Last December I felt like I wanted/needed to get a regular, figurative drawing habit in my sketchbook. All this abstractifying with my Prussian blue project has been and continues to be absorbing and wonderful. But the pictures are evolving and more realistic elements are appearing. Swimming women, mink, boar, fishes, birds and tree branches, but not as well as I would like, truth be told. I found a Hahnemuhle A5 Kraft book in the studio, because if anyone ever bought art supplies and forgot about them – reader, that someone is me. Off I went, but oh dearie dear, a few pages in and clearly I’m Not Very Good at this anymore. What I am pretty good at though is not giving up *puffs chest*.
So let’s start as we mean to carry on Suze. No beating about the bush. Keep the bar low etc. If I’m going to be awful I may as well own it, so I wrote in comic sans on the cover ‘The Book Of Shame’. In the spirit of vulnerability and looking like a total prat on my own blog ffs, allow me to present the best pages:
Yes, quite. Glad to see those art school years paid off. Clearly there was some work to be done, so I decided to make a daily practice. In fact so far this year I’ve also established a daily yoga habit, regular reading and flute learning, as I mentioned in my depth year intentions.
Once I finished the kraft book I moved into a large Moleskine sketchbook. No pressure time-wise, if I only have 5 mins to spare, that’s cool. On other days give it an hour if I like. The Moleskine is thin paper and quite bit larger than what I usually use. I thought this would be super helpful in making me loosen up and not be too precious. Shouldn’t your sketchbook be a safe place to play, to grow, to experiment and above all to mess up without judgement or preconceptions? I can use whatever I like to make the marks but to avoid block and/or boredom I set monthly challenges, thus I skirt round the paradox of choice.
January was a kind of diary; a pose from my yoga, perhaps something I ate/saw/did each day:
Not great, but I’m enjoying the routine at least. Then at the end of the month I went to see these two ballets. Please do yourself a favour and spare 1.30 minutes to watch the link. Yes I teared up. Yes I decided I want to be a ballet dancer when I grow up. I’ve started learning some of the Rameau score on my flute because of course I also need to join the orchestra.
Going off piste from the sketchbook story a bit here because I want to tell you a little bit more about the ballet. Funny thing is we nearly didn’t go but as we’d bought the tickets in advance we dragged ourselves out on a cold January night. Our seats were right at the back of the theatre, we had to crook our necks a little and when they told us no mobile phones we were royally peeved. What, no video or photos! How do we remember it or even prove we were there?
Thank God they did. We had a totally immersive experience, committed fully to memory. It was so sensuous; long sinewy limbs moving gracefully. Bodies creating curves and bends, sometimes with such intimacy and tenderness. The dancers weaving, rising, falling gently or crackling with energy as they exuberantly stomp and throw. The trust, collaboration and wholeness between them was stunning.
Meanwhile during the first performance, us philistines are whispering to each other “is that Michelle Pfeiffer? Oh that must be Keanu Reeves and Uma Thurman”…
So February’s theme was dancers. Obviously.
Just as I feel like I’m starting to let go and improve, halfway through February I suddenly had no internet for almost two weeks. Sadly, there aren’t exactly troupes of ballet dancers wandering around my village to pose for me. Instead I had to look at books for reference, which meant veering away slightly from ballet, finding poses that appealed to me and just leaning into it.
That turned out to be a blessing; I found it much more gratifying and a deeper learning curve than working from flattened images on a screen. Figure drawing is such a great practice. I appreciate that dance, yoga or art photography poses aren’t very natural. For that I need to go outside, observe/sketch/stalk people going about their business. Awkward. In any case, for my purposes I’m looking for the graceful, fluid movements of underwater so I’m happy with that.
The figure drawing highlighted how absolutely pants I am at drawing faces, so I made that my March theme. The charcoal below was the first day, I kind of bailed by the time I got to hair.
Ditto drawing a hat. Life’s too short.
A quick sketch of John Singer Sargent’s ‘Portrait of Madame X’. You can learn a lot from JSS, even if (like me) you’ve never touched oil paints in your life and colour makes you nervous. Again, like me. The elegant, free-flowing, rhythmic lines of his sketches are sublime.