Friday, July 30, 2010

Best Art Books about Drawing and Sketching just had a revamp!

I've just reviewed and revised the way the information on The Best Books about Drawing and Sketching is organised so that there is now a more logical grouping

One of the problems with my information sites is that sometimes as the content keeps increasing the site structure and layout becomes increasingly odd - so every now and again I give them a good sort out.  I'd call it a spring clean - but it's the end of July!  

I've now got four major sections (see below for a summary) and have also developed a more coherent order within each of these.

Click the links (coloured text) to visit that part of the website.


This section now works in the basis of
  • Identifying what are good/recommended books for people who are beginners and want to learn how to draw from a very basic level
  • The logical next step- people begin to explore which media are particuly suitable for drawing and what the the media allows them to do in terms of techniques (this is a developing section)
  • The final section focuses on what I call "advanced drawing" for people who are really wanting to give their drawing skills a workout - and who are willing to open up to different ways of approaching the practice of drawing

This now covers these popular "how to draw" topics.  I'm afraid I'm very rude about a number of "how to draw books" and some of the ones you may be more familiar with don't make the list.  However this my choice and I don't need to include any of the dumbed down books which get pushed by some of the publishers onto booksellers
Do please tell me about books which you have found very good for "how to draw" any of the above topics or maybe one which is not listed


This section looks at different approaches to keeping a sketchbook or visual journal.


This section is now ordered from the past all the way through to contemporary drawing practice 

Feedback please

Do let me know what you think.  I'd love to know whether this makes the content of this website more accessible.

Also please continue to let me know of any books which you'd like to recommend.  If you've got a book review of a book about drawing please leave a link in your comment.

Note:   I started this site in 2007 as a place to keep links to all the book reviews arising out of the The Big Drawing Book Review on my blog. Read about The Big Drawing Book ReviewThis was started in support of the Big Draw month (October 2007) which is co-ordinated by the Drawing Campaign.  Book reviews were posted on my blog Making A Mark and on the blogs of those people participating in the review. This site provides links to book reviews of books about drawing and/or sketchbooks by people participating in the project and links to those same books on Amazon. Since then it has continued to develop by identifying the best books about drawing

Monday, July 26, 2010

Shortlist for £25,000 Threadneedle Prize 2010 announced

The seven works of art shortlisted for the £25,000 Threadneedle Prize in 2010 have been selected.

This major open UK art competition aims to find outstanding contemporary figurative paintings and sculptures.  46 works have been chosen from more than 2,100 works of art entered for The Threadneedle Prize 2010 exhibition in September at the Mall Galleries.

One of the very interesting aspects of this competition is that it acts as a means of refining contemporary definitions of "figurative art". 

The definition of what work is eligible was refined again this year specifically to highlight the fact that artwork should not be based on a conceptual or abstract world. I'm guessing this has influenced the choices made but may well disappoint some commentators who'd like to stretch the boundaries.  Personally I think there are quite enough other opportunities for that and it's good to see a selection which is sticks a bit closer to a more conventional view of figurative art.
Scope: Works should be based on observation and experience, not on a conceptual or abstract world.  Artists are encouraged to engage, excite and challenge the public on subjects of contemporary and topical significance. Submissions based on the human figure and other major themes are also welcome. Works can be submitted in a variety of media: paintings, original prints and drawings, sculptures, mixed media constructions, reliefs and other figurative installations. Photography and video is only acceptable within other mixed media installations.  Sculpture is an important component of this exhibition and in 2010 we are committed to attracting the highest quality of sculpture entries.
The winner of the £25,000 Threadneedle Prize has already been chosen by the selectors, and will be announced by Victoria Coren at a special Awards event on 15 September 2010. Each of the six runners-up will receive £1,000.

The seven shortlisted works and their artists are:

Clee Hill 2009 
(oil on canvas) by Boyd and Evans
Clee Hill near Ludlow is a popular stopping point for travellers... We make a detour whenever we’re near... It seems to have something different to offer every time we go.
Building the Riverside Museum (pastel) by Patricia Cain
My role was to capture the “experience of the moment” of building work in progress. The focus is not the finished building but an investigation of the beauty of construction.’
Road Side 
 (acrylic on canvas) by Paul Cummings
‘An anecdotal conscious anthropology where the get away journey offers a fleeting moment of a failed utopia.
Car Boot Closing
(Oil on wood) by Thomas Doran
‘Never mind urban foxes – I give you car park elves. On a flat January day, I glimpsed this sub-Narnian scene through a wire fence and felt obliged to commemorate it.’
The Horrors of Tek 33 
(oil and acrylic on canvas) by James Jessop
‘I have always wanted to paint a real New York train in 1980s style... Instead I started a series of paintings featuring trains with my own fantasy graffiti tales, in fictional 1980s scenarios.’
(mixed media) by Stuart McCaffer
‘Most of my work is based on personal experiences, in the case of this piece the starting point is the transient time in life between child and adulthood.’
Frame, figure, frame, figure 
 (oil on canvas) by Caroline Walker
‘Located between reality and fiction, this work plays with temporalities and constructed narrative. Developed through collaboration with life models at different locations or “sets”, it explores the relationship of women to the domestic.’
My first reaction when viewing the works is that the panel have come up with a very different selection from last year. But then the judges this year comprise fewer artists, nobody who's "well known on the circuit" and no gallery owners.  I'm hoping that means we have less 'backscratching' this year - see Threadneedle Prize: selected artists for the names of the selected artists and links to their websites.

My track record to date is I've correctly identified which painting will win the Prize ahead of the announcement two years on the run. Which I guess may mean I'm in touch with what appeals to the general public!

However this year, the Prize is being awarded by the Panel so I'm not sure I'm up for a hat trick.

To be frank, none of the pieces made me go "Wow"!  I'm still waiting to see which order I remember them in tomorrow morning which is a good test of which is the most memorable.  I've got much bigger images to work with and there's nothing remarkable about the painting of any of them which I have to say was rather disappointing.  It's not that any of it is less than good, it's just none of them make me want to be that painter.  I'm very much in favour of an emphasis on figurative - but it would be nice to have an emphasis on good painting too.  There are lots of excellent painters around - and they need to submit their work to this exhibition!

All seven works are paintings which means no sculpture has been judged to merit the shortlist - which is a very great shame as I see a number of truly stunning sculptures at various exhibitions. However it's jolly nice to see a pastel being shortlisted for an award for a change!

I'm personally struggling at the moment to understand why some of the paintings were shortlisted given the definition stating that this was not about conceptual or abstract art but I guess I'll get to find out more about that later! 

Do feel free to comment on the selection below! 

Competition and Exhibition details

Prizes:  The following prizes will be awarded
  • The Threadneedle Prize: £25,000
  • The Visitors’ Choice: £10,000
  • Finalists (6 awarded): each £1,000
If the public vote coincides with the selectors’ vote, one artist wins a total of £35,000, making The Threadneedle Prize potentially the most valuable art competition for a single work of art in the UK.

Exhibition:  This year’s shortlist and the 39 other selected works will be on display at the Mall Galleries in Central London from Thursday 2 to Saturday 18 September 2010.  From 1st September the entire exhibition will be available online at

Panel of Judges: The three people who will select and award the Threadneedle Prize this year are:
  • Dr Xavier Bray, has been Assistant Curator of 17th and 18th Century European paintings at the National Gallery, London, since 2002. He recently curated his first solo National gallery exhibition The Sacred Made Real
  • David Rayson, Professor of Painting and Head of Fine Art at the Royal College of Art, and
  • Michael Sandle RA who resigned from the RA in 1997 – staying out seven years - in protest over what he construed as the Academy’s ‘ducking and weaving’ over the inclusion of the Myra Hindley portrait – against the wishes of the mother of one of the ‘Moors Murders’ victims.
  • Who gets the money: arts funding in crisis? Monday 13 September, 6-8pm With major cuts in public services looming, are the visual arts facing a crisis? Evening Standard art critic Brian Sewell joins an outstanding panel of speakers, including Ekow Eshun, Director of the ICA, Clare O’Brien, Director of Development & Marketing at the Wallace Collection and Godfrey Worsdale, Director of the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, to debate where money for the visual arts should be targeted. Book online at or call 020 7930 6844 for tickets. Admission £5 (concessions £2.50, including FBA Friends, students and over 60s). 
  • Critics’ view Wednesday 8 September, 1-2pm  A new and unique event: art critic Matthew Collings, historian and broadcaster Bettany Hughes, journalist and BBC presenter Jeremy Paxman and journalist and Channel 4 presenter Jon Snow each choose one work of art from the exhibition and explain why they like it. Admission free with entry to the exhibition.
Exhibition Location
  • The Threadneedle Prize for Painting and Sculpture Mall Galleries The Mall (near Trafalgar Square) London SW1
  • Tel: 020 7930 6844 | |
  • Nearest Tube: Charing Cross
  • Open 2-18 September 2010, 10am-5pm daily. Admission £2.50, Concessions £1.50 (Free to Friends of the FBA, Art Fund Members, Westminster Res-card holders and Under 16s).

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Summer Slow Down

Having had a week off from posting to Making A Mark, I've decided to take a lesson from cat Cosmo and "chill out" by continuing with a summer slow down strategy for this blog

Cosmo chillin'
pen and sepia ink
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Lots of you are on holiday - as is "he who must not be bored while I sketch" - plus we'll be having lots of days out between now and the end of August.

I also found that the break last week didn't mean I wanted to stop blogging.  Rather that I enjoyed the time more since it gave me to catch up with some posts on my other art blogs which have been sadly neglected of late during the mega-planning blight.  I'm also trying not to be seduced by the fact the planning blog is really beginning to take off - got to stop watching those stats!

Consequently I'm implementing an official slow down on Making A Mark until the end of August which will mean:
  • NOT posting daily as I normally do
  • periodic "who's made a mark this week" posts but they will not be weekly
  • occasional important posts
  • more profiling of work by other people
  • some delving into the archives of past posts which will not have been read by most readers
  • some referencing posts on other blogs because....
  • there will probably be MORE posts on my other blogs which always get squeezed when I'm very busy.  For example, there's a series of posts coming up this next week on The Art of the Landscape and I'll probably be posting to my sketchbook blog as we get out and about.  I may even get round to finishing off posts about my last holiday in France!
  • I'll be a lot more refreshed when it comes round to September!!
In the meantime, here's an article for you all to read - How to Slow Down Now (Please Read Slowly) - by the Slow Master, Christopher Richards of,

Is anybody else slowing down for summer?

Catch-up:  Here's the blog posts I wrote last week

The Art of the Landscape
Travels with a Sketchbok in...... 
Making A Mark reviews......


Monday, July 19, 2010

18th July 2010: Who made a mark last week?

I was more than a little pleased this week to learn that Making A Mark is now #3 in top 25 art blogs in UK.  I've rather recklessly promised to try and do a chart of how all the top UK art blogs are faring since the Manchester since CreativeTourist took on the task of creating this ranking last year.

Just a slight problem - which is the HUGE number of hours I'm spending at the moment on tackling planning issues, on behalf of our local residents association, in connection with a multi-million pound development in the middle of a densely populated housing estate.  (Think full time job / Linda Snell doppelganger!)

However, the combined use of Flickr and a blog has meant that we're now getting very positive and fast results.  There's nothing quite like having a link to a blog post with videos and slideshows of infringements of planning conditions to send to the regulatory and enforcement people!
  • An enforcement investigation by the Planning Team at the Local Council has now written to me and declared that the builder has contravened the planning permissions and has ordered the builder (a major name in the building industry) to 'stop' work on site. 
  • Plus the Health and Safety Executive have agreed to carry out an investigation of the construction site and should be arriving soon.  
We're hoping that we get an even more satisfactory conclusion before the schools break up this week as our bottom line is making the estate environment safe for children for the summer holidays.  That's the absolute top priority right now.

You may have noticed that my Making A Mark blog posts have been published later and later and this is the reason why.

I don't know which I was most proud of last week - but if I'm honest, having lost the planning permission battle (our Residents Association fought hard and kept the developers at Planning Committee through five cycles of committee meetings) there has been a certain amount of satisfaction in now working very hard to make the safeguards in that planning permission and resulting planning conditions work to protect residents' interests!

I've also discovered that blogs are wonderful mechanisms for campaigning and getting your story across.  We don't think the planning and regulatory authorities quite know what's hit them!  Plus we're now contemplating packaging the story for the local London newspapers and television stations! 

However I've overdue for my routine quarterly blogging break and the extra work for the Residents' Assocoation means that I am now extremely tired, have a lot more to do this week and really need to take a break very soon.   Hence this is not the normal Sunday post although I hope to be back soon - but am not going to promise a date.

Smithfield Market on a Summer Sunday
11" x 17", pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils in Large Moleskine Sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

The above sketch is a worked up version of the sketch I did yesterday when I had my first "me" break in a long time.  You can read about it in A Summer Sunday Sketching West Smithfield

My other art posts last week were:

Making A Mark
Making A Mark Reviews
Travels with a Sketchbook
The Art of the Landscape

Saturday, July 17, 2010

BP Portrait Award 2010: List of Exhibitors and Brian Sewell

You can see all the individual works in the BP Portrait Award 2010 on the National Portrait Gallery website.  Below you will also find a list of the names of the exhibitors in the BP Portrait Award 2010 plus where they come from and links to their websites if you want to see what other work they have produced.   The websites I rate are highlighted.

Where there is no website, the link is to the portrait in the exhibition.

Finding the links became an increasingly fascinating exercise as I began to find out just how many of those exhibiting are not dedicated portrait painters.  Plus I found fewer with the standard of website that I'm finding when doing this exercise for other major prizes.  Which I find surprising - but it gave me pause for thought when I read Brian Sewell's article - see end.

Then there's the artist who's produced a painting which I now need to go back and look at again, as I'm now wondering just exactly how it was produced (Shades of the AWS 2008!)

 Ciara by Alan Coulson
 ideath by Michel Ozibko
 Geneva by Ilaria Rosselli del Turco
Plus this is Brian Sewell's review of the BP Portrait Award - Time for a shake-up of the Portrait Gallery's annual award

Brian is always worth a read, if only for the quality of the vitriol (Brian is no longer a fan of the BP Portrait Award) and I think he may just have surpassed himself this year.   For the record, I think some of the things he says are spot on.  See if you can work out which those might be.

    Friday, July 16, 2010

    Ted Seth Jacobs and Sadie J. Valeri

    Thanks to Paul at Learning to See I came across the invaluable set of notes by Sadie J. Valeri (Sadie J Valeri) about Ted Seth Jacob's teachings about how to see and how to draw.

    I've organised links to her posts below with a commentary on what they are about

    But first a caveat from Sadie
    My notes don't necessarily accurately reflect the teachings of my instructors, in fact my teachers may disagree or find some of my expression of their ideas to be inaccurate. The best way to understand their teaching is to buy their books and take their classes.
    Ted Seth Jacobs - Figure Workshop
    I've begun Ted Seth Jacobs' 6-week figure drawing workshop, offered through the Bay Area Classical Artist Atelier.  So far I have come up with this summary of my impression of Ted's method for figure drawing. (Note: This is my impression, and not a direct quote, he may describe it differently) My favorite concept so far from Ted:
    The simplest definition of a 'gesture' is an action showing intention, or desire.
    TSJ on "Structure"
    Ted lectures in the mornings, and in the afternoons we draw from the model.  Below I've summarized some of his concepts and diagrammed my drawing to show how I am attempting to apply his techniques
    All the forms of the body are arranged on curving pathways, never straight or angular.
    TSJ Workshop: Melissa, Day 1 and Day 2 - focusing on feet  
    You can see Ted's sketches of the structure of the foot and head in the top image, which he drew for me when he came around to critique my drawing.
    Day 3: pencil on paper, 12 x 18 inches, detail
    with annotation on drawing feet by Ted Seth Jacobs

    TSJ Workshop: Melissa Day 3 - trying to create the smaller forms according to the philosophy Ted has been teaching us.

     TSJ Workshop: Melissa Day 5
    My idea is melding the two approaches. Blocking-in with straight lines to get all the tilts and distances to be accurate. Then using Ted's way of seeing to express the myriad organic structures that make up the whole form.

    TSJ Workshop: Head Study - I decided to try a new drawing of just the model's face and hand these last two days of the pose.

    TSJ Workshop: Head Study Day II
    Ted has been teaching us about "rounding and ending" a shadow. This is where a shadow is shaped by the light falling over the rounded edge of a form, which makes a soft gradated edge. Then the shadow ends in a crease, a hard edge, before the next rounded form begins.

    TSJ Workshop - Reclining Nude I
    We are now in the 4th week of Ted Seth Jacobs' drawing workshop at BACAA.  This week we started drawing a 3-week pose. Today is the 4th day, and I spent the first 3 1/2 days struggling with the block-in.

    TSJ Workshop: Reclining Nude II
    I have transcribed some more of my notes from TSJ's teachings. These are some of his overall themes, the ideas he repeats no matter what specifics he is showing us:
    "I am not your teacher: nature is your teacher. But you have to have knowledge of the principles of form to understand what nature is showing you. These principles are helpful only as far as they help us see nature. If nature disagrees with a principle, nature is right, the principle is wrong. Nature is our teacher always."
    Ted Seth Jacobs

    TSJ Portrait Workshop: Mona
    Ted is showing us how the principles he taught us for figure drawing apply to portraiture.

    18 x 24 inches, pencil on paper (about 30 hours)

    TSJ Portrait Workshop: Melissa
    I feel like Ted's lessons are really starting to sink in, and my drawing is much improved since I started working with him. He's taught me to think of the 3-dimensional forms of what I am looking at (and subforms, and subforms and subforms...), and to try to understand everything in 3 dimensions, instead of just "copying" a pattern of lights and darks. The result is a much more solidly volumetric drawing.

    TSJ Portrait Workshop: Bridgette
    When I am drawing now I feel like my pencil is actually touching the surface of the form, like sculpting. Previously I only thought about copying lights and darks, so this is a totally different approach for me.

    Ted Seth Jacobs - Drapery Study
    A recap from 12 weeks studying drawing with Ted Seth Jacobs at BACAA. Highlights the 4 main principles Ted taught Sadie to apply when analyzing form

    Other comments

    I've got Ted's book - Drawing with an Open Mind - and am kicking myself right now as it's not where it should be (on the shelf of drawing books) so I can't quote from it!  He's always struck me a very thoughtful man who aspire to instill excellence in all those who study with him.

    However Jeff Hayes commented about him as a teacher in this 2005 post about Ted Seth Jacobs
    Although he has a very kindly and unassuming manner, I was immediately thunderstruck by both the depth and breadth of the knowledge and insight be brings to bear on the practice of painting and drawing. In the space of just a few sentences, he would touch on physics, anatomy, geometry, optics, engineering, art history, pedogogy, physiology, materials, perception, oh, and philosophy to boot. And these were not the abstracted mental meanderings of a scattered intellectual. Rather, all his comments had direct relevance to the subject at hand, which is to say aspects of drawing the human body. It was really a virtuoso performance, indicitive of a lifetime spent deeply pondering the problems of making art.
    More resources for portraiture and figure drawing

    I'm going to be developing a post for next week which is about portraiture and figure drawing.

    In the meantime here's a link to my information site about Portraiture - Resources for Artists

    Thursday, July 15, 2010

    BP Travel Award - 2009 and 2010

    Paul Beel is the winner of the BP Travel Award for 2010.  Those attending the awards ceremony last month were amused to hear that his winning proposal is to paint a large-scale, plein-air group portrait of figures on the secluded Corfu nudist beach which he first visited twelve years ago with his wife on their honeymoon.

    The BP Travel Award is an annual award of £5,000, to allow artists to experience working in a different environment on a project related to portraiture. It is open to applications from any of the BP Portrait Award-exhibited artists.

    BP Travel Award 2010

    Paul intends to use the bursary to fund travelling to Corfu and staying there for a month while he paints the proposed 2 x 4 metre canvas (or a canvas triptych of panels 2m x 1.33m) portrait for display in the BP Portrait Award 2011 exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery next year.

    Paul Beel is an American artist who has lived and worked in Italy since 1997.  He now lives in Florence.  When I talked to him he told me that he intends to compose his group portrait from whoever is visiting the beach.  He's not exactly sure how it will work out.  Current ideas are that maybe he'll start with the centre panel and make that midday and then make the left panel morning and the right hand panel dusk.  He recognises that he'll also have to work round however long people are prepared to sit for him - which should be interesting given none of them are professional models or paying him to paint their portraits!

    You can see Paul's painting Free David here and on my video of the exhibition

    BP Travel Award 2009

    Portraits by Isobel Peachey - winner of the BP Travel Award 2009

    Isobel Peachey won the 2009 BP Travel Award for her proposal to travel to Belgium and Switzerland to sketch and paint portraits of those taking part in historical re-enactments.

    She visited The Company of Saynt George, a Swiss group re-enacting the history of a small artillery company from the 15th Century at the Castle of Lenzburg, near Zurich, and The Napoleonic Association who portray the life of a military encampment near Antwerp in Belgium.

     Portrait Drawings by Isobel Peachey - winner of the BP Travel Award 2009

    A selection of Isobel's portraits and preparatory studies from this journey are being shown in this year's exhibition.  You can see my video of the exhibition of Isobel Peachey's work on YouTube.

    See the exhibition:  The BP Travel Award will is on display with the BP Portrait Award exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London until 19 September 2010 after which it goes on tour to:

    You can also see a video of the entire exhibition

    Previous winners of the BP Travel Award

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010

    Making A Mark is now #3 in top 25 art blogs in UK

    The July 2010 update of the The Top 25 UK Arts & Culture Blogs has just been published and I'm very pleased to say that Making A Mark now ranks #3 in the top 25 art blogs in the UK.
    Once again quite a few of the independent culture bloggers are beating the Guardian’s Charlotte Higgins at her own game, this month they’ve pushed her into the number 10 position, it’s great to see arts blogging alive and kicking.
    Many thanks to the lovely people at CreativeTourist who devised a survey which combines a number of metrics to produce the list of the top 25 UK art blogs. 

    To be eligible, the blog has to be
    • written by someone currently living in the UK, 
    • updated within the last two months and 
    • the majority of its content focused on art and culture (this doesn’t have to be just popular culture but can include visual art, photography and museums collections, too).  
    For the avoidance of argument,  their definition of a blog is one where the content (or at least the main part of it) appears in the order in which it was written.

    I have to confess I let out a whoop when I saw the new ranking! :)

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010

    Photography in Public: a government review

    The new government in the UK is changing the line taken on photography in public places. 

    For those of us who like taking reference photographs, there have been serious concerns for some time about the use of Anti-Terrorism Law to prevent people taking photographs in public places - particularly in Central London. 

    This is the Home Office's current statement on Photography and Counter-Terrorism legislation.  This statement is likely to be changed as a result of the review.  It starts....
    This circular has been produced to clarify counter-terrorism legislation in relation to photography in a public place. Concerns have been raised that sections of the Terrorism Act 2000 are being used to stop people taking photographs - whether this is photographs of buildings or people - and that cameras are being confiscated during such searches.
    The legislation, which allows police officers to stop and search people without grounds for suspicion, has been heavily criticised by many, including photographers.

    Today the Home Office has announced that there is to be a rapid review of key counter-terrorism and security powers. The review will look at what counter-terrorism powers and measures could be rolled back in order to restore the balance of civil liberties and counter-terrorism powers.  This includes stop and search powers in section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 and the use of terrorism legislation in relation to photography. The findings of the review are due to be reported in the autumn.

    The Home Secretary, Theresa May said that
    National security is the first duty of government but we are also committed to reversing the substantial erosion of civil liberties. 
    Prior to this:
    • The government responded to a petition to disband a new law introduced in February 2009
    Contrary to some media and public misconception, section 58A does not make it illegal to photograph a police officer, military personnel or member of the intelligence services.
    Photorestrict - epetition response
    • at the end of June, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) refused to overturn its earlier ruling that police use of Section 44 stop-and-search powers is illegal, after the former Government had appealed the decision.   Police use of Section 44 had initially been ruled unlawful by the ECHR in January. 
    The role of photographers in fighting the abuse of powers

    Many of these changes are coming about because of a long-running campaign by Amateur Photographer magazine against the abuse of powers which has been taken up by other photographic bodies and publications.

    Photography in Public - A Brief Guide is a useful YouTube video of the difficulties that photographers have encountered within the context of current legislation and the practices of the Metropolitan Police and Community Support Officers

    This month's edition of Amateur Photographer is giving away a very useful free lens cloth which summarises photographer's rights.

    Other resources

    I also noticed a while back  that Karin Jurick (Different Strokes from Different Folks) has an invaluable inventory of links to references with respect to photographing in public

    Monday, July 12, 2010

    Tonking and Henry Tonks

    Portrait of Professor Henry Tonks, in Uniform
    drawing by John Singer Sargent
    signed "H.Q. Guards Division / Aug. 4th. 1918 / to my friend Henry Tonks"
    Pencil and ink on paper, 24.8 x 37.1 cm (9 3/4 x 14 5/8 in.)  

    I found out today - having come across the above drawing - that Singer Sargent knew Professor Henry Tonks of 'tonking' fame.  This post highlights a little about how they knew one another and what 'tonking' is.  We'll start with the latter.


    'Tonking' is a method of removing excess oil from canvas by blotting with absorbent paper.  It was invented by Henry Tonks who taught at the Slade and was taught at art schools into the 1950s.

    It's used to make changes to a painting by removing oil paint or to create a workable surface where paint has become too thick or the consistency is wrong and needs to be corrected (eg too much oil).

    It can also be used to revive a painting which has become overworked; to adjust a painting which has failed to achieve unity in terms of treatment of different shapes, colours etc or .

    This is how to 'tonk' a painting
    • place a sheet of absorbent paper (eg newspaper or kitchen towel) over a painting or part of a painting which needs to be changed
    • press down firmly and evenly on the paper
    • lift off carefully - and the paper should remove oil and paint as it is lifted
    • repeat the process until the area has had sufficient paint removed for the purpose of addressing the issue which required 'tonking'
    Tonking is not included in Art-Lex which rather surprised me.

    Professor Henry Tonks

    Henry Tonks  initially studied medicine, became a doctor and subsequently had a successful surgical career.  However he also studied at Westminster School of Art and in 1893 he finally abandoned medicine after being invited to join the staff of the Slade School of Art in London, where he taught until 1930, became Professor of Drawing and became the Principal in 1917 - although still on the Western Front at the time.
    His overriding concern with draughtsmanship and the structure of the body was apparent in his programme of copying from the Antique, from prints and from life; however, he saw this discipline as the basis for developing each artist's individuality........Tonks was himself a fine draughtsman whose knowledge of anatomy complemented his fascination with light effects. His mature works combine expressive manipulation of forms with pure, bright colour, while retaining an attraction for implicit anecdote.
    Tate - Henry Tonks (1862-1937)

    He taught a lot of famous painters including Stanley Spencer and Paul Nash.  Nash recalled his withering manner
    "Tonks cared nothing for other authorities and he disliked self-satisfied young men .His surgical eye raked my immature designs. With hooded stare and sardonic mouth, he hung in the air above me, like a tall question mark, moreover of a derisive, rather than an inquisitive order. In cold discouraging tones he welcomed me to the Slade. It was evident he considered that neither the Slade, nor I, was likely to derive much benefit."

    Tonks joined the Royal Army Medical Corps on the outbreak of the First World War and was selected to join a team pioneering plastic surgery.  As a qualified Surgeon, from 1916 to 1918 Tonks worked for pioneering plastic surgeon Harold Gillies producing pastel drawings recording facial injury cases at Aldershot and the Queen's Hospital, Sidcup.  This is an example of one of his pastel drawings

    In 1918, John Singer Sargent negotiated with Lord Beaverbrook, the Minister for Information about becoming a war artist, following the decision to raidly expand the number of artists in France.
    Beaverbrook decided to rapidly expand the number of artists in France. He established with Arnold Bennett a British War Memorial Committee (BWMC). The artist chosen for this programme were given different instructions to those sent previously. Beaverbrook told them that pictures were "no longer considered primarily as a contribution to propaganda, they were now to be thought of chiefly as a record."

    Artists sent under the BWMC programme included John Sargent, Augustus John, John Nash, Henry Lamb, Henry Tonks, Colin Gill, William Roberts, Wyndham Lewis, Stanley Spencer, Philip Wilson Steer, George Clausen, Bernard Meninsky, Charles Pears, Sydney Carline, David Bomberg, Austin Osman Spare, Gilbert Ledward and Charles Jagger. 
    Art, Propaganda and Resistance in the Great War
    In 1918 both Tonks and John Singer Sargent were both invited to become official war artists and were sent to the Western Front.  They both witnessed men being treated for blindness after a mustard gas attack. Whereas Sargent painted Gassed, Tonks produced An Advanced Dressing Station in France. Tonks also completed another painting with a medical theme while on the Western Front, An Underground Casualty Clearing Station (1918).

    On return from the war, Tonks became the Slade Professor of Fine Art.  His most well-known work, Saturday Night in the Vale (now in the Tate) was completed just before his retirement in 1930.


    I've arrived at this post via a post about John Singer Sargent (on The Art of the Landscape) and a blog post about the use of hard pastels (on Making A Mark Reviews) followed by a search for classical use of pastels in portrait drawings by Singer Sargent.  Some blog posts just emerge from what I do each day!


    Sunday, July 11, 2010

    11th July 2010 - Who's made a mark this week?

    The green green grass grasshopper hair grip by Bizzie Birdsworth.

    The trend for 2010 seems to be that more and more art bloggers are publishing books on a blog.  Andrea Joseph is back online and updating hers - called Book on a Blog.  I loved the grasshopper automaton hair grip


    Art Blogs

    Drawing and sketching

    Sketch of John Singer Sargent's 
    'En Route pour la pêche (Setting Out to Fish)', 1878
    copyright Katherine Tyrrell
    Painters and Painting
    Now floating in the abyss between menopause and senility, I decided I finally needed to completely awaken my Hibernating Artist Within.


    Art Business and Marketing

    Art and the Economy / Art Collectors

    The commentators in the 'quality' press didn't seem to agree whether ot not auctions were being starved of good works of art or that they were being used by the aristocracy as some sort of superior pawn shop.
    Long before the economy almost collapsed a year ago, art-savvy people argued that works of art are the new equities: one can make more money in the art market than in the stock market.
    In her time, Miro has seen the London gallery scene change in two ways. Commercial galleries like her own, once the haunt of dealers and insiders, now attract visitors in much the same way as their bigger, state-funded galleries do. Post-Saatchi, too, the way galleries do business has not just become more global, but more competitive, more combative and more macho.

    Art Competitions and Art Societies

    Art Competitions / Art Societies - call for entries
    Art Competitions - results and other comments
    Other Competitions
    • I'm wondering whether they've got any footie fans working at the Prado in Madrid because it doesn't seem to have gone to the same trouble as the Van Gogh Museum.  Check out the photo posted by the Van Gogh Museum on Twitter and its website.  I loved the next tweet
    Due to the homecoming ceremony in honour of the Dutch football team, we will be closed on Tuesday 13 July. More info:

    Art Exhibitions

    I had a lovely time at the Royal Academy of Arts on Tuesday. Sargent and the Beach is my review of the Sargent and the Sea  exhibition which opened in the Sackler Galleries of the  on Saturday 10th July.  I'm not persuaded that it's all great but some of it is and that's worth seeing.

    Major Museums and Art Galleries

    Other exhibitions I noted this week are:
    Every Day is a Good Day is the first major exhibition and publication devoted to the entire range of American composer, writer and artist John Cage’s prints, watercolours and drawings. Cage was one of the leading avant-garde composers of the twentieth century, most famous perhaps for his silent work of 1952, 4'33".

    Art Education

    Tips and techniques

    Art History

    Until recently art historians had no clear idea of exactly how changes in a work were developed. Now those mysteries have been largely solved, thanks to an extraordinary array of technologies deployed in putting together “Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-1917,” an exhibition that opens next week at the Museum of Modern Art

    Art Supplies

    Book reviews


    The Digital Economy Act was rushed into legislation at the end of the last government.  Subsequently it's turned out to attract the most support from proposals from the public for changes to legislation on the new government's new "your Freedom" website

    Opinion Poll

    and finally........

    For all my botanical artist's the day!

    "Lois" - the Corpse Flower at the The Cockrell Butterfly Center at the Houston Museum of Natural Science is due to bloom on Sunday.  She's one of the rarest plants in the world because the flowers will be about 5.5 feet tall with a diameter of 4.5 feet.  She's only the 29th in the USA to ever bloom.  You can:
    This is the growth rate to date - and she still hasn't yet flowered!

    July 1
    July 2
    July 3
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    July 5
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    July 8
    July 9