The Practice of Drawing
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.
The Veg Box selling genuine organic produce will be open too, plus a new chic little cafe in the grounds.
23 euro for a one-off session, 20 euros if you book for more than one.
Please contact me to book
Saturday Morning Art Club starts this weekend too - on the
27th September at 10 am til 12.30 pm. We will continue to concentrate on good drawing skills, but also work with colour this autumn. I like to mix media and explore new ways of making pictures, so expect some fun!
Classes are held in my studio in ManikataSingle classes are 20 euro or 5 classes (to be taken before December 13th) 85 euro
Again, please contact me to book
I also have a lot of exciting projects in the pipeline - one will be in Sliema and open to children 14 -16, helping them to draw figures in motion. The last class will be at the rehearsals of a Flamenco performance and their pictures will be exhibited in the foyer of the theatre afterwards. More details soon!
I would like to run this course for adults later but I need to find a suitable venue first.
I am planning art classes at a venue in Sliema too, which many people have asked me about. It seems that Manikata is 'too far' for some :-) So I will come to you......
Again, more details coming soon, but please let me know if you are interested, and whether evening or daytime classes are what you are looking for. I will start by running my popular course of basic drawing and watercolour techniques, which helps everyone to start seeing differently and to begin or continue their Art adventure with added confidence and joy. I will add other courses later.
I find that it is always beneficial to work in a group as well as practice on your own. It's always good to see how other people tackle the same or similar subjects. Creativity grows and expands by sharing ideas and inspiration. Always working alone can be stifling and our work may become dull and repetetive.The more candles we light from our own flame the brighter the whole world becomes!
I am really looking forward to cooler weather and to meeting you at my autumn classes.
Drawing up the Ladder
Somewhere along the line though, we decided that we just weren’t able to make things look 'real' enough. We copied the symbols of houses and people that we were shown, but they still didn’t look right. Maybe someone laughed at our purple lemon, or our six legged horse. We were told to make grass green and skies blue. Little by little we lost our innocent creativity in an attempt to what? Please other people?
Many children then give up, and the precious gift of creative self expression slips away. Some love their art classes at school, and do well in their exams, but when Real Life kicks in, who has time to practice drawing or painting? Years later, when circumstances change, and they have some time for themselves, many decide to take up art again. It's a shame to lose contact with that playful love of making pictures, but luckily it's really never too late to rediscover it.
I really love teaching adults – it’s such a great feeling to help someone realise that actually they can draw much better than they ever thought they could, just by being shown a few simple ‘tricks’. My previous Blogs (see archives!) have given you every single one of those ‘tricks’. I wonder if you have tried any? They really do work. All we need to do is see the world as it really is instead of how we think it is. And then draw a line around the shapes. It only takes one basic drawing class to get that ‘Ah-ha!’ feeling. Of course, it then takes practice. Anything worthwhile takes practice.
Drawing from Photos
Artists have used endless tricks and tools to help them capture the image they were after, from lightboxes and lenses, grids and viewfinders, cameras, computers and more recently Photoshop. Many people use photographs as a convenient basis for their paintings. It obviously seems easier to sit and copy a static scene instead of battling the various problems of perspective, three dimensional space, colour, changing light and moving subjects.
A word of caution though; cameras only have one ‘eye’ and can madly distort images, especially when zoom lenses are used. We find it hard to believe that photographs can lie to us so badly, and we don’t even notice the crazy distortions on many photos of moving people. Yet people faithfully copy, even trace, photos of dancers or sportspeople and can’t work out why the figures look so odd.
It seems like a simple solution, but it can be a very deceptive one. The single lens of the camera squashes perspective onto one plane, especially if the figure is moving. This distorts and flattens everything, so that a closer object becomes smaller and a more distant one becomes bigger. As an example look at this photo..
Using a photo is different from letting a photo use you. A slavish copy of a flat image is exactly that; it takes human aliveness and consciousness to turn it into a work of art. Photographs can be useful aids but we have to be aware of their distortions or we will just copy them blindly. As artists, we have to infuse our work with all our skills of interpretation and insight to give it the kiss of life.
I do use photographs sometimes. I take photos when there isn't time to paint, and occasionally I capture something that looks like an interesting starting point. For example.....
“Machines can do many things better than people, but beauty created by a combination of hand, eye, personality and material is something we shall always need. In fact, there is a sense of presence which can only be created by an artist or craftsman” Martin Gayford
I am starting my classes again after the long hot summer!
On Friday 19th September mornings I will be returning to the lovely gardens of Villa Bologna to resume the outdoor classes there.
From 20th September the Saturday Morning Drawing Club will get underway again in my studio in Manikata.
For more details please click HERE and contact me if you need any more information at all.
I will also be teaching an exciting six week course for teenagers 12 - 14 beginning in October in Sliema. I'll be showing them how to draw from real people, helping them to sketch quickly and for the last class we'll be working at the rehearsals of a Flamenco performance.
Looking forward to seeing you soon!!
Drawing from a Different Place
I wonder if perhaps because mark-making is such a primal human urge we expect drawing to be ‘easy’ somehow; that it should not demand practice or hard work. Most people really wish that they could draw, but are convinced that they are not ‘gifted’ because they were probably told as children that their attempts at drawing were not good enough (good enough for WHAT? They are expressions, not competitions). Children who find drawing easy seem to be those who naturally see abstract shapes and how they fit together in space. It is more a gift of perception or observation than of drawing, really.
“Drawing will make you a better person – not morally, necessarily, but it makes you think. It will help you see the hidden patterns all around you, and make you a discriminating lover of landscapes, faces and mundane objects. It becomes an education, which changes your brain as much as learning to play the piano or to dance. It is about striving to become more fully human” Andrew Marr in ‘A Short Book About Drawing’
You can use the practice of drawing as a form of productive meditation, time for yourself, an interesting way of looking at the world differently and an absorbing search for lines and shapes to describe what you see. It can also be a new way of connecting to your surroundings, helping you to see things that you had never noticed before. The end result is less important than how much you learn, how much you see and how deeply you become absorbed. This alone can be the greatest source of joy, and as you continue the actual drawings will improve, with flashes of insight and leaps of ability.
I often think that the world would be a much more peaceful and pleasant place if only everyone was helped to draw to the best of their ability; we would all ‘see’, feel and experience life in a much less superficial way.
I love to draw with paint at live events, dance and music performances. I usually use acrylic paint on dark backgrounds at night time events. Sometimes I will use pastels or ink.
It takes a huge amount of focus and energy, but the buzz I get from it is, I have realised, addictive.
Looking through my old sketchbooks the other day I found pages and pages of tiny moving figures, and I remembered doing them over 40 years ago. I was working on a college project at the time which featured clowns in strange positions. I had to draw them without models because the poses were impossible, but I wanted the contortions to look as realistic as I could. I had the brainwave of drawing footballers on the TV. This proved to be a fantastic training for drawing moving figures . I learned to capture a mental snapshot and then draw as quickly as possible before the image faded..
I have filled the pages of many books with quick sketches of people ever since.
People usually spend much more time looking at their pencil/pen than the subject. In effect they are always drawing from memory. They get so fascinated with their hand drawing they forget to look properly at the subject at all. One of the exercises I give to my students is to use ‘blind contour drawing’. They have to cover their hand so that they can’t see what it is doing, and draw a three dimensional subject as carefully as they can. At first this feels unbearable, and seems impossible. Even the crazy abstract lines that happen at first have a strange beauty about them though. They are lines of pure seeing – total connection between the eye and hand. The brain can’t interfere and process anything. This is what we are ultimately aiming for in our drawings- pure honest lines that describe what we are seeing.
I love to paint - and draw - and help others to discover their creative side too.....
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