My Sketchbook (and why I’ve started drawing again!)))

Today I thought I’d share something with you that I alluded to at the end of this post. I’ve cracked open my sketchbook and pencils for the first time since I was 17. (Yes, 20 years ago friends! Where has that time gone for goodness sakes?!) I haven’t done any “proper” drawing since I dropped out of my A levels all those years ago. Art & Design, Textiles, Communication Studies and Business Studies. The aim, after I had finished my A levels, was to go on and study for a BaHons in Fashion & Textiles with a view to teaching, or working within the industry. Well, it never happened. Life took it’s twists and turns and it became more about paying rent and bills than pursuing passions and dreams.

 Fast forward 20 years and I find myself contemplating going back to work having spent the last 3 years being a full time Mum. This time, I’ve decided that when I go back to work, it will be in a field that I am passionate about. So a few months back after talking it over with my other half (and him telling me I had to “go for it” or I’d regret it forever) I arrived at a decision. I’ve decided to apply for that BaHons in Fashion & Textiles as a mature student. I know that it’s the right decision because the mere thought of it gives me butterflies.

There’s just the small matter of having to submit a portfolio of work as part of my application. (Er, what portfolio?!) What’s more, a portfolio weighted down with plenty of evidence of drawing skills in a variety of media. (Erm, drawing, it’s been a while!) To add to the challenge, I don’t have the required amount of UCAS points (dropped out of A levels, remember?) so MY portfolio will have to be particularly strong to convince them that UCAS points aren’t the be all and end all. Oh, and I aim to do all this by the end of the year at the latest in order to get my application in early girly for next years intake. Talk about giving myself a mountain to climb right?

Well, every climb to the top of a mountain starts with the first few steps, and I’ve started. Now drawing doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m not one of those people who can chuck a few lines down on paper and make it look like something fabulous. I draw, rub out, draw again, rub out, draw again and so on. I’ts a tiny amount of ability and a whole lot of stubborn perseverance. I’m sharing these pictures so that I can hopefully look back in a few months and be satisfied that I’ve progressed! Opportunities for me to draw from life are limited, and in any case I’m too slow as yet, to get a satisfactory rendering of the subject down on paper in the window of time a class would offer. I thought I’d practice “getting my eye back in” first by sketching from photos and the like. (Hopefully speeding up in the process!) They’re not gonna move and I can put them down and come back to them a couple of hours later and they’ll still be there! The one on the right is ok (ish) except for the eyes, and since they are the “windows to the soul” they’re pretty crucial to get right! No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get the highlights in the right place to stop her from looking a wee bit boss eyed, lol! I’m not even attempting to get a “good likeness” at this stage. Rather using these sketches as practice at getting everything in proportion and in the right place. (plus I was working from a teeny tiny magazine cutting!). Not the worst start but definately room to grow.

This next picture is an improvement in my view. Though still not an accurate likeness of the source image, as a stand alone drawing, I’m pretty pleased with it overall; and it will probably make it into my portfolio (albeit alongside the hopefully better stuff that I have yet to draw!)

cutting sketch

One of my biggest weaknesses with figure drawing (pretty important for a fashion and textiles degree, no?) is getting everything in proportion. So I decided to practice getting body angles, perspective and proportions right by replicating the poses I found in fashion magazines….

figure1a figure1

You can just see the gridlines I use as a guide to get everything in the right place. Numbered 1-9 down the left hand side of my sketches….

figure2a figure2

A human figure is on average 8 times the head size high. In a fashion drawing this elongated to 9-10 heads high to achieve that unrealistically long limbed effect….

figure3a figure3

I hate drawing hands so I particularly liked this pose, lol 😉

figure4a figure4

So there we are. That’s the plan. Of course that means that the content of this blog will widen even further to encompass more art and design based stuff. But I fugured being the creative bunch that you are, you probably wouldn’t mind; and anyway, I’m hoping (pretty please!) for lots of advice, guidance and feedback from you guys along the way. If you don’t mind of course!

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37 Comments

  1. Rachel-Lou June 13, 2012

    Going back to ‘school’ is exciting isn’t it? I’m going back this september as a mature student to do a foundation degree in Fashion & Clothing design. I am worried about the drawing aspect as well, one of the tutor’s on my course told me to just draw something everyday, it doesnt matter what you draw, as long as your putting pencil to paper you will improve. I don’t think you need to worry about your portfolio your drawings are looking good already x

    Reply
    • Miss P June 14, 2012

      HI Rachel-Lou, your tutors advice sounds pretty good to me. I’ve noticed just from the small amount of practice I’ve done so far, that my “eye” is much more in focus when I’m looking at anything these days. I’ve noticed a tendency to mentally reduce everything I look at to a series of basic shapes and lines. Imagining in my head how I would go about drawing it. I think the more we draw, the more we engage that part of our brains that enable us to draw. (If that makes any sense!)
      I’d love to know more about your course! You must be so excited! Is it full time, part time? What was the application process like? Shudder! That bit scares me!
      Px

      Reply
  2. Sonia June 13, 2012

    I’m so excited for you! I’m afraid I have no advice (I’m not a natural drawer either but did well with CDT – angles and straight lines are a whole lot easier!) but I think your drawings look great and if that’s your starting point then I can’t wait to see what you go on to do 😀 x

    Reply
    • Miss P June 14, 2012

      Ooooh, I used to love CDT. The neatness and precision of it really appealed to me. Like you say, you know where you are with straight lines and angles!
      PX

      Reply
  3. Elisalex June 13, 2012

    Firstly, this is absolutely amazing that you’ve decided to go back and do what you always wanted!! It’s so wonderful to have a goal as exciting as this to work towards, and everything that will open up when you start the course. Secondly, you are most definitely on track with your drawings! You don’t give yourself enough credit: the second profile is beautiful and so well done, and you’ve nailed the figurative poses. I’m sure the massive body of existing work you have already, ie the patterns you’ve drafted and garments you’ve made/refashioned will be a huge bonus for your portfolio 🙂

    So excited to follow your journey!!

    Reply
    • Miss P June 14, 2012

      Thanks Elisalex. You’re so encouraging, bless ya! I am indeed hoping that they’ll take some of the content in this blog into consideration.
      Fingers crossed I’ll be able to do enough to get in 🙂
      Px

      Reply
  4. jadestar June 13, 2012

    Wow, I’d say you have more than a little talent for drawing. I can almost see each individual strand of hair. Good for you going back to school. I’m really happy for you. I second Elisalex above in that the work you’ve done already on drafting etc. deserves a place in your portfolio. Good luck! I look forward to seeing more of your work in the coming months. 🙂

    Reply
  5. Dibs June 14, 2012

    I can’t draw so to me, your sketches are works of pure genius, but what do I know? About your portfolio, I am sure all the work you’ve been doing on your blog will give you a strong case too. Good luck, and I hope everything goes great for you.

    Reply
    • Miss P June 14, 2012

      Thanks Dibs! You’re right about this blog. I’m hoping it will go some way to convincing them to let me in!
      Px

      Reply
  6. Lynn June 14, 2012

    Good luck! Sounds like a great plan! I’m looking forward to seeing more of your work.

    Reply
  7. Symon June 14, 2012

    Congrats on deciding to pursue your love!! Having pursued my love of graphic design/illustration through years of being a poor student, then taking low end jobs for a scrap of experience, all the way to today, where I’m going through a major career transition, I can say it’s a wild and worthwhile ride!!

    Easily, one of my very strongest suits was always figure drawing, so I’d love to help if you don’t mind 🙂 You clearly have talent; no worries there! Your drawings are good but they are tense; you are clinging to realism so much that they lose some of their “life”.

    Something that will help is working on larger scale, with a looser medium like chalk or conte. You can get plain newsprint from most art stores for pretty cheap 🙂 Try working from a live model, in 30 second poses; the lack of time for detail will help you focus on capturing the lines of the body without getting too caught up 🙂

    Sorry for the long post, but I hope this helps! Please let me know if I can do anything to help; it’s so exciting to see another artist pursuing their dream!! 🙂 xo

    Reply
    • Miss P June 14, 2012

      Symon! You’ve just put into words exactly how I feel about my drawings! I’ve always admired art with broad, loose, sweeping strokes that really convey movement and dynamism. For my own part I feel my drawings are too static and constrained. Too neat. I’m not sure exactly why, but it’s very deep seated. I guess it’s a couple of things that are inherent in my personality. The pursuit of accuracy and the fear of getting it wrong. It kind of applies to all areas of my life actually! It’s why I’ve never progressed to more permanent mediums than pencil. I can rub pencil out but if I lay down a bunch of crappy lines in pastels or charcoal, well that’s more difficult to put right, right?
      Past tutors have all encouraged me to work on a larger scale. I have my A3 pads waiting in the wings and am determined to “break out” in terms of scale. I’m currently still only working with an A4 sketchbook and rarely use all of the space available in that!
      My current tutor suggested that to some degree I ought to accept that this is my “style” but I would definately like my drawings to be more free, with more life.
      Of course you’re right about working from a live model too. I often sit sketching whilst my little man enjoys himself at our local indoor play centre. Perhaps I should try sketching the people milling around in front of me.
      Anyway, thanks so much for taking the time to share your knowledge. I sincerely appreciate it and have found your comments super helpful and encouraging 🙂
      Please do feel free to email me or message me here. I’m intrigued to know more about your career and “journey”!
      Px

      Reply
    • monkeysocks June 14, 2012

      What an amazing plan! Well done! The sketches are lovely, you are off to a great start. I think the figure sketches with the proportions is a particularly great move, proportion is usually what pulls sketches down, so getting it more ingrained through practice is a really good idea. I am now going to add my long blether on the subject for you-feel free to ignore!
      I would totally concur about the trying to work on a larger scale and with different media, its horrible at first but it really teaches you stuff. Particularly if you tend to over work things and get fussy on the details (who isn’t?-and its an occupational hazard with lovely pencil drawings) I would definitely try and do lots of really quick work as Symon says, over 30 secs-5 minutes, and just do loads. Try working from moving people (like in the park) and also still people. See if you can get into a life drawing class, that’s always really helpful (though very surreal!). As you practise the proportion stuff, make sure you start working well with people in positions where limbs etc get foreshortened, as that’s a serious challenge as well. If you have a particular issue with heads, try going somewhere where there a lots of them in similar poses from different angles, such as a library.
      If you are intimidated by A3, try drawing on MUCH larger, that should make you feel more flexible, it doesn’t all have to portfolio directed, you can just experiment. Try and unlearn your fear at making mistakes by deliberately making loads! Other media can be fun too, enjoy them, especially as you have the wee boy – do art alongside him, use his paints, draw things on garden walls, if you have a bit of outdoor yard or something, start drawing massive things with chalk, its all going to get washed away anyway so it doesn’t matter if you mess it up, and if it works out well you can always photograph it. Try doing stuff with collage, just cut up bits of paper and magazines and stick them on, not in a perfect, “this is the exact material” kind of way, but in a rough dynamic way. If you tend to focus on details, deliberately dont draw any, try and get the rest to do the work with shade or stance or rough form (tricky, but practice helps a lot!). Try working with fat felt tips, then you cant rub out and will be forced to do big strokes. We used to do an exercise at uni called “5 lines” where you had to draw figures in 15 seconds using 5 lines (which had to be sweeps of a pen, not detailed outlines!) -try that over and over, you may not get great drawings but it helps you to learn which bits of a figure sketch make the most difference.

      anyway, that’s quite enough waffle, you seem to be doing pretty well so far so just keep the enthusiasm going!

      Reply
    • Symon June 14, 2012

      Portia – it’s my pleasure, and I’d love to chat more! I’ll send you an email later ^___^

      Reply
  8. stitchandwitter.com June 14, 2012

    This is so exciting, Portia. Congratulations on making the leap – I think it’s awesome. I can’t draw for toffee so I’m always impressed when someone can but your portraits and fashion sketches look great to me. I love the second one too, the texture of the hair really stands out . Well done gain and well done to the other half for encouraging you. Good luck with the applications!

    Reply
    • Miss P June 14, 2012

      The hair is my favourite part of that sketch actually! Thanks Joanne 🙂
      Px

      Reply
  9. Sassy T June 14, 2012

    You are very talented. Love the one of Nancy Khan, she starred in one of my fave films The World of Suzie Wong, look forward to seeing more of your drawings.

    Reply
    • Miss P June 14, 2012

      Sassy! I didn’t even know who that was, thankyou. She’s very striking in that picture. I shall have to google her now!
      Px

      Reply
  10. Tamsin June 14, 2012

    Portia, good luck on your new journey! and well done for having the guts to do what you love and have to go back to school to do it. I have always struggled with drawing, even though I did art ‘A’ level (a long time ago!) The life drawing exam was hell… and I haven’t really done anything like that since! I really like your figures, very jaunty

    Reply
  11. how wonderful. Very best wishes with all that. I don’t know what the UK system is, but here in Oz you don’t have to have jumped all those A level (equivalent) hoops because the idea is that, well, you probably didn’t do them but you’ve had lots of life experience. I’m sure there’d be something similar over there, otherwise why have a specific mature-age entry? Keep up the good work with the drawing.

    Reply
  12. Claire Cooper June 14, 2012

    That is soooo exciting to hear – I teach art and design and would just love to be able to create all day, although I do love teaching it. I just miss the creativity that is there in an arts related fashion course. As Symon said, be expressive and work bigger! Charcoal and ink are great mediums for developing a loose style and try to do some super quick drawings in less than 10 mins.

    If I could offer you some advice with preparing a portfolio – experiment!
    with anything and everything! in making drawings, creating textures, painting. try things that you never thought would work, then note down what you feel about the outcomes, be willing to learn from things that don’t go to plan and those accidental mistakes that work. I once accidentally mixed paint into PVA glue and it spilled onto a piece of paper and plastic, It was such an interesting effect hat I explored it more and eventually used it in a piece of art work. I’m now trying to work out how I can use it in a garment.

    Sorry for long comment – just get soooooo excited when i hear of people choosing to follow creative routes!

    Reply
    • Miss P June 15, 2012

      Thankyou so much Clare! It’s funny what you say about missing creating things yourself. It’s the one thing that worries me about teaching. On the one hand, enabling others to harness their creativity must be so rewarding; but is it at the expense of feeding and “giving voice” to your own creativity?
      Thanks so much for the advice on the portfolio. It kinda echoes the ideas I’ve been playing with recently, so it’s really encouraging to hear it from you! Helps me believe I’m on the right track 🙂
      Px

      Reply
  13. House of Pinheiro June 14, 2012

    Oh Hun what amazing news…. Keep focus on your portfolio and belive in yourself. They will want to see a lot of experimentation so try not to edit your work while you doing… Allow yourself to try many ideas … By experience of been mature student after 12 year working its not easy but your life experience make you really appreciate the course. What uni are you going for?

    Reply
    • Miss P June 15, 2012

      The School of Art in my hometown of Colchester. It has a great reputation with students from there regularly winning national awards and recognition. A couple of them were featured in last weeks Observer magazine funnily enough. Of course it means competition for places will be supe high, but I’ll just have to up my game I guess!
      Thanks for the encouragment!
      Px

      Reply
    • House of Pinheiro June 16, 2012

      Im sure you will be fine. x

      Reply
  14. Rachel Proffitt June 15, 2012

    Congratulations on the new step you are taking 🙂 The best advice I have with drawing and painting…
    1. join the various online sites where the artists hang out- some of them have really great tips and tricks. I really like the everyday matters group 🙂 and cathyjohnson.info
    2. Draw, draw, draw, draw, draw… the more you draw the better it gets.
    3. Keep a sketchbook journal. Take it everywhere you go, and draw while you wait.
    4. Have fun experimenting. Lots of new art products out there to enjoy 😉
    5. Read. There are lots of great books you can read to get you into the groove. I suspect you would learn lots of different things from them that you dont necessarily learn in class.
    6. Check out Flickr and the blogs… lots of fabulous artists there – they are very helpful and inspiring!

    hope these give you ideas 🙂 Good Luck!

    Reply
    • Miss P June 15, 2012

      Rachel thankyou. Checking out blogs is a great idea! Doh, why hadn’t that even ocurred to me?! Doh!
      Px

      Reply
    • Rachel Proffitt June 15, 2012

      I have a bunch linked on my sidebar of my blog 🙂 From there check their sidebars 🙂

      Reply
  15. Scruffybadger June 15, 2012

    How exciting!! Pleaded please share your journey so we can live vicariously through you!! Being a crap drawer I am in awe of anyone who can whisk up ( however long it takes) drawings like yours….beautiful and you’ve captured the stylish glamour which is what you want, right?

    Reply
    • Miss P June 15, 2012

      Hey Winnie, I was a bit worried that people would wonder why I’ve started posing art/design stuff on what started out as a sewing blog! How silly really. This blog has got to evolve along with my interests really hasn’t it? (In any case, there’ll still be plenty of sewing and the like going on 🙂 I’m really excited about the ideas I’ve been exploring recently and am so glad it looks like you guys will be interested in hearing about it too!
      Px

      Reply
  16. To Boldly Sew June 15, 2012

    Congratulations on taking a momentous decision – you will never regret it. I went back to college at 33 to do a 4 year long full time course in a totally different field – it’s good to take a leap of faith every now and again! And your portfolio will look fabulous if this is your starting level – I’m envious of your talent!

    Reply
    • Miss P June 15, 2012

      Thankyou so much Boldly, and hey, drawing CAN be learnt. If I can do it anyone can. I don’t really see it as a talent that I have, because I have to work at it. Doesn’t come naturally. But I will happily accept the compliment nonetheless!
      Px

      Reply
  17. A.J.A. June 16, 2012

    That is so great! I am really happy for you! Work is so much better when you enjoy what you are doing, and you obviously have the talent and determination to do this and do it well. Your drawings are lovely, and I am so impressed with your body sketches. I’m also really happy for you that you have good support in your family. Congrats to you!!!! 🙂 I look forward to reading more as you go along on this wonderful journey!!!!

    Reply
  18. Marie June 21, 2012

    Reading this has made me giddy with joy for you! I love nothing more than someone going for it and fulfilling their dreams, despite obstacles in life! I guess I find it inspiring and it gives me a rush of adrenaline thinking I can do it too ;o) I wish you every success and happiness in doing this Portia and I have no doubt that it will be and will give you everything you want and more. I can’t wait to tag along on your wonderful journey!xx

    Reply
    • Miss P June 22, 2012

      Marie, you are such a sweetheart. Thankyou 🙂
      Px

      Reply
  19. Raphaela Inez October 12, 2012

    nice! how inspiring me!
    i’m looking forward to your sketch!
    i’m a fashion designer wannabe, that’s why i love your blog. it become one of my ispiration too! thankyou 🙂
    keep blogging. and i love your blog. i have followed you, can you follow my blog too?
    raphaelainez.blogspot.com

    thankyou! 🙂

    Reply

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