Google recently revealed the top ten “how to” searches of all time, and “how to draw” made it in at number 5.
When you ask Google “how to draw”, the search results show an overwhelming number of step-by-step websites and videos on how to draw anything from a fox to the 3D alphabet. Whilst these instructional blogs and videos seem to satisfy the searcher’s needs, we know that it is with continued drawing practice that drawing skills improve. In fact, we have noticed that some students come to our classes after reaching the limit of what they can do through online training videos.
This is one reason why we do what we do. We design classes that help everyone and all skill levels – including those who are googling “how to draw”. Our teachers are all practising artists themselves, and aim to help you with whatever you are searching to do creatively.
Why do we draw?
We begin expressing ourselves unselfconsciously through drawing before we can say our own name as it is an instinct we are born with. But by the time we finish school, most of us don’t pick up a pencil again for a very long time. As drawing does not seem to be of tangible use for everyday life, it is easy to place less importance on it, and ultimately forget about it.
We draw for self-expression; to process thoughts and feelings; for pleasure; to record moments in time; to read and interpret the world. Drawing is valuable in our lives because it is a form of visual thinking and challenges us in different ways, from hand-eye co-ordination, to how we really understand and “see” an object in front of us.
People often seek drawing classes in adulthood because few things in life can generate the same feeling that creativity can. Drawing can be calming, it can challenge us and change our brain patterns. Drawing classes are also a “mature” way to continue what we loved doing as children; we may attend classes for the familiar feeling that drawing creates within us, or because we want to become a master of the craft.
We have also noticed that many people at Melbourne Art Class, once they have retired, seek drawing classes with us, because they now have the time to pursue something they have always wanted to do. We feel privileged that we can help these people reconnect with their creativity and the lost art of drawing.
The reasons why we draw are subjective and widely varied, however, we want to emphasise that it is never too late to pick up the pencil again.
We can teach you “how to draw”
Our classes provide an environment that cannot be replicated in an online tutorial. When you are around creative people, you feel yourself become more inspired and more likely to be motivated to return week after week. Practice, ultimately, will improve your drawing. And we believe everyone can draw.
We have a few drawing classes scheduled for the remainder of 2017 and we would love to help you improve, or refresh your drawing skills:
Although the weather is lagging a little, spring is definitely all around us. Beautiful pink and white buds are appearing and then blooming so quickly, leaving a beautiful blanket of colour on garden beds. The trees are transforming with abundant new growth and the birds are becoming louder each morning. This is such a fleeting time of this season, so we thought we would showcase some works that depict spring and rebirth in different ways. We hope this time of the year is also inspiring you, too!
Claude Monet was one of the most prolific French Impressionist painters. Through Monet’s works, some of which were the same scene painted at different times of the day and year to reflect the changing light and seasons, you can clearly see the approach of capturing one’s perceptions before nature. In this painting, Springtime, you can also imagine Monet setting up with his easel in the fragrant, warm countryside capturing the early blossom of spring.
La Primavera literally translates to the season of spring. This masterpiece was commissioned by Lorenzo Pierfrancesco de’Medici and now hangs in the Uffizi in Florence. Venus stands in the centre of the canvas in a lush orange grove on a beautiful carpet of wildflowers. It is a celebration of the return of spring and the ripeness and fertility that the season brings as it awakens the world out of its cold, wintery slumber.
There are a number of interpretations of this work. Some believe that the woman in the foreground of the painting represents Primavera, the embodiment of spring. Others believe the figures on the right to be Zephyrus grasping at the nymph Chloris. According to myth, he married her and she was transformed to Goddess of Spring. And some see the figure with roses as representing the metamorphosis of Chloris to Flora.
Mary Cassatt produced many studies of young girls during the early 1900s. The child featured in this work is Margot Lux, from the village near Cassatt’s country home who modelled for Cassatt in more than fifty of her works. This image captures a fleeting instant of play suggested by the movement of Margot’s clothes slipping from her shoulder and bundling her dress in both hands – perhaps before or after running. The striking, pink flower in her bonnet and the warm background portray this beautiful moment on a spring day with soft application of paint and sensitive detail.
This work celebrates the preparation of the land as spring nears. It shows the community working together to prepare the soil, sow seeds and plant crops as the world itself wakes up from a cold, Flemish winter. Brueghel would take his father’s sketches and drawings (Brueghel the Elder), and would execute them in paint, and many of these works detailed the lives of Flemish peasants. This particular piece is a re-working of his father’s drawing of 1565.
Hokusai was a ukiyo-e painter and printer of the Edo period in Japan. He was inspired by Mt. Fuji and produced a series of thirty-six woodcuts depicting different viewpoints of the impressive volcano, entitled Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji. This work is part of that series and celebrates not only Japan’s national icon but its most revered season. Springtime is so heavily celebrated throughout the country that they have blossom reports on television during the weather report, complete with maps of Japan, which slowly turn pink as the whole country blooms. In Hokusai’s work, you can see the couple on the hill on a picnic blanket underneath the cherry tree; this is still a popular activity around the country and is the traditional way to enjoy the blossom in Japan. The other figures are dancing and celebrating the arrival of this vibrant and important season for Japanese people; not only is it meaningful for the farmers, the joy of spring is culturally ingrained
Renoir’s work is absolutely bursting with colour, vitality, and spring. This is one of Renoir’s earlier works, as you can see the precise rendering of reality (although there is an apparent looseness), painted before his great Impressionist works of the 1870s. This wild work lends itself to a country garden in spring. The brightness of it, glowing with light and colour indicates that Impressionism is just around the corner.
Sisley was there at the beginning of Impressionism with Pissarro and Monet, and a pioneer of the plein-air method and the movement’s aesthetic. Sisley’s work took on a new vitality when, due to financial reasons, he was forced to leave Paris and move to the countryside in 1880. He loyally worked en plein-air, which can be felt in his work, The Small Meadows in Spring. You will notice that there are no hints of spring blossom or wild flowers in this piece. It is his daughter painted in the foreground who represents the image of spring and new life.
The almond tree is one of the first to bloom in the southern regions of France and is a symbol of spring which can arrive as early as February. This beautiful, Japanese-inspired work was a gift for Van Gogh’s brother, Theo, whose wife had just given birth to their first child. The painting was meant to hang above their bed and represent new life.
We had to include a second painting of Monet’s in this list, because this piece captures such a beautiful moment of solitude, in nature, and also reminds us how important it is to disconnect and be outside. Featured in this painting is Monet’s first wife, Camille Doncieux, who, before they were married, was his model in the 1860s and 70s. It has been claimed that she also modelled for Renoir and Manet.
This serene setting, with the dappled sunlight dancing on her dress through the canopy of trees, the wildflowers in the foreground and patches of warmth in the background magically captures a special moment in spring.
Dutch-born Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema was infatuated with Rome and the ancient world. A classicist painter, in this work he portrays the annual Victorian custom of sending children into the countryside on May 1, however, the scene is placed in Rome.
In this impressive work, he used his extensive research of the ancient world to depict the dress, sculpture, architecture, and musical instruments. The procession of figures adorned with spring flowers, playing musical instruments, and surrounded by townspeople above celebrating spring renders a spectacular and captivating scene.
Margaret Olley is a widely-recognised figure of Australian art and is one of the most significant still-life and interior painters. Ranunculus and pears is one of many Still Lifes she painted in her home, from which she drew inspiration. Many of her Still Lifes evoke the warmth and colour of spring. She also found beauty in the everyday objects she gathered around her, and most of her works feature pottery, art and exotica of her travels. She acquired many, many objects over her lifetime and her bulging studio almost became as famous as the artist herself! To outsiders, her house appeared chaotic, but Olley had actually arranged it like a Still Life.
We all experience the same material world, albeit at different times and under different circumstances. As artists, we look at the same objects, however, the infinite possibilities our minds present and the possibilities of the medium we use, open up unique paths of interpretation and representation. As observer and representer, we discover a unique version of a perceived reality.
Spanish artist, Antonio López García has mentioned advising art students that they must choose between the objective and the subjective. While some of the nuances of his statement may remain lost in translation, I think what this means for most of us is that we should be aware of the creative tension between representing the world we understand with fidelity (the objective), and the language, the signs, the symbols, techniques, and strategies we use to represent that world (the subjective).
If painting styles sit on a scale between the objective and the subjective, then Hyperrealism and Photorealism would sit at the objective end of the scale and Abstraction would be at the subjective end of the scale. A work really never has just one element alone, objective or subjective, but a mix of both, in different proportions.
For example, Hyperrealism and Photorealism are often images interpreted from a photographic image as the reference used by the artist, which has been used to assist in achieving extreme realist effects. However, although appearing objective, this technical process can introduce its own inherent element of subjectivity. Not only in the choices made (like subject and lighting), but subtly, in its technical means. Standing in front of a work by Juan Ford’s for example, soft, lens effects are evident, translated faithfully and most likely, consciously into the final painted image.
At the other extreme could be a work like that of Sean Scully whose abstraction looks subjective, but has various objective real-world origins. I’ve seen it quoted that Scully’s abstract paintings are inspired by the shapes and the patterns of New York City’s walls, facades, and hoardings. I’ve also read that they originate in Scully’s experience of a checkered Irish society. Either way, there is an objective element to a subjective interpretation.
As artists, we are able to perceive and receive that which we observe. It is the observing that drives us to respond in the creative act, but also our attempt to respond in the same creative act, which drives us back to observe. We inhabit a cycle of receiving from that which we observe and responding, all because we make.
As artists, a creative tension exists between the objective which we observe and perceive as external to us, the objective which we receive, and the subjective elements of our response. It’s tempting to say that an artwork is an entirely subjective product, but if art were entirely subjective, we would not consistently be able to see universal elements in art which we understand and discuss corporately. These elements are a transferral of the objective, the perceived, received by the artist and communicated effectively enough to be referenced by others as an objective real world element. Elements such as Scully’s clashing yet simultaneous association of forms which give us a visual sense of what we may later be told are relationships within a society or urban habitation. We may not know what Scully’s inspiration or intention was but we get a sense of the relationships described through the visual. Or that we get a sense of isolation and irony when viewing the ridiculously bound yet robustly physical masculine figure by Ford, which seems to also represent something of the current male experience. There are real world elements in these artworks which render them in part, reflections of an objective world.
The three painters I have mentioned have all received in some way. Ford, his Australian male locality and subjectivity, his conceptual formation. Scully received from the pattern and form of his society, both in the cityscape and sociologically, also from the development of painting into modernism and abstraction. López García, received from being trained by his uncle when he was a boy and from his encounter with his immediate environment and life. These artists, having received, have also chosen to respond through their art practice, or we could say have chosen to give, because they have not just responded, they have passed something on, as if they themselves have become a conduit of the world. Each artist a unique conduit derived from the tension between objective and subjective.
Vincent van Gogh came to realise that he could receive and give through his immediate surroundings of light, colour and persons in southern France. He opened up to this provision that for him eclipsed, at least for a moment, negative experiences such as mental health struggles and poverty. I am not advocating a cure-all in art, but the fruit of such receiving and subsequent giving was visible in the lines of people that inhabited the National Gallery of Victoria for months during the recent exhibition, Van Gogh and the Seasons.
I adore the reclusive, awkward man, Paul Cézanne. Although just like Van Gogh, he was committed to working from life around him, Cézanne didn’t necessarily represent the world perfectly. To my mind, his paintings were sometimes awkward and flawed, but from the awkwardness and from his unique way of seeing the world, a position developed which translated into great visual poetry in his later work. Cézanne tells me that while my mastery of my craft as a painter may seem slow at times, if I am open to being a student of the painting tradition and if I open myself to receiving from that which is around me, I will eventually respond from my own beautiful position in the world. In giving in this way, I add something to the world.
There are many drop-in life drawing classes around Melbourne, which are fantastic for artists who have experience in drawing from the figure. Here at Melbourne Art Class, we run a unique, six-week Introduction to Life Drawing Course, tutored by a number of our talented artists / teachers. We have designed this course for students who would like to learn the fundamentals of life drawing and receive one-on-one tuition in a supportive environment. During this course, students learn different techniques for drawing the figure, and many of our students complete the course multiple times to hone in on different skills with our teachers’ guidance.
Our current Life Drawing Course is presented by Hilmi Baskurt, and the students have achieved incredible results in such a short time! You can see some of their brilliant work below.
Our next Life Drawing Course will be presented by artist Jesse Dayan, and this will sadly be his final short course at MAC. It has been an absolute honour having Jesse teach our Life Drawing short courses, and we are very fortunate that he will still be able to run Life Drawing workshops here at Melbourne Art Class in the future.
You can find out more about our tutored Life Drawing Courses and enrol here.
Marco Corsini recently held a seven-week Introductory Portraiture Course, and the group of artists that took part helped make it one of our best portraiture courses yet!
During the course, Marco introduced students to the fundamentals of portraiture through working from various plaster casts. The class then spent a session creating self-portraits, with incredible results. Marco has commented that these become special drawings for him as a teacher.
“Every time we have drawn these self portraits from a mirror, whether it is a child drawing or an adult, inexperienced or experienced, I find the resulting drawings so intimate, that I feel like a trace of the person is in them. It is always for me, a significant moment.”
You can click on the images below to enlarge them.
The final four weeks were spent painting from a life model, with the students created some brilliant finished pieces. We want to highlight that most of these students were complete beginners, and we are very proud of how far they have come just after second weeks, and everyone should be very proud of their results!
We want to thank everyone who was a part of this course, as we believe we were really part of something special. We will be running another portraiture course later in the year – so watch this space!
Another Introductory Sketching Course has just drawn to a close, and the students are extremely pleased with their results!
During the first of six lessons with Hilmi Baskurt, students are free to draw however they like. Hilmi’s instructions began after this initial drawing, which is put to the side to compare with the final drawing at the end of the course. You may not be able to believe that complete beginners created these drawings from Still Life below..!
We are excited to introduce to you a new artist, and teacher who is joining our group of master teachers here at MAC – Michelle Zuccolo!
Michelle will initially be teaching our new Introductory Watercolour Course and our Studio Art Course for Teenagers – two art classes which are in high demand.
Michelle Zuccolo (MA (Visual Arts), BA (Fine Art), DipEd, IB cert., not only brings her extensive training to MAC, she is also an extremely accomplished, practicing artist who has maintained an ongoing exploration into the human form and its depiction in art.
Her work is underpinned by an interest in the human psyche, expressed in related portraiture paintings, life drawing and sculpture. She has been a finalist in many awards, including:
Portia Geach Memorial Award, E. H. Erwin Gallery, Sydney in 2011, 2013 and 2014, represented each time with a self-portrait.
In 2015 and 2016 she was a semi-finalist in The Doug Moran National Portrait Prize.
Five times in the Adelaide Perry Prize for Drawing.
Two times finalist in the Spring Festival of Drawing, Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery.
Two times finalist in the ARC Yinnar Drawing prize.
Finalist in the Castlemaine State Festival Dominique Segan Drawing Prize.
She has also been represented in the Australian 7th Drawing Biennale held at Drill Hall.
Michelle was also a recipient of the ISS Italian Services Institute International Fellowship in 2013. There, she was fortunate enough to been able to conduct research in Italy and Austria, studying classical and medieval art forms. Inspired and enriched by this experience, her artwork continues to reference and celebrate the human form and architecture, with symbolic and religious undertones.
Michelle has taught Visual Art for over twenty-five years at various levels of education including Secondary and we are very fortunate to have her join us at MAC.
Van Gogh and the seasons has been the fastest selling show in the history of the National Gallery of Victoria. Over 150,000 people visited the exhibition during the first month. There have been a number of people comment that they had expected to see Sunflowers, or Starry Night, and they were surprised by his darker work. As Van Gogh’s artistic career only spanned 10 years, only finding his most well-known style two and a half years before his death in Arles, we are taking a closer look at his earlier works. The years of study preceding the painting of Still Life with Apples and Pumpkins in 1885 play an important role in the establishment of Van Gogh’s dynamic style and the paintings that have become household names.
Under Anton Mauve’s short-lived tutelage, Van Gogh was introduced to still life objects. Normally a painting teacher would make their student study the work of another artist before they began their own compositions. Mauve, however, set up still lifes for Van Gogh, including apples, pumpkins and cabbages. This appealed to Van Gogh because, for him, they symbolised the harvest, and peasant life.
Van Gogh was living in Nuenen at the time he painted Still Life with Apples and Pumpkins. This was a particularly prolific period of his life; he produced 195 paintings, 313 drawings, 25 water colours, and 19 sketches in his letters to his brother Theo. 
Studying still life was not only cheap for Van Gogh (he did not have to pay for a model to sit for him), it also provided exercises in exploring light and how it affects colour. His palette was fairly limited, with mainly earthy tones, particularly dark brown. You cannot see any indication that this young artist would paint with such vivid colours, only two years later!
Van Gogh was aware that still lifes did not sell very well, however he wrote to Theo, “it is damned useful, and I shall continue to paint them this winter.”  You can see how Van Gogh has used the painting above as a very effective exercise in light and shadow.
Van Gogh also used still life to learn how to represent form using colour on the canvas. He applied varying tones of a limited number of colours to depict how the light fell and turned on the surface of objects to create planes, and form. Writing about his piece below, Van Gogh explained to Theo that he tried “to express the material in such a way that they become heavy, solid lumps – which would hurt you if they were thrown at you, for instance.” 
Only a year after he painted these still lifes, Van Gogh moved to Paris to live with his brother, and these dark colours were flushed out of his paintings and were replaced with the growing spectrum of Impressionist colour.
Paintings that describe fragmented domestic spaces populated with disintegrating walls, are timely. They come when the industrial spaces around Rosi Griffin’s Collingwood studio are rapidly transforming with new developments continually springing up for a swelling inner city population. They come at a time when massive rises in Australian house prices have turned property development and residential renovation into a national sport when glossy magazine style layouts of idealised domestic spaces cloud our image of that the home has been for most of us.
The paintings, Fragmented Dwelling and Urban Transformation, describe this time as the disintegration of the domestic space. Not only is the possibility of ownership becoming more remote for emerging generations but for those that have a home, the domestic space is now set in the context of surrounding development and unattainable images of perfection. The domestic space is being threatened on many levels as materialistic impulses cloud out communal and familial impulses. The stability and viability of that space is being torn, dislocated and shredded like the walls in these paintings. We can no longer claim to be escaping the slums, as Modernism claimed almost century ago, rather, it is now all for the sake of the new and the ideal as dictated by fake images of domestic perfection.
Walls create a space that not only protect, but also provide a known place, and in that place gradually builds a narrative of belonging. The experience of a neighbourhood, the identification with a place are held by familiar walls. The walls of our home, the walls of our streets, are pages on which our stories are written. Without them we fall into a a perpetual present with no past, perpetual change eroding a language of belonging. Language of home gradually disintegrates and becomes abstracted until all that we have in its place are traces of memory of what was. As in Build after demolition, we no longer have identifiable walls, just the trace of walls that define a present space with no history and no story. Edges without containment and protection.
Opening Friday 2 June, 6 pm to 8 pm at St Heliers Street Gallery, Abbotsford Covent, 1 St Heliers Lane, Abbotsford.
Van Gogh lived with his parents between 1883 and 1885 in Nuenen. During his time there, he met Antoon Hermans, a successful, retired goldsmith, with whom Van Gogh wanted “to remain on good terms if possible”.  From Van Gogh’s perspective, Hermans was “rich and has built a house that he’s filled with antiques again, and furnished with some very fine oak chests. He decorates the ceilings and walls himself, and really well sometimes.”
Hermans was also an amateur painter, and Van Gogh took him on as a student. This may come as a surprise with the knowledge that Van Gogh began pursuing his artistic career only four years earlier. Van Gogh had previous teaching experience after taking up a position at a boy’s school in Ramsgate, England after he lost his job at Boupil & Cie, the Art Dealers in Paris in 1876. He really enjoyed his time teaching, so much so he questioned it, writing to Theo, “These are really happy days, the ones I’m spending here, day after day, and yet it’s a happiness and peacefulness that I don’t trust entirely, though one thing can lead to another.”  There was also material motivation behind Van Gogh teaching amateurs how to paint, as he told Theo, “I have a plan, though, to gradually get people to pay something — not in money, however, but by telling them ‘you must give me tubes of paint.’  Van Gogh taught Hermans whilst he lived in Nuenen, and he also took on tanner Anton Kerssemakers and telegrapher Willem van de Wakker as students. Van Gogh taught them general painting techniques and how to paint still lifes.
Hermans was a particularly interesting student, because he wanted Van Gogh’s help to paint the interior walls of his house. Hermans had already painted flowers on twelve panels of his dining room, and he wanted Van Gogh to help him design images of saints for the remaining six panels. Van Gogh thought that scenes depicting the four seasons would be more suitable, and Shephard and his Flock above, is one of the images that Van Gogh created for Hermans to enlarge. This painting represented autumn. He has created a strong feeling of an oncoming stark winter with the angular, leafless trees. The contrast of the bright pasture and flock of white sheep against the dark, looming clouds and night setting in, vividly creates the feeling of a cold autumn evening.
As with a lot of Van Gogh’s work, Jean-Francois Millet’s influence can also be seen:
Van Gogh also used this project to improve his drawing of the human figure, as he engaged various models to complete the painting studies. He initially sketched an ox-cart in the snow (which was later replaced with wood-gatherers in the snow), a ploughman, a sower, a grain harvest, a potato harvest, and the above sower. He then created oil paintings from the sketches. Van Gogh made an agreement with Hermans that he would create six compositions for him to reproduce onto his walls, only if Hermans returned the paintings to him. It is unconfirmed if Hermans ever returned his paintings, or paid Van Gogh for the work.
Written by Lauren Ottaway
 Vincent van Gogh. Letter 229 to Theo van Gogh. Written Monday 4 August 1884
 Vincent van Gogh. Letter 229 to Theo van Gogh. Written Saturday 6 May 1876
 Vincent van Gogh. Letter 229 to Theo van Gogh. Written Monday 17 November 1874