Demonstration drawing of the view from the door of the gallery we were using as a studio. initial drawing in biro followed by dilute india ink and a small brush.

Teaching art part 3


For this session I wanted to introduce the idea of tone. The approach taken thus far by John, their primary tutor, was that the group would go out into the prison and sketch a scene. They would make a line drawing and add written notes about colour. This diagram was then taken back to the studio as the reference to paint from. I wanted to show that one could gather more information while out looking at the actual objects, leaving less to the imagination later. I also wanted to get them thinking about the materials they were using to draw with. Pencil was the go-to medium for everyone, despite having many other options at their disposal.

I decided to do a demonstration rather than a taught lesson this time and set up a chair at the door to the studio. From here the view was the convergence of paths from all parts of the prison. The road from main entrance comes in from the bottom left. Ahead is the mens area with their visiting area and the people selling wares produced in the prison. From the upper left is women’s area, farm, kitchens, woodwork and metalwork, tailoring classroom, and the construction room where the ceramics classes were taking place. To the upper right is school, and a playing field. The lower right leads to the guards offices. The central focal point is a large tree whose trunk and lower boughs are painted with stripes. To make the initial line drawing I used a biro, concentrating on building the drawing up from the centre in a series of smaller shapes. I added tone with dilute black india ink and a fine brush. I kept the further away details light in tone increasing intensity towards the foreground. Much bolder strokes at the very foreground, further added to the illusion of depth.

Demonstration drawing with a twig and indian ink

Using unconventional drawing tools

That morning I had collected a number of twigs and other items to use to draw with. I remember the joy of revelation when I discovered  drawing with unconventional tools. Having to adapt to the particular traits of different objects challenges your hand eye co-ordination new ways. This results in much looser, more lively looking drawings. At first most of the students thought it was rather funny, it didn’t appeal to them. One man was fascinated and asked if he could take over, which I obliged of course. He proceeded to work a bit on my drawing before beginning his own.

While all this was going on the class were working on their oil paintings, taught by John Galvin, a painter based in Moate, Co. Meath. The next time they were heading out to get new source material I encouraged them to bring ink and brushes as well as pencils.

A sketch for a painting, with colours written as notes. Stapled to easel

Finan drawing with a stick and indian ink

Finan’s work in progress

Finan’s drawing with a twig and indian ink