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How I learnt to draw

I'm sometimes asked questions about my artwork, so I hope to answer some of those that are most commonly posed, here in my new blog! If there's something you want to ask, just get in touch!

"How/where did you learn to draw?" feels like a suitable place to start, so here goes...

I've loved to draw since childhood. My earliest classroom-based art memory in primary school was when a limit was imposed on the number of sheets of drawing paper we were each allowed, as a result of my friend and I getting through so much in the space of an hour. I'm not kidding, we were the culprits wasting trees. Racing from one completed picture of Mr. Tickle to start another of Mr. Bump, I dread to think what our masterpieces looked like, (they definitely didn't end up on the fridge at home) but we were having fun! Fortunately, I don't produce so many bin-fillers these days, mainly because I'm so slow at drawing and can rarely bear to start over if things are going awry. I'm no quitter!

My early interest was sparked at home more than school though, drawing our family pets with lots of encouragement from my wonderful parents. I did GCSE art but then opted to do sciences instead at A-level. During GCSE art, I remember spending most of my time creating awful paintings using those horrible poster paints that came in tall squeezy bottles. Apart from sketching out designs, pencils as a medium were verging on obsolete within our art room due to the highly favoured paintbrush. With the lack of control afforded by a brush and the resulting untidy appearance of my work, for me, art started to lose its appeal.

Throughout childhood, I had dabbled with stick pastels, watercolour paints, acrylics, gouache and probably half a dozen other media but always ended up back using the good old pencil. Why? As I've alluded to above, my inner control-freak-perfectionist, can't cope with chaos and there is little room for wishy-washy in my head. For me, realism, which is my ultimate goal, requires application via tools that are sharp and pointy. There are some incredibly talented brush-wielding wizards out there, of course, which leaves me with the conclusion that I'm just pretty useless with a brush, unless it's for simply blending the good old trusty graphite. For me, in short, pencil is king and I'm jealous of anyone who can produce the goods with bendy bristles.

In adulthood, I've had spates of picking up my pencils and "having a go" but I first started to properly advertise my wares following a happy, unplanned and surreal incident in 2013 when I drew Ricky Gervais's cat Ollie and tweeted it to him for a laugh. His Retweet to his millions of followers resulted in me throwing up a website and taking commissions. I swear I wasn't expecting that to happen; if I had, I'd have had the website up and running in advance. So thank you Ricky, that was the start of this interesting chapter of my life!

My only formal art education has been GCSE art which if I'm honest, contributed very little to my style of work, as explained above. In a nutshell, I'd say I've mostly developed my pencil skills through trial and error, lots of practice and truthfully, making it up as I go along. I still occasionally look at a photograph, from which I'm to draw a commission, and have a little bit of a panic because I genuinely don't know how I'm going to get to a finished picture that I'll feel is good enough. Happily, by some kind of sorcery, portraits do usually come together in the end and I've learned to trust it'll just get there, somehow. Of course, a great putty eraser gives tremendous comfort.

I can compare my work from even a year or two ago and see a huge difference. I've just looked at my picture of Ollie for the first time in years and I'm now horrified by it. A part of me hopes that picture never sees the light of day again, although I have added it to this post for a laugh, alongside a 2020 picture to demonstrate my own development through practice! If nothing else, it reminds me of how far I've come since then. If, like me, you're also a budding artist, just keep trying and be patient. Try an alternative paper or pencil and see what difference it makes. Yes, go ahead - blame the tools and try again!

I do occasionally browse YouTube and pick up the odd tip but I find techniques and materials can be quite personal. What works for me, might not be someone else's best approach and vice versa. I mainly check out YouTube videos for inspiration, just because seeing others' masterpieces really spurs me on to do better. I'm pretty sure some of the approaches I adopt would make other professional artists cry and that there are far better techniques that I have yet to develop. I will continue to dabble and hopefully improve further, along the way. Apologies if you were reading this and hoping for a quick win in the world of learning to draw, I haven't ever found one. Though I'd love to hear from you if you have!

Don't forget to keep scrolling down to have a laugh at my portrait of Ollie and follow me on Facebook for regular updates!

Thanks for reading! Future blog posts will cover the following and more:

What materials do you use?

How long does a picture take and what is the process?

How do you arrange the composition?

How do you make a picture look realistic?

What are your best art tips?

Ollie, 2013:

Tiger, 2020:


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