I have been a bit slack with the blog posts, I think it’s the heat, it makes me struggle to get much done, and my oil paints have been melting horribly, but I have still been painting.

I felt a bit blocked with the dancing paintings, they have been quite a challenge, I don’t really have an image in my head of how to capture the movement, I’m just painting and trying to solve the problems on the canvas. It’s particularly tricky as reference photos and videos are small and it would be so much easier to capture subjects in real life.


I decided to get back to some basics with some oil sketching and take advantage of the online art Zoom life sessions that are happening daily worldwide. I still do my regular local group, but have also joined in with sessions from Glasgow, Edinburgh, London, and even a model in South America. The internet sometimes has its gremlins but in general it has been fantastic practice in looking as time limits really focus your decision making when drawing and painting and colour picking.

I’ll add links to some internet life drawing sessions at the end of this article.

When I started at the beginning of lockdown I was really grateful of the chance of live drawing, but I was just drawing with pencil. I quickly started to use watercolour (and sometimes pen) as using black and white all the time gets a bit dull, and I found that 15 mins is really my minimum limit for colour sketches. I tried pastel too, but it’s very messy and takes up a bit too much space to work comfortably from the laptop.
Most sessions involve a few short warm up sketches of 2 to 5 minutes, followed by 10 and 15 minute poses, a half time break and longer poses of 20 to 30 minutes. It can be intimidating to start off with but the fast sketches really help you to ‘get your eye in’ so by the time you get to the longer sketches you can understand ore what you are seeing and drawing. There isn’t time to be over fussy at first and that is a good thing, as drawing the figure is complicated and it is good to get thrown in the deep end even though it might not feel like it at first!
These pictures are top row (l-r): 15 minute pastel with 2B or not 2B collective, 10 minute watercolour and ink with Drawing Cabaret Couture. Bottom row (l-r): 10 min pencil sketch with Wokingham Life Drawing Society and 30 minute watercolour with Wokingham Life Drawing Society

The past couple of weeks I’ve been brave and used oil paint for thirty minute poses on Zoom, I am looking forward to doing more.
As with some of the other oil sketches I’ve done over the past few weeks (mostly during Zoom portrait sessions) I used a mostly Zorn palette ( cadmium red, yellow ochre, titanium white and ivory black) with the odd touch of cerulean blue and alizarin crimson. I find it massively simplifies the decision making on colour mixing when painting quick sketches to use a limited palette. I think my ideal timescale for painting a full figure is 3-4 hours depending on how complicated the background is, it’s an addition challenge to put the background in and position the model in space.
I even had a chance to paint my husband’s portrait from actual life! He sat for 4 x 25 minute sessions.

The following paintings are top row: (l-r) two hour session with Glasgow Drawing Life based on a Lucien Freud painting, 30 min oil Zoom sketch with Wokingham Life Drawing Society
Bottom row (l-r): 30 minute oil sketches with Wokingham Life Drawing Society, 2 hour portrait of my husband from life.

I’veĀ  enjoyed the sessions put on by Glasgow Drawing Life, Reconfigure life drawing and Conkuntion who run Zoom life sessions on themes, they’re not always nude, but based on paintings from art history or themes or ideas. You can buy photo sets from them too to work with after the event and support models. I’ve also enjoyed the fashion-themed drawing sessions from Drawing Cabaret Couture, I tried an Egon Schiele themed sketch session this week. The team usually put on high-end cabaret themed life drawing sessions with live music in London, but have been unable to during lockdown, and how they’ve adapted has been really fantastic, and great in particular for fashion illustrators.

It’s been really, really good practice and I will keep it up, but perhaps not 3-4 times per week. I think I’m ready to get back to some dance paintings now!


Links to life drawing events

Here are a selection of online drawing sessons that I’ve tried, feel free to add your recommendations.

  • 2B or not 2B collective – Online life drawing with a great variety of models Tuesday and Friday evening and Sunday afternoon
  • Drawing Cabaret Couture – Online fashion drawing on Thursday lunchtime and evening and occasional Mondays
  • Drawing Life Glasgow – Portrait club Mondays, Long pose Tuesdays and Fridays
  • London Drawing – A variety of online poses and classes (not just portrait and life drawing) and you can buy previous recordings too
  • Raw Umber Studios – Free online portrait sessions on a Sunday and paid life drawing sessions on a Wednesday
  • Reconfigure Life Drawing – super friendly group with creative set ups and diverse models twice a week from Topaz in Edinburgh. Photos of sessions also available.
  • Wokingham Life Drawing Society – Weekly life drawing on a Monday evening and 2 hour portrait sessions fortnightly organised by Mick McNicholas


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