Learning to draw is about learning to see

I didn’t think I’d be able to write a blog tonight. But, I seem to be getting into a habit and it somehow feels wrong, a little incomplete if I don’t produce something. I wonder if it’s something to do with ‘muscle memory’ which my Tai Chi master says will kick in sometime, and, when it does I’ll actually be able to remember the series of movements which makes up the Chen style form.

Anyway, I’ve learnt that there are tools called ‘spazzles.‘ Available from Toolstation outlets throughout the UK probably. I’d seen the exact same thing being used the previous day by chaps working alongside tarmac spewing machinery laying new road surfaces around Oldham. I love the word but it’s not what I’d call onomatopoeic.

This led to a brief discussion about the Pluto fly-by and how it’d be great to see a photograph with a sign saying: ‘ This planet has been purchased to make way for a hyperspace bypass.’ You need to be a bit of a Douglas Adams fan to get this one as it’s from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

I’m finishing off this evening with a quote from gem of a book I spied in a local charity shop. I was attracted to its form initially. It’s an unusual size, with a black rubbery cover which has a central cut out and white and black raised wording. As a book it has a really interesting feel, look and style; its use of black and white, reminding me of the concept of chiaroscuro I explored a little in a previous blog.  Anyway, beyond the beauty of the book itself it holds lovely treasures within. It’s ‘101 Things to Learn in Art School’, and I’d just like to share the fantastic No. 2 thing:

“Learn to draw. Drawing is more than a tool for rendering and capturing likenesses. It is a language, with its own syntax, grammar and urgency. Learning to draw is about learning to see. In this way, it is a metaphor for all art activity. Whatever its form, drawing transforms perception and thought into image and teaches us how to think with our eyes.’


Chiaroscuro and muesli

No worries today. Continuing my learning from yesterday around Itten’s contrasts, Michael Freeman’s book ‘The Photographer’s Eye’ triggered a photography trip to Salford Quays. It’s not one of my favourite places as it’s always windy, has rather grey buildings and mucky canal water but is rather fortunate in its modernist architecture. I don’t know why but Manchester’s adopted colours for its new buildings appear to be many shades of grey. Also the main colour of the trams on MCR Metrolink until very recently.

Anyway, what have I learnt today? The answer is ‘chiaroscuro.’ Literally light/dark. It means illuminating a dark scene, often a painting, with shafts of light. It’s a combination of two Italian words:

chiaro – pronounced kyaa-roa – meaning clear; pale, light, plain, distinct


scuro – pronounced skoo-ro – meaning dark, obscure

Joshua Itten identifies it as ‘ one of the most expressive and important means of composition’ as it controls the three-dimensionality of an image, the structure and which parts draw the attention.  There are many examples of its use in paintings  and this recent photograph by Paul Railton certainly seems to have all the 3 aspects of Itten’s contrast of light/dark.


I’ve also spent some time learning Flickr. An account I set up a few years ago whilst on an on-line learning event but didn’t have any pics to add. Well, I’ve been asked twice now where I’m putting my photos so here they are.

My trip to Media City  included discovering a little bistro and coffee shop called Pokusesvski’s which is well worth knowing about if you’re in the windy climes of Salford Quays.

I’ve also learnt that Alpen now does a version which contains swirls of dark chocolate. Unfortunately, without my varifocals, when making my choice from the extensive variety of Swiss style muesli, the box just looked like the Original Alpen. I have to say it’s horrible! Especially with my preferred liquid, orange juice, not like Terry’s Chocolate Orange at all. Inevitably I have spent mindless minutes of my precious time picking individual chocolate swirls out of the wheaty flakes. It does seem to have a slightly different taste though and, the swirls taste quite nice on their own! They just don’t belong in Alpen!!