Observational Drawing

Our second course of the semester was on Observational Drawing (Fin: Havaintopiirrustus) – perhaps the fundamental of the fundamentals of visual arts. For the uninitiated, observational drawing is basically drawing what one sees, though we also did go through some constructive drawing techniques such as perspective. Our teacher for this course was the artist Mari Antjärvi.

Portrait study, charcoal (2022)

The portrait above is my personal favourite among the works I produced during this class. It was from the latter part of the class, and shows that I had improved a fair bit throughout. The turban and beard were challenging, but I feel like I captured the mood of the person quite well. It’s in charcoal which, alongside graphite, formed the main mediums of the course.

Ojasta Allikkoon, charcoal and graphite (2022)

This picture of a donkey in a pond was a peer-favourite during the course. The task was to draw an animal – though admittedly I ended up partially painting one: the water of the pond is compressed charcoal brushed around with a bit of water. There are many things in this work that I’m not content with, but considering the reactions it certainly has some appeal. I suppose it often is the case that what we as artists are happy with and what the audience likes do not necessarily coincide.

One of the greatest opportunities we had was drawing from a live model. Both clothed and nude. We did quick croquis, from 30 seconds to a minute each, longer live drawings, blind contour drawings, value studies etc. This was the first time I drew from a live model and also the first time I drew someone with a dark skin – I fully admit that both of these gave me a lot of trouble. I especially found it difficult to accurately represent the model’s skin: rather than focusing on shadows, I had to focus on the highlights to give a sense of the skin’s reflectivity and sheen. I do not feel like I did the model justice in that regard, despite my best efforts.

Regardless, these exercises were something I greatly enjoyed, and something that really improved my drawing skills. I will certainly aim to attend a more specialized live-drawing course in the future to hone my skills further.

Beyond live model drawing and the few larger finished works above, we did a lot of different faster exercises. I am quite proud of the quick master study after Michelangelo, but the progressive drawing where we drew the same thing multiple times was also great practice. I also kept a sketch diary throughout the course, where I drew various household items – the frog and candlestand on the left are from that series.

Hand Study (2022)

Drawing is truly fundamental for visual arts, and as such something one can never do too much – or even enough. I wished that more time would’ve been devoted to this skill, but unfortunately time is a limited resource and courses can’t go on forever. Still, first and foremost, I learned how to practice, so I could more fruitfully spend my own free time improving at the subject.