Assignment 1

For this first assignment, I had been thinking about a few objects which would be suitable as they needed to trigger a response but nothing was really presenting itself as terribly interesting. I was then handed a suitable topic by my daughter, who by way of apology for an explosive exchange of words and thoroughly inconvenient decision, gave me a bunch of tulips. I really don’t like cut flowers and her choice of this somehow made me feel even more distant from her than the original cause of the argument. At 17, she is betwixt childhood and adulthood both emotionally and geographically, living during term time with me in Sussex and the rest in Newcastle with her boyfriend; it can be a turbulent situation.

I referenced the Angry gestural marks from the first part of the course and after drawing the basic glass Kilner jar and the leaves of the tulips in charcoal, I made a quill pen from a pheasant feather and scratched the heads of the flowers in to the paper using red ink. It took about 10 minutes and I worked fast and instinctively.

I was then in a bit of a dilemma as although I felt it was a good drawing, it wasn’t a collection of a few items, as per the instructions. Or was it? Given that I had a jar and flowers?? I decided to contrast the angry tulips with something calming; the dog’s rope lead. I also felt something sweeping and flowing would look good compositionally against the spiky marks of the flowers. Using graphite putty to give a soft outline, I drew in the shape of the lead and it didn’t work at all.


I tried drawing a more detailed lead with the lines of the rope which I thought I could stick on below the tulips afterwards but I couldn’t do it and was getting more frustrated. I then decided to dispense with the tulips as a still life and do something different. However, nothing really appealed and anything else seemed rather pedestrian and didn’t evoke much of a response. Perhaps trying to do something calming against the emotive flowers wasn’t going to work so I wondered what else I could do alongside the tulips.

My other daughter suggested my tea mug – the one I use for my first cup in the morning when the house is quiet and I’m pottering around feeding the animals. I tried this with the slightly less angry tulips a day or two after the fallout:


I like this. I know the ellipses and general perspective of the cup and jar are off and a bit cubist but as the flowers are abstracted I didn’t see the merit in trying to make the rest of the drawing particularly accurate and potentially run the risk of losing the energy and personality. I am far more interested in lines and gesture than whether something is a perfect rendition and love the freedom and release of making marks on paper. I wonder if more dark would work as there isn’t a lot of contrast but I used natural light from the window on an overcast day so the light was quite diffused.

I used charcoal as I like the variation, which links the random element of the quill pen. I washed over some of the petals with water to smooth the lines, and likewise putty-rubbered the charcoal to render it a little more even.


Assessment criteria

Demonstration of technical and visual skills:

I like the subject matter and the general composition, and the combination of ink and charcoal. Quill pen gives a random aspect and a spontaneity to the drawing. Charcoal is a variable medium and as such the marks are going to be partly dictated by the particular make up of the willow stick used, which makes it interesting.  The perspective is off but I like the effect as my take on the brief was about mark-making with emotion.

The contrast could be greater which would add more drama. The tulip flowers are clustered at the top which looks a bit contrived and the background is rather homogenous. The highlights could be whiter and the shadows darker.

Quality of outcome:

I think it is an interesting drawing and the marks and materials used show a variation in the mood of the piece. I’ve captured a sense of emotion in the flowers as well as the smoothness of the charcoal denoting a sense of calm, and these were the two opposing elements were what I wanted to incorporate in the drawing. I hope I have communicated my ideas via my learning log in an accessible manner.

I did no preliminary sketches, although I tried some after the first tulip drawing to see if the dog lead would work. It was a reaction to a situation rather than a carefully constructed piece and it would have been very different had I chosen some items that I could arrange, alter and think about.

Demonstration of creativity:

This drawing shows a creativity and a certain amount of experimentation as the combination of ink and charcoal is not common. Home made quill pens are fun to use and give a good range of marks. I enjoyed doing it and I feel this is evident, and it is a drawing which is personal to me and feels authentic.

I could have been more adventurous with my mark making and the subject; I feel it lacks a bit of energy. Perhaps including some other items would have added interest or options for further exploration but as I said, I wanted to utilise the emotions I was feeling and hate objects they related to. I suppose there will always be a trade off!

Context reflection:

I’ve not done much research and this needs addressing, and I was very aware of being “assessed” which threw me mentally and gave me a bit of a block to start with – hence my decision to plough on and do the tulips whilst I felt some momentum rather than faffing around worrying about being judged. I am so new to the art world and constantly finding new rabbit warrens to explore and this needs to be quantified somewhat in my approach so that I can use what I’ve seen and learnt for my own purposes as opposed to just being something I like. I enjoy writing the learning log and I hope this comes through and represents my journey thus far. I also need to be more experimental with my sketchbook as at the moment it’s mainly full of chicken drawings!


Life Drawing

I’m not a great fan of Bank Holiday Mondays at the best of times but it now means that Life Drawing class isn’t on, so I was pleased to get up there this week. James first:

Then Valentina:

Apologies for the dodgy lighting and crinkled paper! James is 6’3″ and lean and Valentina is a burlesque dancer and much more curvaceous so it was an interesting contrast. I found Valentina much easier to draw than I have done previously but I had spent the weekend indulging art and my observation was definitely more honed; I get out of practise so quickly. I was pleased I managed to keep all of James on the page as he usually loses his feet or head as I don’t judge the distances. I still prefer feet to hands, and hands to faces!

Original Print Fair

I enjoy going to art fairs as much as I find Tate and other galleries inspirational, it’s interesting to see what is on the market and popular with people who actually buy and sell contemporary art. I love prints – partly because I love paper and printing seems to show paper off to such good effect – so I went up to the Royal Academy for a nose round.

There were some big names such as Dali, David Hockney, Sol Le Witt and Bridget Riley. The other good thing about fairs is that you can get up close and take pictures without getting a hard stare from the attendant. I know very little about the different printing processes so that was a bit confusing but the variety was amazing. A couple of the stand-out pictures for me were these:

IMG_5401This woodblock print, “Looking South” from Pine Feroda is huge and just glorious.

I also thought this one from Susan Goethel Campbell was stunning – the dots are perforations and allow light through which gives a brilliant effect:


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It was a fun afternoon and great to see the folk at Jealous and generally soak up the atmosphere. Vija Celmins’ ‘Comet 1992’, Bill Jacklin’s ‘Tempest in the Square’ and Emil Lukas’ monoprints were stunning. Emma Stibbon’s fabulous new print “Vent” was on display too at the Rabley Gallery stand.

I would love to do a printing module as part of my degree as I really enjoyed that section of Foundations Drawing.



Exercise 4 Shadows and reflected light

For this exercise, the objects I chose were a stainless steel teapot and a little glazed pottery chicken I made last year.  I set them on the table with a white canvas behind so I could use it as a viewfinder of sorts – so I could see how to fit the objects on the page. I chose A2 cartridge paper and willow charcoal; I find the inconsistency of natural charcoal both a blessing and a curse but then again compressed charcoal lacks any character! I used the natural light from the window to the left to provide the light source and although the shadows and reflections weren’t particularly dramatic, the shininess of the pot and reflection of the chicken on that surface were appealing.

The instructions were to fill in the areas of shadow first as in the previous exercises but I tried that with little success, so sketched in the main shapes first. I drew the chicken first and found the shine of the glaze on a dark brown irregular surface quite difficult to interpret as the glints were very patchy. Some were bright white and others just lighter but they varied hugely with the slightest adjustment of my viewpoint.

I then moved on to the teapot and after a few attempts at the ellipses on the lid and base, I settled on the shapes. It was so interesting seeing the reflections on the silver surface and I enjoyed filling in all the marks and highlights.


I really like the finished image. I scumbled round the objects with a not terribly sophisticated sweep of the charcoal but there wasn’t much by way of discernible contrast. I had also peaked with my attention span and I recognise that there are times when one should go back and work more on a drawing and I might try that with a different arrangement when I am feeling inclined!

Reflections: (pardon the pun)

There were more highlights that I could have put on to the teapot and the front edge between the spout and the lid went wrong so is more defined than it should be.

I think it works as a drawing despite not being wholly representative and considering my fears about the exercise in general I am very pleased with how it looks. They look like shiny surfaces and I perhaps could have been more brave with the intricacy of the various reflections but I wanted to do an effective if not very adventurous completion of the exercise.

Odilon Redon and tone

The last two exercises focussed on the differences in tone between the primary and secondary light sources, and I do find effectively translating those differences by using blocks of tone quite difficult in drawing. I found using the crosshatching to depict the form of the book quite illuminating as I managed to get the sense of it sitting on a surface and having solid dimensions without doing an outline – quite a revelation for me! I think a problem I have is working out the variety of tone to use as it all gets rather homogenous. I do aspire to be able to draw in tone rather than lines so I will persevere and much as I enjoy and like line drawings, they do lack atmosphere.

Odilon Redon (1840-1916)

One of the leading artists of the French Symbolist movement, Redon used charcoal to produce what he called “Noirs” from his perception of nature. Rooted in reality but with a fantastical interpretation, these atmospheric drawings are a blend of observation and imagination and the blackness of the charcoal makes for dramatic imagery. Pegasus is my favourite in the selection below, but the variety of marks, the negative space and suggestion of form in all the drawings are powerful. Symbolist artists explored the occult and dreamworlds, and emotions and subjectivity formed the basis for their art.

Tone invariably adds atmosphere, and charcoal seems to exemplify this as the variation in tone can be from black to white, whereas graphite is less extreme. Shadows and dark areas make us feel vulnerable and this aspect of tone can be effective in bringing a sense of emotion and edge to a drawing. The Two Trees in the course text shows the light reflecting off two large tree trunks with an area of blackness between and behind them; this gives a feeling of uncertainty and wariness and the natural response at the prospect of standing in an area of light and openness leading into a dark enclosed space is one of trepidation. This makes an essentially simple drawing a more complex proposition through the use of tone.




Drawing circus

This event was held a few weeks ago in the stunning setting of the music room in the Royal Pavilion, Brighton. A selection of costumed models were arranged in different areas of the room, and we were given a ‘menu’ of pose lengths so we could move around depending on what sort of drawing we wanted to do. It was a magical atmosphere with the Drawchestra playing in the background and about 80 artists gathered together. Materials were provided so I went for 6B graphite stick and A2 paper, and as I prefer short poses I chose the 3, 5 and 15 minute models. Here are some of my drawings from the evening:


The top two are each 15 minutes, the ones on the bottom two sheets are 3 minutes each. I had a great time although I did find clothes a bit distracting as when I was doing the 100 people challenge! And I still breathe a sigh of relief when the time is up and I’ve not got round to doing any facial features. I much prefer feet.


Exercise 3 – Creating shadow using lines and marks

The simple object I chose for the first part of this exercise was a book, the aim being to create four distinct grades of tone using cross-hatching and stippling.  I used a purple biro, brush pen, pencil and fineliner. The light was natural daylight from the window and I tried to do blocks of tone rather than outlines, which I found really difficult! The text said to not worry about neatness or accuracy so I focussed on trying to get a convincing graduation of tone:


I then tried a box and used a brushpen and fineliner to explore some different ways of demonstrating tone:


I like the more abstract one in the bottom left corner and the stippled one is also effective. I still find I instinctively draw in an outline and fill it in but I just need to keep practising that one…

For the second part I added a book and two small boxes to the still life and had a go at drawing the group. The interlocking shadows were interesting and there was more variation in tone so I tried some different marks to represent this. It looks very messy and rushed but the text said to work quickly and loosely. I do think they look like objects and they have a three dimensional quality; they lack solidity but I’m not sure how to do straight lines with crosshatching without resorting to drawing an outline so the edges are fuzzy:


The examples for this exercise in the course text have definite outlines so sometimes I find the instructions rather contradictory! I feel I am getting better at seeing areas of tone so I’m trying to resist always going for the outline and then filling in.