Learn to draw the
DRAWING with Derek Batty
Do I need to do anything to prepare for the
time to sort through your materials! Get rid of all that pastel dust at
the bottom of your box and make a note of any that need renewing.
I suggest taking the actual colour bits with you to Tindalls
Art Shop so you can be certain of choosing exact replacements.
I also find it helps to test out all the colours on a piece of
nice paper, overlapping some, with some smudging and rubbing. This
is a good way of getting excited about pastels again if you have had a
break from them. It's all about colour, and being excited by
bright immediate colour. We use pastels in the class for this very
reason - it is immediate and no fuss, compared to the chore of using
paints. (All that unscrewing of caps and mixing on the palette eats away
at the drawing time, whereas pastels are instant, and colour mixtures
made on the artwork itself.)
is the point of bringing a sketchbook?
sketchbook is to provide some continuity from one session to
another, to give cohesion to your artwork as a whole, and to bring the
outside into the class. I am often concerned that if you follow all the
topics you will be bounced around the whole spectrum of art techniques
and ideas. Whereas I want you to develop your own approach.
So by having some sketches in your book you can remind yourself of what
works for you (and also perhaps what does not work). It means you can
repeat ideas, explore a theme at greater length and reinforce ideas.
your book should be hiding place for those inspiring postcards
you picked up at that exhibition, and those photos you took when you
were thinking about your artwork. Landscape, the sun falling into an
interior, abstract reflections on the water, faces and expression.
This art reference is really useful when you need to give some direction
to the colours you might use, or the background you'd like to invent, or
how you want to interpret the subject. A large foldback clip will stop
them falling out in the gallery, and will be useful when drawing in high
winds to prevent the pages flapping.
week do at least one sketch in your sketchbook during the class time.
Perhaps devote a double page to this to fill up during the term. You
might even have a theme for your double page. For example 'the model
at rest'. Then you can be busy during all those times of setting up the
pose. Crowd the figures together, overlapping if necessary, to
create an inspiring impact.
size of your sketchbook is up to you. You will see young art
students ostentatiously lugging around A2 or even A1 books. I suggest A4
or A5 size, since it is no use having a book that you leave at home
because it is too heavy. It HAS to travel with you always!
In the art gallery make a point of sketching one or two items that
have made a special impact. Remember to write on what they are and why
you drew it. If it is colour, make some colour notes so that you
can colour in later.
Your sketchbook should get you thinking, priming your artistry so that
you approach your work with informed motivation!
Q. I am interested in joining and was just wondering what kind of
drawing content is offered. Is it still life of naked people all the
What a good question! And it reminds me of what a strange art
world we live in! First technical terms, then a bit of
1. Life drawing is indeed drawing naked people, also
called Life Classes, life modelling or drawing from life.
All these involve drawing nude people. Not to be confused with
Life Coaching, Life Saving or Life Skills - these are totally
different in meaning and mostly do not involve taking off all your
clothes. Still Life is something different also.
Still life is drawing objects such as vases or fruit. It is a way
of practising your artistic skill in a controlled setting. The
objects are static, the light can be controlled and you can take
2. Why do artists draw naked people? How much time do
you have for the explanation? This is the subject for a book, or a very
long discussion. Our western art tradition is based around the
Classical art of Greece and Rome (c. 500 BC to 500 AD) which focused on the naked human form. Renaissance artists revived the
tradition and life drawing has been a core aspect of artists' training
in the West since then.
Part of this tradition is drawing from observation, not from
books, religious dogma or from instruction. Find out for yourself,
at first hand, what things look like. And bodies often do look
very strange, not what you thought at all, and so essential to see for
real and to develop your confidence in seeing.
But it is not just tradition. Drawing people is difficult.
And drawing people without clothes even more so. If you get it
wrong you can see that it is wrong and you work to correct it. By
contrast if you draw a tree incorrectly well, who cares, who will
Drawing naked people is also exciting! Someone has taken the
trouble to pose for you without their clothes. You have to work to
make their time worthwhile. And often we can relate to the
model. In drawing the model we are actually drawing a part of
ourselves. We are able to express our thoughts and feelings
through the model.
How I paint in watercolour. Two hours, condensed into two minutes
fifty seconds. Things to look out for: I try to separate colour or
subject areas with a strong white border, reducing or eliminating the
thickness of the white line later in the picture. I am quite
aggressive in my approach. In a frenzy to create something. Notice the
colour test on the bottom of the paper. What you won't see is judging
the dampness of the paper sometimes working wet in wet and other times
allowing colour to dry before adding another layer.
The attraction of watercolour is its luminosity. The whiteness
of the paper shines through the layers of paint. White is never
used in watercolour because this would destroy the transparency of the
colour. (However white is included in most watercolour sets
because beginners otherwise complain. So first thing you have to
do after buying a watercolour set is to throw away the white! Now,
you are not going to mention Turner to me I hope!)
Q. Do you have any hints and tips for painting in watercolour?
Use a large brush and create an rough outline with the tip using a
light wash. A wash is colour which has been mixed with water,
rather than straight from the pan.
Think shapes, not lines. You are creating shapes. Shapes
can be created with washes or, most effectively by leaving areas of the
Mix up a large amount of a light wash as an undercoat for the main
areas. Which are the main areas? Keep it simple. Allow the
wash to dry. Admire the sharpness of the edges and the simplicity
of your design.
As with pastel, reserve detail for the end. Begin with a very
large brush and end with a small one.
Applying a second wash will deepen the colour of the first
wash. (Remember to mix up enough watery colour so that the colour
is even throughout.
Leave the highlights as white paper. You can always fill in
unpainted areas at the end. Leave a white margin between colour
areas to prevent colours seeping into each other.
Q. I recently finished a painting I would like to sell. I went to the art gallery in town and they need a complete description of my work, photos resume, etc.. All this process should take a month, that is really long for me.
Are you aware of places I could go to show my painting and if they like it they try to sell it (sounds simple in my mind for one-person companies).
Yes, it is always tricky selling paintings but you are in the right place for advice and experience. If you find an easy way then we all want to know! There are places in London where artists
can instantly display their work for sale - on the railings in Piccadilly on Sundays I think. Ask
around in the group.
When emailing your pictures, it is useful to include size (height before
width) and materials eg acrylic on board etc. And framed or unframed. And price you
want. Gallery commission may be anything from 20 - 55% so you need to do your sums. The greater the commission the more work you expect the gallery to do in selling, and the more chance you have of selling it.
But the best people to try first are those that you know. Friends and colleagues may well be pleased to
own a piece of you! So direct selling is great - and that is why we all do the Open Studios!
A resume is useful for galleries / prospective purchasers so they have background about you. In your case
you could describe yourself as "an up and coming artist". Good luck!
Q. I feel stuck with my drawing! Can you advise me?
Life drawing can be a deadly activity! Once you can draw a body
reasonably well what more is there? Here are three things to
1. Look at artist drawings and go to exhibitions. When
you find some art work or a style you like, try to copy it in the
2. Review all of your artwork over the last year. Aim to throw
away one in ten drawings every time you go through them. (I am assuming
you have kept everything as I instruct you too.) Place the best
pieces on the top, and the not so good ones on the bottom. Do more
work like your best pieces!
3. What is happening in your sketchbook? Your sketchbook should
reveal your visual and creative interests. It should include
drawings of all kinds, quick sketches, longer studies, drawings from
memory, technique experiments, comments, written ideas, photographs and
If you do these three things you should begin to feel your way
towards some kind of direction in your artwork.
Q. I need a large tube for keeping my A3-A1
size maps and material in. Would Heffers/Tindalls be best? Or
somewhere online as Tindalls is quite expensive? Ellie
I am assuming it should be dust and water resistant - so
a free cardboard tube with plastic inserts (which we get the canvas
supplied in) would not be good enough. (Cardboard is also heavier than
So check them out in Tindalls, King Street, Cambridge
(formerly Heffers) and then see if you can
find a reliable company on line. If you buy online you run the risk of
it not arriving on time, and not being the quality - sturdiness,
resistance to squash, decent straps etc - that you had assumed.
I think that if Tindalls have what you want you should
just buy it! It is likely to be with you all your life. Derek's
tip though: try not to store your maps (or drawings) in the tube for
long periods otherwise they can get impossibly curly.
Q. I wondered if you had any recommendations for what sort of sticks/crayons etc might be
good for the class. I like the vibrancy of the ones that Katy uses for her pictures but
forgot to ask her what they are. Any help would be much appreciated.
A. There is a vast range of pastels. Most people prefer chalk
pastels over oil pastels. Katy uses Unison pastels available at Tindalls
(as above). I prefer Sennelier which
are thinner and sometimes slightly too crumbly. (You see your £1.50 crumbling to dust on the floor!) Also the Rowney Soft pastel range is
worth trying. And actually there is no substitute for trying them out in the shop.
I select individual colours on the basis of colour, intensity and texture (different pigments, different textures).
You might buy a set if you are starting out then supplement them with additional
colours. With sets you inevitably find some colours you do
not use - green for Life Drawers for instance - and other colours you are always short
of - pale yellows and flesh colours.
Do not be tempted to buy cheap sets. The pigment is often padded out with fillers which make the colours rather
Q. How best to stop the damned pastel stuff falling off my paper?
A. 1. Only draw on one side of the paper. Stack your charcoal drawings carefully, one on top of the other. Make certain that you never drag one out from a pile because this will smudge and ruin the picture. I keep mine in a paper folder with the year written on the spine of paper, and also details about the pictures such as the names of the
2. With some special pictures and those in sketchbooks, cut acid-free tissue paper and position on top with a smallest amount of pva along one edge. I cut a batch of A4 tissue paper for immediate use in my
3. If you intend to frame your picture, spray it with fixative outside on a calm day.
Please do not use fixative inside the building. Fixative does seem to dull pastel colours very
slightly. (Catriona's tip: after fixing you can do a few pastel touches
just to brighten up any dullness.)
4. For easy transport from the class, lightly roll the picture. Unroll as soon as you get home and place on a flat surface so it can regain its flatness naturally. Always store flat, never
If you have a Cambridge Life
Drawing question write to me and I will try to feature your enquiry here