When I was about 17, I started doing A level Art.
We weren’t allowed to draw nudes at school.
So I signed up for the life drawing classes at East Ham tech on Saturday mornings.
I had an image of life-class being about learning the structure of the human body.
So I thought we’d get fit, healthy specimens to draw.
I was the youngest person in the class, and eventually this grumpy, sixty year old naked model came and sat on a stool in front of us.
At first I wasn’t sure if it was a man or a woman.
It had purple-dyed, bouffant hair like old ladies.
Plus makeup and sagging boobs.
But also a little posing pouch like a man would wear.
And a pot belly and stick-like arms and legs.
I was quite innocent, so I thought it must be a hermaphrodite.
It certainly wasn’t one of the Greek gods and goddesses I’d expected.
Years later I found out that grumpy old model was Quentin Crisp.
The subject of the TV programme, ‘The Naked Civil Servant’.
Sting even wrote a song about him, “An Englishman in New York”.
But, at the time, I was just disappointed we didn’t get a perfect body to draw.
Anyway, I realised if I was learning structure it didn’t really matter what he looked like.
All the bones underneath were the same: arms, legs, head, hands, feet.
So I started to draw structurally: starting with the core balance line.
Usually one foot is taking all the weight: work out which one, then draw a straight upwards like an armature.
In a sculpture this would be the rod attached to the base, that everything else hangs off.
Then the directional lines for pelvis, ribs, chest shoulders.
Then relationship lines between ankles, knees, hands, elbows.
The same with the face: core tilt line for nose, directional lines for mouth, ears, eyes.
And I’d just keep building structures until a form appeared out of the mass of scaffolding.
That’s how I’ve always drawn, structurally.
Many years later I married an art director and we had children.
When they were about 13 we decided it was time for them to start life classes.
So we booked up at a little art school in Hampstead, and on Saturday mornings, all four of us would go.
Then I noticed the way my wife drew was exactly opposite to me.
I started from the inside out, and drew structure.
By the time I’d got to the surface I wasn’t really interested in the outside appearance.
So I started another drawing, investigating structure again.
My wife was exactly the opposite.
She wasn’t interested in structure.
She started on the surface and drew in every detail, in perfect light and shade.
All her drawings looked almost photographically like the model.
I thought why is that?
Then I thought, probably because she’s an art director and I’m a copywriter.
Art directors are right brain, copywriters are left brain.
Right brain is sensory and emotional.
Left brain is rational and logical.
Right brain arrives at a solution holistically and instinctively.
Left brain arrives at a solution incrementally by a process of deduction.
Which is how the best teams tend to work.
Copywriters work out what we’re supposed to do, art directors come up with exciting ideas.
Art directors have flashes of inspiration, copywriters keep the whole process on track.
Which is also why they work better together.
Left to themselves, art directors would be exciting but wrong.
Copywriters would be right but dull.
I thought that was fascinating.
But then I would, I’m a copywriter so I’m left brain.