Head, heart, hands

Every week, I walk down the road to a life drawing session at a local artist’s studio. It’s right by the River Thames, and the back doors open out onto a rickety jetty, a tangle of houseboats, the Thames’ oldest working ferry, and a resident gang of swans and ducks, noisy opportunists looking for a snack.

If you’re lucky, you see the kingfisher flash past as you sip your coffee in the break. Once the river flooded the studio, and the swans glided right in through the back doors.

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Every week, two models pose for us, and we draw. A hush descends as we work, though music always plays from the ratty old CD player – a mixture of jazz, soul, blues, classical. Whatever comes up on the random mixtapes someone donated to the studio from a garage sale. I love that – the highly non-curated musical effect is casual, interesting, and extremely imperfect.

I try to draw in the same mood; not trying too hard, just letting it come. I don’t set much store by hectoring perfection, not in my work at any rate (though you can ask me about my raging battle with getting stuff ‘perfectly right’ - in general life - any day!). So in my work is one important place I am free. I relish that lightness, and that touch of serendipity; what a relief. And so here, especially, I’m open to smudges, guiding lines, a relaxed hand.

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You can’t get that without a free and open heart, I find, and that’s the state I’m always after in these life drawings. When I can sit in front of a large piece of paper, charcoal pencil in hand, get into the vibe, catch some energy from the room, somehow work with the model, rather than just from their physical form, I feel like I’m in flight. If I can draw from inside myself somewhere, channel some kind of feeling, and turn the rational side of my brain to: Off – that’s when I feel like I’m truly drawing. A precious, imaginative state, indeed. It’s both dear and very important to me. 

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I think you can tell that from the drawings. I’ve had quite a few requests from people wanting to buy them! So I’ve made a whole bunch of my life drawings into prints. It’s been a very interesting process, and I’ve learnt a lot… and the final prints are now ready.

These prints are true in spirit to the originals, which really are very immediate drawings. I’ve cleaned up the digital files for the prints only minimally, as the real-life smudges and marks are all part of the project for me. I’m not especially precious with the originals – I have to carry them home after all; sometimes they get rained on. I once dropped a very pleasing one in a puddle. Tant pis.* And all of them always get further smudged before I reach my front door, dreaming of lunch. That’s life. And more importantly, that’s the point of these drawings to me. If I lose one to a puddle, well, I lose one.

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And so these beautiful prints are, in a way, and I can see the irony here (!), far more precious than the originals. They’re cleaner for a start! And I can guarantee that the cat has not sat on any of them.

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*’Tant pis’ is a wonderful French idiom, meaning ‘so much the worse; the situation is regrettable but now beyond retrieval’ .

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 A few specs: these open edition prints of my life drawings are professionally printed in the UK, on Hahnemuhle Bamboo 290gsm, a thick, acid-free environmentally friendly paper made from 90% bamboo fibres and 10% cotton. Available in sizes A4 and A3. I will be posting the prints out in environmentally friendly packaging too – no plastic. Please re-use any packaging if you can, before recycling. The eco cellophane wrapping I have chosen is made from corn starch; it can be recycled or put in your compost bin. These prints are Open Edition. 

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You can order my life drawing prints in my Folksy shop - click here. I ship to the UK and Europe. If you are in another lovely place outside these geographical areas, please get in touch at trudi@trudimurray.com and I will work out the costs for you!

 

A Different World

I sometimes long for a different world.

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Silly me.

What a forty years fool.*

I’ve always got a different world, right here at my fingertips.

*As Captain Ahab would say.

Drawn from Life

I consider life drawing to be the best discipline and training ground an artist can have.

I also love it, which helps!

A 30 minute drawing - pencil on paper.

A 30 minute drawing - pencil on paper.

The action of stilling your mind so that the heart and the head and the hand and the eye can communicate effectively, is very important - essential, in fact, to all an artist's other work.

1 hour drawing - pencil on paper

1 hour drawing - pencil on paper

In a way, I use drawing from life like a regular exercise class for that drawing machinery of heart/head/hands/eyes. The heart is the most important aspect, I'd say. You can't draw something that speaks unless your heart is involved. 

 I'm fortunate to have had a teacher who will not categorically tell you what to do, not ever. He says, if you don't like what I say, chuck it in the rubbish. What helpful advice, and I have indeed chucked some of his tips in the rubbish over the years, preferring my own way, which means that my drawing style has evolved freely and naturally, completely without strict rule or hectoring regulation, into a recognisable and strong expression of me.

10 minute drawing - charcoal on sugar paper. The words are from a song that was playing at the time.

10 minute drawing - charcoal on sugar paper. The words are from a song that was playing at the time.

The practice helps, for sure, but the freedom is the thing.

20 minute drawing - pencil on paper

20 minute drawing - pencil on paper

 

It's also good to have models who become part of the expression; bringing something of their own to the exercise. I love that, and I'm always delighted to find myself working with a model, rather than just from their physical form.

30 minute drawing - pencil on paper

30 minute drawing - pencil on paper

Every week, I take lots of materials - paint, inks, brushes. Most weeks, I end up just using pencils and charcoal, and the most important - an eraser. Not for erasing mistakes, for nothing is a mistake, but for subtracting marks in a positive manner. There's a massive, and liberating, difference!

My usual drawing kit, from left to right: Polychromos coloured pencils, Daler Rowney pastel drawing pencils, Conte a Paris smudging sticks, Conte a Paris Pierre noire pencils, random selection of every worn out dark pencils (4B - 9B, usually nothing lighter), charcoal pencil, eraser. Charcoal. A knife for sharpening.

My usual drawing kit, from left to right: Polychromos coloured pencils, Daler Rowney pastel drawing pencils, Conte a Paris smudging sticks, Conte a Paris Pierre noire pencils, random selection of every worn out dark pencils (4B - 9B, usually nothing lighter), charcoal pencil, eraser. Charcoal. A knife for sharpening.

I like this paper - Daler Rowney fine grain drawing paper. A3 so you can work big enough. Even bigger is even better!

I like this paper - Daler Rowney fine grain drawing paper. A3 so you can work big enough. Even bigger is even better!

Have you ever tried life drawing? I highly recommend it!

 

Welcome!

Welcome to my new blog! I'm going to use this blog to share a little of the behind the scenes life of illustration and art.

I'll be showing you sketches...

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...talking about my love of drawing from life, and why it's so important to me...

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...showing you what I'm working on at the moment (if i can!)...

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...and answering questions on illustrative practices, tips and tricks of the trade. If I know it, I'll share! It's so helpful when we form a pool of collective thought. It helps everyone make their very best work, and that's what I'm about.

I love a generous heart, and try to be one.

And there'll be the inevitable studio shots of this dear little friend of mine, who's always by my side.

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It's going to be fun, and I hope you'll follow along, and find it useful.

My previous blog, where I write poems, talk a lot of nonsensical waffle and generally have lots of fun, will still be available at www.trudimurray.wordpress.com.

 

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Any questions, on anything - how I do stuff, what materials I like, coffee or tea? Type them in the comments below, and let's get cracking.