Courage – Daily Therapy for Artists


“Re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book.” Walt Whitman


What is a Photo Transfer?


The subtle lovely image above looks just like a drawing!  It is in fact, a photo transfer.  Here I will show you how in this easy exercise which takes about 15 minutes.   You will need to prepare first by making a colour photocopy image to work from (I did mine at the local library.)  Photos of relatives, babies and children work really well with this process and with a frame around they look fantastic for a bedroom or wherever.

You will need:

  • A coloured photocopy of a subject you like.
  • A small bottle of Acetone (available from the hardware store)
  • Good quality artists paper (I used cartridge paper)
  • Clean rags
  • Rubber gloves
  • a 6B pencil or similar
  • an artists’ board or firm piece of cardboard to work on.  (I used a resin plate I had for mono printing.)

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As I was working on  a childhood theme at the time, I decided to use this colourful romper suit to work from.  My mother had made one of these suits for me from an Enid Gilchrist pattern book when I was a child.  Working on this created wonderful memories of play, freedom, adventure, sunshine, climbing, playing, freedom and fun.

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Firstly, I cut the cartridge paper to fit the photocopy (in this case A4)  and placed the romper suit image on the board face up.   Make sure the board is clean of dust and debris.  Next I placed a white piece of cartridge paper on top of the play suit image.

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Next I wet a clean rag with the acetone and rubbed it over the top piece of cartridge paper where the image would have been underneath. I could see the shape of the image underneath as I was doing this

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Next I went over the top page with a 6b graphite pencil held horizontally so as not to tear  it.  I pressed firmly and carefully at this stage making sure to cover the entire area where the image would be.  The wet top page dries off quickly so there should be no problems at this stage.

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Next I peeled the acetone soaked top page off to reveal a beautiful shimmering image of the romper suit complete with subtle shadows.

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I then decided to take the work further by cutting around the original image with Photoshop to isolate the play suit (below right.)

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The image on the left was what I came up with.  I preferred the first attempt myself although if you are a “neat freak” this process may appeal to you. Voila!  This was so easy I am going to do some photo transfers of children and give them as gifts for Christmas.

For more on Enid Gilchrist diy patterns and rompersuits see

Drawing – Can You Match the Tones?

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Can you match the tones in the photograph?  This is an easy exercise, all you will need  is a soft pencil.  Allow yourself about 30 minutes and stop there even if the drawing is not finished.

Try not to be hard on yourself, after all, you are not doing a drawing for the royal family. See how lazy and casual I was with mine.  Drawing is about meditating through the process and is supposed to be a form of relaxation!  I love half finishing drawings too because it gives the viewer a chance to participate in the work.  He has the chance to make up his mind about what is not shown.  Many famous artists deliberately decide a work is finished when there is space left for contemplation.

To make it easy this time, you may want to lightly trace the main shapes first then lay the page alongside the photograph and copy the tones. The exercise is made simpler by using only 4 tones, light (the white of the paper), medium, dark and darkest.

It may help if you refer to the tonal bar from the previous post called “Drawing – Living in the Light.”

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Build up the tones gradually paying particular attention to the hard and soft edges. Squinting helps to compare your drawing to the photograph.

Have fun with this and remember…your drawing is good enough despite what you may think!



An Easy Exercise with Oil Crayons after Modigliani

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Modigliani was an Italian painter who painted mainly in France during the 1920’s.   He was a figurative painter who was known for his modern style.  His style was characterized by mask-like faces and elongation of form. Sadly, he died at age 35 from meningitis caused by poverty, overwork and addiction to alcohol and narcotics.

Here is a simple way to copy the unmistakable style of Modigliani using oil crayons, baby oil and a pencil.

Allow 1 ½ hours for this exercise.

You will need:

  • 1 set of oil crayons (these are usually inexpensive)
  • 1 A3 size piece of good quality paper which will take some heavy duty “crayoning” (you can use a smaller piece of paper if you wish.)
  • 1 bottle of baby oil (I used coconut oil.)
  • 1 6B graphite pencil
  • A clean rag or disposable kitchen cloth.
  • A picture to copy from.  It is best to use a person with their neck and shoulders visible in the snapshot.  Great photos are obtainable from with no restrictions on copying.
  • 1 medium sized paint brush (watercolour brushes are good)

In true Zen style, you will approach this exercise with no purpose in mind; you are doing it for the fun of it, the joy of it.  If you can let go and enjoy the process, you will be surprised at the result.

Step 1

Tape your paper to a board (optional).

Taping the Board

Step 2

Loosely draw in the figure with a black oil crayon. Make sure to show the head, shoulders and clothing.  The more elongated the face and neck the more like a Modigliani your work will be.

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Step 3

Fill in all over the drawing with light coloured crayon.  I had only a dull orange so went over it again with white.  Don’t worry about staying within the lines, just colour over everything.  The grey smudges will add life to the work.

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Step 4

Select your colours and place them out of the box.  To obtain colour harmony it is best to restrict yourself to either:

You may use various tones of these colours so get out all the reds, all the greens, black and white or all the yellow/oranges, all the blues, black and white.

Colour the shapes with the selected colours.  Go over them again with another colour to blend and make interesting shades.  Go over the colours a third time to make sure there is a thick coating of oil crayon.  The more oil crayon on the paper the more the work will look like an oil painting.

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Step 5

Paint the baby oil on all sections of the drawing.  Make sure to wipe your brush clean with a kitchen cloth before painting over a new section. This will help to avoid “muddiness” of colours.

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Step 6

Draw in the outlines again with your 6B pencil to sharpen up the image.   Make it nice and dark and keep your marks loose.  You may wish to hold the pencil by the tip to loosen up.  Don’t worry if you go outside the lines.  That’s what makes a loose authentic picture drawn by a unique person – you!

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In the end, I thought my painting made the girl look too pretty.  If you research Modigliani’s work, you will see the elongation much more pronounced and the faces more mask like.

Here is a portrait done by Modigliani for you to compare your work with.


Courage – Daily Therapy for Artists


“Don’t think of what you have to do, don’t consider how to carry it out. The art will only go smoothly when it takes the artist himself by surprise.”  Eugen Herrigel