drawing

A very special portrait night! by Michele Del Campo

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ENGLISH: What a fantastic gathering of talents in just a few square meters we had last Thursday! The place was my studio, and the names of the artists will sound familiar to many who appreciate painting at its highest level of representational skills. Some of them came from far away and knew each other by name or were virtual friends in the social media, but had never met in person before, some others were good old friends that regularly share space in high profile society exhibitions. There were all sort of drinks and food on the table, and the noise of our excited conversations was high, but when the time to draw came, suddenly absolute silence! I switched on the spotlight and each of us took turns in sitting still in the middle for 12 to 15 minutes. We all got busy at sketching against the clock, and in all sorts of mediums: pencils, sanguine, charcoals, pens, watercolours and even ipads! We ended up having a collection of everyone's portraits, and we could appreciate each others different approaches, but it felt so delightful to recognise ourselves in each and every sketch!

ESPAÑOL: Qué reunión más buena de talentos en apenas unos pocos metros cuadrados tuvimos el pasado jueves! El lugar era mi estudio y el nombre de los artistas sonará familiar a muchos de los que aprecian la pintura en su más alto nivel de habilidad representativa. Algunos de ellos vinieron desde lejos y se conocían de oido o eran amigos virtuales en los medios sociales, otros eran ya buenos amigos que exponen regularmente en sociedades inglesas de alto perfil como la ROI (Royal Institute of Oil Painters). Había todo tipo de bebidas y comidas en la mesa y el nivel de ruido de las concitadas conversaciones era alto, pero cuando vino el tiempo de dibujar, de repente el silencio absoluto! Encendí la lámpara y cada uno de nosotros se turnó sentándose en el medio desde 12 a 15 minutos. Todos estábamos ocupados a dibujar contrarreloj en una gran variedad de medios, desde lápices a sanguinas, a carboncillo, a bolis, acuarelas y hasta ipads. Terminamos teniendo una colección de retratos de todos los artistas presentes, y pudimos admirar los distintos acercamientos de cada uno, pero fue muy divertido reconocernos perfectamente en todos los dibujos!

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From left: José de Juan, Glenn Fitzpatrick, Adebanji Alade, Michele Del Campo, Haidee-Jo Summers, Peter Keegan, Graeme Messer, Nur Shodjai, Edward Ofosu.

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Sketching a dancer's movement by Michele Del Campo

Last week's life drawing session in my studio was another wonderful experience. Gabriella, Brazilian dancer, poet and singer, delighted us with dancing performances that challenged our way of perceiving the forms in movement. She did three different performances, where sensuality met expressivity and theatrical interpretation. It is very difficult to capture body in continuous movement, here are some of my attempts...

ESPAÑOL:

La sesión de dibujo del natural de la pasada semana en mi estudio fue otra experiencia maravillosa. Gabriella, bailarina, poetisa y cantante brasileña, nos delició con una actuación de danza que desafió nuestra manera de percibir las formas en movimiento. Gabriella interpretó tres danzas muy distintas entre sí, algunas más sensuales, otras más expresivas y teatrales. Intentar capturar el cuerpo en continuo movimiento fue una experiencia nueva, aquí van mis intentos...

"The Way to Darkness" by Michele Del Campo

I have been gathering many ideas in form of sketches and texts for my new exhibition during many months. Now I am picking up a selection of them and, after many re-considerations and re-elaborations, one by one is taking shape on canvases.

One of the images that occurred to me for my "Journey of no Return" exhibition was a naked girl who has just stripped her clothes off and walks dangerously on a railway, defying death in front of her friends. After a few months, where I had been working on other paintings, I retook this scene and reconsidered it under a new light Read more… / Versión española…. I wanted to give the scene the power to evoke solitude and abandonment, so I finally portrayed the girl alone.

The painting deserved a big surface to be contemplated in a scale that would benefit the perception of its dramatic beauty, so I made it into a challenging triptych of 170x400cm.

ESPAÑOL:

A lo largo de varios meses he ido acumulando muchas ideas en forma de bocetos y textos para mi próxima exposición "Viaje de no retorno". Ahora estoy seleccionando algunos de esos bocetos, reconsiderándolos y reelaborándolos y uno tras otros, se van convirtriendo en cuadros.

Una de las ideas que se me ocurrió para mi exposición “Viaje sin retorno” fue la de una chica desnuda que se acaba de desprender de su ropa y camina peligrosamente sobre la vía del tren desafiando a la muerte frente a sus amigos. Después de varios meses, en los que trabajé en otros cuadros, retomé esta idea y la reconsideré bajo otra luz. Quería que la escena evocase la soledad y el abandono así que, finalmente, pinté a la chica sola.

El cuadro necesitaba una superficie grande para que se pudiera percibir la escena en toda su dramática belleza, así que la he pintado en un tríptico de 170x400cm.

"La pelea", the process by Michele Del Campo

My paintings have a complex construction most of the times and here I show an example of how I use my reference material to convey the visual idea that I originally have in mind. Sketches are the first and most important stage of the creative process, they are a dialectic research inside one's own resorces. Sketches do not only fix visual thoughts on a permanent support but also catalize their development from the stage of an abstract concept.

Photography is the following stage, the skecthes become now my guide towards a richer source of reference. Nevertheless, photography also contributes to develop further the initial idea, as they confront one with reality, which has to be tackled with a more adaptive approach.

The next stage is working out the composition through a rough elaboration of the photographic references, which can be many and from various sessions.

Finally I take the brushes for the real painting. Here I re-interpret and re-adjust the information that I extract from my rough photographic composition giving it the intention that comes from my original idea. I can also change completely the appearance of some character if I need (in this painting, for example, the central character, the guy that struggles to start the fight, appears also on the right hand side, leaning against the wall, but I changed his appearance).

This is the original reference material

Journey of no Return: work in progress by Michele Del Campo

It is a delicate moment of my project: after so many sketched ideas, some photo shootings and further studies with more complex compositions, I start to paint what will be the final images. Now is when six months of gestation for my new project will see the final shape and now is when the result has to match my expectations and convey the message that I want to give.

I am now involved with one of my biggest paintings ever: a diptych of 160x400cm. Even so, because of the small scale of the characters, this new painting doesn't look that big to me, certainly it will be enjoyable to work more physically from one side to another of the canvases with big brushes.

New photos in Valencia by Michele Del Campo

I am an individual artist, I don't have a team work and a big budget so I have to rely on friends, improvisation and creativity to find what I need as a visual reference.

Only one month after my previous journey, I went back to Valencia in the middle of February, as I still had in mind some good ideas and locations for a photo shooting with Carles and friends.

I went well prepared with a precise idea of what I needed, after my previous visit to Valencia and many sketches studying the scenes. The chosen location was a bridge on the peculiar Turia old river bed, which now is a park that stretches along the old city walls (the water has been diverted from the city after the Big Flood of 1957). The dried bed of the river has left large, imposing bridges under which pedestrians can go by. If I give these bridges the right atmosphere in my paintings, it can be ideal to host scenes of dark, gritty and desolated urban environment, which will be a common feature in my next solo exhibition "Journey of no Return".

I needed several male and female characters with a fairly rough look idling about under the bridge, a couple of nice looking girls with an upper class appearance and a scooter, possibly an old Italian Vespa. Sometimes the air had to be tense and the anger tangible among some of the characters, creating a sharp contrast with the two upper class girls passing by. Carles and friends had to play the role of the rougher young people, while the beautiful sisters Carla and Alejandra had to be the more elegant girls.

The difficult bit was to find an old Vespa, in fact, looking around in Valencia, I realised that this is a very rare scooter nowadays. However often I have inexplicable strokes of luck and just the day before the shooting, in front of my flat's door, while I was entering after my unsuccessful search, a guy with a beautiful and curvy red Vespa from the Sixties came to stop just beside the door. Javi is his name and he is the owner of "La Oveja Negra", a quality restaurant and tapas bar near Plaza Xúquer. He at first liked the idea, so very kindly accepted to take the Vespa to the shooting and even to pose with the others.

Trip to Valencia by Michele Del Campo

For my new project "Journey of no Return" I had a particular scene in my mind, inspired by a dunes beach near Valencia and I flew all the way to there to gather reference material. In the beginning of January the sun was quite bright and the temperature higher than 20º! What a treat for someone coming from freezing  London! However pleasurable, what I needed was actually a grey, wintery setting, but luckily, towards the end of the day, colourful dark clouds would float about in the sky, giving it a little of that dramatic appearance that I was after.

In the following days I took several walks in the city to find interesting locations for some shoots. I saw a bridge and I halted to fantasise about a group of young people under it, half visible in the shadow and some of them disappearing under the beams. I soon phoned Carles, a very nice friend of mine who has loads of friends in Valencia. He was very pleased to help me and assumed all the weight of the organisation for me, phoning friends to check immediate availability and telling them what was needed for the shooting. I wanted at least four people to pose but at the end seven people turned up and were very happy to pose. It was not that easy and nice for some of them, who had to climb up to the beams by a ladder which was not long enough to make the task easy. Big thanks to all of them, particularly to Carles, for giving me their time.

I start my project "Journey of no Return" by Michele Del Campo

Finally I have begun to convert my sketches and ideas into photos that will be my main reference for my next painting project which, with many probabilities, is going to be named "Journey of no Return". After several months of thinking, doubting, processing raw ideas on paper, reading, looking at new references, experiencing real-life situations, I have come up with this new solo exhibition project which will show a darker side of the reality, in comparison with my previous paintings.

For a couple of paintings I had to look for a disused rail tunnel to use as background and, after a long research, I found just what I was looking for. It was a challenge to overcome the bourocratic obstacles that I found on my way everywhere I asked for information, help or permissions. I understood that I had to do it all by myself and try my luck. I researched, traveled, spotted the railway tunnels and found the prohibited way in: it was impressive, a tunnel filtered by the light through a series of magnificent arches.

It requiered a dose of courage and daring to organise the shooting there. I arranged everything the same day (and night...) that I found the tunnels, also thanks to the help and availability of four good friends who would be my models the next day. It was a greatly enjoyable experience for all of us and I was amazed at how they all took the shooting so seriously, also challenging the weather in one of the coldest days of the year. Three of them had no previous experience before a camera but I could not have found better "actors" to stage what my sketches only vaguely suggested.

I win the Life Drawing marathon at the Oubliette Arthouse by Michele Del Campo

On 28th December I took part in the Life Drawing marathon held in the first of the three nights events organised by the squatting Oubliette art group in their newly occupied space in the London district of Soho.

The place, originally a church, was then converted into the world-renown night club called "The Limelight" until it decayed and it was taken over by the Walkabout pub, which closed its doors one year ago. Now, occupied by the Oubliette group, it has been prepared with only the essential comfort but it has become an exciting space for sharing creativity in a friendly atmosphere.

Among the several artistic activities in program, like exhibitions, live music, poetry recitals, photography workshops and film screenings, there was also a life drawing marathon from 6pm to 5am. I ended up participating in it and drawing many hours. I especially enjoyed the activity, drawing a variety of people in solitary poses and rodinesque compositions. I met many interesting artists and friendly people there.

The marathon, organised by the Life Drawing Society UK, had to produce two winners who would receive an annual membership to enter for free in all life drawing activities held by the organisation around London. When I remained with only four more artists to draw, with models much more worn out than artists, the competition ended in a draw and I resulted being one of the two winners.  From now on I will have a good deal of life drawing and painting activity in program, between my own sessions in my studio and those that I will be able to attend for free in other venues around London.

Drawing the nude by Michele Del Campo

Life drawing is an indispensable practice for the artist, it enhances our ability to see, understand and create. Since the first official Accademia was created in the XVI Century by the Carracci brothers in Bologna (Italy) drawing the nude, activity commonly named "life drawing", has always been a central discipline for any aspiring artist.

Since I started studying arts I have never stopped practicing life drawing because I know that the quality of my work depends on the quality of my drawing. Even when using photographs as a reference, knowledge of the human form is essential to "fill the gaps" and go beyond the poor bi-dimensional reference. Lifeless portraits are the result of mere dependence on photography and poor knowledge of the features in real life.

Nevertheless it is as easy to build up drawing skills as to lose them in periods of inactivity. I can spend months without painting after a solo exhibition, when I am in search for new inspiration, and soon my ability to put visual ideas on paper suffers from lack of practice. I always compare it with sport: if you stop doing it, you will have difficulties starting again and will be out of shape. This is why I always try to do life drawing especially when I am not painting.

Life drawing in my new studio by Michele Del Campo

Since I came to London, in the beginning of 2008, I have been trying to go to places where I could draw the nude. Sometimes they were far from my house, sometimes the models were always the same and I would get bored, sometimes the classes were too full of people, sometimes too empty and they disappeared after a few weeks. But as soon as I decided to look for a bigger studio I started to cultivate the idea of using my space to host weekly life drawing sessions that I would organise myself.

That way I could not only be comfortable in my studio and have models coming over every week, but I also could create a social environment inviting friends artists and make the practice of drawing an enjoyable experience to share with them.

The idea worked out very well, also thanks to the help of my friends who continue bringing new artists. We gather every Wednesday night in my studio to draw all together, normally we are from 6 to 10 people. When we finish we go out to have a drink and talk, after all we are in Soho, there can be no better place to create a social meeting point.

"The Intruding Light" by Michele Del Campo

There are many studies behind a single piece of work. I have selected only a few here to show the process, the constant adaptation of an idea that originally is only just a scribble. I made that first scribble on a train, when I had too much time to kill, and this is how it developed some month later, when I decided to use it.

I do not do many linocuts but it is a big passion of mine, I enjoy engaging with this technique when I want to rest from painting. It gives me another way of thinking, I have to adapt my subjects to another type of imagery, with a different  scenario, composition, scale, lighting, contrast, in comparison with my paintings. Creating forms, giving the illusion of depth by just cutting white lines against a black surface is also a very different challenge from painting with colours.

At the end all comes together, although they are quite different techniques, I notice how my printmaking feeds and enriches my painting as well as my painting feeds my printmaking.

This is the final drawing