Workshop with Matilda (Tilly) Michell

Drawing Workshop


Gallery Lane Cove

Highly accomplished oil painter, art teacher and art mentor Matilda Michell presented a wonderfully informative autumnal drawing workshop at Gallery Lane Cove. The drawing workshop was full of artistic gems. Matilda commenced proceedings focusing on the basics of drawing.

How to correctly hold a pencil to encourage freer mark making was demonstrated. Sandpaper can be used as a sharpener! If you rub the pencil along it then a sharper point can be achieved and broader lines can be attained by dragging the pencil along sideways. “As an artist you are always composing,” remarked Matilda. You are constantly thinking about the placement of the line and the proportions of the composition.

There are many ways of working out proportions. You can hold up the pencil length and measure out components with it but it must be held correctly for this approach to be accurate. “You should have your compass in your eyes,” commented Matilda. Another way to get proportions is to take angles off the vertical. In addition, you can use a square and work out dimensions based on this way of seeing a composition. Structural lines can also aid in working out how all the elements relate to one another.

Matilda illustrated salient points by referencing classical artists such as Cambiaso, Michelangelo, da Vinci, Sargeant, Rubens and Chardin. How various artists achieved form was covered. The devices they used such as shading and hatching were demonstrated.

A still life study was arranged and all these drawings techniques were shown. The class then proceeded to do their own drawings using three steps. The first step related to the placement of the lines. The second step was deciding how much tone to use and the final step was to soften the tone and complete the drawing.

Having a strong light source is important to getting strong highlights and strong tonal qualities. Matilda mentioned the concept of the “terminator line.” It is the boundary between light and dark where no cast shadow can be seen. It is important in determining exactly where tone will be applied.

Another demonstration was presented using coloured paper. The colour of the paper would serve as the mid tone. Using black willow charcoal and white conte enabled strong or light tonal areas to be added to the brown or grey paper. This was a magical exercise as one was just adding the extreme tones to create this drawing. Apparently Rubens used three coloured chalks to achieve drawing masterpieces.

As a final exercise for the day Matilda took inspiration from the work of Chardin. A still life was composed from everyday objects. Key things to be mindful of related to keeping things at eye level and importantly have a balance between unity and variety within the elements making up the composition.

Try and have a lead in object to the composition and have a balance around the centerline so that the composition is unified rather than presenting as two separate drawings. Throughout this exercise the class was encouraged to use a kneadable rubber to take out tonal highlights. It is amazing just how many different marks can be created using this technique.

It was such an enjoyable workshop where information was so generously given in a very clear manner by Matilda. It was the perfect tonic for an overcast autumn day….

Written By Margaret Vickers