Monthly Archives: September 2016

Part 2: Project 2 & 3 Reflection.

This was a great set of excercises and I learnt a lot.

Some big mistakes… but equally some big steps forward.

Exercise 1: Still life using line.



I loved the speed and freedom of working in line. It felt like dancing. I enjoyed making mistakes and finding the line was great.

After making some sketches and looking at the composition over a few days I took photographs from various points of view… up high, on eye level… to the side. Then picked this which was about 45% to the objects. I then cropped the photograph to inmprove the composition and worked from the photograph.


I didn’t.

The photograph was dead and flat. So I used the photograph as a reference and an aid if I got stuck and drew what I remembered. It became more like sculting with clay. Moulding the line till it hit the shapes I wanted and working very fast.

I have been reading Musee d’Orsay at two pages a day (I’m up to page 316) – really studying the paintings and trying to absorb the notes/compositional comments – and wanted to incorporate some compositional elements I’d picked up.

So, after completing the drawing in black ink I then added some blue ink to link the spirit level and bradawl… and add some brown tones to the wall to echo the tones in the hammer. Then I went back in and added the shadow.

On a practical level I found I couldn’t sit down and had to stand up and use the dip pen like a paintbrush.  Holding it in all sorts of weird ways to match what I was feeling/trying to achieve.

At no point did this feel like copying a photograph it felt more like I was feeling their contours as I was drawing them – like there was a direct connection between the still life and the end of the pen.

(1) I thought I captured something of the process and energy of the drawing.

(2) The objects felt alive and had weight, form, and depth; and looked as if they belonged together.

(3) It had something beyond a copy of a still life and captured something of me. The objects feel alive (at least to me!).


(1) I dropped some ink spots and tried to clear them up and paint over them. A big mistake… I think the ‘messiness’ is all part of capturing the process and I should have left then. In a starnge way the drawing is much ‘cleaner’ with the mistakes.

(2) I didn’t get the shape first time so on a pure skill level had to keep adjusting till they magically emerged. This took a lot of stopping and looking.

Exercise2: Still life in tone using colourPots 2.jpgThis was much more more problematic and I might as well own up now.


It started off well as I worked quickly and blocked in areas of shade and then went back in and worked the still life on top of this. All good so far.

And the image was fresh… I then made the fatal error of wanting to ‘finish’ it.

Here I hit a wall of technical problems.

The good side of it is that I was on a vertical learning curve. The bad side is what should have been 5 or 6 pastel sketches completed quickly became one ‘finished’ piece teaching me more about the medium than a tonal excercise.

However, I did spend a lot of time stepping back and looking.

So, this time I’m going to start with what was unsuccessful.


(1) I didn’t manage to work quickly, stop and start again.

(2) When I pastelled over a dark pastel because the shape was wrong it didn’t cover it but looked like I had transparrent plant pots!

The paper became ‘clogged up’ and it still showed through.

However I discovered that if you spayed it with lots of fixative and worked this quickly with the pastel before it becam sticky you could get some lovely effects of the surface and it covered up the dark pattern underneath.

(3) I really struggled with the fixative. It changed the tone of the pastel work (made it darker) and didn’t dry back to the original colours.

If you worked above it the grains fell and got stuck in the fixative.

(4) Generally, because you get a lot of dust you have to work from the top down… colour falls and changes the colours underneath.

(5) I ended up applying fixative, letting it dry and then working on the dried fixative. This was ‘bumpy’ and gave the work a different texture.

(6) I think this became a mixed media piece where the pastel/fixative and multiple layers became a drawing tool (or painting tool) rather than a pastel drawing.

(7) If you put too much fixative on it runs like paint – if not enough it still loses colour… quite an art. And it ALWAYS seems to mess up your colours!

Ideally, you need to do the whole thing, get it right first time… then give it the lightest of sprays of fixative.


(1) During the process I did some really subtle line/tone – the colours are fresh, vibrant… alive and subtle too.

(2) Considering the pastels are big they are very subtle and blend well. You can achieve tone, highlights, shadows and form really well.


Different mediums are very different to work with and each has its own skill set.

Using colours I found wonderful as they could be used expressionistically and as a compositional element. You can almost have a conversaton with the colours where the still life is merely the starting point and reference and it becomes not about the objects at all but something completely different.

Black and white gave me a good sense of structure. You don’t always ‘see’ it in colour but its like skeleton under the skin… you don’t see it on the surface but if it’s wrong your flesh/body is never going to work.


Reflection – working outside.

I decided the garage was unuseable – the light was yellow and it was cramped. I needed to be able to step back and dance a bit if necessary!

So I tried outside… the light is fantastic!!!!!!

But there are problems – it moves!

This makes it impossible to work slowly, or you need to be working from sketches and just use the light to see.

Plus if it shines directly on the easel you cast a shadow so have to move. Not a massive problem.


Even with the easel weighted down it can blow over your canvas. A work you’ve spent hours on can be ruined in a second as you smudge the pastel/paint catching it. So you have to tie it on… paper blows up the edges… so you have to clip it down.

If you’re very unluck and working on a board you can end up with a nasty graze on your knuckle. Yes, it did happen.

So now I have cleared a space in front of the double windows and work with my back to the garden and the light on the canvas.

And can understand why artists have studios!