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The final painting. The body has been washed in and I feel helps to complete the composition of the piece yet does not overwhelm the head which is the focal point.

Life Drawing – Part Two

In this life painting study of a head and shoulders, the body has been put in with light washes so that the emphasis is still on the head.
The final life painting. The body has been washed in and I feel helps to complete the composition of the piece yet does not overwhelm the head which is the focal point.

I do find it quite difficult coming back to a life drawing after a week’s break. Mostly because I never seem to know where to start it again or usually what to do when I finally do. Then again that is a part of the excitement and challenge of doing the life drawing. You can read the post about the first week here.

It’s really odd but as soon as I get more time and can progress further with a painting a little panic creeps in. I get very worried about how I am going to continue. Mostly because my head is usually in a completely different place and things can look very different. And also because the more I work the more I lose the translucency and brightness that comes from the washes of paint that I usually start with.

Inevitably the paint gets thicker, well the more layers of paint you put on the paper it is bound to happen. And I sometimes end up with muddy areas where things start to brown when I haven’t meant them to. I have discovered that kitchen towel is a great help here to mop up any unwanted paint and also helps a lot when a mistake has been made and needs to be removed.


The life drawing in gouache at the beginning of week two
Life drawing/painting in gouache. Beginning of week two


I was quite pleased with the first weeks work on this painting, I felt that I had stopped at a place that gave me a good starting point for the second week but had no real clue where to start again. I did ask for help and advice. The thing that really stood out for me was the darkness behind the model and the glints of light that I could see around the front edge of her face. That was something that I really wanted to show. From where I was sitting her whole face was in shadow and the colours I could see were amazing. I worked hard to keep the highlights clear of paint as I had no masking fluid to protect the white of the paper.

As the painting moved on I was surprised that the bright colours I use were getting more and more muted, I haven’t quite decided what I think about that just yet though there I still a lot of colour in the painting.


the first break of week two, the background is getting darker and I'm working hard to protect the highlights
First break of week two, concentrating on darkening the background and protecting the highlights.


I do find that even though this was a two week (four hours total) there is still never enough time to get the painting to a finished state. Although what is a finished state anyway? I am not sure that I even know. I do like having an imposed time limit as it forces me to stop painting no matter how far I have got. I do remember when working on A level paintings I sometimes over worked the painting as I didn’t know when to stop.

I have taught myself to take a picture every time we stop for a break and that gives me a good idea of the changes that I make as I go along although I feel that the changes that happen in the first week can often seem more dramatic than those that happen in the second week.



The panting is getting darker overall and I have been working to define the muscles and detail of the face
The painting is getting darker overall, more time has been spent defining the details on the face.


A good suggestion made by the tutor during this class was to leave some areas of the painting with lighter washes and work more into other areas so that the different parts of the painting start to have a different emphasis. He showed me some of Picasso’s gouache work which is really beautiful and such an inspiration. It really gave me a good idea of what to head for. I used that idea to work more into certain areas and to start to use white paint to give the painting a lift.

I could have spent a lot longer on this painting although I am very pleased with the final result. This is my first head study for many years but hopefully not my last. I would love to know what you think….




Jutta M Stiller is a wood carver and sculptor specialising in Sculpture, Netsuke and Couture frames click here to subscribe to her newsletter ‘Tales From the Woodcarving Bench’ .