Hello, it’s that time again when I talk about what’s been happening in the Big Painting Challenge and expand a little on the ideas. This week’s theme is movement and the challenge is VERY difficult. None of the artists are allowed photographs and so they have to really think about how to capture what is going on. I know that photography can be a help when you are drawing or painting but more times than often, working from photographs will just make your looking, lazy and will act like a crutch and you wont get better. The reason is because you end up just copying an already flattened image, and your brain processes what you are seeing differently. Anyhow…on to movement…dynamic, exciting, fast…..difficult. Here, the trick is not as much to simplify but to figure out a way of working that suits your processing skills (not everyone has photographic memory). Take a deep breath and think how you can show movement, the subject moving and the background still, the background moving and the subject still, a timelapse, blur, sequences and multiple images are all options open to you. Here is one way which I love doing with students as it describes space, volume as well as a sense of movement. It’s suprisingly easy as long as you don’t start complicating things for yourself (you know who you are!). Give it a go!


I have always loved looking at peoples’ faces and I still do, I irritate my friends by constantly saying “wow look at that person they look like so and so”…and now I am getting a bit of that come back at me on Twitter…you know who you are! Anyhow, both my parents are portrait painters, both working in very different ways but I grew up as a child hearing my mum and my dad talk about heads, faces, noses and portraits. The best story is when my mum was asked to paint a copy of a portrait she had done of an old Colonel who had just died, she got her first painting back and set about reproducing it, unfortunately in the night the newer of the two canvases fell off the easel and landed on the back of the chair right on the Colonel’s nose, drying oil paint pushed the nose out 3D from the canvas and it set. Here are a couple of videos that might help you with your portraits.

So another couple of videos, first of all Landscape, the video is hopefully self explanatory but the main point is about simplifying the complexity of what you’re looking at. You can use this either as a warm up exercise to improve your observation or as a piece in itself. In the Big Painting Challenge I had my artists drawing on long sheets of wallpaper lining paper which were 4m long. I think if you’re drawing or painting at this scale try and use something broader than a Sharpie marker but not a brush as it runs out of ink or paint and your line will break, a continuous line is very important. 

Also here’s another tip I made for BBC mixital.


Another video this week about getting to grips with Proportion, Size and Scale, use the eyelevel observation skills you learned in my previous video about perspective and apply this in order to understand and analyse the proportion of three dimensional structures and buildings. 

First things first, I think that Perspective has to be one of the hardest drawing conventions to understand. It’s all about how good you are at UNDERSTANDING, not necessarily about how good you are at drawing (but that definitely helps later on). I think we all learn about horizon lines, vanishing points and converging train tracks when we are at school and I’ve seen kids’ work where everything is correct but I’m convinced they still don’t understand it. Because of this I have developed a kind of three dimension diagram to try and explain it as an activity. Perspective is the two dimensional representation (a drawing) of three dimensions (space (probably in front of you)). If you are struggling with getting perspective right….start off with getting eye level right. Try this at home or wherever and see for yourself…don’t just watch me show you!

OK so if that doesn’t work get a lid from a storage container and hold it up in front of you and try to draw the bare skeleton of what is in front of you. You should easily be able to describe a space in 8 or 9 lines. Where the floor joins the wall just draw a single line. Don’t confuse yourself by drawing multiple lines….that won’t help you. keep it simple. If you use a marker pen you can wipe your marks of or easily start again.

I wanted to make a film about Matilda Tristram‘s brilliant banana exercise. She uses is as a measuring device, a reassurance and a disruptor. Firstly I think it disrupts whatever you’re looking at by making you focus on something stupid that you understand (A giant inflatable Banana), the banana is a simple shape so it’s a reassuring place to start, and then cleverly you can use it as a sort of ruler and measuring device. I don’t want to say any more because she explains it brilliantly in this video. Try it. It works!

Drawing a still life can be boring VERY BORING, but it’s a place we often all start. It helps us understand simple shapes and form. I made a video about choosing what objects you put in your still life as well as thinking about using collage to make your composition. In the video I also mention that you can download the tonal sheets I use to help you do one of your own. I printed them out then photocopied them onto coloured office paper or film (acetate). there’s nothing fancy about the paper I use just stuff that you’d find in the stationery cupboard at work.