Barbara Hepworth sketchbook course

I am sharing my sketchbook created on a recent course with Hilary Jean Gibson here in St Ives.  A three day workshop exploring sketching & water colour paint techniques with inspiration collected at the wonderful Barbara Hepworth Museum & Sculpture Garden.

As part of my year of personal development I had booked this course with the St Ives School of Painting.  I am not a huge fan of water colour as a medium but the opportunity to develop ideas from being in the Barbara Hepworth Garden was such a great opportunity.  Also it is good to try new things!



After an introduction to each of the participants (there were 9 of us), Hilary herself & to the School of Painting for those who had not visited before we then took the short stroll to the sculpture garden.  Luckily we managed to avoid the showers - I do not enjoy drawing in the rain I'm afraid!   The gardens were not busy either so we were able to sketch & observe the sculptures & wonderful plants without too many other people there.  I made several quick pencil drawings as suggested but found it was really the gestural marks I made to represent the feelings of the sculptures which were more successful in my opinion.  I do not usually draw with pencil preferring to work with a fine line pen so this was also out of my comfort zone.

After lunch we returned to the studio & began working with paint.  We were mixing colours to try to obtain a verdigris & bronze tone which was right up my street!  This was followed by applying some washes to the pages in our sketch book in preparation for the next day.  One of the new discoveries for me, generously shared by Hilary, was the use of cling film!  Applying it to wet paint & allowing to dry creates the most incredible surface effects.  I want to try this with acrylic too (my usual medium).


Upon returning home I printed several photographs I had taken during the day for a visual reference of some of the colours & textures.




Today we were working in ink - which I do prefer if I am honest.  We explored some mark making techniques before returning to the garden for further sketching.  It is prohibited for you to use water/paint etc within the garden/museum so this had to be done after the visit.  I do tend to work quite quickly so I did produce several sketches within our lovely little water colour book supplied by the school - A 5 size with a nice quality paper.  Most of my spreads are over the 2 pages too which I also prefer to do.




I did a couple of drawings of the sculptures with the garden & included some of the architectural plants too which offer great contrasts to the surfaces of the pieces.  At the time I didn't particularly like these drawings but in retrospect I think they are ok.  What I did discover though that it is important to still draw & observe things properly, to spend time really looking.  You do not have to complete a 'perfect' illustration but you can capture a moment or feeling at the time.



Upon returning back to the studio we continued to work in the sketchbooks for the final hour.



Hilary gave us the option to return to the garden again for further drawing or stay at the studio.  She also gave us some coloured paper to work on for a different effect.  This drawing is one which I particularly like enough though I had avoided drawing that sculpture previously! It was very interesting for me to visit the garden on several occasions (of course I have been numerous times before but never to draw) & each time I was drawn to a different sculpture or area of the garden.  I will definitely make time to go on a more regular basis with a sketchbook of course.




The final part of the course was spent back at the studio to continue with the drawings or paintings we had started.  I was slightly determined to complete my sketch book if possible so worked quite intensely on the last few pages.


I started to isolate some of the imagery from the photographs thinking how I may use some of them in my metalwork or jewellery.  I even started to incorporate some of the photos into the pages.  Something I will continue to do as they are an important reference to the course.



So after 3 days I am not converted to water colour painting completely but it is a useful tool especially to get rid of the 'white page' of a new sketch book.  I loved the cling film effect & mixing colours.  I have rediscovered the importance of drawing & observing.  I am pleased with the reference book I have created & the memory of the time spent within the sculpture garden.



I have not booked another course yet but I am looking forward to perhaps doing something different again in the winter months.  I can really recommend the St Ives School of Painting if you are considering a course yourself as the tutors, resources & location are fabulous!



Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published