One of my great enjoyments is drawing and painting the figure, especially the one in action. Life drawing is the finest way of improving your drawing skills, and even now I wish I could do more. During my years of active caving figure work became more important, for without the figure in a cave you get no sense of scale. Sometimes we posed for each other in some climbing/caving position, but some of the best work I did involved catching views of cavers as they struggled through difficult features of the passage. For some reason many seemed reluctant to maintain a difficult pose when perched 80 or 100 feet above a sheer drop with their only means of support being that of thrusting their limbs out to jam themselves in position: no holds, and smooth wet rock. For the artist such a pose can be so dynamic, so tense, and with a look of absolute concentration on the model’s face. Jenny was especially good at it.
To the left is a page out of my sketchbook, showing a caver preparing for a rope-climbing competition, an excellent time to get all manner of models. I draw rapidly, making many mistakes, but every now and then one will succeed. many are abandoned as the model moves away from a certain pose, but with perseverance and practice you will find it becomes easier. Usually the model repeats poses, so that you can go back to an earlier unfinished drawing and continue.
In a caving environment I often have to work so fast that as cavers move through the passage I only have time to do a leg or arm, so end up with the left leg of one caver, the right of another, the nose of a third, and so one……great fun! It’s a bit of a problem when someone says afterwards “You’ve caught me really well there,” knowing full well that not only was that someone else’s left whatsit, but that someone else was of the opposite sex!
At the moment I’m working on artwork for the next Llandoddies book which is crammed with action figures, not to mention a few monsters, so all this practice and recording is paying dividends. I try to capture characters at all opportunities – the London underground is an excellent place, cafes and restaurants also make fine ambush points, and any large event where you can wander around and do some candid sketching. So naturally, it always pays to have that sketchbook on you, perhaps hidden within the pages of The Times or Playboy, as the mood suits you. It’s quite surprising the number of monsters that you come across in your day-to-day travels!