with Derek Batty

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Join our Cambridge Life Drawing Facebook Group 8th October 2014

Alas my comments page has become rather neglected.  We have a Cambridge Life Drawing Group on Facebook which is more interactive. Ask to join from your Facebook account and, if you have met me in person, you are in!

Van Gogh, Portrait of Camille Roulin 1888

After Van Gogh, Wheatfields 1890

Van Gogh 22nd March 2010

Staggering was how one Friday nighter described The Real Van Gogh at the Royal Academy and I can agree having finally got to see this fantastic exhibition. If you have any doubts about going then dispel them immediately and make the effort. 

What did I find so special?... Well, to start with, the gloomy low light of the rooms and the hushed murmur of voices sets a scene of worship or pilgrimage to the great man. Like waiting in line to see Father Christmas as a child (worked for me anyway). 

Secondly there is loads there. Even if you have been to see Van Gogh in Holland (Amsterdam and Otterlow) there is still plenty that is new and unfamiliar, like the vibrant Camille Roulin I illustrated in the leaflet. There I talked about the tied in colour - green in the face, yellow in the hat. Having seen the actual piece I realised that I totally neglected to mention the neon red button tied in with the incandescent outline. These are the kinds of things that seeing the real works give you, rather than just an illustration. 

The crux of the show is the letters, frustratingly not translated, but mostly explained in the (I didn't do the audio guide) labels. I just loved these pen illustrations. True thumb nail sketches - sketches the size of a thumb nail - prompting me towards a Summer term class topic. The range of marks and modulation of surfaces in these letter sketches using lines, dashes and dots is an education. I spent time copying Wheatfields to appreciate the level of dedication and completeness of the sketch. 

Finally you might have been put off (like me) by the prospect of large crowds. I found the numbers perfectly acceptable. It was definitely not how I remember the Monet of a few years ago (only able to see a few feet of each canvas as you stood in rows five deep).

 All the online tickets are sold but at the time I went (and others) in the afternoon the queue for day tickets was not so bad. So get along before the close of 18th April.

Contrasting artist examples: precise and measured from Uglow (top) and inspired invention from Boccioni.

Artist Examples  10th February 2009

Once you are able to make some reasonably recognisable drawing what do you do?  You can learn about tone (light and dark) and colour.  But how do you want your picture to look?  This is where it is important to have some kind of objective. Here are two top tips.

1. Learn from artist examples.  By visiting galleries, reading art books and using the web you can look for the kind of art work that inspires you; and so also the kind of work you want to emulate.  This term in the class I am introducing two contrasting artist examples.  The measured precision of Euan Uglow shows us how to get proportion correct; and he is also a great tutor of tone and colour.  

As an antidote to the mad measuring of Uglow, I offer you a glimpse of Umberto Boccioni.  Passionate, energetic, intuitive and even destructive, his art focuses on movement and change.

Perhaps you can learn something from both artists?

2. Bring in to the class some of your own drawings which have worked well.  Each week I am introducing a new topic, but maybe you should  focus on what we did a few weeks ago? Develop that as your main thing?  So try to form a plan for yourself to work in a particular style or media and make that your speciality.  You might learn more by ignoring what I say and following your own path!  If you have with you some drawings and your sketchbook I can help you identify the direction you want to follow.

Full Classes!   8th December 2008

 I am sorry I cannot accept new students at the moment.  It is all the more pressing right now because the Spring Term is usually the busiest.  After the new year we want to start afresh, discover our creative selves, but alas I cannot offer you a space in the class if you are joining for the first time.  I would like to think that it is my fabulous teaching, or at least my fabulous models; but in reality this demand probably just indicates the lack of adult art classes in Cambridgeshire.  Gone are the days (I remember them well - before the War - it was all green fields you know) when every Community and Village College had their own Community programme featuring lots of art classes and other activities.

For the future I am planning to start one or two new ventures in the Cambridge area so please do check back.  If you would like to join one of the classes send me an email and I will try to keep you in touch.

The landmark of the Acromion process.  This is the bony lump at the junction of the clavicle and scapula. Knowing your anatomy helps you to see more.

What shall we do in the class this term?      31st July 2008

I am just thinking about the programme for the September term.  One suggestion from the class was to have more longer poses. Another was an anatomy based class.   What else would be useful  to you?

I hope to offer a challenging series of classes which cover drawing technique, use of materials and inspiring models.  Let me know what you think!

Drawing by the river at Sheeps Green.  One of the few Summer days of 2008.

Drawing outside by the river in the Summer    21 July 2008

What a great time by the river at Sheep's Green!  The weather forecast predicted cold temperatures and I almost called it off.  But the sun was out and soon warmed us all up.  We were visited by canoes and a double punt of river ecology students talking about the build up of algae. 

There are always unexpected challenges when drawing outside.  In the past,  heat and sunburn. Today it was the cold and the cow pats which lurked around the grass. 

Wild life included a flotilla of ducks streaking through the water like the Red Arrows.  And noisy geese protecting their territory on the opposite bank.

The artistic purpose of drawing outside was to combine figures with landscape; noticing the intensity of the sun and shade, reflections and movement.  Many of us were using watercolour, battling with the frustration of that medium.  Drawing with the negative shapes in watercolour takes your work to a higher level.

Many thanks to everyone including our models for making it such a successful occasion!