Saturday, February 16, 2008

Drawing the artists drawing a head

Drawing a Head 14th January 2008 # 1,2 and 3

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I never know what I'm going to be doing in drawing class each week.

The journey there is influential. If my drive to the borders of Shoreditch and Hoxton is a short and relaxing affair then I arrive feeling energetic and ready for anything. So what if I've drawn the model(s) any number of times before - I can find a fresh perspective!

However if the drive is in the dark and it's raining and the mysterious "powers that be" that run London's traffic light system have yet again managed to get it wrong and massive queues build up - then I can get just a teeny tiny bit frustrated! That means I don't always arrive in the studio in the best of moods which can then make it difficult to respond to whatever presents in the studio.

Well last Thursday I had the bad traffic due to crazy traffic lights in the dark scenario and a road closure (but fortunately no rain) so I got to class late only to find that I then had the choice of a model I'd drawn many times before but who doesn't generate much of a creative spark in me even on the best of days plus a new model who didn't stimulate a response either. I was glum. Then I hit on doing what I've done quite a lot of in the past. I drew the other students drawing the model.

Drawing artists at work is great practice for drawing people outside the studio. Artists tend to have repetitive movements and drawing people who keep repeating what they do is really great for practising working from life and a moving image.

It's also interesting in relation to restating what you can see as you draw. For example, the chap in the middle of the second drawing kept changing how he held his drawing pad and the position of his legs - so I changed it on my drawing too.

The other interesting thing about drawing other people is that you have to try and find four lines which create a composition - or 'make a picture'. I have to do exactly the same thing when drawing people in public spaces. I've generally got a fairly firm idea in my head about what 'the picture' looks like but can sometimes improve it back home when I crop of my photos to remove acres of white space and bulldog clips! For example, I cropped more of the bottom of the one on the right than I expected - except I was about a quarter of the through this drawing when I realised I should have been using a landscape format rather than a portrait one. So I simply corrected for that when I cropped the photo.

I especially like trying out notions which are maybe a bit more adventurous than I might be elsewhere. What do you think? Do you find the compositions interesting? Do they draw you in?
Sorry for the weird picture quality this week. Having shot these twice now in an attempt to improve them, I'm still trying to work out whether it's a camera on its way out, mucky paper or a mucky lens. Very odd!

One final thing - does anybody know why it is it that the more people squint, the more they open their mouths? I just thought it went with the territory of trying to put on my eye make-up but apparently focusing on the model triggers it as well!

You can see more examples of my drawings of artists drawing in the drawing people gallery on my website (scroll down the page).


  1. We did a similar thing in class, drawing our classmates while they were drawing us.... it can be quite interesting.
    and as for the squinting and opening of mouths, I have absolutely no idea why but it makes for an extremely funny facial expression!

  2. My favorite is the first drawing with the very interesting perspective.
    I think that opening the lips has something to do with the muscle contraction. Squinting is for the most part lifting the cheeks up isn`t it ?
    (Remember Dustin Hoffmann in "Little big man")

  3. What works very much for me are the mid tones. One of the great merits of graphite, and your expertise at placing values.

  4. I think the first drawing is absolutely beautiful, Katherine. It deserves to spark a painting as well. For some reason I'm seeing it in oil but you would make a wonderful pastel painting of it.

    From a composition point of view, I would be tempted to crop a bit more from that right hand side. What do you think? I'm here to learn, not be a critic, of course.

  5. Then again... The face of that wonderful woman with the dark hair is the centre of interest, isn't she? So I could be totally wrong! It's a really interesting composition, as are the others.

  6. The lady on the left comes from the Far East and I was very distracted by the fact I'm not used to drawing 'eastern' faces which have a slightly different structure. I think she became the focus albeit this was unplanned. My other area of interest was the chap whose head was down as the foreshortening on the head was really interesting.

    Often with these sorts of drawings I'm drawn to a particular pattern of shapes and work out the focus as I progress through the drawing.

    What I liked about the first one is that the model - which is their main focus is in the picture - but only just.

  7. I particularly love the placement of the model in the composition. My comment about the cropping was because my first instinct was the chap with his head down was your centre of interest but then it shifted, for me, to the woman.

    However I look at it, it's a great drawing!


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