After a bit of trouble working out how to get the heaters working and the secret of switching the lights on, it was a busy day of drawing with Kathy Barker and a life model.
We started with a loosening up exercise of drawing the body in the form of a scribble, using a graphite pencil: much harder to do than you initially think, as one’s inclination is to draw an outline. Kathy insisted we continued without putting an edge as such to the drawing and just gradually give some solidity to the body with harder scribbles where necessary. It is a way to alter the angle of a leg, say, without worrying about being over accurate.
Next we changed to charcoal and tackled the figure using straight lines only: again, a tricky thing to do as we are so used to drawing the human form with curving lines. But it is surprising how much of a curve you can produce with a series of straight lines. The other benefit is plotting accurately the relationships between parts of the body. Using a straight edge held with your arm straight, you can plot the angle of the shoulders, for example, and again, using it as a plumb-line, work out what lines up with what.
The final pre-lunch break exercise was to use tone. Kathy showed us that on a coloured ground, five tones are easily available, from very dark black (charcoal), mid-black, grey (background colour), light-grey with a light coating of white and then a strong white (chalk or pastel). Taking on board the previous exercises helped us produce an interesting drawing of the model.
Lunch over, Kathy gave a quick demonstration on a coloured ground (with ‘tooth’) of using coloured soft pastels for our final piece. When one is used to paint, pastel is a big change and trying to work out how to put it on without creating a muddy mess is the real challenge. It can be stroked on, layered and applied heavily and the colour mixing takes place on the paper. Kathy advised us to look closely at Degas’ works and see how he built up tones and colours using a wide variety of shades of pastel.
Throughout the day, Kathy provided constant encouragement and certainly made it a pleasurable way to learn drawing a figure and using different media to do so.
Report by Briony Watson