Tag Archives: Charcoal Pencil

Drawn Together

I was included in a profile of two University of Guelph graduates in the May 2013 issue of the University Alumni magazine, Portico. Author Andrew Vowles connected us after meeting each of us in open life drawing sessions here in Hamilton. Ward Shipman, the photographer for the Portico piece, is another regular in the same life drawing circles. I really look forward to any opportunity to spend time drawing from life. The experience keeps my hand and eyes tuned, but I love the state of mind that can be achieved by focusing entirely on the process of observing something carefully through drawing: a meditation when it’s going well. 

I’ve been participating in two life drawing circles in Hamilton since we arrived in 2012. On Sundays you can draw from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the top floor of the Vasco Da Gama building on Hamilton’s James Street North, between Cannon and Mulberry streets. Look for the sandwich board on the street outside. It costs $10 and is run by artist John Martin. Anne Becker, the owner of 337 Sketch Gallery (located at 337 Ottawa Street near Barton Street in Hamilton,) opens up her own studio above the gallery for life drawing from 7 to 9:30 p.m. on Mondays. The fee is $12.50. Make sure to be a little early. The street door gets locked promptly. 


My challenge to convey whites in watercolour in Barry’s Tuesday watercolour class was to maintain the relationship between core and cast shadows, while developing the shapes of the white containers in contrast to the brightly coloured apples. As we observed, when bathed in direct light, some of the apples were lighter than the adjacent white objects. Later in the week I re-visited the exercise, using red apples, white objects and a white cloth trimmed with a red stripe. I randomly touched very pale pink, yellow and blue into the bright fabric area before I drew in the shadows. It’s virtually invisible, but does help the white cloth glow. Once again I finished up with soft charcoal pencil.


Watercolour with charcoal pencil

I joined a Sustained Saturday watercolour class taught by my partner Barry Coombs for the afternoon, after a space opened up at the last minute.  These studio days run from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. several times each term.  The still life subject was predominantly brass and we were encouraged to compose our image by employing a very tight crop. I admire people who work in watercolour, and even though I’ve been working at it for about 18 months, my results are very unpredictable. That’s partly what makes it fun – and terrifying!

My original idea was to spend the afternoon drawing in black and white with pen and ink. Working on hot press paper, I sketched the subject lightly with pencil. Then, inspired by the work being done by others around me, I changed my mind and used watercolour to block  in the key shapes, adding some secondary washes to form the shine and shadows. Next, returning to my comfort zone, I  added value, structure and depth with charcoal pencil. (So much for planning!) I was surprised by how the charcoal seemed to melt when it touched the still-wet paper as I worked. I liked the effect, and for a while worked back and forth between the dry and wet mediums.  If you want to see more about the class, see Barry’s blog post about the day. 

Watercolour and Charcoal Pencil study 12" x 16"

Sketch Group Exhibition at Heliconian Club

I’ve been participating in a regular life drawing class on Mondays, at Toronto’s Heliconian Club and have found the experience very valuable. We spend the mornings doing brief gesture drawings and longer poses up to 20 minutes.during the afternoon, the model holds one pose for two hours. Every year the sketch group mounts an exhibition of participants’ work. This year’s show runs from March 1 to April 6, 2011, at the Heliconian Hall, 35 Hazelton Ave., Toronto. There’ll be an opening reception on Saturday March 5 from 1 to 4, or call 416-922-3618 to drop by. I’m exhibiting RED JACKET, FUR COLLAR, an 18 x 24″ drawing in black and white charcoal pencil on toned paper.

Red Jacket, Fur Collar