Still Life

We’re now about half way through 2019 and although my creative drive has subsided quite a bit since the start of the year I am still regularly drawing and occasionally painting (and even doing random things like soap carving).

The two mainstays of my drawing at the moment are a self-imposed project to try and do at least one sketch of a hand each day (more about that, probably, when I get to the end of my designated hand sketch book and most likely bring that particular project to a close – not many pages left now so it’s set to be within the next few weeks) and my weekly life drawing classes.

Since I started attending the life class in January (the second week of the month, when it restarted after the Christmas break), there has been one week when the session was cancelled (annoyingly, that was the week I’d already postponed a dentist’s appointment to avoid missing the session!) but I have been able to attend at least some, and usually pretty much all, of the session every week that it has been on.

That makes for a total of 24 sessions or around 50 hours of drawing (we get in a bit more than 2 hours of drawing in a typical 3 hour session, but I’ve had to miss a few chunks of sessions, so I may only have done about 40 hours of figure drawing from live models so far this year), with 9 different models (6 female, 3 male). I’ve also done quite a bit of drawing from Croquis Café resources and other photo / video references, as well as some bits of figurative (or semi-abstract) work based on my sketches from the life classes, so it’s fair to say that this has accounted for a substantial chunk of my artistic activity this year.

It seems quite appropriate that the 6 month mark corresponds with the point at which I’ve reached a total of more than 300 photos of my life drawings posted to my Flickr album. These are all either things I’ve drawn or painted at the life classes themselves or, in a few cases, things I’ve drawn, painted or carved at home based on sketches from the life class. There’s not an exact one-to-one correspondence between the photos and individual drawings and I haven’t kept a careful account, but I probably have done around 300 sketches (ranging from a few seconds to about half an hour each) in the life classes so far, and perhaps about a dozen other pieces of work directly based on them. The skills developed in the process have doubtless had a significant effect on my other drawings and paintings (and perhaps beyond) too but that’s even harder to quantify.

On the whole I’d say my drawing skills are gradually improving, although the quality of my sketches can vary quite a bit from one session to the next and often from one pose to the next. Perhaps most importantly, it has been a great deal of fun.

I’m looking forward to continuing with the life classes for as long as possible. And it’s only just over a month now until the Oxford Summer School, where I’ll be doing a 3 day course on “Drawing from dance”.

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A Proper Pasty

If I had to compile a short-list of my favourite foods, I don’t think there’s a lot of competition for what would take first place. It would be freshly baked bread, still warm from the oven, and butter — optionally accompanied by a good, ripe Camembert and some Ardennes pâté, washed down with red wine or Belgian beer (though the bread and butter are definitely the key thing).

Populating the rest of the list would be a bit harder as there are many contenders. One would probably be the Cornish pasty.

I remember watching an item about Cornish pasties many years ago on Blue Peter, and being particularly taken by a detail they mentioned, namely that sometimes pasties were baked with jam at one end (separated from the meat and veg at the other end by an internal pastry wall). The idea was to provide a desert course for the tin miners who would take the pasties down the mine with them to eat for lunch.

This struck me as being a wonderful idea (I was going to describe it as “deliciously simple and simply delicious” but I’m fairly sure I used that wee phrase in one of my previous posts not all that long ago). Sadly, there are (to the best of my knowledge) no commercially available pasties that include a jam end.

I have once or twice, though not for quite a few years, tried making my own pasties and I did have a go at making them with jam at one end. As I recall it worked pretty well. But I don’t really want to have to go to the hassle of baking pasties from scratch just to get a bit of jam in them.

This evening I was microwaving a shop-bought pasty for dinner when I was struck by inspiration. I was making a cup of tea to accompany the pasty and when I opened the fridge to get the milk my eye happened to light upon a jar of raspberry jam. It occurred to me that I could add some jam to the already cooked pasty.

Once I retrieved the pasty from the microwave, I made a small hole at one end of it with a fork and excavated the filling (which tasted very nice even without its pastry wrapping), before putting a spoonful of jam in the newly vacated end.

I then proceeded to eat the pasty from the other end, and very much enjoyed the jam when I got to it. There was a certain amount of mixing between the sweet and savoury but that actually worked quite nicely.

I probably won’t do the same thing every time I have a Cornish pasty from now on but it’s good to know that I can simulate a two-course pasty without having to do all the hard work myself.