Why Daily? Regularly working the drawing “muscle”; exercises (identical to a gym workout) in eye-hand coordination, seeing shadow shapes and really ‘looking’ at reality instead of drawing what I symbolise in my mind.

Why timed? Working quickly is a necessity in plein air painting and location drawing because of shifts in light. In addition, anything more than 20mins will result in overworking – as in watercolour drawing.

Why these materials? Coloured pencils resist any lay-ins: one has to work alla prima. I leave careful composition and light pencil backgrounds to other media. A very light hard pencil, such as any in the H range, will leave lines which will show through the white drawing pencil. Working either black over white or white over black will result in a muddy, oily grey.

Why a series of themed drawings every day for a week? I’m trying to draw things I’ve never tackled before and I’m trying to move around a range of materials. I’m not one of these people who work a single subject in a single medium.

Why babies? I’ve never drawn them before, either from life or photos. One thing I am aiming for is the subtle difference between crying and yawning. I haven’t tested it, but I’m assuming there is a relaxation in the facial muscles involved in yawning that is not present in a cry. Of course, this is new iconography: you’ll never see a yawning baby in Medieval or Renaissance art when depicting babies was much more popular and routine than anything today. There is a personal precedent too: a while back I did some self-portraits on canvas paper with mouth open in charcoal overlaid with gesso, based on photographic self-portraits done in a formal studio concentrating on lighting setups.

Why black-and-white? If I can get these right in b&w, then I can progress to colour. I’m somewhat obsessed with Charles Reid’s use of watercolour in his figurative watercolours and I’m also fascinated by the granulation of Daniel Smith Potters Pink watercolour paint.


Today’s reference photo was a challenge because everything was in high key. There being so few darks – virtually none except the mouth – I had to go (very) easy with the Ivory Black pencil. There is a smudge over the ear, which worked well, but I’m aware that a much longer-timed drawing would involve much more finnicky smudging.

I’m disappointed I still haven’t got the proportions as could as they would be if there was a careful lay-in foundation, but that’s the price one pays for working alla prima with these challenging materials. And that was despite that today 90% of the time I copied the reference photo upside down.

Today’s photo included shoulders and chest, which poses additional difficulties outside the brief of this week’s sketches.

I am getting used to working from light to dark. If the very full, initial “lay-in” with white pencil only works, then I can work with pressing more heavily for the white highlights before picking up the black pencil.

Strathmore Toned Paper Gray 9×12″; Derwent Drawing Pencils, Ivory Black and Chinese White.




This week’s morning drawings will be Yawning Babies. Colleagues in the ShireSketchers group are working on “Young” (as well as “Geriatric”) as themes lately, I promised some square-format drawings this week, in contrast to last week’s “Foliage” theme, so they could see more of my drawings in the end-of-week photo collage.

Taking a break from Botanicals to more familiar Figurative territory, I want to start out in black and white and perhaps move to colour, the main reason being is that I really need to get the proportions of baby’s heads correct as a secure and necessary foundation. Yes, babies’ heads can move around a bit, but already from today’s I can see I need to consult some textbooks!

I’m working on Strathmore Toned Gray paper (9×12″) with Derwent Drawng pencils (Ivory Black, Cool Grey, Chinese White), even though the Cool Grey is almost exactly the same tone as the paper itself.

My perspective today comes from Thomas Thorspecken: “…Photographers shoot a photo and immediately move on. … I might be dissatisfied as the sketch progresses because the sketch is never perfect. It is important to accept the flaws and keep moving forward… As long as it isn’t the worst sketch you have ever done, you need to accept it, share it, and move on.”








.Essential to the work of Medieval and Renaissance artists, I don’t think I’ve seen a baby painted since the days of Mary Cassat. Babies, frankly, have pretty much dropped out of the repertoire.

3: Elbow/hand.

The learning curve is very steep, but the rotation of the radialis (it ‘radiating’ around the ulnavs the humerus hinged to the ulna-elbow is becoming clearer, as is the distinction between the ‘block’ of the carpals and the separate phalanges. I think I drew the saddle joint at the base of the thumb in the wrong direction. Again, I’m not worrying about drawing everything to the correct scale.

joint 3 underlay

joint 3 overlayjoint 3 overlay 3



























4. Upper Limb, posterior.

I’m simplifying things now that I know the names of the bones, aiming for some sort of coherent perspectival scheme but resisting the urge to use tone. Simplifying perspective even further would probably be a consequence of using charcoal rather than graphite. At any rate, I’m coming to grips with planes.

joint 4


Synovial joints is to muscles as geological formation is to landscape. If I’m aware of joints, then I’m hopeful of portraying muscles more convincingly.

I notice the Proko course assignments are closely related to drawings of George Bridgman, the founder of the teaching of modern figure drawing. I needed to look closely at bones (which necessitated knowing their names) and the use of colour helped to differentiate important bone structures.

I notice many of my colleagues are doing this digitally but I can see value in doing the whole thing freehand, even though I’m ignoring correct proportions between forearm and hand, for example.

With this level of detail, working small is a problem. For scanning purposes they are all being done on A4 photocopy paper and because of the increasing complexity, I am resorting to overlays of tracing paper.

The endgame is perspectival accuracy, which has also underpinned the other course, Figure Drawing Fundamentals. Hence, the focus on perspective increases with each set.


1: Upper Limb, anterior. Rough sketch, coming to grips with joint types.

joint 1 rough










2: Acromioclavicular joint.

joint 3 overlay 2

joint 2 underlay

Tracing Old Master Drawing #2

December 16, 2014

Second of my personal 100 great Old Master drawings, based on the Hale & Coyle classic textbook, involving both a tracing and, where possible, tracking back to the original painting.

Similar to the Michelangelo pose, but less extreme, is this by Rubens. Again, I’ve used red in the traps, orange in the lats and yellow on the pesky teres group.

Hale and Coyle make many references to the infraspinatus which ultimately means I need to go back and check the scapula bone and the origins/insertions of muscles attached to it. Which is a good thing. The Proko anatomy course will eventually cover all this, but I know Riven Phoenix in Structure of Man deals with the spine/scapula/clavicle connections very well. I think it was Proko who described the scapulas as like plates sliding over the “egg” surface of the upper body.

Just as Michelangelo increased the sense of exaggeration in the painting compared to the original drawing, Rubens does the same. The line of the clavicle is much more horizontal in the painting (perhaps so as not to interfere with the pleasing geometry of the red drape in the figure behind); the back is falling out towards the viewer much more in the painting whereas the sitter for the drawing feels like he’s been posing for a very long time.

There is some confusion in my understanding of the muscles around the hip (there are significant tonal differences between the drawing and the painting in the description of the oblique and the sitter’s entire right side, the painting looking distinctly more realistic).

Rubens-four-parts-of-the-wohale 108 analysed

hale 112 analysed




hale 112 painting






Terence Coyle decided to write a book based on Robert Beverly Hale’s anatomical analysis of Old Master drawings and Anatomy Lessons from the Great Masters: 100 great figure drawings analyzed, published by Watson-Guptill in New York in 1977 was born.

I’ve dipped into this book over the years but it always made me feel like a medical student. However, I’m now getting into it.

Here’s the first of my own 100 great figure drawings, involving a tracing and digging up how the drawing was used for the painting which followed.

I’m mainly interested in the back at the moment – traps in red, lats in orange and the teres group in yellow -, though obviously Michelangelo has put a lot of effort into the posterior aspect of the arms.

The pose in the painting helps fill in the gaps in the drawing. I still don’t know what exactly is going on in the lower half of the body because I think the twist in the body is completely imaginary; notice how he’s lowered the sitter’s left thigh to a horizontal position, presumably so as not to interfere with the draped figure behind and to increase the sense of torsion.

Notice too how naturalistic the drawing is compared to the exaggeration in the painting: the figure’s upper body is identical, but the position of the hands has changed making the two scapulas almost horizontal in the painting.

I’m on the lookout for reference photos showing this amount of twist in the neck. The head looks odd, but that’s probably Michelangelo’s treatment of the heroic/Herculean where he seems to like 11-head high people.


Proko Tracing #5

December 16, 2014

tracing 5

Day 5 and the last of the five tracings for this week from reference photos, as per proko.com.

While the back is predominantly made up of the trapezius and latissimus dorsi, I’m becoming more familiar with the teres major below the scapula.

Next week’s course content from Proko will concentrate on the Latin terminology of anatomy and I’m keen to keep the momentum going with muscle anatomy by looking at Old Master drawings and paintings.  At the same time, I will continue to make links with general figure drawing, no matter how tentative.