Life Drawing

life drawing, margate adult education centre hawley square, kent adult education

I’ve been looking through some drawings done as demonstrations for drawing exercises in my Life Drawing classes. The new term of Life Drawing courses at Margate Adult Education Centre starts this week.

This drawing is from a drawing exercise about relooking and moving on to the next moment. In this exercise the model holds a pose for a short amount of time and then moves to a second position and then back to the first and then back again to the second, three times over. In this drawing the model probably held the poses for about 15 seconds each time but the students usually get a minute and then 30 seconds each time. What the drawer is drawing is different each time and even if it were humanly possible for the model to reoccupy the exact-same pose the drawer will have changed their mind about what they find interesting, what they see and what they think. We look and make a decision and then we must move on to the next moment and let the drawing be what it is. The ‘finished’ drawing will be the traces of the accumulated decisions and there are always choices to be made (are we thinking about the edges, proximity, tone, angles, the course of a line, the character of the line, the weight of the mark, the sharpness, the touch… etc?). The line is a good line if it is an honest line responding to the changes of mind. In drawing a line we change our minds.

This exercise makes us more aware of the way that drawing ‘The Figure’ is never about drawing something complete and settled. All is in time and our line traces those moments and says “for this moment this was the case and this is as close as I could get to it”. Drawing like this acknowledges the fact that there are always multiple version of the same thing and our drawn lines don’t need to agree on the matter in order to be correct.

I teach Life Drawing at Margate Adult Education Centre, The Sidney Cooper Gallery (Canterbury Christ Church University) and occasionally at other places too. We presently need a few more people to enrol on the Thursday morning Life Drawing for it to be allowed to run and so book a place asap please if you’re interested.
Here is a link to the courses I teach at the Kent Adult Education:




Drawings like little poems


Drawings can be like little poems; they can stand alone as intensely troubled-over, individual, works of art in their own right.

This tiny drawing is of a chalk stack at Botany Bay near to where I live.  The piece is about 5cm by 6.5cm in size and it is drawn with silver on gesso on card.  I might make a series of drawings of this stone.  We’ll see.  This work stands on its own but it shares themes in common with lots of my work: presence and the passing of time.

The tides and the weather are gradually eroding this chalk stack away to nothing at all.  In time it will no longer figure in anyone’s line of sight and its base will form part of a chalky reef covered by the sea at high tide.  For now it is here and this familiar – familiar to me at least – feature at the high tide line makes me think about time and about processes of change over the course of time and the drawing of it can stand for that.


A new term of Life Drawing


It’s at this time of year, as the new academic term is about to start, that I start to get anxious about student numbers and worry about whether of not the Life Drawing courses I teach, the ones I teach at Margate Adult Education Centre, will run or not.  If they don’t run I don’t get paid, and so I worry about money as too.

Margate Adult Education Centre is not well known locally.  It’s a shame because the Margate Adult Education Centre is such a lovely building, it has purpose built art rooms and its right in the centre of Margate.  It was built as an art college (an F.E. college) way back in 1929 (opened in 1931).  The room I teach Life Drawing in is the same room in which Life Drawing was taught from the 1930s until about 1970, when it became the ‘Hilderstone’ Adult Education Centre, and has continued to be used as a Life Room until now.  I’m the latest of a long succession of artists to teach Life Drawing in this space going back eighty-five years!

If rooms have ghosts then I’d like to imagine that this room’s ghosts are happiest whenever someone is in there drawing.  The room’s wooden, herringbone-pattern, floor is drawn with decades’ worth of scratches and scuffs from the dragged feet of easels, chairs and tables.  Scratches like this are a kind of drawing – they trace the presence of the others who were here before.

A dais, which models sometimes pose on, is the same dais pictured in a photograph of Portrait Drawing class taken in the room in 1931.   The teacher seen in the photograph advising a student is ‘Mr Willis’.  I’ve spoken to people who were students here in the early 1960s and all have fond memories of ‘Mr Willis’ (he was still teaching there until about 1964).  He would confiscate students’ rubbers (erasers for those of you who speak American English) if they used them too much in their drawings.  I wouldn’t go quite that far in my teaching practice but I like the idea.  The great Walter Sickert gave three talks on drawing in the building in 1934.  Sickert also insisted that students draw without rubbing out and to draw quickly, at least at the start of a drawing.  Mr Willis will have attended those lectures.

We have to change our minds when we draw and the mistakes are just the evidence of those changes – they are virtuous things really and they need to be in play in our drawings if we are to make an honest drawing.  When we begin a drawing of someone we don’t really know what we are in the presence of.  We think we do but we don’t.  We think we know what a person looks like but our first thoughts are usually just our habits of seeing and our drawing-tricks.  We have to be prepared to change our minds about what we think we are in the presence of if we have any hope of getting our drawings to resemble our thoughts and perceptions.

Anyway, I’m hoping they’ll be enough students for the courses to be allowed to run and I wait to find out.

If you’re reading this and you live within striking distance of Margate, and fancy coming to my Life Drawing classes, go onto the Kent Adult Education website ( or find my facebook page ( or twitter (  I’ll be teaching courses here next term and in the future (including some all-day Saturday workshops).  I’ll also be teaching Life Drawing at the Sidney Cooper Drawing Studio in Canterbury (Canterbury Christ Church University). 

a sketchbook drawing

A4 sketchbook drawing Margate Life Drawing classThis is just a quick A4 sketchbook drawing of someone.  It’s nothing special but some of its lines have their moments.  The model moved quite a lot but that isn’t necessarily such a bad thing.  If a person repeatedly shifts their position I might work on more than one drawing and flit between them.  A drawing is a sort of playing-field on which lines gather and trace the drawer’s changes-of-mind.  The attention is repeatedly focused on what is momentarily present in the line of sight.  The drawing is what remains of moments spent paying attention to the presence of someone else.  I have about a hundred and sixty filled-up sketchbooks and this drawing is in one of the recent ones.  I wonder what will become of all these drawings.

Anyway, posting this image also gives me an excuse to let you know that I now have a twitter account and that I’ll use it occasionally and you can follow it if you like. Here’s the link: #royeastlanddraw


Life Drawing exercise

Hilderstone Adult Education Centre Margate Thanet Life DrawingMargate Adult Education Centre Kent Adult Education demonstration Life DrawingSidney Cooper Gallery Canterbury demonstration life drawing




These drawings weren’t made to be works of art; these are demonstration drawings done as part of the Life Drawing classes I teach at Margate Adult Education Centre and at The Sidney Cooper Gallery in Canterbury. These are drawings of people holding a pose for about 15-20 seconds and then moving to a second pose and then repeating the first, and so on, three times over. The students get a minute or 30 seconds for each pose.  Here are a few thoughts about this particular drawing exercise.

Everything changes. This exercise acknowledges that fact that we draw within a continual state of flux and change. The model resumes each of the poses three times but each time there will be subtle and not so subtle changes in the model’s position. the changes in positions are inevitable. Even if it was humanly possible for the model to re-occupy the exact-same position each time, you (the person drawing) will have changed as your time moves on; we are not quite the same person we were a moment ago and drawing can make us more aware of this change.

The drawer gets three goes at drawing each of the two poses. You might notice something different each time and you might want to draw something different each time. Let the drawing have its way: it is ahead of you, see what comes into the drawing. There isn’t time to rub out and start again. There isn’t time to finish a picture of a person. What you are drawing isn’t a picture of a person: what you are drawing is what you notice about someone’s momentary presence (an angle, nearness and distance, an edge, structure, a line etc). You must make your decisions within those short moments that you have to play with.

Your line is the trace of all the little changes of mind that took place as the charcoal in your hand made its nervous way across the surface of the paper. Your line has its own ‘life-story’ of beginning, changing and coming to an end (not a finish or completion but simply an end). As you make your mark you will notice that parts of your lines happen to agree with what you saw or thought and other parts of your line lose or never did make that that connection. Let it be and start a new line. Sometimes you’ll make a good line. This way of drawing is looks forward to the next moment and the next change of mind

Get in touch with the Sidney Cooper Gallery (Canterbury) or the Margate Adult Education Centre  if you’d like to come along to the Life Drawing sessions.


Here’s a link to the Kent Adult Education Life Drawing classes I teach:


Life Room

Life Room. Margate Adult Education CentreHawley Square Margate Adult Education Centre. Hildestone Centre Thanet

Here are some pictures of Margate Adult Education Centre.   The Margate Adult Education Centre is right in the town centre, on the corner of Hawley Square (a pretty Georgian-period Square with some lovely old trees on the green).

I teach Life Drawing here on Wednesday mornings and Thursday evenings. I also teach a few all-day sessions here and people come from as far away as London and Essex to come to them. I love it, and I love teaching in this building. It was built in 1929 and was opened, as ‘The Thanet School of Art’, in 1931. It became an Adult Education Centre (known then as ‘Hilderstone’) in the 1970s and has been used for Kent Adult Education classes ever since.

Life Drawing has been practiced in this very same ‘Life Room’ for more than 80 years!

Hardly anyone knows about the place.

I’ve posted some more pictures of the place on my facebook page:

Anyone interested in coming along should contact the centre (03000414018) or go to the Thanet section of the Kent Adult Education website ( and type my name into the search box.

Jerwood Drawing Prize private view

JERWOOD DRAWING PRIZE AT THE SIDNEY COOPER GALLERY CANTERBURYI’m going to miss the opening of the Jerwood Drawing Prize on Thursday because I’ll be teaching Life Drawing at Margate Adult Education Centre that night.  The Jerwood Drawing Prize exhibition will be on show at The Sidney Cooper Gallery, in Canterbury, from Friday.

I teach Life Drawing and Portrait Drawing at the wonderful Margate Adult Education Centre on Hawley Square.  You couldn’t wish for a better venue for drawing courses (see previous posts for images of this 1929 gem of an art school building)!  Walter Sickert gave some lectures on Drawing here in the 1934.  I haven’t found the complete text for these talks but there are some quotes from them to be found in the 2004 book: ‘Walter Sickert “drawing is the thing”’.

Hopefully, if there are enough students for it to run, I’ll be teaching another ‘A Day of Life Drawing’ class there on 10th May (  Some people travel quite a distance to come to these sessions.  The Turner Contemporary is open until 6pm and so you could always have a look around that afterwards and make a day of being in Margate.   I should be teaching another Thursday evening Life Drawing class from 24th April ( ) and a clothed Figure/Portrait Drawing class on Thursday mornings (—Beginners.aspx).  Phone the Margate office: 01843256220