Get drawing – the book!

In 2013 I decided to write a drawing book!

GET DRAWING! (even if you think you can’t) was written to dispel the myth that people need to be born with talent to be able to draw.

I am passionate about sharing drawing and observations skills so that everyone can take pleasure in the drawing process.The book contains simple explanations and exercises, common pitfalls to watch out for and links to online video demonstrations.

You can purchase a hard copy or the PDF from my website: Click the button below.

More exciting places to Get Drawing 🙂

I have a fantastic online community where you can share your sketches and get advice on them.

Join me every Friday (4.00 pm Perth time) for a Facebook live lesson.

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Watch Get Drawing videos

West Australian Society of Arts Demonstration

white_bowlI had the pleasure of demonstrating to the members of the WA Society of Arts for their August meeting.  I was asked to go back to the basics of drawing.  Thanks to Tim Sewell who took notes and the following summary was published in the latest newsletter 🙂

Demonstration notes August meeting.
Our demonstrator for August was one of our own, Karen Frankel. Her subject drawing the very essence and foundation of all two-dimensional art. Although her father was a commercial artist Karen was self-taught and made use of the readily available materials at home. She cannot remember not drawing and it came easily to her. She has
taught drawing skills for 15 years and was passionate to show her students just how easy it is. She realised however that many do not find it so straightforward.

Karen is very clear that drawing skills are not a matter of inherent talent, talent is overrated, science has established that practice is the key, as it is for a musician or sportsperson. Yet drawing has a mystique and people will readily disown any ability or aptitude. Karen has taught over 1000 students to draw, a matter of justifiable satisfaction. She took us back to the basics; how to see. Our natural tendency is to ‘know’ what something looks like, our brains are programmed to impart that information. The secret of good drawing is to try to overcome this, to look at objects as a Martian might, with no preconceived ideas. Also draw because it is enjoyable process, if it is not, why bother? Forget any imagined end result, adults especially expect far too much too soon.

Karen’s materials for her demonstration were a pad of white paper, a 2B pencil and a putty eraser. Her subject matter for a still life, an apple, a mug and a bottle all painted white, illuminated by a simple desk light in order to focus on values and shadows. The first stage is to execute a ‘thumbnail’ sketch to establish the values, the shapes of tone, the cast shadows, accurate replication of the objects is not the purpose. Squinting or looking through the eyelashes helps eliminate too much detail. Use the pencil at arm’s length as if against a sheet of glass to measure relative distances. Negative space is particularly important because this one area where the brain does not have a preconception, a skyline is a very good example of a negative shape. Mistakes should not be erased but used as guides to getting it right next attempt. The putty eraser, which can be moulded into any shape is used to lift the tone. A tonal range of 1 to 5 is enough. Objects should be defined by tonal variations not a line, unless of course that is your style a la Cezanne! It is a very natural tendency to want to define subjects with a line.

Having made the sketch, it can be used as the basis for a larger more finished work. Karen explained a process of scaling up using an extended diagonal line across the sketch. First gently indicate the positions of the subjects referring to the sketch not the objects themselves. Establish the big tonal shapes, perhaps the darkest darks first so that the limits of the tonal range are established. From this framework the completed work can be established. Karen also discussed the secret of drawing a circle. A true circle is a rarity because unless your viewpoint is exactly at right angles to the centre of the circle it will in fact be an ellipse.

Drawing an ellipse is a well-known hazard. A way of simplifying the process is to turn your work so that a vertical  acts as the centre around which the ellipse is then drawn loosely at arm’s length as often as is necessary for success. This is far easier than attempting to draw an ellipse which is at an angle to your eye line.

This was a very useful demonstration and a timely reminder of the basics of establishing a composition whether for a drawing or a painting; Karen’s enthusiasm for her subject is infectious!
Tim Sewell

Your first drawing – an apple

This is a a test page to show the first video demonstration for my up-coming book

“Get Drawing”.  You will be able to link to this page from the book by using a QR code small_qr  or by clicking a link in the e-book.

If You’d like to be invited to the book launch or be told when the book is published, or any other info, I’d be delighted to have you on-board for the ride.

Please email me on

Shapes of Tone

My students should have this phrase firmly buried in their subconscious mind by now.  Hopefully it re-appears in the conscious mind, front and centre, every time they observe (with squinted eyes) something with the intention of drawing it.  If you learn to see the shapes of tone in everything, you should be able to draw that thing.  If you draw the shapes of tone you won’t draw the subject as your brain wants you to but as your eyes describe.white_bowl

By shapes of tone, I mean the shading and shapes of the shadows (tones) that appear as a result of light and/or lack of light.  This can be tricky when you observe objects with different colours.  Your brain will tell you that a black item is just black and it may demand that you shade it in as dark as you can.  However, if you observe carefully (with squinted eyes) you will notice highlights – light on the lit side and shadow on the non-lit side.  The same thing happens when you see a white object. Your brain might expect you to draw a completely white object but your eyes will tell you otherwise.  Nathan_portrait

When drawing a portrait the whites of the eyes seldom appear white as the brow, eye-lashes and eye lids create a shadow when the light comes from above e.g. the sun and ceiling lights.  When a face is lit from the side the bridge of the nose also causes a shadow.  Sometimes we can’t even see any differentiation between the iris and the white.

During a workshop on portraiture I demonstrated how these shapes of tone are observed and used as a visual guide to drawing the 3 dimensional form of the face.

Thanks to Elise Kooperman for filming and editing this video.

Outliners Anonymous

I never cease to be amazed at how many ingrained habits surface during my drawing classes.  No doubt some of you have them too.  The habit I’m on about today is putting a strong outline on a drawing once you have finished adjusting a sketch to your liking.  I can imagine the automatic thought process-  “Yep, that’s right.  Now to firm it up and make it proper!”

In class this morning Lee-Anne, my longest standing student, asked “Do you think they have an outliners anonymous?”

Which one looks more three dimensional?

Outlining automatically, because you think it’s the right thing to do, is NOT a great idea.  If you are after a stylized, decorative drawing then that’s wonderful.  Then outline deliberately, because you want to emphasise the lines and not out of habit.  However, if you wish to render your subject in traditional 3D then strong outlines are not your friend.

The quality of your lines should vary depending on whether you wish to show a light or dark edge, or make things come forward or recede.  Tones that change depending on shadow and light do not need outlines.  The change between one tone and another does not need a line to emphasise it.  Strong lines tend to make your drawings look flat instead of three dimensional.

Which one looks more three dimensional?


Oh yes. Strong lines are also really difficult to erase.  Even if you’re sure that you’ve made all the adjustments you need to, chances are you’ll need to change something.

Get Drawing!

Apple – take one

I am continuing, in fits and starts,  with the journey of producing my “Get Drawing”  book.  In the process I am also filming myself drawing the sketches that may eventually appear in the book.  So the journey is one of broadening discovery as well.  Discovering how to set the camera up in the best possible way; how to edit the resulting video; how to make it interesting;how to add a narration (still to come) etc.

My home video studio
My home video studio

On one of our recent hot nights (27 degrees Celsius at 11.30pm!) my thoughts found their way to ideas for the book and I remembered that I thought my new camera (purchased for my trip overseas last year) had some sort of way of connecting to my smart phone.  So the very next day I experimented and discovered that the camera could, indeed, connect via wifi to my smartphone so that I could remotely see what the camera could see, zoom in or out, and then take a picture or start recording a video.  Woohoo!

So, I’d love you to take a look at my first try and leave any comments.  Just in case you think I’m working very fast, I have sped the video up.  Future videos will hopefully have tighter editing etc. but I was excited to get this out there.  The beautiful music accompanying the video is my talented brother, Ilan Zagoria.

Click Apple video to view.

Get Drawing

Travel sketches

imageMy first sketch of the holiday while having coffee looking into Convent Garden markets.  While I’m happy with the general feel of it the lady’s head could’ve been better proportioned.  No matter, it’s a lovely memory. I used a fine waterproof pen first and then added colour with my watercolour pencils and waterbrush. I didn’t draw with pencil first. I would’ve proabably remembered to leave space for the lady’s head if I had. I drew her after drawing the market carts.

From Brighton Pier
A very quick sketch done with a Derwent watersoluble graphite sketch pencil and trusty waterbrush. The perspective of the fantastic arches worked but didn’t match the buildings above. Sometimes I wish that my teacher head matched my doing head at the same time.

Buckingham Gate
My third sketch is my favourite so far. I sat with a pot of tea and a slice of cheese cake and drew the building opposite. The flowers all over London are wonderful. Every street has hanging baskets of flowers. Outside buildings, hanging from lamp posts and mostly, adorning pubs everywhere.

Get Drawing

When it doesn’t work you can let the magic in.

Well, I haven’t managed to keep up with my idea of doing a sketch a day but I am happy with some that I’ve done.  Happy  because I love the doing, happy because I did it, happy because they’re not too bad.  However one particular sketch didn’t go so well.

By coincidence my South African brother and his youngest son were in London for a cross-over 2 days visiting the two other siblings, (nephew and niece) and grandnieces.  So 7 adults and 3 girls just over and under 2, spent a Saturday visiting a pub in the country.  We travelled down beautiful country lanes with large farm houses, pubs, shops and post boxes against the road.  We finally arrived at the Stag on the River up against the lovely river Wey

After lunch I took out my sketch book.  I started drawing one of the buildings and it just wasn’t working.  Perspective and proportions were out and windows were drawn from what my head was telling me rather than my eyes.  Then the magic started.

Imi using the waterbrush

My unsuccessful beginning of a pen sketch was turned into a canvas for my three gorgeous grand nieces to explore.  I showed Imi how to first put the colour down and then paint over it with the waterbrush.  What a pleasure for me and her.  Drew, Imi’s twin, preferred the black pen and with beautiful pen holding skill drew fine, careful words.  I would love to understand the story she wrote.


I was pleased to redeem my belief in my ability the next day.  Whew!

Get Drawing


A few days ago I visited Tate Britain.  This is where Turners bequest is housed and, happily, where a new exhibition of later works has just opened.  I followed the signs to the Turner wing, not realising that I was completely missing the main entrance with maps and information.  It was like creeping into the secret back entrance.  There was no grand reception just some well placed signs to point me in the right direction.

I found them.

I hadn’t realised how large the works in oil are.  Enormous canvases depicting great battles, mythical stories, storms and historical events – sometimes all in the same painting.  His colours, brushstrokes and techniques were/are wondrous.  However the wonder, for me, is in his brilliant watercolours.  No wishy washy feint marks.  (How did watercolour ever get its bad reputation for insipid colours with Turner setting the benchmark?). I was also excited to see his use of mixed media. Whatever gave him the effect he wanted he used. Chalk, graphite, watercolour and body colour (guache).


Although photos were allowed in the main section (not in the new exhibition) it is obviously difficult to take decent photos of work under glass so do yourself a favour and explore google images (or printed books) of Turner’s work.


I made some purchases including a book partly written by wonderful Australian artist Tony Smibert who works with the Tate as a Turner specialist. Inspiration to bring to my studio when I get home.

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