Summer art classes

I’m often telling myself I ought to make more time for creative pursuits and one way I find easy to do this is take an art class.  It had been a while since I’d been able to take a class, so I signed up for two running at the same time at City Lit.

Class 1 – Starting Portraits

I’ve made a couple of attempts at drawing portraits from photos at home, so thought it would be interesting to get some guidance and the chance to work with a model.

In the first lesson we used charcoal, explored some of the main points around face structure and were given a few tips on how to draw the features.

Drawing from first portraits class

We were also give a photo print out and homework to draw a portrait from it.  I enjoyed this exercise and was quite pleased with my first attempt, but after completing it realised that the proportions were a little off so decided to try again.  I was quite surprised by the result, not only were the proportions better but the whole portrait seemed to have a lot more life to it – just goes to show the value of practice!

Comparing two homework drawings

For the second lesson we worked with charcoal, coloured paper and also introduced some black and white chalk to create stronger contrasts between light and dark.

Drawing from second portraits class
Charcoal and chalk

In the third lesson we had a different model and after an initial charcoal and chalk drawing started to introduce colour with some chalk pastels.

First drawing from third portraits class
Charcoal and chalk
Second drawing from third portraits class
Chalk pastels

Then for the final lesson we didn’t have a model, but worked from one of our previous drawings and from this drew another piece then a final work with paint.  I’d need a bit more time to blend the colours in better with this one (the aim was more to get the tones right than to mix accurate colouring), but it was a useful exercise.

Painting from forth portraits class
Acrylic paint

Class 2 – Painting and Photography

The class covered not only ways of painting using photographs as references, but also gave us a few ideas for combining photographs and painting to create pieces.

This was the first class I’ve taken where the students chose what they work on, as we each brought in photographs that we wanted to work from.  This felt quite strange at first, really just because I’m used to being given at least a starting point in classes, but then it was great to be able to work on my choice of subject while getting feedback from the tutor.

I decided to work from a rhino photo I took while on safari a few years ago.  I first used the gridding up method to transfer the outline and key features to my paper.  I’d learnt this technique in school but hadn’t used it in years as for some reason I’d got it into my head that this was cheating – that belief has definitely been dispelled now and while I don’t think I’d want to use it to transfer lots of details, I found that having a good basic outline knowing the proportions were correct allowed me to be a lot freer as I started painting.

For painting, I used acrylics and just the primary colours (warm and cool tone of each) and white.  This meant I was doing a lot of mixing of black, but think this was definitely worth it as the slight hues of different colours make for a more interesting painting than just different shades of grey from pure black.

Rhino painting
Acrylic paint

I’m really happy with this painting and think it will be the first painting I’ve done in a class that goes up on a wall (another advantage of getting to choose the subject as well as working on a single piece over multiple weeks).

Taking the classes at the same time was enjoyable as I got to apply learnings from one to the other.  Overall conclusion is that I want to work on more animal portraits – good job I’ve got all those safari photos to work from!

2 thoughts on “Summer art classes

  1. Some lovely sketches here Alex. It just goes to show that practise really does count those charcoal portraits at the start of your post demonstrate the importance of proportion + practise!!
    Which are your favourite sketches?
    Do you prefer dry or wet media for this type of work?
    Looking forward to seeing a larger scale animal portrait on your blog x

    1. Thanks Caroline. Yes, definitely decided it is best to get a rough sketch of appropriate proportions first and then just practice, practice!
      My favourite sketches are the second homework piece and the side on view of the woman from the second class (it is actually the body I like best of this one, which funnily enough took a lot less time than the face, as I allowed myself to be freer).
      The dry media is a lot easier to start using and clear away, so I tend to use that more at home. Although I find it much easier to correct mistakes and build up a piece with paint. I guess really I want to practice more with both as I feel I still have a lot to learn!

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