Figure drawing is the traditional cornerstone art training. The human figure offers every challenge one could require - line and tone, perspective and composition. It is well over 20 years since I've been to an art class with a live model.
My natural medium is pen and ink, so I often draw with the kind of pen you can buy in any shop. But I love charcoal.
Unfortunately, I was sitting next to a nice lady who had all the kit, large board, massive piece of paper, newspaper on the floor, extra chair for numerous bits and bobs. I immediately thought she must be a tutor sitting in.
She asked me if I had been to an art class before and I explained it was a long time ago. She explained I had bought the wrong paper, (I prefer a textured finished.) She advised on charcoal pencils or the more expensive block charcoal rather than my willow sticks. Did I bring a chamois? Did I know never to touch my paper with my greasy, acidic fingertips?
I was beginning to feel overwhelmed and out of my depth. But once the model stepped out the class descended into silence, and I relaxed into peaceful concentration.
At break time I reviewed my work and I was disappointed by my results. I remembered pieces I had produced in my 'A' level art class, when I was drawing everyday. I decided the words, 'use it or lose it were true.' But, with practice perhaps I could get back there? I was so lost in negative thought, that I had forgotten that I had, at least, enjoyed myself when my neighbour spoke.
'How did you do that?' She asked waving a hand around my picture.
I was confused. What could this lady learn from me?
'What do you mean?' I asked looking down at my picture, 'the shading?'
'No,' she replied showing me her work of a Picasso inspired figure, 'how do you get the nipples on straight?'
Needless to say it struck me as very funny.
I was focusing on the parts of my picture where my perspective was off, completely ignoring the good bits.
And the fact that at least my nipples were on straight.