Drawing lesson: two-points drawing exercise

Demonstration drawing: two-point drawing exercise

Here is another of the drawing exercises that I use in my Life Drawing classes. In this exercise we draw with two points. That is, we hold two pencils in the same hand and draw with both points touching the paper at once. For the first five minutes we draw with the pencils without rubbing out, and then we draw with both the pencils and a rubber.

With this way of drawing, we are guaranteed to have a drawing which is at least half wrong. Getting it wrong is a necessary part of the drawing process and getting used to that feeling of it going wrong is a useful part of learning process.

This way of drawing forces us to draw without relying on the small details or definite outlines to hold the logic of the drawing together. We are forced to pay attention to the more general sense of the form. Any outlines and edges will be ambiguous because there will be at least two lines in play. The awkwardness of using two points might make us more aware of the ways we target our lines when we draw.

The rubber is used to draw with rather than as something with which to get rid of mistakes. The drawing process becomes a to-and-fro of dark and light lines, marks and gestures. We can draw beyond the figure because we can use the rubber to draw the edges back again. The ambiguous character of drawn lines comes to he fore with this kind of drawing. It’s also a lot of fun.

Please click on the link below to watch my short video about this drawing exercise.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KUaYQunti8

Drawing lesson: continuous line

Continuous-line drawing exercise (demonstration drawings)

As the coronavirus lockdown continues to make Life Drawing an impossibility, I thought it might be interesting to share some thoughts about some of the ways I teach Drawing through the practice of Life Drawing.

With this, ‘continuous-line’, drawing exercise we draw a person for two or three minutes using just one, unbroken, line. The charcoal touches the paper throughout and there is no rubbing out. Even though we are drawing with just the one line, that one line can vary its character and its function as it makes its way over the surface of the paper.

The line might begin as a confused scribble. A scribbling movement of the hand/arm might be good way to begin to notice the physicality of the act of drawing. We see the charcoal touching the paper and notice the way it leaves its trace. We start to link the sense of our physical presence with our hand-drawn line and with the act of seeing and thinking.

The line might become movements which mimic the uprightness of the head, say, or it might trace a wave-like line as it echoes the line of the body from the back down to the side of the leg. The descriptive function of the line might change from being that of a separating-outline to one which describes the shape of a shadow. A concertina-like set of zigzags might describe the curve of an arm or the belly. The line could change again to show where a negative shape sits within our field of vision. A heavier touch might suggest nearness in contrast to a softer touch for parts of the body which are further away. The line might slow down or speed up, or it might simply take the charcoal point from one position to another…. and so, it continues.  

With this way of drawing, the evidence of all the changes-of-mind, all the revisions, and all the mistakes remain on show in the drawing. It forces us to accept the whole drawing process, including all the mistakes.

There is also a playful aspect to this exercise. Having some restrictions can take the pressure off us to feel we have to make a ‘good drawing’, and as a consequence, our drawing might give us marks which are unexpectedly good. And there is also that simple pleasure of movement and mark-making.

That touch of the charcoal-in-hand on the surface of the paper is always at the cusp of the next moment. As we draw, we might become a little more aware of ways in which drawings trace lengths of time as well as visual appearances.

Please click on the link below to watch my short video about this exercise. And please subscribe to my YouTube channel if you find these my drawing videos interesting. Thank you.

This drawing might be the last drawing I ever do

Struggling with this drawing…

This might be the last drawing I ever do. This drawing might never be finished. I might be catastrophising, but this is what it feels like for me. It’s what it always feels like. Is this because of all the disruption and uncertainties caused by the coronavirus lockdown? It is because of all the insecurities created by Margate’s ‘cultural regeneration’ (aka ‘gentrification’ or ‘social cleansing’)? Is it something in me? I suspect it’s a bit all of the above.

The fact that it is presently impossible to show any drawings anywhere makes it hard to imagine a context in which people might actually spend time with my drawings. And you have to spend time with drawings – in the physical presence of drawings – to ‘get’ what they really are.

I think of my drawing-process as a kind of game. The main rules of this game are that I should keep paying attention to the presence of what it is I think I’m drawing and that I must try to be open-minded about what I think that ‘presence’ actually is. The drawing surface is a kind of gaming surface over which the multiple decisions and changes-of-mind leave their trace. My drawings are as much about the processes of noticing as they are about images which emerge.

Drawings take time. You have to spend time with them – with their physical presence – to notice, half-notice, or feel their effect. These drawings are about people but they are also about the act of noticing. I will continue to draw in hope.

You can find out more about the drawings in this series by clicking the ‘Displaced Portraits’ category on this blog and by visiting my YouTube channel and going to the ‘Displaced Portraits’ playlist.   

Re-drawn

“Displaced Portrait No11 (young woman from Duren, 6 Feb 1943)”, 2019-2021, silver on gesso on board, 21×14.5cm.

This drawing has previously been exhibited at Gordon House, Margate, as part of the Margate Now Art Festival. It was displayed as one of a line of fifteen “Displaced Portraits”. More recently, I have worked on it some more, and so it’s a slightly different drawing than it was then. But drawings don’t need to be finished things, and I like to change my mind.

My drawing process involves a lot of re-drawing over long periods of time. I draw onto boards which are coated with multiple layers of gesso. These drawing surfaces take a long time to make and their preparation is a craft in itself. The thickness of the gesso allows me to repeatedly scratch-away and scratch-into the drawing surface with needles, blades and sandpaper. I like to think of the drawing surface as a kind of gaming surface onto which the to-and-fros of the drawing-process, and all the changes of mind, are played out. The resultant drawings are the traces of all the moments of decisions, of touch and time. I don’t believe there is ever a settled version of what any person really looks like and I hope my drawings hint at the possibility of other ways of seeing the same thing.

This drawing is based on portrait photograph printed in Duren, Germany, and dated 6th February 1943. It was shortlisted for the 2021 Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition. Please click on the ‘Displaced Portraits’ category to find out more about this body of work. Or go to my YouTube channel and find my ‘Displaced Portraits’ playlist.

Thank you.    

Why do I draw these people?

“Displaced Portraits”

I keep drawing these people. I call them ‘Displaced Portraits’. I don’t know them but drawing makes them seem strangely familiar to me. I spend enormous amounts of time drawing and re-drawing them, over and over again. I’m trying to see something but I can’t say what it is that I hope to see. These drawings are done in silverpoint and with needles, scalpel blades and sandpaper. The drawing-process is one of repeated scratching-away and re-drawing, over the course of months and years. They are never settled things but some of them reach a point where they can be left as they are. It’s both a conjuring and a meditative process of trying to see these people.   

I’ve created some short videos about this body of work: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLrooCSMET2rL6dTYxEB_wRVZzjR4qOXSh

Who have I drawn here?

Displaced Portrait No5 (unknown person), silver on gesso on board, 21cm x 14.5cm (detail)

I don’t know who it is that I drew here. I could say ‘drew here’ both in the sense of literally having drawn her image here onto this drawing-surface and in our line of sight, but I could also use it in the sense that a ‘Medium’ might claim to draw towards them the presence of the departed. I’m not one of those ‘Mediums’ but I do quite like the idea of the drawing process being, in part, an act of conjuring. I don’t mean a conjuring trick – something deeper. I think Drawing is essentially an artistic medium which traces the presence of things.

My drawing’s starting point, and its repeated point of reference, is a small photograph which I bought from a second-hand shop. It has a very faint trace of a photographer’s stamp on the back but it’s too indistinct to make sense of. I found it along with some similar photographs which had photographers stamps which identified them as German. But who can say what its context is? There are always multiple contexts to every object that turns up in a second-hand shop. I was drawn to her photograph and it felt right to attempt to try and draw her from it.

As with the other drawings in this series, the piece has been repeatedly drawn, scratch-away and redrawn. My drawing-process allows for the unexpected touches to come into play and to alter the drawing’s trajectory in ways that I could not have foreseen. Drawings are made up of the accumulated traces of moments of human touch connected to passing thoughts. All is always in a state of flux and the finished drawing (as much as a drawing can ever really be said to be finished) is the moment of the sharing of those traces of that particular span of time spent trying to see. And there is always another way to see things. Faces aren’t settled things and nor are drawings.

I’ve created a playlist of the videos that I’ve made about my ‘Displaced Portraits’. You an see them via this link below. You can subscribe to my YouTube channel if you’d like to see future videos as and when I make them. Thank you.  https://youtu.be/wRZb0U7ZO9k?list=PLrooCSMET2rL6dTYxEB_wRVZzjR4qOXSh

Displaced Portrait (work in progress)

Drawing in progress…

Here is a drawing I’ve been working on for some time. I’m struggling with it. But this is always the case with me. So be it. It’s drawn with silver on thick layers of gesso on board and the image is based on a face seen in a school photograph taken somewhere in Germany in 1939.

‘Displaced Portraits’ is an ongoing series of small silverpoint drawings based on photographs bought from a second-hand shop in Cliftonville, Margate (UK). The word, ‘displaced’, can be refer to the ways in which objects of personal significance might eventually become objects out of context in charity shops or museums. It might also call to mind the label: ‘Displaced Persons”. In fact, some of the people I’ve drawn for this series might possibly have become Displaced Persons at the end of The Second World War. The term might also apply as a description of nature of the ‘Art Object’ or of the personal effort involved in the making of Works of Art.

The photographs themselves are unexceptional, but they might hint at bigger stories. For example, another drawing in this series is based on a photograph taken in Brunn in 1942. Ostensibly, it is merely an image of a woman smiling. Its date places it in the midst of The Second World War. Brunn is in the Czech Republic and is now called Brno. The hand-written note on the back of the photograph is in German and we know that the German speaking population of Brunn was expelled at the end of the war.

The photographs are traces of moments but my drawings emerge through a process of seemingly endless amounts of re-drawing over the course of months and even years. They are never really ‘finished’ and I doubt if they ever can be. But drawings don’t need to be finished things; it’s in a Drawing’s nature to be questions more than statements. At least, that’s the case for the way I draw. My drawings are a kind of meditation on the photographic fragments of lives which are unknown to me. Even though these people are unknown to me, I think our lives must surely be connected somehow. Perhaps drawings can be a kind of meeting place of lived moments.

You can see some videos about this body of work over on my YouTube channel. Clink of the link here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDyuki2a9YvGyyIyWXi4gtA

Displaced Portraits

Displaced Portrait no8 (man from Neheim), 21cm x 14.5cm (silverpoint drawing).

Museums are the places where the nation’s hoard of bric-a-brac and important broken things are treasured, catalogued and shared with us so that we can see ourselves better. In museums we wonder about the significance of fragments of things. Second-hand shops also present to us with fragments of people’s lives. They may lack the curatorial classification-systems but they do still offer us material connections with people separated from us by the distances of time.

‘Displaced Portraits’ is an ongoing series of silverpoint drawings based on photographs which I’ve bought from the same second-hand shop, in Margate, over the course of years. Most of the photographs were taken in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. I don’t know anything about these people apart from what can be gleaned from what is written, or printed, on the backs of some of the photos. The images are traces of moments in lives that are unknown to me.

I look at them and I draw, and I keep looking, and I keep drawing and re-drawing them. Every touch of the drawing is a chance to be altered in some way by the act of seeing-through-drawing. There is always the hope of something new coming into play. I’m not sure why I draw these people, but I think I’m trying to see something which is nearly but never quite seen. Drawings are as much questions as they are statements of facts. Here are people like us. Who are they and how are we connected?

You can find video tours of some of the drawings in this series over on my YouTube channel, ‘Roy Eastland – Drawing’. Here is a link to it: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDyuki2a9YvGyyIyWXi4gtA