An excellent thing happened to me the other day, which was that I got to visit the hallowed halls of the Julian Ashton Art School, and to attend a class, no less! I dropped in on some life drawing and had a bit of a snoop around at the school where my teachers trained, perched proudly on The Rocks.
While I’ve done loads of life drawing, I’ve learned a bunch of things about drawing in more recent times, and was bursting to try them out on a real live model instead of a cast. I propped up a board with some paper on a delightful little ‘donkey’ stool, perfectly positioned to study a nose in profile, and set to work.
I’ve never been interested in shading, because I found it tedious, washed-out and it made me think of high school. All those kids smudging pencil to get those hideous bubbly-smooth effects. All of this has changed. Under the patient and precise guidance of the skillful Ryan Daffurn, I’m learning to mold form with intentional pencil strokes, each carefully and powerfully descriptive of form and of shadow. After sketching the broad figure and refining the accuracy of proportions and placement, we block in the shadow (making sure not to include any of the halftones—the darkest parts of what is really still in the light) and create an instantly dramatic drawing. The shading in the light follows the contours of the body, conveying fullness and perspective, and paying attention to the amount of light and the way it falls on different shapes. The shadows get touched up later, without giving too much detail that distracts the eye from the real information.
This particular drawing, then, is my solitary effort, unfinished, unguided and performed in a single session, in my artistic Holy Land, and I’m a little bit pleased with it! And a little bit pleased at getting to walk around the Harbour by night, inspecting the soft glow of the sails of the Opera House and perusing books at the Museum of Contemporary Art.