Melbourne Studio of Art


101 Things in 1001 Days:

Task #89 – Draw or paint 25 figures
Task #90 – Draw or paint 25 faces
Task #91 – Draw or paint 25 hands
Task #92 – Draw or paint 25 still life scenes
Task #93 – Draw or paint 25 trees

Let me begin by saying that yes, this is one of those occasional image-heavy posts.  Now would probably be a good time for a cup of tea.


Back when I wrote my list of 101 Things in 1001 Days almost 3 years ago I was taking weekly classes at the Melbourne Studio of Art… and I was rapidly running out of cash!  Those classes were excellent for a complete beginner like me, and I knew that in order to keep getting better without a teacher I would need to draw constantly.  I set myself a pretty conservative goal to draw 25 figures, faces, hands, still life scenes and trees and resolved to chip away at it gradually.

Only that’s not what happened.  At least 60 of the drawings on the wall above were created in the past 3 weeks under a cloud of fear and sleep deprivation.

(I know, I know.  Believe me.)


The good news is it worked.  Even in the past 3 weeks I’ve seen my drawing improve, and the sense of urgency created by my deadline made me push through some of the mental blocks that I otherwise would have caved into.  Each evening as I sat at my dining table I resolved to pump out a certain number of drawings before bed, and that raw determination helped me to set an excellent pace.

There are very few finished pieces in the picture above – maybe only ten or so out of the whole bunch.  This in itself is a bit of a win for me because I’m far too likely to dwell in the details if left to my own devices.  Pure necessity drove me to draw, and then throw it to the side and draw again.  It felt good to have permission to move on, and to see the value and lessons contained in the ‘duds’.  And there were plenty of those!


I’ve spent an awful lot of time inside my own head in the past three weeks, thanks to this challenge, and I can’t adequately explain how this time ‘alone’ has changed things for me.  With a pencil in my hand I was constantly making decisions and solving problems on the paper in front of me, and before long I noticed my thought patterns shifting when I was away from my desk too.  Perhaps this is why people love meditation so much, the act of silencing the white noise and thinking more deliberately, more consciously.  That’s what I felt happening to me as I threw myself into these drawings.  Clarity, and lots of it.

It might sound cheesy, but I really did resolve a bunch of my own internal worries thanks to all these trees and boobs and bottles.

You guys, drawing doesn’t come naturally to me – not at all.  I don’t have a great deal of natural talent, I wasn’t born with an ‘eye’ for scale and perspective, and I will never have to stop working hard to create a beautiful drawing or painting.  I have accepted it, and even embrace it because I understand the personal value in sitting down and quietly solving a hundred little problems.  If the end result is good that’s fantastic, and if it’s not?  Well, there’s almost certainly a lesson in it for the next drawing.  Every little sketch strengthens a muscle.

I’ve put my best drawings below, and you can click the thumbnails to see a larger version.  Give yourself a round of applause if you make it to the end!



Figure studies by Geoff Dupree: Sitting Figure Turning (charcoal) / Swimmer Drying Herself (charcoal)

My last class at Melbourne Studio of Art was more than six months ago and I’ll be honest, I’ve been missing it like crazy.  I hadn’t intended to take such a big break from classes, and painting in general, but for some reason time and money have been in shorter supply this year.  I can’t wait to finish the dumb non-art-related study that I’m doing right now so that I can devote more time to the stuff I really care about!

Every so often I get a newsletter from MSA that makes me want to dive back in, and one of their upcoming workshops looks so great that I thought I’d spread the word here.


Figure studies by Geoff Dupree: Rising Figure (charcoal) / Top (watercolour)

Geoff Dupree is one of the senior teacher at Melbourne Studio of Art, teaching classes in the Pathway to Fine Arts course (specifically the Drawing and Painting Studio and Painting in Oils and Water Media).  His students’ work is often displayed on the studio walls, and it’s always really inspiring to arrive for the evening class to see what great stuff has been taught during the day.  Geoff’s students are extremely talented and I’m looking forward to one day winning a million bucks so that I can quit my job and take his daytime classes too.

Geoff is leading a five-day figure drawing workshop in Castlemaine next month – June 25-29, 2013.  Here’s a bit of information about the workshop from the MSA newsletter:


The Melbourne Studio of Art is delighted to invite you to experience 5 full days of figure drawing in the beautiful environment of Castlemaine, one of Victoria’s most artistic country towns. This drawing workshop offers you the opportunity to fully absorb yourself in drawing processes away from the normal demands of daily life. You will be drawing from the nude figure over extended periods where your perception and understanding of how to complete well observed and executed drawings will improve rapidly.

Geoff Dupree is renowned as one of the best drawing teachers in Melbourne. Formerly the Head of the Monash University Fine Arts Drawing Department, Geoff has taught thousands of artists and students.

“As a representational artist concentrating on ‘everyday’ subject matter, my work has always centred upon the perceptual – the figure, the portrait, the still-life and the landscape.”


Geoff Dupree: Phonecall III (watercolour)

The workshop will be assisted by Michael Gray (this is the guy who convinced me that I could paint!) and Dena Lester, Founder and Director of Melbourne Studio of Art.  The fee for the workshop is $795 and accommodation packages are available too.  There’s lots more detail to be found on the workshop brochure.

I’m sad that I can’t be there myself, but if you’re reading this perhaps you’ll let me experience it vicariously through you?


PS: Melbourne Studio of Art has not paid me to write this post, just as nobody pays me to write anything ever.


Fallen Leaves, from my 101 black & white film photo challenge


Life has felt so out of control lately.

I realised today that for a while now this feeling has become the rule, rather than the exception.  I’m not actually any busier than usual, so why am I always falling into bed exhausted at the end of the day?  How come I hit the “snooze” button on my alarm 3 or 4 times each morning, and still accidentally go back to sleep?  And how come my memory is full of dumb trivia, but I can never remember to take my multivitamin?

When I stop to really think about it, the answer is actually pretty clear:  I’m just not taking very good care of myself.  I’m facing the world each day with brushed teeth and bright lipstick, but too little sleep.  I’m choosing my outfit from the laundry pile instead of a hanger, and filing my mail on the floor of the spare room.

I’m faking it.  I know I’ve said it before, but for me a messy house is the #1 sign that my brain is messy too.

Ivy, from my 101 black & white film photo challenge


Earlier this week something snapped and I spent 2 hours tackling the mess that had accumulated in my house.  I threw out anything that wasn’t nailed down, scrubbed the bathroom until it smelled like bleach, and did 4 loads of laundry – all before Tim got home from work.

I’m realising that the more clothes and stuff I have, the less in control I feel.  And when I lose that control I find myself existing instead of living – just doing the bare minimum, thinking ahead no more than 24 hours.

My brain has been trapped under a heavy fog, and I haven’t felt like my usual self in a while.

Border control, from my 101 black & white film photo challenge


Last night Tim went to a footy game with some of his friends and I had the house to myself.  All to myself!  Now, I love that boy to pieces but the prospect of some selfish Alone Time was like finding a suitcase full of $100 notes on the street.

The universe gave me everything I needed for a perfect night alone – pouring rain, howling wind, a warm puppy and a new Regina Spektor album.  I worked on a painting, played my neglected keyboard (why is my piano 2000km away?) and later on I switched to an old Nick Drake album and let the music wash over my thoughts.

I was happy when Tim texted to say he was on his way home, but those few hours were just so perfect.  There was no TV, no gunfire from the Playstation, nobody to consider but myself.  It gave me time to remember that it’s okay to put my music and art first sometimes, even if there’s still a messy spare room and more laundry to do.

(There was also no boy to make me cups of tea, so thank God Tim eventually came home!)

Why do we need to give ourselves permission to indulge in the things we love?  So much of my energy gets wasted on the professional face I have to present at work, and maintaining a lifestyle that traps me there.  My head is full of rocks, but my time is wasted on the sand.

The truth is, I’m just like that painting up there: everything looks pretty right, but so much of the detail is yet to be figured out.  Just like this painting I have to work on the broader elements, and trust that the features will emerge.

We are both works in progress.  But, at least we have some sort of a plan.

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Saturday has to be my favourite day of the week.

It always begins with an extra couple of hours sleep, and when I finally open my eyes a certain boy normally brings me a coffee or two.  Only when I am sufficiently caffeinated do I crawl out from underneath the covers.

It’s pretty great being me, on a Saturday.

Saturday also means it’s time for my art class at Melbourne Studio of Art, and that always puts a smile on my face!  Today we had a painting class with Michael Gray and learned all about analogous colours (ie colours that are next to each other on the colour wheel).  Michael set up a bunch of still life scenes with objects that matched their backdrop colour, so we spent a lot of time on our colour mixing to make all the subtle differences in tone.  We did this same exercise the last time I took this class, and although this was only my second time using oil paints I think I did better this time around.


The time really, really flew this week!  With an extra half an hour I think I could have added a lot of detail to my scene, especially to the shadows and the green leafy bits on the eggplant.  I wanted to do a lot more blending and tidy up my lines, but on the whole I’m happy with the way it turned out.

And besides, that famous Leonardo da Vinci quote gets stuck in my mind when I start to think about this stuff: Art is never finished, only abandoned.  

(No wonder they named a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle after that guy!)


It’s Day 7 of the 30 Day Photo Challenge, and today’s theme was Self Portrait.

(I’m so sorry.  All complaints will be forwarded on to Gemma.)


Today was Week 3 of this term’s Introduction to Drawing & Painting class at the Melbourne Studio of Art, and I think it was one of my favourite classes yet!  When I heard that we would be doing our first painting class I expected it to be a lot like the one we did last term.  In that class we painted a still life scene using black and white acrylic paint.


I remember being incredibly proud of this painting last term.  There was a distinct moment towards the end of the class when I figured out what I was doing with the medium, and I managed to get quite a lot of detail and blending done in the last 15 minutes.  Considering that this was my first time holding a paintbrush since I was 13 years old I was pretty pleased with myself.

This week our teacher Michael Gray told us that we’d be working with oil paints, and for a moment I was terrified.  Hadn’t I only just figured out what to do with acrylic paint, finally?  Isn’t oil painting for grown-ups?  I guess I had always assumed that oil painting was for the pros, and that you needed to know some sort of secret handshake to join the club.

It’s funny how we make up these arbitrary rules when it comes to creativity.  Before I moved to Melbourne I was a singing teacher at my local TAFE and it always amazed me how different my adult students were compared to the kids that I taught privately.  Children came to their lessons with no preconceptions of what they were capable of; for the most part, they assumed that they could until repeated experience proved otherwise.  It made for an incredibly powerful and trusting learning environment, and those kids progressed very quickly.

My adult TAFE students didn’t believe that they could sing, but they came to my class because they liked doing it anyway.  Most of them could recall a time early in their life where they used to sing all of the time, and most could remember in vivid detail the embarrassing story behind their decision to stop.  The first few weeks of those classes was always about breaking through their assumptions about what their voices could do.  From there, the transformations were incredible – and it all began in the mind.

So I had to laugh at myself a bit today for reacting as I did to the news that we’d be painting with oil paints.  Why had I decided that I didn’t deserve to be using them yet?  What about those classmates of mine who had never painted before – would Michael be cruel enough to throw them to the wolves?  He seems like such a nice guy!

Michael is a nice guy, and he also has a lot of faith in our capacity to learn new tricks.  I think that the entire class did an incredible job for their first painting class today – don’t they look amazing as a group?


So here’s my very first oil painting.

In some ways oil painting was very different to working with acrylics, and in other ways it was exactly the same.  I loved the way that paint could be pushed around easily once it was on the paper, and how easy it was to blend.  I found it to be much more forgiving, mistakes were more easily corrected.  I’d have loved to have kept working on this still life but we ran out of time!

I might be the newest member of the fan club.



by Elizabeth on November 1, 2011 · 0 comments

in Art, Blogging, Melbourne Studio of Art


We’ve had a beautiful long weekend here in Melbourne, thanks to a little horse race known as the Melbourne Cup.  It’s been such a luxury to have those extra two days away from work, and it feels like it’s been a week since I’ve thought about work!  I’m not really looking forward to hearing my alarm tomorrow morning but I’m glad that I only need to get through three days in the office this week.  I’m going to have to try pretty hard to not undo all this relaxation.

I had a few plans for this extra-long weekend, and the most important one was to get started on a painting to give to my Mum & Dad for Christmas.  The two little apples above are what I came up with, and even though I’m only 95% sure that it’s finished I’m really happy with how they’ve come out.  I’m looking forward to seeing how it will look framed and finding out where it will hang in my parents’ house.

Maybe they’ll just stick it on their fridge like they did back in the day!


I haven’t mentioned yet that I’ve started a new term of art classes at Melbourne Studio of Art and we’re almost up to week three.  This term the class is being split between two teachers – Michael Gray for painting, and for drawing a teacher who is new to me, Ju-Yuen Chew.

I can already tell that Ju-Yuen is going to kick my butt where technique is concerned, and get me out of the tiny little comfort zone that I’ve developed in my first 8 weeks of classes.  I learned so much in my first lesson with her, including how reliant I am on tonal work to make an object look believable.  It’s really, really hard for me to just draw an outline, and this is something that I’m going to have to work on.  Whether I like it or not!

In our last lesson we focused on negative space (ie. drawing the space between objects, rather than the objects themselves).  It’s an exercise that forces you to really look at what’s in front of you rather than just trust what you already know about the shape of a cube, a sphere, a bottle etc.  It’s an excellent problem-solving technique if you can’t figure out what’s “wrong” with the object you’re drawing.



Sometimes I forget that I’ve only been doing this for a short time.  I know that I have come an extremely long way in only 10 weeks of lessons, and it’s something that I wish I had started when I was younger.  I guess I always assumed that drawing was something that “other people” were good at, and now I know that it really is something that anybody can learn how to do.  When I look at the work that my classmates present at the end of each lesson I realise that we are all basically kicking butt at this thing, and that’s really encouraging.

I realised the other day that I haven’t shared my very first drawing here, from the first class of last term.  It’s pretty funny to look at, but it represents the absolute limit of my knowledge and ability just a couple of months ago.  I dug it out today and photographed it so that I could remember how far I’ve come.


In contrast, this is my drawing from Week 1 of my second term of classes.


We didn’t have a class this week because of the long weekend, so I’m glad I managed to fit in some painting on my own at home.  Next week is another drawing class, and then the week after that we’re back with Michael for painting.

Painting used to be something that I was terrified of, but not any more!




Oh!  One more thing.  This month I will be posting every day for NaBloPoMo – National Blog Posting Month.  The name is silly (especially since it’s INternational these days!) but it’s a great motivator to bring you something new every day.  I’d really love to hear from you in the comments this month, just to reassure me that I’m not talking to myself!


Evolution of a painting

by Elizabeth on September 12, 2011 · 4 comments

in Art, Life, Melbourne Studio of Art


This was an exercise in proving that I could paint something on my own, following my classes at the Melbourne Studio of Art.  It took five hours, and lots of re-painting, but I’m very excited to have recreated my dodgy old sofa on paper!

(Um, you guys can tell it’s a sofa, right?  Guys?)

I’m most proud of the fact that I mixed all of my own colours from primaries, black & white.  The colour of the couch isn’t quite right, but otherwise I’m happy.

Sorry if I’ve been sounding evangelical about my classes lately.  But honestly, I probably couldn’t have drawn the top pencil sketch 8 weeks ago!




Yesterday was our final class in the Introduction to Drawing & Painting course at the Melbourne Studio of Art.  I’ve honestly been dreading the end of these classes – they’ve become the highlight of my week!  I’m sad that the term is over now, but yesterday’s class was an excellent way to finish.

This class was all about analogous colours – colours that are next to each other on the colour wheel.  I found this trickier than the complementary colour exercise we did a couple of weeks ago, mostly because I haven’t got a handle on colour mixing yet and the subtle differences of shade mattered more than ever this week.  I had a pretty terrible attitude towards my painting until the last 20 minutes when I managed to rescue it!  I feel like we still have some making up to do, but I like the finished product more today than I did yesterday.


Yesterday was also the day that I finally confessed to our teacher, Michael Gray, that I’ve been blogging about these classes.  He seemed to take the news well!  I feel incredibly lucky to have had such a patient and talented teacher in Michael over the past 8 weeks, and honestly can’t believe the progress that I have made in such a short amount of time.  When we met back in July I was a blank canvas, and under his instruction I feel a lot more confident about how to tackle a painting.

My drawing is probably weaker than my painting now, but at least I know how to work on it!


I’ve enjoyed the class so much that I have decided to do it again next term.  Michael tells me that it will be a different teacher taking the class, and I guess that will be both good and bad.  I’m going to miss Michael’s patience and sense of humour, but it will be interesting to see the approach that a different teacher will take.

As long as they know how to talk me off the ledge when I’m mad at my painting, that’s all that matters!


I don’t know whether any of my Melbourne readers would be interested in joining me on this next adventure, but here are some details in case you want to know more.  And seriously, you need absolutely no prior experience or innate talent to make something out of these classes – I am living proof!

Weekend classes for the absolute beginnerIntroduction to Drawing & Painting and Life Drawing for Beginners
Evening Classes – Art Discovery – Life Drawing, Drawing & Painting for Beginners, Drawing & Painting – Intermediate, Untutored Life Drawing
Day classes – The Melbourne Studio of Arts’ Pathways to Fine Arts program is for artists considering a career in Fine Arts or for those wishing to develop their artistic skills to the fullest.  Click the link for the full program.


Thanks to Michael Gray and the Melbourne Studio of Art for an excellent eight weeks of learning.  See you next term!



Today was Week 6 of our Introduction to Drawing & Painting class at the Melbourne Studio of Art.  I was a tiny bit apprehensive about going today because I had to miss last week’s class and I was worried about whether I would be able to keep up!  I knew that everybody did their first life drawing class last week and I was really bummed to have missed out.  On the other hand, if I had shared my bubonic plague with the class they might not have been anyone there this week.

Tim was nice enough to let me photograph his drawings from last week so that I could show you.  Did you catch the part where my boyfriend left me at home to perish from the plague so that he could spend a few hours staring at a pretty naked lady?  Yes?  Ok good.


The plan for today was to do more life drawing, but 15 minutes before the class the model cancelled!  It was pretty unprofessional to leave it to the last minute like that, but part of me was secretly relieved to be able to get a bit more practice in before being presented with a naked lady and a blank sheet of paper.

Our teacher (Michael Gray, sculptor and painter extraordinaire) quickly set up some still life scenes and jumped on to the next topic – complementary colours.  After a quick lesson about the colour wheel we were given a piece of fruit and a backdrop in a complementary colour, and we were off!


Tim painted an orange on a bright blue tablecloth:


… and mine was a red apple on a pale green tablecloth.

31 Photos in 31 Days


I was seated on the opposite side of the apple from the light, so there was a lot of shadow and contrasts in the angle I worked from.  A girl who sat on the other side of the apple filled her painting with beautiful gradients of orange and red – it looked like a completely different scene to mine!  I wish I’d had more time to work on the details, but overall I’m pretty happy with my little fruit.

I deliberately sit at the other side of the room from Tim so that I’m not tempted to compare my work to his (or talk to him too much).  At the end of the class Tim came over to see my apple, and proudly declared that it was “the best capsicum in the class!”.


(Also?  Possibly a little tiny bit true.)

Mine is the capsicum on the left, Tim’s is the mandarin in the middle.


I am having so much fun in this class, and I am already suffering from premature grief at the thought of finishing in two weeks time.  If you live in Melbourne, and if you think you can’t draw an apple (or a capsicum)… well, you might be right.  But the lovely people at Melbourne Studio of Art are just the people to teach you how!


Week 3 – Black & white acrylic still life
Week 4 – Black, white & burnt sienna still life



31 Photos in 31 Days


Today was Week 4 of my Introduction to drawing & painting class at Melbourne Studio of Art.  I had a really good time there today, but mostly because I spent the entire time laughing at myself.  I don’t know, last week I thought I had a handle on things, but this week I totally forgot to bring my painting mojo.  Or maybe it was just tired, I don’t know!

I told my teacher that in the real world I’d have cut my losses after half an hour and started again.  I’m sure the end result would have been better.  But I recognised that this was an exercise, and that the act of trying to correct your mistakes is valuable experience in itself.  Or something.



This was the first lesson to introduce colour and we used a palette with black, white, burnt sienna and blue paint.  Last week’s palette was monochromatic, and I had an easier time visualising my scene in those seven tones.

Today was a different kettle of fish – my colours said to me, “Hey kid, here’s the keys to the themepark!  Eat a bunch of fairy floss and dagwood dogs and then ride the rollercoaster until you puke!  Pants are optional and there’s free beer!  Pony rides for everyone!”


Then there was Tim.

Tim had a different conversation with his colours.  It was more like, “Tim?  Is it okay if I call you Timothy?  OK, now what we have here is a scene of wood and fruit.  We will boldly use these objects to describe the fragility of the human condition while performing a serious tonal study in burnt sienna.  At the end of our session we shall cleverly introduce subtle cool tones to our shadows, in a refined and grown-up manner.  We’ll finish by stroking our beards, debating colour theory, and perhaps we’ll be outrageous and pour ourselves a small sherry.  Go forth and paint, old chap.”


And that’s what he did.

My stupid colours lied, by the way.  There wasn’t a single pony and everyone told me to put my pants back on.


Good news – my painting looks better from a distance of 3 metres if you squint a lot.  Hooray!

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