In one of the sculpture galleries at the V&A museum in London is Michaelangelo’s David. He does tend to dominate rather. However, there is also plenty of other stone-hewn flesh to sketch, and this time it was the turn of Crouching Boy, also by Michaelangelo.
One of my favourite ways to represent white marble is to work in white gel pen on a black background. It’s fun and a good mental discipline to have to add in highlights, rather than to leave them blank. Another bonus is that often you don’t need to spend very long to capture a credible likeness, as there never seems to be quite as much shading.
Sometimes I charge right into a drawing without circumspection. Not this time. When drawing just with pen it’s a risky business, as once you’ve committed there is no going back. I was on the last page of my sketchbook and wanted to do it justice, so I took care and time to think about the spacial relationships between the broad back, the head and the knee in particular. This pause for thought definitely helped in constructing the outlines.
The light in the sculpture gallery is rather diffuse, which means that it can be hard to see where the highlights and the darks are. It gave me some problems on the leg, trying to show the less defined muscles yet still leave enough shadow, but overall I’m pretty content with the way this one turned out. I would have been even happier if I’d been the sculptor!
After the heady bling of the Wallace Collection, we headed out to one of our favourites, the Victoria and Albert museum. It’s never failed us yet. Great for sketching, perfect for inspiration, it holds some of the finest examples the world can offer in the arts.
Very quickly on arrival we located a couple of museum stools (essential for sketchers), and found something to draw – a large display of blown glass birds in many colours. Titled ‘Perched’ by Turkish artist, Felekşan Onar, the birds were made with clipped wings, a comment on the plight of Syrian refugees landing in Turkey and unable to fly back home. Powerful and beautiful, poignant and sad, the display rightly attracted a lot of attention.
As a warm-up exercise it was a pretty good choice, but not easy. I’d packed my usual kit of fineliner, brush pen, water brush and Tombow pen, plus a white gel pen, white paper sketchbook and black sketchbook. My ‘luxury items’ this time were Inktense pencils. These came fully into play as I tried to represent the merging colours in the hollow glass birds.
Starting with outlines in fineliner, I took a section of the display to draw, aiming to spread the simple shapes across the sketchbook page. It didn’t quite turn out that way as I lost some of my image off the right hand edge. Never mind. I do enjoy the way that the ink comes to life when you add water from a brush pen – the intensity of colour really ramps up. Adding a slight shadow under each bird turned out to be essential to grounding them on the page, which I felt was particularly fitting, as this was the point of the artwork.
This little sketch is an oldie, a quick slice of some watercolour portrait practice I was doing in 2015. I think I pinched the picture from a magazine; I was captured by the look of spontaneous joy on the boy’s face, and the feeling of cold imparted by his ruddy cheeks and bobble hat. Given how much time has passed since I painted this, this chap probably looks quite different today.
I do remember trying to figure out the flesh tones, and trying to calculate just how dark the darks needed to be under the chin, in the mouth, eyes and nostrils – and how to make them. Interestingly, I think it’s the darks which have been the most helpful in pulling this little sketch together.
Although it’s far from perfect, there’s something about this I still like, and it makes me smile.
I don’t know much about Jacob Epstein – which could be easily remedied, of course. But I do appreciate the way that he handled bronze. This bust, entitled ‘Third Portrait of Oriel Ross’ is on display in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, and principally it was the scrunchy hair textures which attracted me. Epstein had sculpted huge hunks of lively, wavy hair, its dynamism in contrast to the smooth skin of the young model. Her pose is confident, focused, and even slightly assertive. I like it very much.
Bronze has a most beautiful quality once the patina has developed – slightly golden-orange, and yet overall dark, showing the play of light on its surface. It never ceases to make me wonder that something so durable can represent flesh so well.
I wasn’t carrying much in the way of materials, but did have my Inktense pencils, brush waterpen and a fineliner. A decent kit for such a sketch. I wanted to convey the bronze patina, with its glints of golden light; tricky especially as with the Inktense you are trying to predict how they’ll look when you’ve added the water and let them do their thing. Maybe there should have been more darks in there for a realistic result. Since I didn’t sketch this out in pencil before diving in with pen, I failed to achieve quite the correct proportions, but I feel that the more I take this approach the more I’m forced to look carefully before committing to paper, so I’ll persist with winging it.
In retrospect I quite like the reiteration and correction lines, and the intense streaks of colour, which have saved this from being a slavishly realistic representation and offered up something a bit different. Maybe our errors are where the magic really begins?
…But not in this case.bTwo of these blooms were actually a beautiful peach, the other white.
Originally I had considered doing this sketch in watercolour, but chickened out, uncertain of how to depict the deeper shades between the petals. Instead, I remembered the lilacs and irises I had previously sketched in ink, and so my favourite Parker blue-black calligraphy ink and a small brush came into play, accompanied by a little pot of water for dilution.
I confess I was dreading the tightly curled petals of the lowest flower, but in fact they were not the biggest challenge – the structure of the more blowsy petals was where that lay. Originally, the plan was to put a dark background in (which would also cover up my messy mistakes), but I’ve held off doing so as I’m not sure whether this would add to the sketch. The jury is still out.
Hopefully before the season is over I will get my courage up and get on with a watercolour rose picture. In the meantime, this will do.
Wayyyy back in February I had the opportunity to go tho the National Portrait Gallery in London. I was scouting around for something to sketch, when this striking bust caught my eye. It’s Dame Edith Sitwell, by Maurice Lambert. Made in 1926, I think it totally captures the spirit of the age – it’s strongly Deco in feel, and cast in silvery aluminium.
This A5 sketch was made with a fineliner outline, and black Tombow with waterbrush for the shadows.
I really enjoyed its clean lines and bold shapes, even if the super-elongated neck does rather remind me of the old Cluedo cards…
In the middle of this heatwave we’re having in the UK it seems a bit perverse to post a snowy scene, but I’ve a small backlog which must be blogged, so my apologies.
This scene was made after I’d been for a run along a track I know very well. I used my impressions of the view, rather than an accurate recording. The aim was to have a little experiment with my Dr PH Martin’s inks, using a coffee stain ground. I wasn’t sure what paper I wanted, and ended up on some textured acrylic paper which gave me plenty of opportunity to move the pigment around. I’m not a coffee drinker, and found the smell of the coffee very off-putting. I think I’ll use tea (which I also don’t drink, but which I think smells nicer) next time. I quite like the effect though.
More background was added in blue with water on a big brush. From then on it was all mark-making starting with a sepia fineliner and then adding sepia ink with a small stick, a brush, and finally my fingers.
This picture was pure escapism and experiment. I’m not sure it entirely works, but what does that matter?