Mall Galleries Bookshop is tailored towards the exhibitions we host in the Gallery. These blogs highlight the latest items in stock as well as Mall Galleries' staff picks.

5 Tips to Improve Your Life Drawing

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With the Hesketh Hubbard Art Society, London’s largest life drawing group, exhibiting this week, Mall Galleries’ Gallery Assistant, Charlotte Higgs, reviews some of the best figurative drawing tips featured in our bookshop selection.

Whether you’re a complete beginner or a professional artist, joining a life drawing class can not only improve your overall artistic skills, but can also provide an opportunity to build self-confidence and meet like-minded people in a calm, relaxed environment. Formed in 1903, the Hesketh Hubbard Art Society is London’s largest life drawing group. As advocates of the importance and benefits of the practice of life drawing, we felt it fitting to share hints and tips from some of the artists and authors stocked in our bookshop.

1. Practice until it becomes instinctual

Practice makes perfect is the classic cliché across many disciplines, but in the case of life drawing, progress isn't about the pursuit of perfection, but learning to lean into the flaws of your sketches and making the mistakes work.

"Through observational drawing, we refine our hand-eye coordination and learn to override what our brain is telling us – to trust our eyes and draw what we are actually seeing and not what we think we see." – Drawing Hands and Feet: a Practical Guide, Eddie Armer

Simon Whittle HH Tatiana Ink, 40 x 30 cm, £250

2. Know your proportions

Before we start drawing directly from the model it helps to have a basic understanding of the body’s proportions. Whilst we are all unique and come in an array of different types, a general awareness of standard proportions can better inform our understanding of the figure. For example, Civardi discusses how to begin measuring the body accurately in Drawing: a Complete Guide:

“...when standing upright the unit of measurement [to base all other proportions on] is the head, [which is] measured from the tip of the chin to the top of the skull. The height of the body corresponds to around seven-and-a-half times [this] unit of measurement…” – Drawing: a Complete Guide, Giovanni Civardi

John R Govett HH Sophie Ink, 30 x 36 cm, £300

3. Familiarise yourself with different perspectives

Once you’ve grasped proportions, understanding perspectives is the next obstacle to overcome. When you’re working in front of a live model who is alternating between poses, some parts of the body will appear elongated or foreshortened depending on where you are positioned in front of them. Eddie Armer explains:

“Remember that proportions are altered when foreshortening takes place. A drastically foreshortened limb may look unrecognizable as a body part, so trust your eyes and draw it as the distorted shape that you are seeing. Cross-reference and compare the sizes of other parts of the body to whatever you are focusing on. For example, the width of the thigh may be a similar size to the width of the wrist, or the foot may be as large as the torso in a foreshortened pose.” – Eddie Armer, ‘Drawing Hands and Feet: a Practical Guide’ 

Dmitri Shaklanoff Barrie Pastel 30 x 40 cm, £200

4. Master the basics of portraiture

Artists of all levels and experience encounter difficulty with portraits as the pressure to capture a resemblance to the model can be a little overwhelming. Much like the body, the face can also be broken down and simplified using a grid which can be used to practice at home with a mirror to draw your own portrait. If you’re feeling bold after a few attempts give yourself alternating time limits resembling those used in life drawing; 2 minutes, 5 minutes, and so on. Eddie Armer says:

“People’s heads vary in size, characteristics and shape but can all bought within a useful proportion framework to simplify and co-ordinate its structures. The face can be divided into three sections… draw two horizontal lines - one passing along the line of the eyebrows and the other touching the base of the nose… two vertical lines passing through the centre of the pupils to enclose the nose and lips.” – Eddie Armer, Figure Drawing: a Complete Guide 

Owain Hunt Painter's Mother (Preparatory Study) Graphite, 35 x 25 cm, £450 & Painter's Mother Oil on canvas, 48 x 38 cm, £1,850

5. Don't shy away from the difficult bits

When it comes to drawing the figure, recording hands and feet has become the artist’s ‘Achilles heel’ (no pun intended). Some of us find the challenge so frustrating we shy away from it completely, deliberately avoiding them altogether or conveniently allowing ourselves to run out of time to attempt them. If you find yourself relating to this a little too much Eddie Armer has written an entire book dedicated to the subject. ‘Drawing Hands and Feet: a Practical Guide’ illustrates two simple, but effective, methods to try at home using your own hands before applying them to a model.

The Box Method recommends “representing the subject as a series of boxes it becomes easier for the artist to visualise the form and give the drawing volume from the outset... Reference your own hand and represent them purely as boxes with no added detail... Once you’re happy with the pose begin to shape the boxes… round off the fingertips and add curves to the straight lines to make (them) more realistic.” – Eddie Armer, Figure Drawing: a Complete Guide 

The Hesketh Hubbard Art Society's annual exhibition is on view until 18 August.

Plan your Visit

The following titles featured in this post are available from the bookshop along with a selection of other practical art titles:

  • Drawing Hands and Feet: a Practical Guide, Eddie Armer, £12.99
  • Drawing the Female Nude, Giovanni Civaldi, £12.99
  • Drawing the Male Nude, Giovanni Civaldi, £12.99
  • Figure Drawing: a Complete Guide, Giovanni Civardi, £9.99

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Image credit

Simon Whittle HH

In the Bookshop: Royal Society of British Artists Annual Exhibition 2019

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The arrival of a new exhibition also marks the arrival of a new selection of products from our bookshop so we’ve selected a few highlights we think you’ll love.

To kick off our list we have two exclusive greetings cards by Royal Society of British Artists (RBA) member artists Susan Bower and John Sprakes. Their works, ‘Places to Go’ and ‘Distorted Circles and Rectangles’ will be on view in the exhibition alongside available to buy as limited edition cards. 

Another new edition to our shelves is Sprakes latest publication, ‘Journey in Abstraction’. This hardback edition is filled with stunning colour images and short essays written by Sprakes detailing his artistic approach and transition from figurative to abstract art. Born in Doncaster, Sprakes attributes his earliest artistic endeavour as painting the families front door at the age of 3 before venturing off to paint and draw the surrounding countryside. Documenting the landscape would continue to play a key focal point throughout his 60 year career experimenting with different media and artistic approaches. Pick up a signed copy in the shop whilst stocks last!

Our next bookshop highlight has been hastily restocked after selling out numerous times; ‘In Perspective’ by Robert E. Wells RBA NEAC has proved popular with visitors who recognised Wells' work from exhibitions held here at the Mall Galleries and others across London and the UK. Much like Sprakes, Wells is inspired by the rural and urban landscapes he visits, often painting directly from the subject whatever the weather. This retrospective is an exploration into the artists work and practice in his own words; he discusses his love of capturing the weird and unusual aspects of everyday life with a desire to present a different perspective to familiar scenes from country walks to London landmarks. 

Moving away from our selection of art books and onto some gift ideas brings us to a charming little book which has become one of our fastest selling and most popular titles. Beryl Cook will be a name recognised by some as the Cornish painter who became a household name in her hometown during the 1960s before gaining popularity across the UK in the decades following. In ‘30 Cakes to eat Naked’ Cook’s distinctive style of lighthearted, joyful paintings accompany a delicious selection of recipes for cakes so good “you’ll want to eat them naked”. For those looking for ‘a little something’ to treat yourselves (or maybe someone else), this book is the perfect gift to make anyone smile.

Last on our list of highlights is a brand new collection of jewellery from Zincwhite. This Yorkshire based company produces a selection of jewellery, fashion accessories and homewares with sustainability and upcycling in mind. Zincwhite combine discarded art and craft materials such as pencils, paintbrushes and old canvases with bio-resin, reclaimed hardwoods, metal and eco-silver into fun, contemporary products. The arc necklace and matching circular earrings come in an assortment of different colours and paint-splatter effects with each a little different and slightly unique from the other. 

The Royal Society of British Artists Annual Exhibition is open until Sunday 14th July. We look forward to seeing you there!

All products featured are available to purchase from our bookshop:

  • John Sprakes, ‘Distorted Circles and Rectangles’, Greetings Card, £2.95
  • Susan Bowler, ‘Places to Go’ Greetings Card, £2.95
  • Robert Wells, ‘In Perspective’, £20
  • John Sprakes, ‘Journey into Abstraction’, £35
  • Beryl Cook, ‘30 Cakes to Eat Naked’, £8.99
  • Zincwhite Jewellery, Paint Circle Earrings (Assorted Colours) £15.00
  • Zincwhite Jewellery, Painted Arc Necklace (Assorted Colours) £24.00
  • RBA Catalogue 2019 £6 (incl P&P)


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In the Bookshop: New English Art Club Annual Exhibition 2019

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As the New English Art Club exhibit in Mall Galleries, the bookshop has a range of related books, cards and gifts. 

We have a number of titles by member artists on our shelves, alongside one of our bestselling monographs: 'London - Paintings' by Peter Brown.

Peter Brown PNEAC is an all-weather painter of street scenes and city landscapes, who you'll regularly find brush-in-hand painting the streets of London. This beautiful monograph features almost 200 illustrated oil paintings and entertaining anecdotes from Pete 'The Street' himself.

A new release this year, we are delighted to stock 'The Enlightened Spaniel', illustrated by Toby Ward NEAC. Toby's accomplished draughtsmanship adorns the covers and chapter pages of this charming story of a Springer spaniel interested in the teachings of the Buddha.

We also have a beautiful array of greetings cards of members' works. Our limited edition range features Michael Whittlesea's 'Oil Paints', Tom Coates' 'Garden Path at Home', and Robert Cunnew's 'Seaford Head No. 2'. There is also a selection of card packs available, with a watercolour sunset of deep yellows and oranges by Richard Pikesley PPNEAC, and a warming fireside print by Richard Bawden NEAC.

To coincide with the New English's Annual Lecture, the shop has a variety of Bawden titles, including 'Bawden, Ravilious and the artists of the Great Barfield'. This book tells the story of Great Bardfield and its artists, showing how the village and neighbouring landscape nurtured a distinctive style of art, design and illustration from the 1930s to the 1970s and beyond. The writer will be giving a lecture on the subject in the gallery on 19 June for those interested in learning more.

Do pop in for a visit to the exhibition before it closes on the 22 June.

  • London Paintings by Peter Brown £30 
  • The Enlightened Spaniel by Gary Heads, illustrations by Toby Ward, £7.99
  • Michael Whittlesea's 'Oil Paints' card, £2.95
  • Tom Coates' 'Garden Path at Home' card, £3.25
  • Robert Cunnew's 'Seaford Head No. 2' card, £2.95
  • Richard Pikesley card pack, £3 for 6 cards
  • Richard Bawden card pack, £3 for 6 cards
  • The New English Art Club Annual Exhibition Catalogue, £6

View the New English Art Club 2019 exhibition online 

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In the Bookshop: Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition 2019

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We have a range of new and exciting products available in the bookshop curated especially for the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition.

As we prepare the gallery for another busy exhibition with the Royal Society of Portrait Painters (RP), our bookshop is being stocked up with a range of inspired gifts. This year's limited edition greetings card is a painting by Sandra Kuck, ‘My Dear Angus’. Kuck has exhibited with the RP in previous shows and is recognised for her intricate attention to detail and delicate use of lighting.

Visitors to the show will also have the opportunity to see an original work by 19th century painter and sculptor, G.F. Watts. His portrait of Lillie Langtry will be on loan from the Watts Gallery for the exhibition and their curator Nicolas Tromas has written a book about the artist’s life and works, The Art of G.F. Watts, which is also available in store.

New in the bookshop

For those feeling inspired and wanting to try their hand at portraiture, How to Draw Portraits in Charcoal by Nathan Fowkes covers everything from the materials you’ll need to get started, composition and use of light and shade to the common mistakes budding artists make (and how to avoid them!) It’s no surprise that this comprehensive guide is one of the bookshop’s bestsellers and will be available while stocks last.

Another of our most sought after items is artist and environmentalist, Kurt Jackson’s, Botanical Landscape which features a series of works by the artist in a variety of different mediums, such as painting, printmaking and sculpture. Each of these works are Jackson’s expressive response to the diversity of the natural world around us and his determination to preserve and protect it.

Like Jackson, we’re environmentally conscious and seek like-minded brands to work with, such as Art Angels and Arthouse Unlimited. Both groups not only produce a range of beautifully illustrated cards and gifts, such as the ‘Dancers’ greeting card and ‘Portrait’ dark chocolate, but also print and assemble their products in the UK using recycled or FSC certified materials for added bonus. It’s also important to note that Arthouse Unlimited are a registered charity supporting adults with complex learning and physical disabilities who create all the artwork seen on their products. 100% of sales support the enterprise meaning you can overindulge on chocolate completely guilt-free! Almost.

Royal Society of Portrait Painters Catalogue 2019, £8 (including UK P&P)

To tempt you further we’re introducing a brand new collection of silver jewellery from Just Trade. Each piece has been handmade using crochet tools and traditional techniques by women from the ‘Hope Jewellery Project’ in Lima, Peru. Proceeds support these women by providing them with an income to sustain themselves and their families.

You can discover this collection and more during your visit to the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Exhibition, opening Thursday 9th May.

Plan your visit now

All products featured above are available to purchase in our bookshop:

  • 'My Dear Angus' Sandra Kuck Greetings Card, £2.95
  • 'Dancers' 3D card by Art Angels, £5
  • The Art of G.F Watts, by Nicolas Tromans, £17.95
  • Portraits Dark Chocolate by Arthouse Unlimited, £4.95
  • Botanical Landscape by Kurt Jackson £35.00
  • How to Draw Portraits in Charcoal by Nathan Fowkes, £23.99
  • Marisol Jewellery Collection by Just Trade; Earrings: £40.00, Pendant: £48.00, Statement Necklace: £120.00
  • Royal Society of Portrait Painters Catalogue 2019, £8 (including UK P&P)


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In the Bookshop: The Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours


The Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours 207th Exhibition features an accompanying selection of gifts and souvenirs from our bookshop.

The latest arrival in the bookshop is a brand new publication written by Anthony J Lester, Hon. RMS, FRBA, FRSA. RI: Then and Now is a celebration of the Institute's rich history and its member artists of both past and present.

The book includes biographies of the society's current members along with examples of their work, and a preface written by first female president Rosa Sepple who has also signed copies of the book.

Further new arrivals include a collection of fine bone china mugs by Lillias August RI each depicting a charming collection of items painted by the artist: Nests, Lightbulbs, Paintbrushes and Scissors.

Naomi Tydeman RI’s work Marsh Moon (on view in the exhibition) is this year's limited edition greetings card and notecard sets of Ann Blockley RI’s chilling 'Wintry Hawthorn' are also available

Shirley Trevena RI’s signature style of loose and dynamic watercolours are firm visitors favourite and her selection of greetings cards and book are unsurprisingly among our bestsellers.

For those feeling inspired and keen to get painting the first thing every artist needs is a good sketchbook and a travel set of paints followed perhaps by a guide book (or two) with some helpful tips and hints. Thankfully our bookshop has an entire range of instructional titles but two we’d like to highlight were both written by Hazel Soan. Light and Shade in Watercolor offers a comprehensive introduction focusing on the use of shadows and highlights to create depth and atmospheric effects.

However, if you’re new to watercolours and eager to dive straight in and get painting in the great outdoors as soon as possible then our bestselling 10-Minute Watercolours is the perfect pocket-sized guide to carry around with you. This mini edition is full of handy 10-minute step-by-step exercises for the budding artist whose time is limited but passion for painting isn’t.

The Royal Insitute of Painters in Water Colours 207th Exhibition continues at Mall Galleries until Thursday 18 March. 

Plan your visit now

All of the products featured are available to purchase in our bookshop:

  • RI: Then & Now book, £34.99 
  • Lillias August mugs, £15.00
  • Naomi Tydeman, 'Marsh Moon' greetings card (limited edition), £2.95
  • Shirley Trevena Watercolours, £25.00
  • 10-Minute Watercolours, (Collins Mini) £5.99
  • Light and Shade in Watercolour, Hazel Soan, £19.99
  • Watercolour paint disc sets, £8.50
  • Seawhite sketchbook, £9.95
  • Ann Blockley card packs, £6.99 (or 2 for £12.00)