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What no painter wants to hear…

Go back to your drawing

Some years back David Miller, an artist who puts great emphasis on draughtsmanship, looked at a painting I was working on, wrinkled his nose and suggested that I might go back to drawing.

Before attending charm school, David studied under Norman Blamey and Lawrence Gowing, both stalwarts of English observational art and he absorbed their quiet rigour. When looking at their work it can be seen that much of the excitement of it comes from carefully recording the structure of what they see.

Norman Blamey – study of a young woman seated

This kind of drawing, quite different from optical drawing typified by a lot of contemporary observational work, seeks to understand what is seen before explaining it, rather than just describing what the light is doing. When working with the human figure this would include a study of anatomy for example.

Jacopo Tintoretto – Head of Giuliano de’ Medici 

Too great an understanding can get in the way of observation, the drama in a piece often arises from the particular and unique circumstances of the moment, we need to be very aware to catch this and not be limited to our own internal visual language, our remembered and regurgitated imagery.

That is not to say that understanding is an impediment, quite the reverse, it is the very foundation of great draughtsmanship but it needs to be held in balance with optical observation.

When we paint it’s easy to rush ahead in our eagerness to engage with pigment but very often, and certainly in my case, this can lead to a rather casual attitude towards the drawing. Drawing before we paint gives us time to look and to discover what it is that we are really painting, scampering over this phase of the work will always lead to difficulties further on in the painting, it is a false time economy.

So whilst David ruffled my feathers he was quite right, we can all benefit from going back to drawing and experience shows that twenty minutes drawing the subject saves two hours or more of exasperation once paint is on canvas.

On our recent painting holiday several artists who paint to a high standard mentioned how refreshing it was just to do some honest life drawing. Drawing is the seed and root of much great art.

It may be of interest that our new Intermediate Life Drawing course kicks off tomorrow evening and could accommodate one or two more artists.

Tuesday Afternoon Short Pose Drop-in Life Drawing

Phoebe is a model and yoga person and she’ll be providing the poses this Tuesday afternoon.

Whilst the session runs for three hours it is possible to attend one, two or three hours, as works for you. Joining or leaving the group happens promptly on the hour. There is a tutor available although the group is officially untutored.

Cost £5 for one hour, £10 for two hours or £15 for three.
Tea and cake £1

Wednesday Drop-in long pose untutored

Felix is in a seated pose with the last session this week. Here are some works that emerged last week.

Cost £15 no need to book, just turn up. £1 for coffee and biscuits at 11.30am
Read more here

Wednesday Afternoon Drop-in Portraiture
2.00pm -5.00pm

Felix will be sitting for a portrait for the second and final week this Wednesday afternoon.

Cost £20 no need to book, just turn up. Tea and cake £1

This is a drop-in group for those wanting to work on their portraiture. If you haven’t been for a while would you fill in the form and read more here so that we can keep the numbers manageable.

Friday Drop-in Long pose untutored

We have Phoebe as our model for the next three weeks – here’s a picture of her downward dogging. My yogin daughter tells me the heels will come down eventually. We’ll set a slightly more relaxed pose for the duration.

Cost £15, no need to book, just turn up. £1 for tea and cake at 3.30pm
More info here

Saturday Drop-in Long Pose Untutored Life Drawing and Painting

Second week with Vibe, seated, a sketch of her pose below

Cost £15 – no need to book, just turn up. £1 for coffee and biscuits at 11.30am


Alison and Simon

Dulwich Art Group Organisers
Alison on 07968 063523
Simon on 07704 450169
Our venue is at 4a Champion Hill SE5 8AH you can find out how to get there here

Quick links to our educational courses here:

Clare HawardPainting in oils on Mondays and Monday Evenings
Skills Part One: The Elements of Drawing on Tuesday Mornings
Life Drawing: Intermediate Life Drawing – chief tutor Simon Dunstan Tuesday Evenings
Alex Tzavaras: Introduction to painting from life on Tuesday Evenings
Alex Tzavaras: Portrait class on Wednesday evenings
David Sawyer: Landscape Painting on Thursdays
An Introduction to Life Drawing with Alison Packer and Simon Dunstan is on Thursday evenings
Skills Part Two: Introducing Oil Painting on Friday Mornings