Life Drawing Essentials

When folks that I know draw or paint and they say to me “no, I’m not really into figure drawing” I always feel like they are missing out on a crucial part of why we draw… Whatever we draw. Life drawing is figure drawing, but it’s so much more, unlike a still life or a landscape a model moves, capturing the form places a demand on us to be able to adapt both with speed and elegance. For me life drawing is the purest form of observation, and that will improve your drawing capabilities far beyond your imagining … No matter what your ‘draw thing’ is.

So to help you along the way here are a few tips to get you meeting that observational demand.

Think Simple
Most of us when faced with a model for the first time (after a moment of embarrassment for many) get confused by all of the shapes and forms that they see I front of them… Especially the details! Well the good news is that when you start out you can forget those, well… In part! But instead, focus on proportions.

Imagine a box around your model the sides of which just touch the outermost parts of the form. As you can see in the image here (red line) this will give you a scale to consider upon the page you are about to draw, draw a box lightly there if it helps. If you want to think a little more complex then use what we call ‘enveloping’, rather than a simple box we draw a geometric shape that connects the dots that we place at the outermost parts of the form (green line)

Enveloping the model to simplify

Another method of simplification is to consider the model in terms of the geometry. Not for everyone this method, but it will give you a great understanding of proportional relationships, perspective within the form so that you can overcome things like foreshortening! Check out the sketches here to get an idea of what geometric drawing is like but to simplify consider each part of the anatomy as a simple box like shape and go from there!

Simple geometry of the human figure

Gesture
Understanding anatomy is without doubt a very important skill, if you don’t know what the bones and muscles are doing, what they attach to, what they pull and push you will not ever truly understand what you are drawing… It’s what sets figurative artists apart from other subject media that doesn’t tend to have a complex moving element.

That said building confidence in your line work can be improved upon regardless of any anatomical understanding and this is where those dreaded short poses come into their own. Most often a new person to life drawing finds a 1 or 2 minute pose exceptionally challenging and at times disheartening. However the longer you stick at life drawing the sooner the realisation will come to you that here is the ideal time to just go for it!

Every pose that a model takes will have this imagined gestural line that runs through it. It’s the form upon which you can lay the whole structure of the body onto. In your one minute pose spend the first precious seconds finding that line. Use your envelope too if that helps, then, keeping your eye on the model more than your paper try to draw the genteral shape in single strokes for each section. Don’t fear it going wrong, it will, but over time your confident lines will become more and more accurate. If you have a few seconds to spare drop in some of the internal structure lines too.

Gestural figure drawing by Andrew Loomis

If you can check out Andrew Loomis books, this one in particular!

The Shading
I think that the thing I see most people struggle with for the most time is shading and in particular the range of tonal value in that shading. I will keep the chatter about tone and value to another post but I think that you will get the idea when I say that shading brings form to your line work, suddenly the figure comes to life. For me however there is an even more important aspect to shading and that is drama! The best life drawing studies that you will see out there are done by those who understand how to push the boundaries and interpretation of the lights and darks of the model before them.

Without a shadow of a doubt charcoal is king at capturing form in terms of light and dark, and it does it with great speed too. I highly recommend working in charcoal on some of the longer poses to help you understand the relationship between light and dark and what it can do to emphasise focal points of interest in your study, how it can bring in mood and atmosphere.

The principles of Shading

But charcoal can be quite messy, you should see what I look like after a charcoal session! So with pencil you need to understand those numbers on the back end of your pencil there. In short the higher the number in the B grade the darker the tone you will achieve. So start off your drawing with a 2B, get down all of your line work and block in all of the figure bar the lightest lights with a flat tone, you don’t need to press hard, don’t force it. Now study your model for a few moments and look to see where the shadows start to get darker, grab a 4B lay a new layer of tone over the first layer that starts around that transition point and finish it underneath what will become your darkest areas. Now take a 6B and lay in a final layer which is your darks, use an eraser to pull any highlights back out that may have gotten lost along the way. For me personally I like to take a 9B and lay in an area of tone around the figure to help make the highlights pop and to blend into the figure where I want to have some lost edges… A subject for another day!

The Hard Stuff
Eventually you are going to have to come to terms with the bits everyone struggles with… The hands, feet and face… And don’t forget yes we do have a penis and a vagina. I recommend to begin with not to worry about a likeness. When you feel that your confidence and capability are improving spend some time doing studies and just focus on hands and feet alone. Maybe plan a session where you will draw the models face, and just the face in every pose for the whole session. You can apply the same principles discussed already but constrain them to just these areas of the body. Time and practice will be the success for these difficult areas. And no, I am not going to suggest that you focus exclusively drawing the models penis all night, but don’t avoid it when doing your full figure work. Your drawing will always look a little disturbing with a void in those areas and so you won’t ever be truly satisfied with it!

Hand study

Hand study by Sean Counley

Well I hope that you got something out of those few tips. If you are really fired up to improve your drawing skills you can pop along to my life drawing sessions which run every 2nd and 4th Monday night, 7-9.30 pm at the Duke William pub in Stourbridge. You can check out the Facebook page here! If you don’t think that you can get to one of our sessions there is a great YouTube resource called Onairvideo, not a replacement for attending and drawing from real life but great for practice!

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Happy New Year!

Welcome one and all to 2017 and if you are new to visiting my site then a big welcome to you because it no doubt means that you have finally decided to do that thing you always wanted to do, learn to paint and draw!

Some of the guys I teach at their 2016 exhibition

It can be a daunting experience joining an art group for the first time, the fear of looking daft to those that are better than you, of making mistakes or the dreaded being laughed at!… Well I will tell you, as will anyone who has ever taken that brave step, those things never happen! One of my learners once said to me “Sean, I love art, it’s the one subject I was always right in!” And those words are so true.

looking back at this last term a new lady to one of my groups said to me “oh no… no I can’t do that” when faced with what she saw as a very complex subject, in this case it was an osprey… 6 or 7 weeks later she was thrilled with that osprey painting, her first ever painting. She went on to say to me that when she first came she expected to be drawing a ball, a cup or a vase, never to be creating a painting full of drama and movement! Certainly drawing simple shapes is fundamental to learning and should be scribbled into your sketchbook whenever you can but my job is to lift you out beyond where you would push yourself to and show you that your capabilities can far exceed your expectations, and you do this all in the safety and acceptance of a learning environment with help every step of the way, not to mention the recognition and support of your peers learning alongside you.

So please, never let fear be the hurdle that you can not cross, have fun, learn, make friends and amaze yourself! Looking back at 2016 I think that I saw some of the best work produced by those that I teach, a great increase in confidence too which is always the biggest challenge for anyone new to painting or drawing. This wasn’t anymore evident than in my learners participating in not one but two exhibitions – a couple even took part in a third not organised by me exhibiting alongside some other artists. You should check out the galleries to see what great events they were.

2016 saw the advent of a few new courses too including watercolour sessions here at my home studio and in sedgley. A new acrylics course at Thorns Community College and then a colour pencils course running at my home studio which is very much loved by us all.

looking forward into 2017 there are two new courses starting, a mixed media fairytale centric course which is great for just letting yourself go… no boundaries and as abstract as you like! Plus a new course which is very different from all my painting and drawing related courses and that is the fantastic Foamsmithing for Cosplay which is really exciting and such great fun… If you like to dress up!

I have some really big news to be released soon about a couple of workshops later in the year so stay posted because you won’t want to miss out on these.

If you want to keep up to date with what is looking to be a very busy year for the aa-rtcourse then why not sign up to the Newsletter which lets you know about all the courses and workshops, help, advice and guidance.

Keep up to date here:
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September Start Dates

Ok… Just quickly putting up this post to show the start dates for art courses and workshops in returning in September. All the pages now have the up to date information

Thanks
Sean

art course start dates

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The new look

So welcome to the new look webpage for aa-rt with a revised focus on art courses here at my studio in the Red House Glass Cone, Wordsley and as part of Dudley Adult Education around the Dudley Borough.

Art courses and workshops provide a wonderful distraction, whatever the reasons, the rewards from learning to paint in acrylic, watercolour or oils and pushing your artistic development are bountiful.

Art courses are available around the Dudley borough, for beginners and those of you who are a little more seasoned you will find plenty of opportunity to learn to paint and draw.

So take a look around the site, if you want to get a feel for what a session might be like then be sure to check out the video page where there is footage from one of my art courses….

See you soon!

Sean Counley

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Zentangle meets origami

Origami bat 1 image imageSo what a great session we had today! I have been delivering zentangle art sessions around the Dudley Borough now for a fair while and they are great for just chilling out, forgetting what’s going on outside and chatting with a few good folks around the table! I think that this carefree aspect of the doodling art is what makes it so popular, you don’t require a commitment of thought as with so many other mediums… It’s almost as if the technique and the application encourage you not to think about them, letting your mind wander as does your hand.

So why was today’s session such good fun… Well, as a tutor, it’s my responsibility to deliver a session that is both fun, challenging and inspirational. To encourage learners to think outside of the box as it were. In researching for today’s session a good friend of mine who I know loves bats (you know who you are ?) also loves zentangle, these two things had as yet not connected in my mind and were not even the focus of my research on that day. I stumbled upon a wonderful YouTube tutorial for origami bats and it was then that the spark of an idea took me… Why not combine the two art forms into one, viola! Now I am sure that I am not the first to combine these art forms but it was a first for me and the group so thanks guys for making the session a great one!

If you are interested in the origami bat tutorial you can find it here. If you are interested in the wonderful stress busting art form that is zentangle why not come along to a short course I am trialing at Dudley Wood Centre where we are going to do some beautiful tangles on a trinket box. It’s a fabulous pastime, simple to pick up and doesn’t require any skill in drawing… You just can’t go wrong! The course picks up on Monday 22nd February at 9.30am, give the centre a call on 01384 896416 or drop me a line.

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Hey! Happy 2016…

Well it’s a new exciting year ahead full of new adventures.

So the turkey has gone, you are looking for new delights to entertain you… how about joining an art course in the New Year?

I run a wide variety of courses for all levels… so today I want to tell you about some of the courses starting in January… who knows what creative master you might tap into?

Introduction to Acrylics
Landscape Workshop January 5th
Introduction to Painting
Watercolour/Acrylic Workshop January 6th
Watercolours for Beginners
NEW COURSE – Starts January 9th
Pencil Perfection
NEW COURSE – Starts January 9th
Painting the live model
Workshop January 13th
Life Drawing for Fun
Starts January 18th
Oils for Pleasure
Starts January 26th
Painting and Drawing for All
Starts January 21st and 26th

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Activity days for December and january

So hello…. Well we are running up to Christmas nice and fast now and I am sure many of you have your present buying well and truly sorted…. Except for that one person who you just can’t seem to get that perfect gift for!

Sometimes our loved ones have got everything… So why not think about getting them an experience from which they will always have memories to cherish, as well as a lovely piece of art to take home. I am running a series of “introduction to…” Art sessions in December and January that will be perfect for mom, dad or Uncle Tom … You have heard them say they would love to be able to paint, so why not get them the opportunity.
December 2015
Introduction to watercolour – landscapes Monday 7th 1-4pm £25
Introduction to Acrylics – portrait Tuesday 8th 12-4pm £30
Introduction to oils – landscape Wednesday 9th 1-4pm £25
Introduction to painting – watercolour & Acrylic Saturday 12th 11-4pm £40

January 2016
Introduction to watercolour – portrait 4th 12-4pm £30
Introduction to Acrylic – landscape 5th 1-4pm £25
Introduction to painting – watercolour & Acrylic 6th 11-4pm £40

All the materials and equipment are supplied so all that you need to bring along is a willingness to learn, sprinkled with a little imagination!

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Life Drawing

So on a Monday night I run a great life drawing group down at Katie Fitzgeralds in Wollaston. We have a few drinks a bit of music and of course a model posing so that we driven artists can perfect our trade. We have been running for a little over five years now and have really gone from strength to strength. A group from all backgrounds and abilities it really is something that I still look forward to every week. For me it is a time to be very self indulgent, try out new things, make mistakes but mostly to be able to work without pressure or restraint.

Over the last few months I have been pushing around with charcoal on a fairly large scale (A2) before that did the usual pencil, ink and a bit of watercolour. Now, a couple of weeks ago I successfully managed to forget my charcoals but I did have my acrylics in the car. So I dug out some burnt umber and black and set to playing around wet in wet using texture, contrast and preserved whites to produce a bit of drama. Here are some of the results which I am quite pleased with, they average 20 minutes or so, certainly are only studies and largely unfinished at that, but I must admit I am really quite enjoying this liberated approach to life drawing here in our town of Stourbridge.

If you are hunting around for any life drawing classes come and try us out on a Monday night, you can find our Facebook page here or text/email me for any info you need.

life drawing, acrylic

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All Change

hiya, well if you are returning to my site or visiting for the first time you may find it all a bit patchy and incomplete just now!…. Yes, you guessed it, I am currently updating the site to bring you more focused and useful information as well as giving you an insight into my own art processes and techniques, and finally to put a gallery of my work here too.

So enjoy having a ramble around the parts you can reach and over the next few days I should have it all pretty well fleshed out again.

Thanks for looking

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Life Painting Day

Here is another opportunity to come along to The Red House Glass Cone for a full day painting the classic nude in this art workshop. Once again we shall see Halley return as a fond favourite to be captured in paint. The art workshop comprises an hour of warm up study sketches followed by a single pose from which you can execute your art piece in any manner, medium or style you choose through the day.

The art workshop is taking place on April 23rd from 10-4pm with plenty coffee breaks and a lunch break. This is not a tutored or guided art workshop, you are free to work at your own pace but with help and advice if you wish it. I have worked hard to keep the price low and can hold it at £18 for now. Only a few places available so contact me now if you are interested in booking onto this great day for artistic development.

halley

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