So, What’s the Problem?

Comfortable Silence (Graphite)

Comfortable Silence (Graphite)

I’m really finding it hard to create anything at the moment! I think I’m finally getting back on track again after all the upheaval of last year… So, what’s the problem? I ask myself this almost daily at around this time (11pm), not entirely surprised to find the day is over and I’ve missed another chance.

So, I decided I might try and share some of what I’m experiencing. Maybe getting it down on paper will help me work it out, maybe if you’re stuck too it’ll help you, and just maybe you’ll have some amazing tips to share with me 😛 .

As a bit of background, I’ve spent much of the past year allowing myself to be unproductive while recovering from lots of life things – an unexpected break up, illness, increased workload and ultimately moving house… Happily, I’m feeling much more myself again and keen to get on with life. I’ve begun spending time working on my neglected website and I’m starting to feel enthusiastic about painting again.

However, all the good intentions are going nowhere as far as actually painting is concerned, and each day ends without pencil or brush touching paper. I’m quite bemused at myself! Do I really want to paint or not? If I do, why do I keep not doing it? Who’s kidding who? And how do I keep tricking myself out of it. As you can see, I’ve been doing a lot of talking to myself!

This weekend I finally picked up a brush and dabbled for a while, and the results illustrated (pun intended) what might be the problem… I’m facing exactly what I’ve been fearing: Can I actually remember how to paint?! Answer: No, not really… all the practise I’ve put in over the past three years has gone. The sketching is still mostly OK, as you can see from the doves pictured… but watercolour? Forget it.

I’m not saying that I can’t hit the paper with a brush covered in paint, but that’s about as far as it goes. The mental link from brain to hand is missing. You know, that special magic skill that you don’t learn until after you pass your driving test. Well it works for painting too, and probably for any skill you become really familiar with. I think I’d just begun to experience, and enjoy it, when I stopped painting.

So what’s been stopping me is the worry that it’s not like riding a bike and I’ll have to go through the whole awkward learning process again to get it back. I’m disappointed to have lost it so quickly, a bit angry with myself really, and I’m embarrassed to share stuff that I’m not thrilled about. Hence the sketch, not the painting dabbles 😛 .

Then last night I came across an article called “Practise isn’t Sexy” that described my problem exactly and put it in a nutshell:

“If you can’t quite seem to commit the time to learn then it’s time to admit one of two things… Either learning that particular skill is not really a priority for you or you are afraid of looking stupid.” -Lindsay

I’m pretty sure I want to learn the skill or I wouldn’t keep torturing myself about it all the time, so I just have to make time and get over this fear of looking stupid!


The article is also worth a read if you have a moment or two – “Practise isn’t Sexy” by Lindsay.


It’s been a while…

Clementine (graphite)

Clementine (graphite)

You may have noticed, it’s been a while since I’ve shown up here, written anything, or had any arty things to share with you…  I’m so sorry I disappeared, a year is an embarrassingly long time to be missing in action! But it was a huge year with lots of personal and professional challenges… I’m very happy to be on the far side of it rediscovering some balance and fun! If you’ve been patiently waiting for something new, thank you! You have amazing patience!

I did manage to keep some sketching going throughout all the upheaval, mostly at the weekly life drawing group at the Camelot Lounge. Many of those sketches were too rough or a bit too nude to be comfortable sharing on a public site 😛 However, I wanted to share one piece from last Wednesday’s Gyspy Sketch Club session which I’m particularly pleased with.

I have always had problems with faces and most of my drawings of the models at the club are torsos only, with no more than a vague oval and maybe some scribble where the face should be. I would love to be able to really capture a likeness, or just get some features in the right place so that my oval blob looks human! Mind you, most sketches are completed in less than 5 minutes so I’m generally focusing on getting the limbs and body down rather than bothering with an area I know I struggle with.

Occasionally during the evening the model strikes a pose that just can’t be seen very well (it’s a busy room), or isn’t very inspiring. For these situations the management have thoughtfully set up a video camera casting a slightly different view of the model on a large screen. This was one of those moments and I had just 10 minutes with a beautiful close up composition that was crying out to be drawn.

I think I started off with her eye and worked away from it, trying to smudge shading in and sort of mapping the area, trying not to identify it in my mind as a face (try tricking your brain into this!). Then, judging the distance between the outer edge of her eye and the edge of her face, & just putting in a line, next looking at her nose and how the upper edge of it by the nostril is almost horizontally in line with the inner corner of her eye. And a mark here and a scribble there, creating small areas of shading rather than outlines… suddenly I realised I had something that was starting to look like a face!

And then she moved to the next pose.


Life Drawing at the Camelot

Life Drawing (graphite)

Life Drawing (graphite)

This Wednesday night found me back at the Camelot Lounge for their regular Life Drawing sessions. It’s been disappointing missing the last few weeks and so it was good to be back, even if keeping up with the five minute poses at the beginning was rather confronting! It’s horrifying how quickly your hand forgets how to communicate with your eyes and brain.

The pose pictured was one of the final set and had the benefit of a full fifteen minutes, hence I managed to get some shading done as well as an outline. Despite that extra time she still hasn’t got a face, and her leg is far more foreshortened than the angle called for – you can easily tell the bits I leave until last because I find them hardest!

I was also fascinated to find that the model this time gave me challenges I hadn’t encountered before, being a larger lady with a beautiful curvy body. All my previous experience has been with thinner subjects, so my usual method of estimating and mapping out the distances between significant landmarks, edges or shapes suddenly didn’t work so well because all the gaps were larger. I was surprised what a difference it made to my ability to measure.

Anyway, it was a hugely beneficial exercise and very rewarding in the end… so here’s to trying an increasing variety of shapes and sizes in models in the future 🙂 .


Portrait Sketch – Girl in a Pink Hat

Girl in a Pink Hat (Graphite Sketch)

Girl in a Pink Hat (Graphite Sketch)

It’s an ambition of mine to sketch and paint portraits… and to do it well enough to capture a good likeness so they’re recognisable. It’s strange though – I can never bring myself to actually do them. I don’t know why, but I seem to always find an excuse to do something else like another animal or flower.

This is starting to come more to my attention though, both the urge to do it and the recognition that I’m avoiding it, so hopefully that’s the first stage in overcoming it 🙂 … and I just have to face the fact that it’s going to be a bit painful for a while, until I’ve practised a lot more.

So today I chose a picture from the huge selection on PaintmyPhoto titled Pink Hat 2 by Rachael Curry. She’s a very pretty girl in an interesting pose but not someone I know, which I believe helps when you’re a beginner – you don’t get lulled into thinking you know how their features fit together.

It was great fun and mostly went OK, although it doesn’t completely look like her. I think I made the common mistake of making her nose too long and the space above her top lip – the philtrum? – is too long as well. So her face looks a bit squished!

Fallow Deer Graphite Sketch

Fallow Deer Fawn (Graphite)

Fallow Deer Fawn (Graphite)

I haven’t done a graphite sketch for ages and for some reason I’m just not attracted to all the half finished watercolours I have sitting around… a very good friend of mine (Gina) mentioned today that these are commonly known as UFO’s, UnFinished Objects. Well, I’ve always been a big Sci Fi fan 😉

So, anyway, today this seemed like a good excuse to pick up the graphite sticks and have a play with a greyscale sketch. Who knows it might also help my ongoing difficulties with tonal values (well, of course it will!!). So, again taken from Paintmyphoto, this is a beautiful Fallow deer fawn from a photo by Lenora Melville.

I actually thought that being such a compact and interesting pose it would be fairly easy to draw, but I was so wrong… the back end fell into place quite easily, but head and neck were very difficult to get right. Luckily you can’t tell, but there were three or four attempts to get to this result – and the nose is still a bit long (that seems to be a common problem, noses are always too long). I am very happy with how the spotty fur turned out though, and I thought that would be the hard part!