Life Drawing and Portraits

Yesterday’s Daily Telegraph had an interesting letter about the new portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge at the National Portrait Gallery.

“Sir – Due to the punishing schedules of the Royal family who are asked to sit for dozens of artists, it is becoming acceptable for portraits to be produced from photographs. The lack of life drawing in art schools over the years has resulted in few artists having the skill to paint quickly and accurately from life.

“The portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge, which resembles the cover of a romantic novel, surely serves to remind us that we urgently need to reintroduce traditional techniques back into the curriculum. We need to appreciate that paintings, unlike photographs, capture far more than a physical representation. The interaction between artist and sitter creates a mood that is infinitely more interesting for future generations.

“If artists cannot learn to paint from life they will only ever be able to paint from photographs. Picasso’s skilled figurative portraits, drawn as a teenager, validated his experimental work in later life.

“Photography is an invaluable art form, but we are in danger of muddling the two at a great loss to future are collections.

“Sara Stewart, Fine Art Commissions, London SW1″

PicassoColorStudyCharcoalCrayon1896Picasso drew this study at the age of fifteen

A few weeks ago, I wrote about paintings produced from photographs in “Is it just me?” and I found this letter an interesting contribution to the discussion.

On a parallel point, in my OCA drawing course, I am currently drawing animals. They are not as cooperative as people. At life classes, you generally know how long you have for each pose. Not so with animals! I was sketching at Wythenshaw Community Farm last week. Jupiter the bull was fast asleep in his pen until I started drawing him whereupon he woke up and stood up! The question is should I draw from photographs or have a lot of half-finished sketches? I think I’ll have to email my tutor. At least Henry, my son’s dog who is staying with us at the moment, was more cooperative this afternoon and stayed asleep during his modelling session.


Finally, after Ecce Homo became Ecce Mono, it didn’t take long for someone to “restore ” Kate’s portrait!


About notes to the milkman

I'm a printmaker based in the North West of England, living in Bolton and printing at Hot Bed Press in Salford. Please visit my website
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7 Responses to Life Drawing and Portraits

  1. Nancy Farmer says:

    Ha ha ha ha! love the restored version 🙂
    Seriously, though, I had heard about this portrait but not seen it until your blog so thank you for posting it. My first reaction was that it is appallingly like those posters you used to get circa 1980 where a girl’s face and hair would be seamlessly blended into the head of a tiger, a waterfall and a golden eagle. I agree wholeheartedly with your telegraph letter-writer. I expect it will be massively popular, sadly.

  2. I’ve seen pictures where the girl’s hair is blended into live snakes. If fact that could be an idea for a calendar …… 😉

  3. Love your drawing of Henry – you’ve captured the dogness of him very elegantly. Your treatment of the Middleton portrait is a great improvement.

  4. seascapesaus says:

    Restoration! Wasn’t it restoration of the monarchy? I think the portrait is a bit smarmy. However, having just done some likenesses from photos I can’t crow too much. I did know the non-sitters very well though. As for your dog, the drawing of his fur is so fresh! (speed)? Avoid bulls at all cost.

  5. cynt5525 says:

    I love the dog drawing!!! Thank you for liking my quote… *Cynthia

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