A very great many years ago, when I first started to become interested in this thing called ‘art’, by chance I came across the Picasso painting of 1902, Blue nude.

I remember that what struck me most forcefully about Blue nude was the lack of clear distinction between foreground and background, the figure being delineated almost entirely by that bold, black line.

I was also much attracted to the texture of the work and the way that the colour seemed to be created by applying paint on top of paint rather than by mixing (remember please that I was young and knew nothing of art and painting at this point). At the time, had someone spoken to me of life-drawing, I doubt that I would have understood what they were talking about.

Above: female, fully reclined, graphite

About ten or twelve years ago, on retiring from a career in graphics and teaching, I took up life drawing as a serious pursuit and began attending a local weekly life drawing group. My standard medium is graphite in the form of the graphite sticks and blocks rather than pencils.

Above: male, fully reclined, graphite

Because I have a tendency to become very laboured in my work—not just with the life drawing—which always results in something stiff and awkward, I have adopted a deliberate practice of disrupting the work in some way whenever I feel that it is in danger of becoming a little stilted. Most often I will do this using the hard plastic eraser as a mark-making tool, and/or by making random marks on the paper.

Above: Becky, fully reclined, graphite and pastel

In the past I have worked almost exclusively with the graphite with only an occasional excursion into colour. There are one or two people in the drawing group who work with acrylic paint and although I don’t want to go there, in the last year or so I began to feel that I ought perhaps to explore the use of other media in my drawings. It’s the mark-making that interests and excites me so I turned first to other mark-making media such as pastels and crayons.

Left: male, standing, graphite, Conté pastel and acrylic marker. Right: Becky, fully reclined, Conté pastel and acrylic marker

I have a few 15 mm acrylic markers that I have been experimenting with. I hesitate to call the result ‘mixed-media’ because the model poses are most usually between ten to thirty minutes and so do not allow for a considered and deliberate approach. In the shorter poses this ‘mixing’ may be no more than applying colour marks with a pastel or a marker.

In recent months I have made some deliberate attempts to explore what I term (if I have to or I am asked to), foreground/background disruption in which the background of the drawing—perhaps no more than some colour marks—comes over and into the figure itself.

Rich, fully reclined, charcoal and pastel

Above: male, sitting, pastel

Looking at some of these drawings recently it occurred to me to wonder how much this is due to that early fascination with the Blue Nude painting. Now I hasten to say that I am not comparing my drawings to the work of Picasso, I am merely pondering on how my very early fascination with Blue Nude may still be an influence on me.

Created By
john david petty


All drawings ©John D. Petty

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