Key first steps to successful charcoal drawing 

This term with my Grade 10 students started with us focussing on charcoal during class time & drawing in graphite pencil for homework.I normally get my students to draw almost straight away on Emtini Liner – a tobacco coloured card & they then tackle quite a big drawing (about A2 in size). This year I tried to give the students a more comprehensive introduction to charcoal. First doing a series of contour and gesture drawing using willow charcoal & observing human faces (each other) & animal skulls.

We then did copies of David Hockney’s landscape studies in charcoal to learn about mark making in charcoal.  

They were then introduced to planar analysis by observing the planes and surfaces on a face selected out of a magazine & then practicing this using the mannequin & skeleton for reference.  

They were also shown the following images dealing with planar analysis from the blog of Adriana Burgos:

My Grade 10 students showed an interest in the blackboard drawing that I did on my office door this year, so I decided to order mounted boards covered in blackboard paint, that they could use as a surface for their own charcoal/chalk drawings.


One of my students, Anne, found the lesson on planar analysis really useful & applied what she had learnt to a drawing of an ocelot. The following images document her progress:


Amnion - Grade 12 Artwork 2015 

Sam in my Grade 12 class made a 'sack' out of a net material on which she glued bits of broken technology. 

She then asked a classmate to pose inside the net in a variety of positions and took a series of photographic stills representing an embryonic human trapped inside. She said 'the poses used were chosen because they conveyed either a feeling of raw humanity or the opposite - a somewhat morphed loss thereof.

This artwork is aimed to show how the devices and technology around us today cage the traits that define us as human. Sam feels that 'human and emotional and interpersonal growth is stunted by the evolution of technology.'  

Beautiful drawings from my youngest students

As I said in a previous blog that I decided to stick to a more traditional style of teaching before experimenting this year & I think it is working... 

The following two images were produced by my Grade 9 students this term: 

and the following images have been produced by my Grade 10 students: 

The last two images have their reference attached (I borrowed a few skulls from our biology department at school) 


Rethinking Venus

Image reference

It is a less than a week before we start back at school, and it is at this time I start to focus on what content I am going to teach in my art lessons. I start the Grade 10 art history term with Prehistoric art. One of the pieces we focus on is the Venus of Willendorf, so I thought I would trawl the internet to see if I could find new material on her. To my surprise I discovered some images & comparative material that I hadn’t previously encountered. 

image reference 

This glitzy interpretation of the Venus (above) with her left leg lifted up in the air & bedekked in mirror-ball like tiles, can be found in Riga, the capital of Latvia. 

If any of my friends/students want to raise funds for me for one (with champagne included) of these interpretations of the Venus by Jeff Koons in 2013 I would not be ungrateful!  "Koons and Dom Pérignon collaborated on a limited number (650 worldwide) of manually assembled and hand polished champagne holders inspired by Koons’ Balloon Venus...

The two-foot tall polyurethane resin version (shown above) of the artist’s bulbous take on the 25,000 year old fertility symbol, Venus of Willendorf, was designed to cradle a bottle of Dom Pérignon Rosé Vintage 2003 and is offered in a limited edition of 650 worldwide costing $20,000 a piece."

I thought this image with Gormley's figures lined up in front of the Venus is an interesting juxtaposition:

image reference 

and this cartoon comparison of prehistoric and contemporary perspectives is quite telling...

image reference

Finally I came across a research paper exploring Jenny Saville's nudes and linking her nudes not only to the Venus of Willendorf but to nudes throughout art history. 

Jenny Saville, Propped, 1992 Oil on canvas 213.5 x 183 cm

image reference

The paper is called "An Admired Abjection" - find the original article here,

and it deals with changing ideals of the female form. The Venus of Willendorf is examined on a page called "From Willendorf to Will Power". 

image reference


New Year's Resolution: Focus on traditional art skills in 2015

Last year was quite strange in terms of my teaching: I had a month's break in May & got my Grade 10 students involved in all sorts of experiments and ventures. Using the ipad to make art; the Woolworths "Making a Difference through Design Project"; creating collaborative paintings (see below) (will be donated later this year to the Addington Childrens Hospital presently going through major renovations); exploring "Wreck this Journal", and creating ceramic vessels. The students, as far as I could tell, loved the experimentation, but I discovered in the third term that their drawing skills were not up to the standard I usually expect from my students.  

Above: One of the collaborative artworks my Grade 10 students made this year. The frame is the original Javanese teak window frames that we rescued from the building site - these artworks have been filled with fantasy scenes that will hopefully bring the little patients of the hospital some comfort. 

To help improve the drawing skills we embarked on a series of traditional exercises and subject matter in term three and four of this year - drawing still life displays using a value scale in pencil and ink. One of the exercises I set for homework is one I have used before. The students find an image they like & tear it in half, paste down the one half & duplicate the other side. This has always resulted in sucessful drawings & is a confidence booster. See the results below: 


So my New Year's Resolution for teaching this year is to focus on traditional skills before we play...