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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
*’Tant pis’ is a wonderful French idiom, meaning ‘so much the worse; the situation is regrettable but now beyond retrieval’ .
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and I will work out the costs for you!