Copying photographs

Is copying photographs cheating?

I have met many people who think that copying photographs is somehow cheating. Certainly it can be used as an easy way of sidestepping the challenges (and opportunities) provided by copying directly from nature. But this does not mean that it can never be justified.

The main purpose of this Post is to publish Chapter 7 of my book “Drawing on Both Sides of the Brain”, which discusses the advantages and disadvantages of copying small, static, two-dimensional photographic images, as compared with confronting the full force of nature, in all its dimensions. Its conclusion is that both possibilities have their place. Rather than condemning the practice of copying photographs out of hand, artists might be well advised to work out what is the best option in the circumstances of the moment.

The chapter also considers an earlier and, for many years, much used memory-based alternative to copying photographic images.



Photos and additional material

The remainder of this Post is given over to:

  • Two double images showing famous artists using photographs.
  • An introduction to: (a) the memory-based method of Horace Lecoq Boisbaudran; (b) his ideas about its value for personal creativity; and (c) its subsequent use for producing “snapshots” of complex scenes.
  • Images of five paintings done from memory that could well have been influenced by the Lecoq Boisbaudran’s ideas on memory as a channel to creativity, accompanied by relevant quotations from the artists.
  • A series of five drawings from the same photograph which I made to illustrate a magazine article that argued that copying photographs is not without creative possibilities.

Two famous artists who chose to copy photographs

How can a practice be condemned that has been made use of by so many famous artists? And, if it suited their purposes to do so, why shouldn’t they? Figure 1 and Figure 2 provide two examples of a photograph and a copy made from them. It is left to us to speculate as to why the artists concerned thought it a good idea. My guess is that:

  • Edgar Degas wanted to paint his models in active poses that would be difficult for them to sustain.
  • Paul Cézanne saw the photograph as a way of bypassing the problem of finding a young male model in the South of France.

Both perfectly good reasons.  Chapter 7, lists a number of other possibilities.

The photograph used as a model for the painting by Edgar Degas reproduced on the right.


The photograph used by Cézanne, as a means of getting around the problem of finding an appropriate model.

The memory-based method

The earlier method of making accurate copies of nature mentioned above, which achieved a degree of popularity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, involved a rigourous training of the memory. It was pioneered, in the middle of the nineteenth century by Elizabeth Cavé (with the support of Eugene Delacroix) and Horace Lecoq de Boisbaudran. The latter’s way of testing whether students had reached the required level was to send them to the Louvre, where they were asked to memorise a painting of their choice. After returning to the studio, they were then expected to reproduce it accurately, from memory.

An example of the successful use of the method comes from an anecdote concerning James McNeil Whistler, who had learned it from Alphonse Legros (Lecoq Boisbaudran’s star student). The story goes that a friend refused to believe it possible to memorise entire scenes up to the required level.  To convince the doubter, Whistler proposed a three stage demonstration, which he set about implementing, while his friend was watching:

  • First he spent time looking looking intently at the landscape in question.
  • Second, he turned turned his back on it.
  • Finally, without looking round, he painted what his friend asserted to be an accurate rendering of it.

The friend was amazed and declared himself satisfied with this proof.

Lecoq Boisbaudran’s reason for developing his method

However, even if Lecoq Boisbaudran’s memory training method could enable accurate reproduction, it was far from being its goal.  Rather, he saw it as providing a means of opening up pathways to personal expression, an objective that logically requires departures from accuracy. His idea was that drawings and paintings channeled though the memory would inevitably reflect its contents. Accordingly, since the contents of each person’s memory is determined by a unique lifetime’s experience, his method should ensure personalised novelty.

The conception of the memory as a conduit to creativity had important repercussions in the work of many Modernist painters. Among these were Degas, Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin and Bonnard.  As illustrated both in Figures 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 and in the quotations beneath, each artist had a different idea of the degree to which personal expression involved departing from slavish accuracy.

Paintings with quotations by the artists

Figure 3 : Degas – ballet dancers.


  • Edgar Degas: “It is always very well to copy what you see, but much better to draw what only the memory sees. Then you get a transformation, in which imagination works hand in hand with the memory and you reproduce only what has particularly struck you.”


Figure 4 : Vincent van Gogh – Starry night.


  • “Van Gogh: One begins by plaguing oneself to no purpose in order to be true to nature, and one concludes by working quietly from one’s own palette, and nature is the result.”


Figure 5 : Toulouse-Lautrec – from circus paintings series.


  • Toulouse Lautrec (the master of experiments in distortion): “I paint things as they are. I don’t comment.”
Figure 6 : Paul Gauguin – Nevermore.


  • Paul Gauguin: “It is better to paint from memory, for thus your work will be your own…”


Figure 7 : Pierre Bonnard – The studio at Le Cannet with Mimosa.


  • Pierre Bonnard (who wanted to capture the essence of his experience when he first confronted a scene) : “Get away from nature as quick as possible.”

Five ways of responding to the same photograph

In the context of this Post, it is worth noticing that the paintings in the Louvre copied by Lecoq Boisbaudran’s students were static images. In this respect, they were like photographs, even if they were a lot bigger. It follows that, although the purpose of the training was to encourage artistic creativity when working from nature, it could just as easily encourage it when copying photographs. To illustrate this possibility and to complete this Post, I offer five charcoal drawings of a reclining nude woman derived from the same photograph (unfortunately lost). Their purpose here is to illustrate the value of deviations from accuracy and to suggest that photographs do not necessarily cramp creativity. It should be emphasised that these were thought of as the beginning of a process.

Figure 8 : First approach: an attempt at literal accuracy in both shape and shading.



Figure 9 : Second approach: enjoying whole-field colour relations and mark-making potentials.



Figure 10 :Third approach: playing with arabesques.



Figure 11 : Fourth approach: an emphasis on mark making.



Figure 11 : Fifth approach:  figure set against flat black and flat white rectangles.



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CLAM as a teaching method

CLAM explained

CLAM is an acronym forcontinuously looking at the model. It describes a teaching method, suggested by Kimon Nicolaїdes and popularised by Betty Edwards. However, they describe it as “contour drawing”. Since 1941, when Nicolaїdes‘ book “The Natural Way to Draw” was published posthumously and started its life as the most influential book on drawing published in the twentieth century, his method has proved its value as a powerful teaching tool. However, in addition to its well established advantages, it has significant disadvantages. Chapter 6 in my book “Drawing on Both Sides of the Brain”  explains both its strengths and its limitations.



Three example of drawings using CLAM


1: A pure CLAM drawing: Within the confusion, a great deal of useful information is to be found


2: Drawing by Rodin using a lot of CLAM, made long before Nicolaїdes used it as a teaching tool.


clam: Some important errors, but other qualties compensate.
3: A drawing by Francis Pratt using modified CLAM. I hope you will agree that, as with the Rodin drawing, the effect of the whole is not too much spoiled by a few serious inaccuracies.

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Negative spaces

Why avoid talking of “negative spaces ” or “negative shapes”?

The title of Chapter 6 of my book “Drawing on Both Sides of the Brain” is “Negative Shapes”. Some people may be surprised to find that I question the widespread use by art teachers of the phrase “negative shapes” and of its equivalent, “negative spaces“. After explaining the reasons for the popularity of its use as a means of bypassing the problems due to familiarity, I argue that it has significant shortcomings. In the light of these, I suggest that there are alternatives which avoid its disadvantages without relinquishing any of its advantages. Perhaps more importantly, these provides better ways of using drawing from observation as a tool for discovering the unique characteristics of objects in the world around us.


Examples of negative shapes

negative spaces
Figure 1 : The face/vase illusion



negative shapes
Figure 2 : A drawing of a  chair and copy  from Betty Edwards’ book “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”, used to illustrate the use of negative spaces


In the illustrations above, Figure 1 shows the famous face/vase illusion in which either the faces or the vase can be seen positively, but only alternately.  Figure 2, shows a drawing of a chair (on the left) and a drawing made from it (on the right), using the existing “negative spaces” method. Although it comes originally from Betty Edwards, I found it on a website that discusses negative shapes and spaces, using the terms in their established meaning.


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Scientific revolution gives artists ideas

Five Scientists and a scientific revolution

Strictly speaking a scientific revolution cannot have either a starting point or and end point. It is always part of an ongoing process. However, two events provide milestone contributions to the scientific revolution in the understanding of visual perception that took place in the 18th and 19th centuries. The first was a lecture given by Gaspard Monge in 1789 . The second, the publication of a book by Hermann von Helmholtz in 1867. In between these two dates, various other scientists made key contributions to the science of visual perception. Three worth special mention were Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Michel Eugène Chevreul and James Clerk Maxwell.
What these five men helped the scientific community to make crystal clear is that colour is not a property of surfaces in the external world, but a construction of the eye and the brain. The word “colour” only has meaning as an experience. A corollary of this realisation is that it is meaningless to describe the patterns of light of variable intensity and wavelength that enter the eyes as having colour. Whatever their wavelength, they are still only light.
Nor was it long before the scientists were forced to the conclusion that it is not only colour that is made in the head, but all conscious visual experience. No scientific revolution could have been more radical in its implications. Everyone, including artists, were confronted with the fact that there is a gulf between the “measurable reality”, which had previously been assumed, and the “experienced reality”, to which they now had to reconcile themselves.

Artists have to question their rules

No wonder artists took note. How exciting it must have been to partake of the unsuspected visual banquet that they now found to be available to them in every moment of their everyday lives. But this was not all.  I was not just that they found themselves looking differently. In addition, they were forced to question the rules that underpinned the academic method that they had all been brought up on. At the very least these would need to be revised. Quite possibly they would have to be jettisoned.
In short, new rules, new ways of looking and new ways of doing were clearly required. It was the growing acceptance of these realisationst that played a significant part in galvanising the young Impressionists and their immediate successors into the new conceptual frameworks that provided the impetus for the Modernist Revolution in Painting. Nothing in painting would ever be quite the same again.

Gaspard Monge (1746 – 1818)

scientific revolution
Gaspard Monge
Monge was a highly reputed French mathematician. He invented descriptive geometry (the mathematical basis of technical drawing) and has been described as the “father of differential geometry.” However much more important for this Post in the section on Painting, he gave a lecture on color vision to the Academy of Sciences in April 1789. In this he demonstrated the constructive nature of colour perception. A key part of his argument was a demonstration of colour constancy that showed the importance of whole-field relativities in creating what we see. His theorising about how the eye/brain enabled it proved to be almost two hundred years ahead of its time (It was not until 1977 that Edwin Land published similar ideas in the Scientific American that they resurfaced into the public domain. Land’s article was called The Retinex Theory of Color Vision”).

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 – 1832)

scientific revolution
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

In my experience people tend to be surprised when I mention that Goethe , the famous German playwright and poet, was also a scientist. It is said that, in his own view, the book recording his lifelong interest in visual phenomena was as important as his literary achievements. Amongst the observations he recorded were ones of after-images and induced colour. He was by no means the first to observe either (For example, Monge demonstrated induced colour) but, probably because of his reputation as , a poet and playwright, it was often his ideas that were picked up by the artistic community. Also, his proposals concerning the relation between colour and emotion were to prove extremely influential with artists, including Gauguin, Kandinsky and many, many more.

Michel Eugène Chevreul (1786 – 1889)

scientific revolution
Michel Eugène Chevreul

Chevreul was a chemist employed by the famous Gobbelin tapestry producing factory. His expertise was needed because, as a consequence of the Industrial Revolution, new dyes were being created at a unprecedented rate. His job was to test the new products for  permanence (particularly light fastness) and for compatibility with other dyes and materials used by artists. As a sideline he got interested in visual perception. It is to him we owe the law of simultaneous colour contrast, which states that, when any two colours are juxtaposed, the difference between them is exaggerated by the eye/brain. The fact that the law applies when black and white are juxtaposed provides early evidence that the eye/brain treats them both as colours. However it was not until the 1970s, when Semir Zeki found colour coded cells in are V4 of the visual cortex, that this hypothesis was confirmed.

James Clerk Maxwell (1831 – 1879)

scientific revolution
James Clerk Maxwell

Clerk Maxwell has been described as the “Father of modern physics“. His most notable achievement was to formulate the now classical theory of electromagnetic radiation, bringing together for the first time electricity, magnetism and light as manifestations of the same phenomenon. His equations for electromagnetism have been called the “second great unification in Physics” (the first having been produced by Isaac Newton).

Maxwell’s importance for artists stemmed from his work on the relationship between light and colour. This provided one of the sources of Georges Seurat’s ideas about colour mixing. Maxwell’s experiments showed that optical mixtures of pigment colours obeyed the laws of additive mixtures, as opposed to the subtractive ones that govern paint mixtures on the palette. This keyed Seurat into his pointillist theory which is based on the idea that small closely packed dots of colour will mix additively, when viewed at a distance from which the blend optically. This was the theoretical basis of Seurat’s claim that Pointillism was a method of “painting with light“.

Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894)

scientific revolution
Hermann von Helmholtz
Helmholtz was a polymath who made important contributions to several fields of science. In physics, he is celebrated for his theories on the conservation of energy, work in electrodynamics and thermodynamics. As a philosopher, he is known for his philosophy of science. More importantly from the perspective of this Post, he has also been described as “The father of the Psychology of Perception”. His landmark  book on this subject, “The Handbook of Physiological Optics”, was published 1867 at the time the young Impressionist were meeting in the café Guerbois. In it he made his synthesis of the new developments in the study of visual perception. On the basis of this, he developed his theory of cognitive inference, which proposed that human visual capacities could not be explained on the basis of visual input alone: There had to be another factor. Helmholtz argued that this could only be the use of information stored in memory. In other words, he claimed that visual perception is a constructive process. In doing so he gave support to the idea that visual experience is made in the head.

Summary of the influence on painting of the scientific revolution

All the five scientist featured above played important roles in the scientific revolution that gathered momentum in the nineteenth century. Three of them (Monge, Clerk Maxwell and Helmholtz) had such an important place in it that they have been described as “Fathers” of their main subjects “Differential geometry”, “Visual Perception” and “Modern Physics” respectively. In addition all five of these remarkable men played important role in helping artists to realise that there is a significant difference between “measured reality” and “experienced reality“. In doing so they provided what lay well have been vital grist to the mill of the Modernist Revolution in Painting. Very possibly, without the scientific revolution in which they played such important roles, it would never have taken place.

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Cézanne falls short

A tiny bit of unpainted canvas

Figure 1 : Ambroise Vollard by Cézanne

The portrait of Ambroise Vollard by Cézanne, now located in the Petit Palais in Paris, took one hundred and five intense, emotion packed sittings to produce. At first sight, it seems complete. But on closer inspection, we find that, even after all those hours of concentrated effort, there is a tiny patch of unpainted canvas, situated in the area where a knuckle should normally be.

To assess its significance, let us place scarcely visible area of raw canvas in the context of Antonio Tapies’ comment on Van Gogh’s chair. In the Spanish artist’s view, such an everyday object as a chair would be “hardly worth looking at”, if it were not for the richness of its associations and connotations. What made it such a rich subject for a  painting was that it meant so much for Van Gogh, and because it resonated with our mental picture of him. Similarly, we might be inclined to think that nothing could be less interesting than a tiny patch of bare canvas. How could something so minuscule be seen as anything but a blemish? How could an absence of paint be worth looking at?

Figure 2 : Ambroise Vollard’s knuckle

Cézanne asks for forgiveness

Nor would there be any question of excusing the artist on the grounds of it being a deliberate mistake, analogous to the Allah-placating deviations from symmetry found in the designs of the Islamic carpet makers. In a contrite letter to Ambroise Vollard, sent from his home situated hundreds of miles away in the South of France, Cézanne explained why he had not turned up to his Paris studio for the 106th sitting.  Hoping that his patron would understand and forgive him, he admitted that he had fled from the Paris because even he could not face the 100 or more additional sittings that it might take to rectify matters.

Error of judgement

The simple truth that Cézanne had to face up to was that he had committed a serious error of judgement. By leaving this patch to last, he had painted himself into a corner: He would not longer be able to produce a colour for it that would be the right degree of colour/lightness difference relative to the immediately neighbours. The only way of rectifying the situation would  require him to have change these. But that would not be all.  He would then have to change all the colours adjacent to them. Indeed, he would have to continue modifying until every single one of the colours on the picture-surface had been given the right relationship with all the other colours. Only by dong so would he be able to meet his self-imposed criteria of never repeating a colour.

A new significance

As well as being a very human story, Cezanne’s failure to complete his painting provides an insight into the degree of perfectionism and rigour which he brought to his work. When we realise this, the patch of bare canvas takes on a new significance. It becomes a doorway into the artist’s mind and a telltale sign of his lofty ambition. In these ways, it reveals itself one of the most telling and significant patches of colour in the history of painting. Surely Tapies would have seen it in this light?

Other posts from,  “Having fun with Creativity” Chapter 10 of “Fresh Perspective on creativity”


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Tapies advocates looking games

A quotation from Antonio Tapies

In an earlier Post I suggested the advantages of a games-playing attitude as a stimulus to creativity. Due in large part to his pioneering explorations of picture-surface characteristics as subject matter for painting, Antonio Tapies came to be regarded by many as one of the key figures of twentieth century art. He has also proved himself a stimulating writer. One of his literary productions is a very brief essay entitled, The game of knowing how to look”, in which he gives his advice on creative looking. He starts by advocating focusing attention on some simple object, such as an old chair. He elaborates:

“It hardly seems worth looking at. But think of the universe of reference it embodies: the hands and the sweat of the person responsible for cutting the wood, which was once a mighty tree, full of energy, in the middle of a dense forest, high up in the mountains; the loving work involved in crafting its form; the joy of the purchaser on buying it; the many moments of weariness it has alleviated; the sorrows and the joys of those who have sat upon it, in a grand reception room or, perhaps, in a pokey little dining room in the suburbs… All, absolutely all, of these aspects have their importance.”

And, the list could easily have gone on for pages. Indeed, it could have gone on for ever, for there are no limits to the associations and connotations that can emanate from no matter what object or word.

Games of children

Tapies goes on to liken the intellectual activity which he is proposing to the games of children, which he claims are used by them as “tools for growing up”. He exhorts us to play our own creative self-educational and life-maturing games when we look at paintings. He also warns us that when we do so, we should never get bogged down by our ideas of what paintings should be, for “a painting can be anything whatsoever.” Finally, he sums up by inviting us to combine the three activities of “play”, “attentive looking” and “active thought”.

games by Antonio Tapies           games by Antonio Tapies

games by Antonio Tapies

Three examples of games playing by Antonio Tapies

Why the chair?

Tapies does not explain why he chose a chair for his illustration, but it may be that, somewhere in the back (or, possibly, front) of his mind, he was thinking of Van Gogh’s famous painting of a chair in which, by general agreement, the Dutch artist so admirably succeeded in transforming a humble object of daily life into a universal symbol of human experience.


Van Gogh’s painting of a chair

He certainly cannot have been thinking of the white-painted dining room chair in my Painting School, which I have so often used for drawing lessons designed to introduce my students to a more penetrating awareness of abstract relations and a more vital appreciation of the dynamic possibilities of linear juxtapositions, rhythms and arabesques. Nor is this an aspect of visual exploration mentioned in his short polemic even though the analytic-looking involved can point the finger towards another whole world of new experience.

As well as Tapies, John Constable (who claimed that “it does not matter how ugly an object is, when light falls on its surface, it becomes beautiful”) and Marcel Duchamp (who challenged us to consider both a urinal and hat rack as art objects) have helped us to understand, such potential lurks in even the most seemingly unremarkable or said-to-be ugly objects that we come across in the course of everyday life. Moreover to arabesques and linear rhythms and the play of light can be added, whole-field lightness and colour relations, local interactions between colours and between the astonishing variety of textures that enrich our visual worlds. Each quality of appearance, whether on its own or in combination, provides a wonderland for visual exploration.

Taking the idea further

Or, taking a different tack, it would be easy to focus-down on the different parts of the chair, such as the shapely lathe-turned legs, the finely plaited seat or the machine-sculpted back-support. All are objects in their own right, capable of being treated to creative game-playing looking strategies such as those advocated by Tapies, those I suggest as a teacher and, indeed, a potential infinity of others lines of inquiry.

And, it hardly needs saying, the same is also true of the parts of all other objects (for example, the trunk, the branches and the foliage of trees), for the parts of those parts (for example, the bark, the twigs and the leaves) and for the parts of the parts of the parts (for example, the lichen, the buds and the skeleton of veins), etc.. And all this without taking context into account or using mechanical means (for example, microscopes, infrared cameras or computer software) to transform our vision.


With respect to context, it is well known that the meaning of an object can be transformed by placing it in a different settings. If Van Gogh’s humble chair were to be placed in the reception room hall of a grand palace or a jewel-studded golden throne were to be transported to the grimy kitchen in a run-down slum dwelling, how differently each would be viewed. If a red screen were to be set up in front of a green wall, its colour would stand out forcibly. And if the wall had been painted the same red as the screen, it could be almost camouflaged.

Mechanical aids

As for mechanical aids capable of transforming vision, a panoply of ones used by artists over the centuries were listed in Chapter 2 of “Drawing on Both Sides of the Brain”. And others can be found in later chapters. Almost all these not only help us to focus-down onto parts or aspects but also provide new contexts capable, with the help of comparisons, of directing attention into unaccustomed channels of experience.

Nor is it only artists who have resorted to perception-transforming devices to extend or sharpen their awareness. Surely, their use must be routine in all spheres of creative looking. Certainly, as indicated above, scientists have made abundant use of them to delve deeper into the objects and subjects of their interest. Indeed, they have done so such an extent that it has became impossible to imagine how most branches of science could progress without them.

But how many artists or scientists have subjected their findings to the games playing approach advocated by Tapies?

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July Session 2017

Our 29th season is now over

The July session of our 29th season has just finished. As promised to students, I am sending a slideshow consisting of seventeen photos taken by me and three by Sarah. A main reason why it is shorter and less rounded than the one I posted for June session is that I was unable to get very far with my plan of taking photos of students working in the landscape. This was because I was unexpectedly removed from the scene and taken to hospital for four days in the second week, as a result of suffering from what was at first diagnosed as a mini-stroke. Since then, the favoured explanation is a problem with the balancing mechanism in my ears.

I felt bad leaving the students but they seem to have got on perfectly well without me. I was certainly cheered by the quality of the work they showed in the final exhibition. No doubt at least part of the reason for the high standard was that Sarah was on hand to take over the teaching role. The students tell me that she was wonderful. They also spoke of their appreciation of the help given by Jill and Marie-Thérèse.

A tribute to Sarah, Jill and Marie-Thérèse

One of the students, who came from Hawaii to both the June session and the July session, asked me to share the following tribute to Sarah, Jill and Marie-Thérèse..

  • “What a privilege it has been for me to be taken in by this group of women who love and support the Painting School… Each of them is an accomplished artist and it is an education and a delight to be able to watch them put marks on paper. They listen patiently to anyone who wants to chat about their art or any other subject. And they often reiterate Francis’ teachings, which has been invaluable to me for absorbing it all… I never expected to receive the gift that these women bring to the Painting School experience and I want to acknowledge this secret treasure. As a group they bring a richness to the school that can’t be measured.” – Susan (Savanah) Forster
July session 2017

The thirtieth season and beyond

The hospital staff  submitted me to all sorts of checks (brain, heart, carotid artery and more). They concluded that there was no lasting damage and that I could continue more or less as if nothing had happened. One reason I am glad about this is that I had set my heart on reaching the thirtieth season of the Painting School of Montmiral, which we hope to celebrate in style. Please join us if you possibly can.


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Modernist teaching methods

A paradigm shift

The chapter featured in this Post is about the paradigm shift in artists thought that took place in the latter part of the nineteenth century, and some of its consequences in terms of the Modernist teaching methods that were to emerge in the twentieth century.

CHPT 3 – Arrival of Modernism

modernist teaching
Berthe Morisot: Young woman on a couch showing a revolution in the use of feeling based brushwork.


Modernist teaching
One of Edgar Degas most revealing Modernist pronouncements was that: “it is always very well to copy what you see, but much better to draw what only the memory sees. Then you get a transformation, in which imagination works hand in hand with the memory and you reproduce only what has particularly struck you.”


Other background reading for Modernist teaching

It will help to have read the previous chapter, which has already been published as a Post, since this describes the context from which Modernist teaching emerged, not only in terms of specific traditional practices but also in terms of the academic system as a whole, against which the young Modernist Painters set their face.

Chapter 2: Traditional artistic practices

At the same time as publishing Chapter 3, I will be making Chapter 4 available as a separate Post. Its title is “The sketch and the feel system”. This builds on Chapter 3 by focusing on the sketch as a link between old and new ways. Also, the fact that making sketches involves sensing relations between elements provides the opportunity to define and explain what I mean by the “Feel-System”. Doing so is of importance, because it plays such key role in subsequent chapters and because it helps to explain the title, “Drawing with Feeling”, which I chose for the book as a whole.



This Post is the first of two that I will be publishing in time for the July 22 – August 5 session of the Painting School of Montmiral. In this way it will also be ready for my experimental “Life Drawing” week in Norfolk, which is scheduled for later in August. As it is holiday time, I will be taking a break from Posts during August and will not start again until some time after 7th September, which will be my 80th birthday.


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Feeling as a guide to mark-making

Feeling and the sketch

The chapter featured in this Post tells how, over the centuries, artists changed the way they conceived the function of the sketch. From being a step in the Academic method, by which predetermined elements were organised into a composition, it was used in more open-ended essentially Modernist ways. This chapter also explains what I mean by drawing with the “feel-system” and, in doing so, prepares readers for the crucial role it plays in later chapters. For this reason it is key to the ideas developed in my book.

Chapter 4 – The sketch and the feel system 


Related chapters

Chapters 1, 2 & 3 have already been published as Posts. Since together they provide a useful introduction for Chapter 4, they are made easily available as links below:

Chapter 1: Accuracy versus expression

Chapter 2: Traditional artistic practices

Chapter 3: Modernist teaching methods


Feeling-guided sketches by Michelangelo and Matisse.

A foretaste of the illustrations found in Chapter 4 are included below. The first of these is by Michelangelo, a Renaissance artist, and the other by Matisse, a Modernist one. The difference between them reflects both similarities and changes that had taken place in the way artists approached their work.

sketch by Michelangelo in preparation for a presentation drawing “The fall of Phaeton”


A sketch by Matisse showing his visual thinking processes


This Post is the second of two that I will be publishing in time for the July 22 – August 5 session of the Painting School of Montmiral. In this way it will also be ready for my experimental “Life Drawing” week in Norfolk, which is scheduled for later in August. As it is holiday time, I will be taking a break from Posts during August and will not start again until some time after 7th September, which will be my 80th birthday.


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June session 2017

“The best ever”

This year’s June session is now over.  We had four new students: Two from USA, one from Canada and one from GB. Stefan, who came for the fifth time, said it was the best ever for him. For me it was one of the many best: Over 29 years now I feel that I have had incredible luck with the people who have come as students. I have made many friends and they have rewarded me with splendid paintings and drawings, some of which can be seen on the “Student Work” page of this website..

Last year I created slideshows for both the June and July sessions (you can find them on Facebook). I have made another for this year’s June session, which you will find below.

The 2017 June session slideshow

Here is the slideshow using photos taken by a number of people, including Sarah, Barbara, Stefan, Julie and myself. Most of the images are either in the studio or on the esplanade, although I have included three that show us enjoying ourselves at evening meals.  I hope you enjoy it

june session

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