#Art -Watching Pencil Muddy the Paint

(with audio) “Every artwork is a potential masterpiece” but you don’t always know what will look good, especially when you are starting out. I never want to set up people for failure so today I am sharing some tips on life drawing when you’re starting out.

Difficulty spells disinterest

My students one year were given a 12 inch square canvas to paint a picture of themselves and something that identifies them. One student showed me her detailed pencil drawing drawn directly onto the canvas.

In my mind all I could see was the frustration she would be setting herself up for. Having to paint such detailed information onto that small canvas. Watching the pencil muddy the paint or the paint beading over the graphite. Watching the paint go in spaces not intended. Alarm bells as difficulty spells disinterest at the early stages of artmaking in my books.

You live and learn as a art teacher. I bet the next lot of students were bored to tears when I advised on keeping it simple and not too detailed.

Be kind to yourself

I am a firm believer in drawing oversized until you get the hang of things. So you might just do a face and shoulders rather than the whole body. Less is more as you can focus on accuracy rather than feeling sad that not only do the eyes look not quite right but also the hands and the feet. Be kind to yourself.

First life drawing – pencil study – 1985

Not a nude

In starting out with life drawing I focused better, and had more accuracy, when people were clothed. So no nudes have been included in this post. When I first started art school in the 1980’s in Sydney Australia I was in my early 20’s. I think when I was young I just felt a bit uncomfortable looking at nude people. That’s OK. Whatever works for you…but realise that you are at art school so it will happen. My advice, never be late for the figure drawing class. You don’t want to be drawing in the last spot available.

John – pencil study – 1985

And 5 years later a far more confident drawing

Please help – pencil study – 1990

(tip: one way to tell if an artist has their academic drawing down pat is to see if they include the hands and feet)

  • Draw large
  • Draw one part
  • Draw clothed

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