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’ .


Life drawing, my weekly oasis

The life drawing at the end of week one, it turned out to be quite a good likeness of the model although that was unintentional
Life drawing/painting in gouache. End of week one

I love life drawing. There I’ve finally said it out loud.

When I was on foundation and my degree I did so much of it that I got a bit blasé about it and even a little bored. But since I started life drawing again just over a year ago I have refound my love of it. I take the class for the pure enjoyment of it, for fun, for the challenge it brings. Even bad weeks feel good. And I so look forward to each class.

What’s lovely about it is there is no pressure on me. It’s just for fun, to play and experiment, there is no other purpose to it and its brill. It is actually helping me to keep my sanity. A bit like a pressure relief valve in my week. A little oasis that is highly protected time. Things get arranged around life drawing….

At the beginning I started off using pencil but eventually, after a suggestion from the tutor, I moved to gouache. Something I have never used before. Crikey I haven’t painted since my A level art and that was in oils. Anyway I am loving gouache. The way it can be used in thin washes or put on thickly really appeal to me. Actually I haven’t really got around to applying it thickly at all, I never seem to get around to it in the time I have in class. To be honest I was more worried about the thought of using colour as I have always been told that colour is not my thing and I am no good at it. So I started off with using just black and white and introduced more colours over time.

To my amazement I have found that I do love playing with colour, especially the way the colours mix together when I apply the paint to already wet paper so that they run and bleed together and make up new colours in the process. I see all sorts of colours on the flesh, as you can see in my paintings. In fact I have a very hard time seeing what would be considered normal flesh type colours.

I am still working on finding a ‘style’ to my painting but I am thoroughly enjoying the playing and experimenting. Some of the paintings I like and some of them I don’t, but that’s just the way of the world I guess.

Once every term our tutor arranges for the same model to sit for two weeks, usually it’s a different model each week, to give us all the chance to work a bit longer on a single piece. We are just about to go to our second week of this term’s two week model session. Which is also the last class before the summer break.

All this time I have been drawing the whole body on the paper. This time I started it off in that way. Then I realised that things just weren’t right, the parts of the body I had done were not lining up and the angles were not right. I was going to have to start again. So I did the thing that is wonderful about gouache….I over wet the painting and wiped the paint away. Well not completely, it isn’t fool proof and does leave a ghost of the original painting. You can then paint over the top without being able to see the original, though it is easier if you change slightly what you are painting. I decided to go bigger. Bigger with less of the model on the paper

And for the first time this whole year I focused in on the head of the model. Just the head and shoulders quite large on the page as you can see. And you know what…

I am quite pleased with how the painting is going so far. Its something different for me and I am enjoying it.

Part of the purpose of sharing this painting before it is completed and before I have had a chance to work on it again is that it will force me to share the completed work no matter what I think of it when it is done. I have in the past had a tendency to wait until I knew whether something was going to work out as I had hoped it would before starting to show progress pics. This showing it before I know the outcome is a new and quite scary experience for me.

I am quite excited to see how this painting changes over the next class. I always find it a bit nerve racking going back to a completely dry painting when I am in a different headspace from when I started it. The best thing here is that I don’t feel any pressure. If it goes wrong, it goes wrong. I lose nothing. I gain experience. There is nothing relying on this painting, apart from sharing it here and in my newsletter, and that really takes a weight off my mind before I even start.

So lets see how the next class goes. And I look forward to sharing what happens with you…well kind of…sort of…maybe….watch this space…..





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’ .