Observing the Human Form

September is always the beginning of a new work year for me.   A time to re-evaluate.

I was fortunate enough to go to art college in the early sixties when life/figure drawing was a key element.     In fact, there  is no better way to hone observational skills than to work from either a nude or draped model.

It’s good to see that this traditional way of training the artist’s eye is back in vogue.    I see that life groups are springing up all over the place.

Note that in this watercolour, I am again using the same techniques as shown in my tutorials.     By applying juicy paint into the negative space surround the model…..the model is revealed.     All the white you see in this image is dry white paper.    

Twenty minute watercolour from Boathouse Studio series.   



In an ideal world, I would work from a life model at the beginning of each day.     As I have mentioned many times before on this blog, artists are no different than dancers, athletes or musicians…..we need to warm up….and the most integral part of warming up is to hone observational skills on a daily basis. 

In a life drawing/painting session it is the norm to begin with a series of very fast one to 5 minutes sketches.      When I tutor life painting sessions, I suggest that people use newspaper for the very fast sketches.    As mentioned before, this frees people up to make rapids marks without the fear of messing up good paper.    Consequently, this is often when the best work is done.     

It is during these fast sketches that we begin to observer the model’s form, and equally as important the space surrounding the model, (negative space.)      By observing and sketching the human form we hone all our basic skills.

In this fast fell tip pen and watercolour sketch, I have left the space surrounding the model (negative space) as dry white paper.    

In these sketches it is my goal to capture the gesture and essence of my subject.    Once again, less is more comes into play.     We don’t have to fill in all the spaces, the viewer’s eye will do that.

Twenty minute watercolour from the Boathouse Studio series. 


For those who are concerned about their drawing skills, here’s something to think about.     None of us came into the world able to write our own signature.    We had to learn how to do this……and it is exactly the same with drawing the human form or anything else. Remember the fifteen minute a day exercise….This quote from the book Buddhist Offerings, says it so beautifully……

Do not take lightly small, good deeds, believing that they can hardly help.    For drops of water, one by one, in time can fill a giant pot.

A Bientôt



18 thoughts on “Observing the Human Form

  1. ShimonZ

    Every word is gold, Janet… but the paintings just knock me out with pleasure. I so love the first one. I wish you an ideal world. You know, I had a very good world, and all of a sudden, my dear friends decided to improve it and pressed the shuffle button. I still haven’t seen what they’re preparing for me. But meantime, my world has gotten even better. I dare not imagine an ideal world. But I’m amazed that even this late in life, it can still get better. Wishing you a beautiful day. xxx

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Good morning Shimon….
      I am so happy for you that life has taken on a new and exciting adventure…..proof that it’s never too late for change and that ‘none of us is ever creative enough to know how things will actually work out’!:) Wonderful.

      Thank you so much for your comments re this post – they are so appreciated:)

  2. gini

    I can remember when I first saw your nude paintings. I felt somehow uncomfortable.. but as my un-perfect world evolved.. I could see such beauty in the essence of we humans. Feeling almost what you see. I am grateful. YOU SHINE my dear friend!! gini

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Good morning Gini,
      Thank you for this lovely comment.
      It is not uncommon for people to feel uncomfortable with paintings of the nude, however, by observing the figure we are observing the purest form of life.:)

  3. Suzy Davidson

    Hi dear J – the first painting is lovely – but I really like the way the paint has created a perfect thigh muscle in the second – the magic of watercolour.


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