“The trick to drawing hands is to approach them in the same way as everything else - look at the shapes they make in space, the shapes in between the fingers, the shapes of the things around or behind them - the air shapes and the un- shapes!
That way you draw what you really see instead of worrying about the bunch of bananas or fat sausages that your brain compares them to. We should be able to draw our hands really well- we have a spare one hanging around all the time to practice on :-)”
John said “Your versatility is amazing. I love your professional touch.!”
I said “I think I just get bored easily - and like the challenge of trying something new all the time....”
And it’s true – I love trying to draw on an unusual surface or capturing something that’s moving, or dimly lit. This evening I am going to try drawing at a Flamenco workshop. It might work, it might not, but I am looking forward to the challenge. I did the basic paintings for these during a performance by the same group earlier this year. I have only just seen how they could be finished though. I ruined another three, which was a shame, but that’s the way it goes.
Sally said “I love the fact that your work is spontaneous and accurate at the same time. Do you check proportions much or is your eye trained to the point where you don't need to check? I have recently started going to a life class. It is very good practice as they do a variety of very quick and some longer poses. So far I have been using charcoal and chalks or pencil and some pen and wash. I might try your idea of gesso and acrylics. Your enthusiasm is very inspiring. Hope you get plenty of feedback.”
I go to life classes regularly too. Life class is great practice and it kind of helps you to feel inside someone else's body, which is the other part of drawing them (the weird part!). The longer poses give you time to measure and consider how the body works, but the short poses are great for just getting the essential impressions down.
Do try gesso - I love the stuff.... it's great with ink too. When I was in the UK last time I bought some watercolour ground (Daniel Smith, I think), which must be similar but more absorbent. I haven't tried it yet, but I'm sure it will be fun -there's so much to play with!!!"
Do keep your comments coming – I’ll try to help in any way that I can. The internet is such a gift to communication and information sharing.....
Talking of which, for those of you in Malta, I have two invitations for you; one is to a charity exhibition on the 17th November
And the other is to my next First Friday Gallery, on the 7th November. This will be the last one I do before Christmas, and next year I will be doing them as and when rather than monthly. I will be displaying my Hypogeum paintings, which have been in storage for years. I want to surround myself with their energy again as I feel this is the time to finish the series and exhibit them all. Come and see!
I have a whole website dedicated to my work in the prehistoric temples of Malta
I have also opened my old sketch books for the first time in years, looking for drawn images to illustrate the blogs with. I have so many of them, dating back to my college days in the early 70’s and they have brought back many memories.
I would love to infect a few people with that obsession too.... there is nothing to compare with the feeling of losing all connection to time and ‘real’ life and being totally absorbed in the lines that magically appear. It is, I realise now, akin to meditation as it generates healthy alpha waves. Worries switch off and all that matters is the careful study of something outside yourself that you can translate into a different manifestation. The act of creation is thrilling, even if the results aren’t always perfect. If it was easy to draw perfectly every time then there would be no challenge, no reason to practice and try until you make drawings you can be proud of.
What to draw? Draw anything and everything. Complicated things are somehow easier than seemingly simple ones, as there are more ‘hooks’ to get you hooked. And yes, that’s it, drawing is addictive. I’m definitely hooked, and I’m a pusher too.
If you rely on your eyes alone they will often mislead you. A man from Mars would see what you saw, but not what you know. A small square in the distant landscape would mean a house to you; you know it has walls and a roof. The sound of voices means people live there. A smell could tell you they are about to eat. You could see fruit on the trees outside which make your mouth water……….. the Martian will see only coloured shapes. If you both sat down to draw, the results would be very different. We are often able to draw things we know well, whether an artist or not. A golfer could draw a golf club, a yachtsman a sail. Ordinary seeing, therefore, is not enough. We draw things better if we can understand them with our other senses too.
Drawing an object by engaging all the senses is similar to meditation. Time slips away, outside sounds seem far off, it is very difficult to speak coherently and to draw deeply. Alpha waves flow. This is because drawing engages the right, creative side of the brain, and overrides the language and logic based left brain. It's a very healthy way of spending some time every day, relaxing and yet pleasantly tiring at the same time.
As we practice drawing in this way it becomes easier; the synapses and neural pathways learn new ways of connecting. In my own case, I 'feel' whatever I am focusing on in a textural way that is difficult to explain in words. Stone walls feel very different to grass, for example. Classical music feels different to dancers.
Draw for yourself. Learn some techniques, because they help you past the frustration of 'not being able to' and then draw, paint and express how you feel, because only you know that.
I usually begin with a sense of trepidation - what have I talked myself into this time? Will I be able to do it? Will I just produce an embarrassing mess? This has happened in the past, so it keeps me on the edge I suppose. I am certainly not complacent.
The painting above, 'Flying Trapeze' was started on the spot at a circus performance a couple of years ago. I had asked to paint there, not knowing what to expect, and had turned up with two enormous sheets of paper - and then felt completely overwhelmed. There was just so much going on and I wished I had brought smaller sheets, and that I had gessoed them. For some reason I hadn't.
So, back to the 'Flying Trapeze' experience. The circus was outdoors and the evening was typically humid. As I said before, I hadn't gessoed the paper, so the suface became extremely absorbant and the paint was soaking straight in and not flowing. I did the best I could and just drew with paint, trying to capture all the movement and excitement. I wasn't that happy with the results (but then I rarely am at the time) and put the drawings/paintings in the cupboard and forgot about them.
I found them again the other day and wondered how to work on them without losing the action in them but still allowing the paint to flow. I put a thin layer of gesso over everything so that I could still see the figures, and then used three colours of gouache; orange, yellow and blue. I wish that I had taken a 'before' photo to show you, but I do have the other sheet still untouched...........
This has a bit of every act at the circus on it, and might descend into complete confusion when I start to work on it, but it's an interesting challenge. I also have an acrobat, which was on the same sheet as the trapeze artist, so this shows you what I did on the spot.
In much the same way, small children make marks to represent what they see around them. They start with scribbles and random dots, but as they gain control of their hands, the marks become recognisable as people, animals and other objects. They are also happy to copy things that other people draw for them, which is why Maltese children usually draw houses with pointed rooves!
Learning to draw is similar to learning to speak in that it is a perfectly natural thing to do, but for some reason we don't think it should be a slow process of making mistakes and learning through practice. We seem to have an unrealistic expectation of being able to learn a few basic techniques and then turn out masterpieces for everyone to admire.
If you go to a singing teacher he will give you breathing exercises first, not a song. No one would expect you to sing those exercises before an audience.
Do yourself a favour - don’t expect to turn out ‘proper’ drawings when you are doing exercises. They are designed to help you learn to SEE and are steps to being able to draw well. Your progress will show in how differently you start to see things around you, not necessarily in the drawings themselves.......
Never be afraid to make mistakes; they will teach you much more than anything else.
“The sooner you make the first five thousand mistakes, the sooner you will be able to correct them” Kimon Nicolaides 'The Natural Way to Draw'
It all depends on you, and how much you are prepared to invest in practice.
I love to paint - and draw - and help others to discover their creative side too.....
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