Exercise 2 Larger observational study of an individual tree

For this exercise, I decided to try something different to the suggested line drawing as I am trying to get away from my comfort zone. I chose a sycamore and my conte crayons and sat down to do a concerted study. It ended up being a slightly more involved (overworked!) version of the oak I did during the individual tree sketches, and although it’s an acceptable drawing, it’s not really got any detail:


I did spend a decent amount of time on it though, even if that doesn’t really show in the end result!

So, today I chose another tree – an oak – and sat in the sunshine with my fountain pen and scribbled away. Slowing down and giving myself some time has really helped me to concentrate and I enjoy feeling that I have time to complete a task, and reassure myself that I can always go back and continue if I run out of steam. This has been such a dramatic change in my approach and I do feel it’s helping.

I used A3 watercolour paper as I wasn’t sure if I was going to do a wash. I loved looking at the texture of the bark but I struggled with shadows as I would then lose the detail. I am aware this lack of tonality gives my drawings a graphic look and prevents them from being grounded but I wanted to highlight the detail. The tree does look three-dimensional but it has no context:


I am going to have to take my sketchbook out and do some drawings and be brave and cover bits of them in shadow.


Exercise 1 Sketching individual trees

I live in a rural area so finding suitable trees to draw was not going to be a problem. Having spoken to my tutor, I’m trying to get out of the habit of always going for line first, and also giving myself some time to actually engage with the exercise and give myself a chance to complete the task in an unhurried manner so as to get the most from it.

For the following drawings I used a range of media such as fountain pen, charcoal, drawing pencils and conte crayon:


I really like these drawings – I think the charcoal and conte crayon work particularly well. Trees have both their species shape and then that shape is further individualised by the tree’s growing conditions.

Assignment Two formative feedback


This was quite difficult to read to be honest – I very much doubt my ability to do the academic side of the course justice as I don’t seem to have any sort of filter as to what is relevant and what isn’t as I find it all so exciting. I get seduced with interesting snippets and artists I’ve never heard of and I’m not sure a science background is very helpful at times when it comes to analysis and subjectivity as I’m used to dealing with facts and data…


Some positives:

Make up varied supports in anticipation of making further mixed-media work. Rauschenberg for inspiration.

Considering composition: work in series on a number of ideas. I think this will really help and I am looking forward to trying to work in this way as I’ve not thought to do so before.

Develop studies further: I tend to get stuck on an idea and it doesn’t occur to me to change medium, scale, introduce colour or texture so again, I am looking forward to being much more experimental.

More time: it’s more a question of uninterrupted time to pursue a train of thought before having to break off to get back to the rest of life. This needs addressing; not entirely sure how yet but it needs to be done.

Incoherent blog: Yes. I find WordPress a pain at times but again, I need to address this.

Use sketchbooks in sequence: this will allow me to see my development rather than hopping from one sketchbook to another. I will either photograph my pages or tear them out and stick them in so that I can see a sense of progression.

Connect personal research to my own creative output: I can’t always see how someone else’s work can influence mine as I don’t yet make that connection. I am hoping that with more exposure to research and different artists I will be able to relate the two and benefit from the findings I make by utilising them in my work.

I take from this feedback a need to up my game and start thinking more expansively but with more discernment.



Collaborative Edge-zine project

The theme for December’s Edge magazine – past editions found here – is ‘Share’, and our editor has encouraged us to work with photographs from fellow OCA students. I had noted this and duly put it to one side, the deadline being mid-November, and thought no more about it…

A couple of weeks ago, an OCA photography student, Andy Birskeugh (who I know through Instagram: @drewkabi) contacted me about using my life drawing sketches for one of his coursework exercises. It was amazing to see how he transformed my drawings in to a layered photograph and I really enjoyed seeing his process and developmental work, documented here.

It was a natural progression to ask Andy to provide me with a photo that I could work with for Edge. My house is a former farmworker’s cottage, and the farm itself has not been in use for some years. It is pleasantly derelict with interesting shapes and lines from the agricultural buildings, and my thoughts were that if Andy could take a photo of a farm building, I could draw a structure from here over the top of it in maybe graphite or charcoal.

However, this rather pedestrian idea was soon overtaken when I received the images from Andy’s visit to Balsdean Farm in Rottingdean. He had been particularly struck by the shadows of the roof beams on the walls of the buildings, and instead of simply using an image for my purposes, I wanted to use what he’d seen and noticed and experienced to influence my working, so to collaborate on the creativity, not the subject. I printed off a few copies of one shot: in colour, greyscale and both draft and best quality. Here is the original:


I chose this one as I liked the lines of the walls and the contrasting colours. It also features the shadows which I wanted to incorporate somehow.

The Rachel Whiteread exhibition is still very much in my consciousness and her postcards modified with gouache or correction fluid and punched holes really intrigued me. Inktober has also been fun and I’ve enjoyed using my black fineliners and markers, and it seemed an obvious starting point to mark out some lines and see where it took me.

I flipped the photo as I preferred the perspective receding to the right rather than the left, and the vanishing point ascending rather than being straight ahead. Then I wanted to block out some of the detail, so used some leftover gouache:


Some of these lines worked, some didn’t. I also tried some correction fluid and hole punching but neither of those felt right:


However, after these explorations I felt I had established what I wanted to use, and transferred the elements I liked on to another photo:


I really like this. The gouache was great fun and I like the ‘feature wall’ with Andy’s shadows, and the cartoon-ish effect of the black liner. Some of the lines are shadows, some are pen and I like that. It’s a bit wonky (as are a lot of my drawings!) and plays with your eyes and brain.

I felt surprisingly responsible working with someone else’s image but enjoyed picking up the energy that Andy had set in motion and galloping off with it. I wouldn’t have taken that picture, and I have never painted on a photo before. It’s  been great to have the chance to explore this mixing of creativity.


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.