pastel figure

This is a pastel drawing I made during yesterday’s sitting with the life model Kaya. It has been years since I have used pastels, and I must admit to finding them quite a challenge, requiring a very different approach. From the drawings I was left with at the end of the session, I was most pleased with this one – probably on account of the lovely pose. I’m considering using the same pose in my next painting; a possible layout is shown in the quick sketch below.

rough layout for painting

Life drawing, preparatory sketches

life drawings in charcoalHere are some sketches from this week’s life drawing session. As mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been struggling with the flat light in my studio space, as is evident in the top most drawings. I made sure that I had set up my studio lights for the second part of this sitting.

The purpose of this exercise, apart from exploring the lighting in my new studio. was to prepare poses that I can use for future sittings where I shall be painting directly from life. My plans have been brought forward somewhat by the imminent departure of this model to California. Oh well.


This pose looked nice enough, but a bit too linear. So for the next pose (shown below) I chose a more elevated viewpoint and tried to introduce some diagonals into the model’s position.

It was difficult enough trying to do a quick charcoal study while standing on a chair in order to get the right view, so I imagine that it might be quite a challenge spending four or so hours in that position while I’m painting from life.


New model, portrait sitting

I arranged a sitting with a new model for this morning. I had originally advertised on for a life model, but when Mia responded to the casting, and I had a look at her portfolio pictures, I immediately thought that she would be an ideal subject for a portrait. These sketches show me trying to find the best location for light in my new studio space. It’s a lovely large space, with very large windows, but all that light has created some problems; anywhere away from the windows suffers from rather flat light, and I will probably have to use studio lights for subsequent life drawing sessions.portrait drawings in charcoalI have not had a portrait sitting for quite a while. Portraits are not as commercial as nudes, and their main value to me is as an addition to my portfolio. In this instance, the main reason why I changed this sitting to a portrait session was because I found the model’s face and features so interesting, and just wanted to put them on paper. It’s also a useful exercise, and good preparation for portrait commissions.

New studio and old model

After extensive delays caused by my preparations for moving house, various “family events”, and my dog being diagnosed with heart failure, I have finally started working in my new studio. It’s not always easy creating the right environment to produce paintings. Adequate space and light are essential, as are cleanliness and absence of distractions. All these requirements were compromised to some extent in my previous work space, and it was severely impacting on my ability to produce artwork. My new workspace has a particularly large and bright room that I can use for sittings, and I have been particularly  looking forward to the opportunity to have models pose for me here, and being able to work from life again.
charcoal life drawingsI am always surprised by how some artists will choose to work from photos, even when they have the option of working from life. Much of my painting has to be from reference photos out of necessity; I could not possibly afford to pay models to pose for the time it takes me to finish a painting. The process can become quite tedious, especially after working for months on a painting. So I am always pleased to have the chance to work from life. To be honest, it is the only time I truly feel like an artist. Shown above are preparatory drawings for my next paintings, where I’m trying to work out the best poses and lighting.

Works in progress, a crucifixion and looking for a male model

crucifixionWith the New Year looming, I’m already planning the composition of some paintings for next year. One of the compositions will have a crucified male figure in background, with a female figure in foreground. I’ve already worked on preliminary poses for the female figure with my regular model, so I’m just in need of a male model for the crucified figure. I will be looking for someone of slim/athletic build under thirty, who is prepared to work for very low artist rates. I may have to avoid mentioning the crucified bit in any advert.

This past couple of weeks I have been working on some old, unfinished or abandoned paintings. One of them dating from 2010. Although I try to be methodical in my approach to work, it’s always a mystery how a painting will evolve. I might labour without success on what I thought was a straightforward composition, while more ambitious works might just emerge on the canvas, seemingly under their own volition.
Sometimes I just lose my nerve. I might have worked on a painting over a period of a couple of months, which will be the culmination of work started months earlier with a model posing in my studio; so I often feel quite nervous when applying the final glazes to a piece. I am aware that if I get it seriously wrong, I could ruin the painting. That is why I found it so relaxing working on these “abandoned” pieces. I had already given up on them, and had expected to paint over most of them. Although I haven’t finished them, I’m generally pleased with the results.

works in progress
works in progress

Works in Progress – Three Graces

I’m working on a couple of paintings at the moment that are a slight departure from my recent work. My Relationships Series of paintings generally had a narrative content, either implied, or conferred on them by the viewer. With these new works, I have removed the narrative content, by using the same model for each of the poses. In so doing, the viewer is free to study the relationships of the separate figures on the canvas.
The larger size of one of the canvases has presented a few challenges. Although I worked  through each pose with drawings in previous sittings, I also sketched directly on the canvas whilst working with the model. The canvas is 1.2m tall, and I had quite an elevated viewpoint – standing on a chair. It entailed lots of stretching up and bending down; I can’t recall a painting session that was so physically demanding.

work in progress maxine
work in progress – maxine

The second painting is more modest in size – 80cmx80cm – and is based on The Three Graces.

work in progress three graces
work in progress – three graces

Mood Boards, New Muse and New Inspiration

sketches from yesterday's life drawing sitting
sketches from yesterday’s life drawing sitting

I had my first sitting with a new model yesterday. The whole process, from finding a suitable model amongst the multitude of faces on various model networking sites; to making first contact, and explaining my work and current projects; to when the model finally arrives in the studio.., well, it can be difficult.
I am quite particular about selecting models to work with. Apart from looking for an interesting face and features, I also expect a professional approach to work, and preferably some experience in life modelling. Probably the most important requirement is a pleasant personality. My life drawing sessions will last between three and four hours, and may be repeated any number of times, as I try to develop poses for my compositions.  They will be physically demanding of the model, and will require great concentration on both our parts. Working in a small studio with someone under such conditions would be quite tedious if the model wasn’t good natured and easy to talk to.
Yesterday went very well. The model arrived on time, was extremely professional and excellent at their job, maintaining poses well. This particular model has a fascinating, expressive face, which is what compelled me to contact her in the first place.

moodboard. sketches from life drawing session
moodboard. sketches from life drawing session

I’ve been in the doldrums with my work recently. I’m finishing off paintings that are based on sittings from months ago, but I’ve been bereft of ideas for new compositions. For quite some time I’ve been searching for a new model, with a distinctive, compelling look, that would add something to my compositions. I didn’t know what “look” I was after, and just thought that I’d know when I saw it. This new model had just such a look, and I was absolutely delighted when she agreed to work with me.
The first sitting with a new model is a process of learning how they look under different lighting and in different poses. Each body is different. I prepare beforehand by making small sketches of the poses I want to work through, but until the model is actually lying or standing there in the studio, I don’t know how they will look in each different pose.
During yesterday’s sitting I worked through eight short poses, which are now forming a mood board on my studio wall. They are just the beginning of the process. The next stage will be to develop some of the poses further, doing more detailed drawings. Making changes where the poses aren’t quite working: creating more interesting, dynamic shapes; avoiding boring straight lines. All the time I will leave the “moodboard” there, to offer inspiration for my next compositions. It’s working already, and I’m looking forward to my next sitting. Artistically, I’m in a very different place today than I was yesterday, before I met my new muse.

Working with models

Since April 2013 I’ve been hiring models on a regular basis. Prior to this I’d been using friends, relatives and reluctant partners as models. Having been seriously let down by a friend, after months of planning for a painting, I decided that I would start working with professional models from now on.
Of course I’ve worked with professional life models in various life drawing groups over the years, but had never hired a model for a one to one sitting. Joining life drawing groups was fine as an exercise, as drawing practice, but was useless for developing poses for my compositions; I would never enjoy much control over the lighting and the model’s pose.
My first attempts to find a model were via Gumtree. Although my first advert for a life model was successful, and I found an excellent model with whom I worked regularly for several months, subsequent attempts to find portrait models via Gumtree were a waste of time. Communications with prospective models were painfully drawn out, and the models who I found (with one exception) were so uncomfortable and self-conscious posing, that it made the sitting a nightmare.

artist's model in life room
Photo courtesy of Beth Chambers Photography

I then discovered that I could have an Artist portfolio account on the popular model networking sites and which has made it so much easier to find models to work with. The forums on these sites are filled with photographers moaning about being let down by models, but in my experience, every model I have worked with has been completely reliable and professional. When there are so many uncertainties and anxieties involved in creating a painting, it has been such a relief to find that arranging a sitting with a model can be completed in just a couple of emails, and sometimes within a few minutes.
The life models I have worked with via these sites have proved to be completely comfortable with and experienced at posing nude, which makes my life so much easier. One thing that always surprised me about the numerous models I have encountered in various life classes and groups over the years, including my college life drawing lessons years ago, was just how few seemed completely comfortable with what they were doing. Many of them acted like they were doing it for a dare!
I am very selective about who I work with. For any particular painting I may be looking for a specific body type, but I will always look for a face that intrigues me. I consider my nude paintings to be portraits. I am fascinated in the whole process, starting with the model posing – what is their motivation? It’s seldom just about the money. What is the artist’s fascination with depicting the nude figure? It’s not about titillation. And what does the viewer see in the product of this relationship.