Foundation Course Diary – Entry 1

Follow a beginner on their journey through the foundation course.

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” Andre Gide

Mondrian Journal 1

I stand in front of the easel in studio101. The afternoon sun is streaming through the windows to my right. To my left, a configuration of small white boxes. I am wondering how I got to be here, in this place of beginning and unknowing. But before I am overwhelmed by this train of thought someone is at my shoulder breaking down the task into simple steps: stand back; see the whole; draw from the shoulder and do not be afraid. Suddenly, it doesn’t feel so daunting.

The first lesson is that of proportion: start by seeing the block, of which the white boxes are just a part. If I can identify the outermost axis then I can pin down the ratio of size and distribution. This means that when Icome to drawing a figure, it will not have a head twice as big as the body – I hope.

I spend the next hour drawing lines – top and bottom horizontals first; then left and right verticals; finally the internal edges of the boxes. Then I move onto a wine bottle and cup. I continue to focus on the dominant lines, keeping them straight and the objects two-dimensional. I think I see echoes of cubism yet the technique dates back to Renaissance Europe.

Every so often a firm yet sensitive voice intervenes and poses two simple but fundamental questions: Too big or too small? Too wide or too narrow? I think for a moment, stand back and seeing things afresh, start again.

I am no prodigy but begin to discern a method. I realize that there is a journey of learning that everyone passes through, even the greatest artists. Above all I feel supported by the authoritative and sensitive intervention of my teacher.

Like nowhere else, Lavender Hill Studios has created a space in which I feel safe to expose my unknowing. The teachers are trained in house and supported to develop their practice. As a result they are best placed to coax novices through.

My first class over and I have learnt a parallel lesson: that of perspective. By standing back I see the whole better; by seeing the whole I understand its relationship to the parts. Perspective teaches me that genius is rare and hard work is better. Perspective, in painting as in life, allows me to loose sight of the shore.

Foundation Course Diary – Entry 2

Follow a beginner on their journey through the foundation course.

What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail? Robert H. Schuller.

Demoiselles Entry 2

My second lesson and I am quite literally back to the drawing board, armed with packing paper, charcoal and shamy leather. For a perfectionist I have grown remarkably comfortable with the idea of getting it wrong, rubbing it out and starting again. I have learnt not to be precious and above all not to be afraid of making mistakes. In fact, they are never mistakes just the art of learning. It is amazing how much you get out of a lesson at Lavender Hill Studios.

I pick my spot and resume my experiment in boxes. However, this is just a warm up as my teacher points me in the direction of a cast of three nudes, their arms interlaced, their backs facing the spectator. They look beautiful, like three vestal virgins.

I know I will not do them justice but nor was Rome built in a day. The exercise still lies in seeing the whole before the parts but now I am also adding strong diagonals. In my head I have come to identify these as lines of flight – where the latent power of the composition escapes and so gives it depth and meaning.

I begin to cut across the right angles with a few key strokes. I avoid curves and stick to straight lines. Soon, new shapes (and spaces) emerge from my block and the curvaceous bodies of the cast whisper across my page.

I haven’t got the proportion entirely right and I have given one of them larger hips than is flattering – may I be forgiven. But I am grasping the principle and can place the technique within a history of art. I am reminded of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and understand how indebted cubism is to its renaissance forefathers. Again, the context (or the whole) is helping me to refine my perception and hone my skills.

In retrospect I am amazed by my composure. I resolve that, yet again, it is testament to the teaching and preparation I have received. I have been given the confidence to try, and better to overshoot than to never try. With hindsight I know I was too ambitious but I have learnt so much more in the doing than if I had erred on the side of caution. It is OK.

Over the three hours I am never criticized only ever instructed. I stand beside more experienced students who have joined the school precisely because they have felt frustrated by the lack of rigour in their previous training. I feel fortunate to be learning so much without ever feeling the pain. I am looking forward to lesson 3.

John Singer Sargent Quotes


John Singer Sargent Quotes

John Singer Sargent Quotes

Here are some painting notes attributed to John Singer Sargent


1. Painting is an interpretation of tone. Colour drawn with a brush.


2. Keep the planes free and simple, drawing a full brush down the whole contour of a cheek.


3. Always paint one thing into another and not side by side until they touch.


4. The thicker your paint—the more your color flows.


5. Simplify, omit all but the most essential elements—values, especially the values. You must clarify the values.

6. The secret of painting is in the half tone of each plane, in economizing the accents and in the handling of the lights.


7. You begin with the middle tones and work up from it . . . so that you deal last with your lightest lights and darkest darks, you avoid false accents.


8. Paint in all the half tones and the generalized passages quite thick.


9. It is impossible for a painter to try to repaint a head where the understructure was wrong.


PALETTE: Silver White, Naples Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Ochre dew (English Red), Red Ochre, Vermillion, Ivory or Coal Black, and Prussian Blue.

“Yes…But is it art?” Morley Safer’s Infamous 1993 Art Story

Morley Safer’s Infamous 1993 Art Story.

A vacuum cleaner. A urinal. Three basketballs floating in water? In 1993, when Morley Safer took a critical look at the contemporary art world, these kinds of household items were being sold as high-priced art.

In his now-infamous 60 Minutes story “Yes…But is it art?” Safer took on artists, dealers and critics of the 90s with equal gusto. The artists, he said, make mostly “worthless junk,” or better yet, hire craftsmen to make it for them. Dealers, he said “lust after the hype-able.” Critics write in a language that “might as well be in Sanskrit.”


Atelier Art: Full-Time Course

Salford Artists’ Workshops (SAW) in Greater Manchester welcomes Lavender Hill Studios’ Jon Leyer

We are excited to announce that Jon of Lavender Hill Studios will be coming to Salford Artists’ Workshops (SAW) in Greater Manchester to run a full weekend, life drawing workshop.

SAW is an artists’ community that facilitates workshops to focus on specific practical skills. It was founded in 2011 and takes much of its inspiration from the atelier tradition.

Encajar at Salford Artists' Workshops (SAW) in Greater Manchester

Encajar at Salford Artists’ Workshops (SAW) in Greater Manchester

The workshop will be split into two parts:

1. Saturday and Sunday:  Students will draw from a life model and receive tuition in classical/traditional drawing using the ‘Encajar’ (‘envelope’) methodology.

2. Friday evening: Introduction to gesture drawing. Learn how to get the essentials of the subject on paper in a short session. This is a bonus class and optional for those attending the Encajar workshop.

For dates, prices and to book visit

Foundation Course Diary – Entry 3

Follow a beginner on their journey through the foundation course.

“Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.” Anaïs Nin

Water Carrier Entry 3

As I return to the studio for my third lesson, I run through the principles I have learnt so far: stand back, draw from the shoulder, light markings on the paper and, most importantly, see the box and then the lines of flight. Not forgetting my mantra of course: rub out and start again.

It all seems very simple, but I am prepared for a step back – perhaps one figure instead of three; frequent and slight rotations of the cast so that I can focus on the technique rather than the end product. I centre my attention on the slender, milk white nude to my left. She gives the impression of having gently nudged her contours into space. I love her tranquil gaze and the brazen nudity of her form.

Unfortunately my translation does not do her justice and my frustration rises in equal measure to her quiet. On the page she is wider, her features blunt and her proportions, disproportionate. How I can get it so wrong! Softly but with perfect timing and incredible insight a teacher’s voice shifts my focus back to the lines and the fundamentals of process vs product. A change of pose and pace; a fresh pair of eyes and few, sharp questions set me on course once more.

This is the first time that the subject I am drawing is necessarily smaller on the paper than in reality. I define the top horizontal, trace the bottom horizontal, mark my left vertical, then the right. Finally, but critically, I score in the major dividing lines – shoulders, hips, knees. Once the distribution is there, then I can think about chiselling the outlines of her limbs, but always in straight lines and sparingly.

I stand back and reflect. I compare the drawing and the cast. In a world dominated by product it is easy to forget that the process is as important. I am reminded of something I read recently: when you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur… don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens – and when it happens, it lasts.

With the same stroke I realise that for as long as a language, whether spoken, visual or other, has a grammar then whoever the teacher is, is secondary. I had been disconcerted by the presence of a new facilitator but the beauty of Lavender Hill Studios is that all the teachers are artists, sharing in that grammar. I understand suddenly that change stimulates learning, it keeps the student agile and focussed on the process.

Finally, a demonstration by one of the founders confirms my theory and raises my spirits. Demonstrations are invaluable in showing how the grammar comes together. They are spontaneous but determined, at once rigorous and relaxed. Ultimately they show that mastery comes in practice, not in a flash of lightening.

It has been a frustrating week, but also an illuminating one. I have come away empowered to work through the challenges and remain alive to them. I know I can gain nothing if I stop. I must push through.

Encajar: Lavender Hill Studios’ Atelier Art Method

I verbo transitivo
1 (algo dentro de algo) to insert: you have to fit the pieces of the puzzle together
II verbo intransitivo
1 (ajustarse) to fit

Lavender Hill Studios’ method is a blend of the Spanish and the Italian.  We break down any subject into four stages, Proportion, Line & Volume, Chiaroscuro, and Colour, each naturally leading into the next.  On their canvas or paper every student starts with a fixed top and bottom line.  Next the student draws the left and right hand lines representing the outer edge of the composition.  These are not fixed and can be fluidly adjusted back and forth, left and right.  After these four crucial lines are established we…………    Want to find out more?  Come visit us.

We have been sharing our method since the summer of 2004.  Lavender Hill Studios was born when Ann, Scott, and Nick set up the first full-time Atelier in England with a fresh outlook on it’s traditions and methods.  And since the very inception we have always taught encajar; to fit, to envelope.


Go Figure! 3 Day Figure Short Course

Go figure…..!

February 18th-20th   9.30-3.30   £225 for 3 Days

            A 3-day figure course in the grammar of drawing and painting the model from life



Morning – proportion and line (charcoal)

Afternoon – gesture drawing  (charcoal)


       Morning – figure drawing -chiaroscuro (charcoal)

       Afternoon – figure in grisaille (oil paint)


Morning – figure painting, limited palette (oil paint)

Afternoon – figure painting, extended palette

(oil paint)

 Basic materials (charcoal, paper, canvases) will be included in the fees but do bring any paints and brushes you already have. We have a fully stocked shop for art materials and can fill any gaps as we go…

 Cost £225

Go Figure! 3 Day Short Course

Go Figure! 3 Day Short Course

Please contact Daisy for further information/booking the course tel:0207 2232360 email:

Gesture & Anatomy Course

Gesture & Anatomy

Tutor – Jon

Monday evening will focus on dynamic gesture and anatomical structures. The core of the class will be short drawings from a model supplemented by an optional take home project.

Through a variety of models, themes and poses, students will develop an instinctive understanding of the human form and the mechanics of movement.

Mondays January 7th-March 18th, 4.30-6.15pm

£75 – Full Time LHS Students/ £100 Part-Time LHS Students/  £150 – Outside Students

Gesture & Anatomy Class

Gesture & Anatomy Class

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