The sixth drawing session at the Hatton Gallery, our first after the long Christmas break, was about doing delicate, detailed drawing. Ironically, a couple of days earlier, I had been saying to friends that I was unsure that I could still do finely detailed drawings.
I was nervous about the prospect of trying this. We spent some time looking at some of the drawings in the exhibition that were more detailed Hazel, our tutor, suggested that we could draw a shell (there was a box of them from which to choose), a print of a picture in the collection, or from one of the more detailed drawings in the exhibition around us (the Jerwood Drawing Prize 2013 show – note: there is a downloadable copy of the catalogue which is well worth a look).
I immediately decided against drawing from the prints. I considered the shells, but realised that I have my own collection of shells at home that I could draw any time. So then I just had to narrow down the choice of Jerwood Drawing Prize works down to one from which I could draw something recognisable within the remaining half hour or so.
I contemplated a small part of a big architectural subject for a while (Minho Kwon’s The Neo Tower of Babel) but deciding it involved too many straight lines. I decided upon the picture that probably disturbed me most and represented a major challenge, especially in the time available: Lanugo by Antony Crossfield, graphite on paper, 2013. There was no time to copy all of it since there were a lot of details in it. The form of the figure was enough of a challenge with a lot of foreshortening in the legs. At one point, I was beginning to despair that I would ever get even vaguely close to the pose but I was determined to try. Hazel made a couple of very useful suggestions about how to look at the shapes to get the foreshortening.
I think I was the last one to pack up in that session. I looked round and discovered all my fellow students had vanished. It would never normally occur to me to draw from someone else’s drawing these days but it was a very useful exercise. I realised that I found it a lot more difficult to draw a figure from a drawing that if I had drawn directly from a model. There is an extra layer when trying to understand someone else’s analysis and synthesis of the human figure. I am glad that I tackled this challenge, and gained more appreciation for Antony Crossfield’s work, although it made me wish even more that I had the opportunity to draw directly from people (life or portraits).