we wouldn't be adding any liquid to thin it down. If I was at home I'd be hurling water at the paint. I also didn't realise how little paint you need to cover quite a lot of paper. When it comes to mixing pink skin tones you start with white, add a tiny amount of red and a tiny amount of yellow. If this ends up too jaundiced you add a tiny amount of blue to tone it down. And tiny really means tiny (I'm going to have to practise this because I was going way too pink, yellow and then green). If you are aiming for brown you mix red with yellow and then add some black.

During one of our regular breaks
As the day wore on we were all becoming more tired. This was because we were constantly making decisions about colour, form, light and shade - it was exhausting and the time seemed to pass so quickly. My completed painting is below. It's not a work of art but it is an interesting study and I am confident that what I learned from this will feed into other work I do in the future and I am happy for you to look at it.

I didn't throw it away!


Heather James said...

Comment left by Jacqui Boyd on 21 January 2013

Well done Heather, hope you can attend another class soon. I love drawing from life,although you would never know it, the way I huff,puff sigh and walk away as I go through the process. Unfortunately not much available and if it is, usually over subscribed and in a dark room with no natural light!

Heather James said...

Thanks Jacqui, I always find this kind of drawing quite terrifying but I am so glad I did it.