Back to basics


Every now and then it’s good to remind yourself about the basics of what you do – about 10 days ago I attended a one-day drawing workshop. The teacher had set up a series of still-life objects along a long table, and gave us various techniques for getting the form, using charcoal, graphite, ink in various degrees of dilution, water-soluble pastels, regular pastels. The techniques weren’t new to me, I have used them many times before, but haven’t used them for quite some time, and this was a good brain refresher. It was about being quite loose, building the forms and working back into them. For most of the morning I couldn’t find my pace and felt fairly lost, but once I gave up trying too hard and just let go, interesting marks emerged.

A large bust of Julius Caesar was the catalyst for me getting into it – by the fourth drawing I had regained my confidence and enthusiasm to do more. I wasn’t looking to get a good likeness, just interesting marks. I’ve realised it takes me a while to settle into a new way of working – when I have done workshops in the past, it’s been only right at the end that I get going, and have the ‘Ah-ha’ moment, so I probably need to do more and really get myself moving more quickly.

Below are four of the drawings I did of the bust, in chronological order. I find it interesting to see how they became less tentative.

This Friday I decided to continue working with these techniques, but using better paper, and have come out with work I find interesting. I’m not sure how much more of this kind of work I will do – in some ways it feels quite foreign, but in others very exciting. Maybe I need to persist a bit more!

Author: anna warren portfolio

I draw, I paint, I am a printmaker. Always searching for the interesting detail in the world around me.

20 thoughts

  1. Great to see your work from your recent class Anna. I understand that feeling of trying so hard to “get it” and then relaxing and finally finding the sweet spot. Good to explore different techniques, great results, such depth and strong lines.


    1. I’m glad I did the class, and got back into that sense of building a drawing from the ground up, but getting to that sweet spot was tough! Pushing myself out of my comfort zone was an important lesson I needed to have!


  2. I like your colours in these drawings. I always find black, white and red a striking combination. Also a heads up to your positive/negative space relationships. This body of work is bold and gestural. I particularly like the third Caesar. I nearly wrote the third ‘pope’ as they somehow remind me of one of the popes.


    1. I do like a minimal palette of colours – my instinct has always been to work in monochrome or a very limited colour range. I find colours like these do have an impact. They are very pope-like aren’t they – someone also commented one was like Mother Teresa, which I can see as well.

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  3. Good for you! I keep wondering about taking a drawing workshop again to loosen up my brain, but never take that step forward. It’s lovely to see what you created and how your work progressed over the day. Lovely skulls! Thanks for sharing your experience!


    1. Thanks Gale – I do workshops every so often, and generally spend at least half of the time thinking I should just go home, but invariably I do get something out of them in the end. I’m glad you like the skulls, they are among my favourite subject matter!


  4. This is so interesting…Looking at your Caesar drawings it’s as if it’s an integration between right brain/left brain where you come into your own with the last drawing, which I like very much, but the passion in the second drawing is almost haunting. Making marks….making sparks!


  5. Love seeing the evolution of the drawings and your idea of focusing on interesting marks instead of a likeness. There is a vitality to the latter drawings of the bust and the drawings you did at home are beautiful.


  6. What a fabulous series of drawings Anna, I have gone back twice to look at them and try to understand what makes them more and more powerful. Some of it is the greater range of tones and stronger darks, but it always surprises me that a suggested line is more interesting and has greater impact then a fully drawn line. The layers of marks that don’t quite line up are also really dynamic. Thanks for sharing these they are so interesting and revealing about what makes striking marks and images. I also need to do some of these exercises to loosen up again as the pen and ink work makes me so tight. Karen.


    1. The loosening up is the fun art of doing something like this Karen. I always have doubts about the usefulness of putting myself through something like this workshop, but it is always worth it, even if I don’t continue on that path. I admire other people’s work like this more than my own – I find I don’t recognise myself in it! But there is so much to learn from it, I agree with you about the power of the suggested line, and I love to see the construction marks too. It does encourage me to be more free and interpretive in what I do. Thanks so much for your comment, it is very insightful!

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