Week off

Since sending off my Assignment (and working sketchbook) I’ve given myself a bit of time to enjoy some regular drawing and Inktober before diving back in to the coursework. So, here are some line drawings, life drawings and – of course – chickens:





Assignment two

I had thought I might redo the interior door view for the assignment but be a bit more brave regarding the contrast. However, after a couple of attempts I realised I had done that particular view enough and needed a new topic, but wanted to combine the still life and interior theme.

I really like the Cezanne on page 42 of the course text, Pot of Ginger and Fruits on a Table, and as I like line drawing I thought I’d revisit the Still life using line exercise, and perhaps stick a bit of a wash over to liven it up a bit.

Out came Horace, the deer skull, along with some little squashes, and I placed them on the dining table. I have red painted chairs around my pine table and as the assignment encourages use of colour, I wanted to keep a fairly limited palette with a splash of red. I also have a blue curtain but decided to mute that and stick to the one colour.

Ignore the familial flotsam…

Compositionally I liked the rectangles of the window, table top, curtain and then the curves of the squashes, Horace and chair. I must get a board so I can work on bigger paper…but I tried some A3 off-white sketchbook paper, and my fountain pen. I thought about Inktense or gouache for the red chair. Here are my sketchbook notes:


I found it really difficult to get the proportions. The problem with working in the  lounge is that it is full of distractions and I had quite a few failed attempts with both my fountain pen and quill pen:

I decided to return to pencil but went with my sepia conté pencil to make a change from graphite and in case I wanted to top up the drawing with some ink. I was more successful with the proportions and liked the rough chalky effect of the pencil. I used a selection of reds from my tin of Inktense for the chair and washed over to smooth out the blending and provide a contrast in texture. I endeavoured to vary my markmaking with some crosshatching for the shadows and blending the curtain gently with a paper stump. There was also an element of unintentional smudging but I’m not too worried about that. Here is the drawing:


I’d love to say I’m really pleased with it! I do like it and given there is always the pressure/tightening up which goes with knowingly doing an “Assignment Piece” and a looming deadline, I feel I’ve fulfilled what I set out to achieve. I’d like it to be bigger and less clumsy and it feels a bit uptight and characterless.

Assessment criteria points:

Demonstration of technical and visual skills:

I like the composition but I don’t feel I made enough of the windows and the shading on the squashes makes the table look like it’s a vertical surface. I like the skull though and feel it has a good shape and form. I used a pencil in order to get a variation in marks, from small lines to larger expanses, and both blended and sharp which is possible with a conté crayon.

Quality of outcome:

My sketchbook has details of my workings and there I have communicated my ideas regarding this piece – I was fairly set on the idea once I’d thought of it. I’ve drawn the skull before, and the still life using line was not hugely dissimilar so I have taken what I learnt from that and applied it to a different subject. I’ve included colour and tied I the research I did with Charles Hardaker but applying a splash in an otherwise monochrome image.

Demonstration of creativity:

Keeping within the requirements of the exercise, so thinking of the previous projects and applying new skills from them means the creativity is within parameters, but I feel I have experimented and combined/used different media whilst utitilising what I’ve covered already in the course.

Context reflection:

My visit to Rachel Whiteread was timely and I enjoyed discovering new artists Charles Hardaker and Aldo Balding. My knowledge and appreciation of the still life has increased hugely, following from the Study Visit to the Prints and Drawings Room at the BM and I’m really pleased I’ve had the chance to explore the genre and found it to be not at all boring! I’m a lot more aware of composition and finding nice things to draw when I’m out and about and now look at my house in a whole new way. Part two has been great, and an enjoyable challenge.

postscript: the still life being on the dining room table meant it kept getting augmented with various foodstuffs. Bizarrely, Nutella and ketchup both made an appearance which clearly had a subliminal effect on my choice of colours…..

Exercise 3 Material differences

I had decided to do a doorway viewpoint following my research and sketches around the house. I tried a few things in my sketchbook and took some photos. Again, the familiarity of the scene distorted my visual judgement and I found it difficult to get the proportions correct. I had a rough go on some A3 copy paper:


I really like the orange towel draped over the bannister and the tinted charcoal shadows. It’s very unrefined but I liked it enough to continue.

A concern I had was that I was aware that doors and walls have straight edges and on the suggested size of paper (A2 to A1) I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to do a convincingly accurate set of lines for the doorways freehand. There are a lot of lines which make up a door surround I’ve realised! I didn’t want to use a ruler so I had a go in my sketchbook first. It’s A3 but I used a double-page spread:


I started off with a graphite stick but it was too chunky so kept with a 2B pencil. Having the seam of the book in the middle wasn’t ideal but I don’t have a drawing board or easel so I didn’t have anything to rest a large piece of paper on, so I decided to carry on with the double page spread for the final drawing as I could rest my open book on the board. I sketched in the main lines:


My drawing board/sketchbook and a table with a bunch of stuff on it occupies the bottom left of the drawing so I decided to just let it fizzle out at that point.

I carried on filling in the tones with 6B and 2B graphite sticks, and the same in regular pencil form. I didn’t use orange for the towels as of course they are dark and not really coloured which is a shame.

Here is the final piece:


On the whole I’m pleased with it. The tonal values could be stronger and the brightness from that central window doesn’t show up as markedly as it could because I haven’t gone as dark on the dark parts and the midtones would meld together and make the whole thing look a bit muddy. So, it’s not a particularly accurate rendition and thinking back to Odilon Redon, I wish I could be braver with my tonal range. I am conscious that I am still tending to ‘see’ lines which I know are there where in fact they blend together but I worry about losing definition. Subtlety of tone is not my greatest joy nor most accomplished artistic skill! Looking at the picture in the course text – Cradle by Van Gogh – I see that most of the drawing is indeed grey apart from the black in the hood of the cradle, and bright white around the baby’s head. I think this blanket of grey unnerves me, even though, when I look at the view in front of me here, it would be impossible to get every distinct shade and in trying to achieve that I have lost the thrust of the drawing: the sense of continuation through a space and beyond.

I am considering a more creative version of this viewpoint for my Assignment as I would like to explore it further.

More research

My interest in doors and the views through them brought me to Charles Hardaker, whose interior paintings often feature this subject. His aim is to bring an essence of mystery to everyday objects – in this way he draws parallels with Rachel Whiteread and her use of the ordinary and mundane in her work.

He also uses a limited palette, usually pale rather than the darker tones of Aldo Balding, and injects a small focus of colour or light at some point to provide attention and an element of narrative.

I like this one:

Open Doors with Metronome” oil, 16″ x 16″


I like the unashamed ordinariness of the light switch, the telephone socket and scrappy lead, and the strong vertical lines from the doors and panelling.

And this one:

Interior with 3 Letters


The red cloth on the right and blue coat behind the door draw the eye to the centre, even though the titular 3 letters on the mat are rather an afterthought. I prefer the neater finish of the first painting and the sense of journey through the doors. This sense of progression is something I would like to use in my composition.

Sketchbook pages:





Research on interiors

A lady I follow on Instagram, Carol Towler (@cwanderertowler) has some amazing interior still lifes using weird and wonderful viewpoints. I’ve put a selection together here:


I think these are great fun and like the aerial view and cubist influences. However, I wanted to investigate doors and more simple still lifes.

Bruce Cohen




I really like this. The patterned floor and the vase; the diffused shrubs and trees on the right and the intricate detail of the vegetables on the counter; the colours; the shadows, that pop of orange from the chair in the centre.



I like the colours in this one and the unusual subject matter – not sure where I’ve seen sultry storm clouds as a feature in a still life. I’m not sure where the light is coming from as there is a break in the cloud but that wouldn’t give the light directly on to the window frame?

Here are some more:


Aldo Balding 

Another artist I found on my travels was Aldo Balding. An illustrator who now lives and works in the south of France, he distorts space and presents an unfinished narrative which make his paintings look like a still shot from a moving picture. Restricting his palette to 5-6 colours in a tonal range, and covering most of the support with one or two mid to dark tones, gives his paintings a sombre look allowing the colour of the subjects to be brought to the fore.

Although most of his paintings contain people – which isn’t necessarily the focus for this research point, they are in settings we would all find familiar, and the intimacy and tension of the people featuring in his paintings ties in with the theme of this section of the course:

Ad libitum (42″ x 36″)

A more conventional interior still life is this one, “Back Door”:

Back Door (28″ x 20″)

I love the light playing on the tiled floor. Of course it is inviting us to look out in to the sunny garden, and personally I prefer the drama of some of his darker, more intense still lifes.

Here are some more:


To be continued…



Quick sketches around the house

I was looking forward to this: make sketches of the rooms in the house, turning 45° each time to give another view. My house is a family home where 3 and a half of us live and work so it is a busy environment and I am not the most houseproud of people so there is plenty of drawing fodder.

I bought a ream of A2 copy paper last year and I’m finding it useful to fold a sheet in half and clip to a drawing board as my A3 sketchbook is unwieldy to haul about, so that remains a static workbook. I took my drawing board around my bedroom, my studio/spare bedroom, the lounge and the study:


My bedroom, with a 2B pencil (excuse dog footprint). I often draw the view from my table or seat at restaurants and coffee shops, or on the train and various other sketching opportunities and this has hugely increased my confidence in drawing from life. Yes, the lines are wonky and as usual, I have an interesting take on perspective, but I do get on with it…

I didn’t bother with any tonal values as I was trying to get the proportions correct – I found this quite difficult in such a familiar setting. I did struggle to disengage my brain and draw what I could see.

I do find a regular pencil surprisingly unforgiving for drawing with so for the next room – my studio – I chose a sanguine fineliner:


I found this room much easier, possibly for a number of reasons. I’ve recently appropriated it as my art room so it is full of positivity, and less familiar than my bedroom, and I use a fineliner for my out-and-about sketches so that felt like an old friend. I preferred the subject matter and enjoyed the lines. Doors have an awful lot of lines!! I particularly liked the top left view through the door on to the landing and the window beyond. And the kitten!

I kept with the fineliner for the next room – the lounge:


The proportions went badly wrong on the bottom right section, although I smiled to myself at the Alice in Wonderland scale of things! Again, I really enjoyed the doors even though the front door looks as if it’s propped up against the lounge door in the top right! I was laughing as I drew it but I’m sure it did look like that. Overfamiliarity again…

I wanted to try a different drawing tool for the study, so I chose a 6B graphite stick:


The graphite stick is super chunky of course and has little finesse but I liked the child-like quality of the drawing and simplicity. Once more, I was intrigued by the view through the door in to the lounge and decided to investigate this aspect further.

I’m conscious this is not an exhaustive study as encouraged in the course text but I have to walk a path between ensuring sufficient groundwork and getting bored/running out of time!

Exhibition visit: Rachel Whiteread

With the next section of the coursework focussing on interior space, I looked in at the Rachel Whiteread exhibition which has just started at Tate Britain. I was aware of some of her work, namely the fourth plinth at Trafalgar Square and the concrete-filled house in Hoxton.

In the Duveen Galleries was an arrangement of 100 blocks of coloured resin, each the cast of the negative space beneath a found chair. The specific configuration varies with the siting of the installation and in this instance, it was 5 x 20.

Untitled (One Hundred Spaces) 1995

The cubes help to get you looking at the negative space – necessary for the rest of the exhibition.

The exhibition itself differs from the usual Tate fare in that there are no partitions: the space is open with the sculptures displayed around the walls and distributed through the central space. It gives a wonderful open feel and the presence and scale of her work is immediately apparent. You can also – joy of joys – take photographs. There is very little information about the individual pieces and nothing by way of ‘blurb’ referring to them – just their names and dates. I like this as it encourages further exploration and I have to engage rather than womble round reading the curator’s take on the art.

Rachel Whiteread’s emphasis on the negative space underneath everyday objects cleverly draws attention to this forgotten area which is not there, and yet is. It becomes a space in its own right, and becomes the solid object rather than the object itself. In addition, casting preserves the elements of wear and tear of the objects and retains a sense of individuality of each item. I completely identified with her process and thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition because of it. Sometimes when I go round an exhibition, I get bits of an artist’s work, but other elements leave me baffled, so the fact I found her work both fascinating and accessible made it a wonderful experience. I really liked this desk and chair; there’s a recessed part where the chair sits under the desk: is that a negative negative space? A positive negative space? Or indeed a negative positive space…?


She has the resin cast of a beehive, and other objects such as toilet roll tubes and drinks cans. The library was astonishing and the imprints of the pages of the books minutely detailed in the plaster.


Her works on paper were lovely. Drawings on graph paper using correction fluid, and cardboard mock-ups of the sculptures. I was particularly interested in her postcards: areas painted over with gouache and then holes of differing sizes punched through the paint. Outside in the foyer of the exhibition are cabinets with her sketchbooks and I spotted this which reminded me of the coursework exercise I am currently tackling – Quick sketches around the house:


I have a bit of an obsession with door furnishings and often notice handles and catches. When I moved in to my house, one of the main things I found comforting was the door latches on the cupboards were the same, or sufficiently similar, to those in my grandparents’ house where I’d spent many happy days in my childhood. Rachel Whiteread has cast doors and as they are standing on the floor, look like regular doors leaning up against a wall a bit like in an architectural salvage yard, until you realise they’re the reverse and the locks and escutcheons inverted, the recessed panels actually protruding. It’s fascinating. The resin casts of windows are likewise at window height, giving a juxtaposition of unfamiliar and familiar.


As well as casts using plaster, resin and concrete, there are other structures made from papier mache using detritus from her studio. These are necessarily less detailed and have a rough, multicoloured appearance which I liked less than the clear resin, or the fineness of the plaster. In geology, the fine sediments of clay preserve the exquisite detail of fossils and I liked this similarity in her works made from plaster and concrete.

It was great to visit such a brilliant exhibition which linked so well with my coursework.