Jake Spicer, artist, tutor, Derwent Ambassador and long time friend of Cass Art. We caught up with Jake to find out how he's staying motivated in isolation, what he loves about Derwent and the first thing he's got planned once we're out an about again! Watch his mastery over drawing, and see what you can do with Derwent Lightfast Pencils.
Hi Jake – thanks for taking the time for a chat! We’ve worked together a lot over the years, for those that don’t know could you let us know a bit about your journey as an artist?
Thanks for having me! I've always used drawing as a way of making sense of the world; after an art foundation at UCA in Farnham in 2006/07 I decided to study informally with different artists while working a series of part time jobs - I always intended to go back and study at a university, but never did. After a bit of a false start painting portraits I got heavily involved with life drawing classes in Brighton, became part of an amazing community of artists and started teaching drawing alongside my own figure-based artistic practice. Over 10 years or so, teaching led to giving talks about drawing, which led to writing books about drawing, which in turn sparked off illustration commissions. I now split my time between my own artistic practice, teaching, and writing instructional books that help other people engage more with drawing.
Many of us are turning to new, or long forgotten creative past times during this period of lockdown. What would be your top tips to getting back to a creative practice?
Play should always be at the heart of our engagement with a creative practice - it is so important to be able to explore and test the limits of a medium, or an idea, or your own creativity without feeling like there should be a set outcome. I often find that through play and experimentation, patterns of working start to emerge that can lead you in a clearer direction and at that point it is helpful to start to build skills - whether that means developing technical skills by learning approaches to drawing a particular subject or building material skills that help you understand the potential of your medium. It is so important to enjoy the process of learning in itself - it often takes longer than you expect to get as competent as you want to be, often the process itself is as important as the outcome it produces.
And for those in the creative community have found themselves in new circumstances, working from home-studios rather than their usual working environments do you have any advice on staying focussed at home?
In such unusual circumstances I think it's important not to put too much pressure on yourself to create grand outcomes and to be super productive, but it does provide an opportunity to find creative solutions to a challenging situation. I spent a few days re-arranging my lock-down desk until it was set up just how I wanted it to be and at the end of every day (wet projects permitting!) I spend 15 minutes tidying it up so I come back to a clean space the next morning. To stay productive, I find regular changes of environment are important and frequent breaks in-between working, with a timer to keep me focused. I also find the daily trip out for exercise so important for staying motivated, even if it is just taking a walk in the sunshine. Importantly, if I'm not doing internet based work I switch off the wifi on my laptop and hide my phone from myself...
And what are you Home Studio top essential art materials?
This is where I'm glad that I draw. I've been doing most of my daily drawing a lot with fineliner pen in a moleskine sketchbook - every week I have been doing video call portrait-club with friends. We take it in turns to pose in front of the camera for a 10 minute portait while the rest of sketch, then move on to draw the next person. I've nearly filled a sketchbook already!
What is it about Derwent materials you love to use in your work?
I started off using Derwent's graphitint pencils - they handle like soft graphite pencils but with a little subtle colour to them and I've always loved using them for quick portraits (the image on the cover of the Graphitint box is actually a view into a back yard that I drew a little way away from the Cass Art flagship store in London). I started to get into more sustained coloured pencil drawing a few years ago, around the time that Derwent were developing their Procolour and Lightfast pencil ranges and I use both at the moment - Procolour for when I need a finer point and Lightfast for more painterly drawings - I've been locked in with a full drawer of lightfast in my studio, so I'm feeling pretty lucky right now!
You run a drawing school in Brighton called Draw. Many creative community groups are having to think of new ways to staying connected during the lockdown – how are you all keeping together at Draw?
Not being able to meet in person has really knocked a lot of art groups all over the country, and so many life models and drawing tutors have found themselves immediately out of work. All of my team at Draw are freelancers, so we committed to giving them exactly the same amount of work they were expecting before we had to close. Just before lockdown we commissioned photographs of our regular life models as an online drawing resource and we've been releasing them weekly through Patreon at www.patreon.com/drawbrighton, alongside how-to blog posts that we've been commissioning from our tutors. We're starting a live online life class soon for our supporters as well as a series of instructional videos to keep everybody drawing - it's been amazing to see everybody being so supportive and resilient the drawing community can be in times of difficulty.
And finally! Once we’re all able to get moving again – what’s the inspirational thing at the top of your list?
I live on one side of a big rocky hill, and every day during lockdown I've been walking around it; clockwise some days, anticlockwise on others. Ive started to notice its changes and consistencies - the way in which its rocks change colour as light strikes it differently. The new shoots of bracken are getting a little taller each morning and are starting to unfurl; the Hawthorne has begun to blossom. The birds seemed to have such an ephemeral presence at first, but they all have their own territories and I'm starting to get to know them individually. Top inspirational thing? I'll be taking more time to look draw the changes and consistencies of nature.
Follow some of our eay step-by-step drawing blogs with Jake and learn how to draw today:
Learn how to draw realistic faces in our: Draw Faces in 5 Simple Steps
Learn how to draw an ink illustration with pens in our: Ink Illustration with Jake Spicer
Learn how to draw an urban landscape in our: Urban Landscape tips with Jake Spicer
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