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Learning to draw and paint the Atelier way

Charcoal drawing of cast model
Charcoal drawing of a cast at London Fine Art Studios.

Even the most skilled artists are always learning, and continue to develop their art. I thought it might be interesting to share my experiences, particularly for those who already draw and paint or those who maybe want to start drawing.

With improving my drawing and painting in mind, I went looking for ways to do this with some focused tuition. Obviously constant practice is essential, but sometimes you want more advice and guidance. My answer was to go to an Atelier workshop.

What is an Atelier? Sounds highbrow and slightly daunting? Not really, an Atelier is a workshop and process where an artist acts as a tutor teaching by example and demonstration to a number of students. The idea behind this is that groups of artists learn a process together, and learn how to use this process utilising their own individual styles. Everybody is different and has a different way of working, but there is a straightforward process on how to learn to see and draw.

Still confused? Well what I’m learning at the London Fine Art Studios (http://londonfineartstudios.com/) is the importance of working from life, not photographs. Although I already knew this and practised it, I’ve learnt about classical techniques such as encajar and sight-size (http://www.painters-online.co.uk/techniques-and-tips/view,encajar-and-sightsize-learn-classical-drawing-techniques_5232.htm). Tutors emphasise the quality of line to construct images, the importance of values with darks and lights, and the treatment of form, edges and the use of colour. All of these processes are critical in creating a realistic drawing and transferring that drawing into a painting if required.

Now, for some of you, the above techniques might sound and seem totally alien but you probably use some of them already, and if you want to really develop your drawing I would seriously recommend just finding out more. Ateliers are centuries old, used by the Renaissance painters, Rubens, Van Dyke, Singer Sargent etc, and their methods are tried and tested. They also dispel the myth of the solitary artist struggling away and demonstrate a more inclusive way of learning to draw and paint.

Lennon – A commission down memory lane

Portrait painting John Lennon
John Lennon circa White Album

This recent commission, an acrylic painting of John Lennon around 1968, was an interesting one and got me thinking. What is my favourite Beatle track? What is my all time favourite Beatle’s album? I even played a Beatle song or two while painting it!

Like most people born in the 60s, but not everybody I appreciate, the Beatles were either a focal point or backdrop to your musical tastes and development. Over time they have fallen out of favour and come back in again, but their influence was immense musically and culturally.

So I started to go over a few songs and albums and the usual suspects all reared their heads – ‘Love Me Do’, ‘She Loves You’,’Yesterday’, ‘All You Need is Love’ etc etc. Now this wasn’t easy with such a back catalogue, however, there was one song which I still think is one of their best. It wasn’t a single but an album track off ‘Rubber Soul’, the reflective and slightly plaintive ‘In My Life’. Lennon and McCartney at their best.

With the albums again everybody seems to cite ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Clubs Band’ as the seminal album and game changer. For me this was difficult so I cheated and have picked two albums ‘Rubber Soul’ and ‘Revolver’ from the 1965/1966 period. What I like about these albums is that the songs are taut, simple yet cleverly constructed songs and the beginnings of intelligent and insightful lyrics.

Whatever your opinion is of the Beatles give it a go, unless you absolutely detest them you will find something. What’s amazing to me is how sometimes a simple portrait painting of somebody, who when all said and done is not somebody you know or have met, but can evoke connections and memories taking you back to a place somewhere like your childhood. Long live the power of art!


 

‘Ship of Fools’ – Painting can be a laugh

Sometimes it’s fun just to create a painting that’s a bit of a laugh. I started to paint this one with poking fun in mind, particularly the pompous Tory crowd on this boat just about to go over the edge of a waterfall.

The painting loosely inspired by Bosch’s painting ‘Ship of Fools’ http://www.hieronymusbosch.net/ship-of-fools/ and gives a big nod to the works of James Gilray and John Heartfield. In their time all these artists were capable of sending up the establishment and the rich and powerful.

Whatever your political stance the art of wit, humour, sense of the ludicrous and general lampooning should never be lost, and for me this is what this painting has recreated.

This painting is on show at the Alfred East Art Gallery, Kettering until 26th May 2018 if you want a closer look.

Kingley Vale painting

Landscape painting towards Chichester from Kingley Vale
Towards Chichester from Kingley Vale

Well, this is my first blog post on my new website. So here’s a painting from my travels.

This is a scene across Kingley Vale National Nature Reserve towards Chichester. It’s a wonderful chalk grassland littered with ancient burial mounds, yew trees and woodland dating back 500 years and more.

The view painted here is at the top of the valley with its stunning panoramic view over the woodland with Chichester harbour in the distance.