Category Archives: Assignment 2 preparitory work.

Assignment 2 (Preparation: 6 of 6 quick sketches of my still lifes)


Pencil crayon sketch…

In my terms, I had to rush this having had a timely nudge from my tutor to finish Assignment 2.  The candle was done in a couple of hours a few days ago and the rest of the picture finished tonight in about three hours.

Pencil crayons are very difficult to use.

They lay colour down in a really weird way. It’s difficult to explain… they have a quality I can’t put my finger on.

I’ve found in these preparatory sketches that each medium is very different, both to use and in how it looks/what’s it’s best at. It’s almost like each is a different visual language. It’s also teaching  me something about myself… about controlling colour (watercolours) and broad blocks of colour (pastels)… and that I really like the way colours work together.

And using the same supporting medium for each has shown me that that is nearly as important (maybe as important) as the drawing medium.

So, in no particular oreder this is what I’ve learned from pencil crayons:

(1) In life there are no pencil lines… a pencil line is a convention to show where two colours butt up. A visual shorthand… and when you use pencil crayons (which are very transparent) the pencil lines show through. This really brings home negative and positive shapes and forces you to consider exactly what you are drawing.

That is, the line takes on a different meaning. Rather than ‘being’ the drawing it becomes the contour of a 3D shape. It makes you ‘see’ both the line and the subject differently.

Sometimes the pencil line serves an artistic purpose and a lot of artists use line to delineate their shapes, but that’s a choice. If you ‘draw’ a shape and then colour it in with pencil it’s almost impossible to fully lose the line. So in my case the line is dictated by the medium not by the artist.

(2) The cover of pencil crayons is grainy compared to watercolour or pastel.

(3) It’s very difficuly to mix pencil crayons on the page to create new colours.

(4) My crayons kept breaking when I sharpened them which was very frustrating – I think the trick is to buy expensive crayons that don’t shatter.

(5) Mine also wore down very quickly which meant I had to keep sharpening them as they blunted and it was difficult to know where they would make a mark.

(6) The crayons left little bits on the paper which made tiny pimply marks when I colored over them.

(7) The sketch paper compressed when I pushed down with the crayons – this made it shiny and it didn’t pick up the colour very well.

(8) The colour had a certain quality I couldn’t put my finger on which will be great for something but emotionally I found it thin and watery. But maybe that was the quality of my crayons.

(9) Perspective: The candle took me an age to draw as each face has a different perspective. I tried by eye but couldn’t get it right as all the faces have to work together. I then found the vanishing points of the candle in my photograph by drawing them out on a big bit of paper and mechanically imposed them on my drawn candle.

It was very interesting to find how this changed the shapes and lines and I could see where I’d not drawn what I’d seen. But imposed what I thought (knew) on my drawing. In my head I ‘saw’ the left hand side as quite big – because I know its a flat slab of candle – and drew it bigger than it was. In fact it takes up only a tiny bit of paper

After a while I eventually managed (I think) to get all the faces working together.

(10) The composition isn’t right but I’m not sure what’s wrong with it. I think the objects are too spaced out and in a circle. There’s not enough connection between them, no visual gravity.

(11) Colour wise I like the greens and reds but I think the reds need to move nearer the greens as at the moment they are too far away to create any dynamics.

(12) Although I don’t think the drawing works as a whole (and I rushed the wooden table) parts of it are beginning to work individually.

a) The red byro and white paper are pleasing… I think this might be to do with the angles and geometry and the way the byro cut the corner of the paper making triangles beyond the paper which you mentally complete. And the highlight on the byro links with the white paper.

This is interesting too as I drew it very quickly.

b) In the photograph (I’ve never done people before) and like the way a few marks can suggest a face. My son actually looks like my son!!!! (At least to me.)

c) The green on the mug works… I think the angle of curve is right.

d) Even though it’s very overworked the candle is pleasing as it has some solidity.

(13) This drawing made me think that the human eye sees a small part of a vista in focus and ‘correctly’, and stitches together a big picture by tiny head and eye movements so what we actually ‘see’ in our head is never normally distorted.

In drawing a big picture we are actually putting together a series of small pictures with slightly different points of view.

In this photograph because the lens was too near the still life it caused distortion. And I’ve drawn that distortion… but tried to also make everything real. This is a valid technique if used consciously for a purpose and makes me think of some 1930’s? Italian painting and German Expressionism where the artist deliberately disorintates the viewer by changing the normal perspective.

In my case it was an accident of the photograph.

Finally, I know it’s taken ages but in my preparatory drawings I used different media properly for the first time and it’s given me a real feel for their possibilities in Assignment 2.

Now, I’ve just got to sleep on it and see what I can come up with tomorrow.

I’ve got to crack on!!!!!!



Assignment 2 (Preparation: 5 of 6 quick sketches of my still lifes)



This took about seven hours so NOT a quick sketch!!!!

However… the learning curve was vertical so worth every minute – will have to take time off work and catch up to try and finish the course.

So many things to say about this it’s difficult to know where to start?! So, as ever, in no particular order:

(1) Supporting medium was A4 sketch paper – this had very little bite so was very difficuly to ‘overwork’ if I didn’t get the first mark right. The paper got clogged and generated lots of dust which covered the fresh clean work.

It would have been much better to use pastel paper or canvas… I looked at ‘The Rehearsal’ by Degas and noticed it was h59 x w83.8 cm. on canvas which has lots of bite!!!! Though it would have been very interesting to know what his canvas was made of and how it was prepared.

(2) Working on the flat was a very bad idea as the dust went everywhere (I started at the top right and moved round in sections but it didn’t help because I was working on a table).

Next time I will put the supporting medium on an easel so the dust falls down and work from the top. That way the colours should stay fresh and clean.

(3) A4 was too small for the chunky pastels which are very poor at detail and fine lines (unlike pencil or watercolour) as it’s hard to predict where the line will fall. Had I worked bigger it would have been much easier to define objects.

(4) They are very good at shading/blocks of colour and suggestions. And very good for unreal reality – by which I mean the brain sees the objects as what they are, ‘real’ , even though in photographic terms they are very ‘unreal’. This is super cool.

So with a couple of strokes of chalk you can create a book that is more like a book than the best photograph and yet in purely ‘realistic terms’ is not realistic.

I need to think about this some more but I really like it.

(5) Pastels have a really creamy almost sensous quality and when you get it right the objects ‘jump’ off the page almost as if they are alive – and certainly 3D.

(6) The colours get dirty and I kept forgetting where I’d put them down so I had to test each colour before I used it.

(7) The colours fall into ‘families’… be it greens, or blues or reds. They harmonise together but if you mix them they clash (which may be good for effect but not if you’re showling light bend over a surface) as they have very different ’emotional’ and visual qualities.

(8) The surface is very unstable so if you accidentally touch a bit you’ve drawn, or drop a chalk on it, it makes a big mark which means you then have to rework a whole area that might have taken you an hour to work through.

(7) One way to get a ‘thin’ line is to make the line then work the colour next to it back up till only a thin line is left.

(8) I discovered the pointy white cardboard? stick which you can use to blend areas together where you’ve left a tiny white gap. I sometimes left a ‘buffer’ zone to stop the colours mixing. It works well as you can be precise with it. However, I’m not sure it’s always the best idea to make colours butt up against each other – even though this is what happens in real life. It has to be an artistic decision.

(9) If you drop a chalk they shatter and are unuseable!

(10) When you spay with fixative to stabalise the surface it makes all the colors go darker – I don’t know whether they eventually get lighter again? But initially it takes the brightness out of the drawing.

(11) This is wildly… ummm…. significantly different from the photograph. I have tried to compose the drawing (the first time I’ve really consciously done this) by editing out objects – changing the colour gradient to show depth – and used the areas of black to give it a geometric quality so it works as a ‘naturalistic’ drawing but also has an abstract/geometrical framework which adds another layer of interest.

I’ve also tried to make seperate (but thematically linked) areas of interest like little narratives and used contrasting areas of light and dark like the open pad and the black closed sketchbook next to it. And there’s the flat plane of the lawn for the pots echoed by the flat area of the table.

And even the idea of stepping down to the garden with table, flags, lawn leading into the drawing.

I’m not sure how well it works in absolute terms (that is from a tutor’s/artist’s perspective) but I can see the different elements in the drawing and it feels like it’s a significant step forward and is my first faltering attempt at giving a drawing an artistic life/using artistic language over and above ‘making a drawing’.

Like a toddler starting to speak!

Finally, I like the left hand section of the table (which I did last and was quicker)… it has a certain quality I can’t explain. And the anglepoise lamp.

All in all this was great fun!

PS: Here’s my workspace.




Assignment 2 (Preparation: 4 of 6 quick sketches of my still lifes)


Preparatory oil pastel sketch…

Very interesting, and a very different medium.

This time I drew with the oil pastels straight onto the paper.

It’s a lovely rich medium but a bit unforgiving. You can’t draw over the lines as the colours blend and quickly become grey/brown! So, you’ve got to be bold and get it right (at least basically) first time. Leaving gaps for different colours.

I found the only way to work was intuitively like singing, only with colour. You get in the zone and then go with what the medium is doing. It’s learning by playing.

When I pressed hard the colour crumbled so I used that effect to try and get the ends of the brush.

Other things I found out:

(1) If you have a bit of one colour then sweep it forward with another you can get fine lines like hairs.

(2) By pushing and twisting slightly you can ‘crumble’ the ends and get some nice pinpoint effects.

(3) You’re never going to get a fine line, though black will touch other colours (sadly white is much harder to apply!), so you have to use another colour beneath a thicker line and sweep it along to leave a thinner line.

(4) By mixing colours you can form tones and show the direction of shape.

(5) Because the pastels are thick the way the light catches the marks is very important (I guess it’s a bit like the brushstroke technique of a painter). The ‘direction of marks’ are almost like another element of colour – and can dramatically affect your drawing.

(5) It produces a very particular kind of drawing which is the polar opposite to photo realism but has a lovely, almost painterly quality, that reminds me of British painters I’ve seen from the fifties. I love the heavy style and the way the drawing takes you inside it with it’s lovely textures and suggestiveness.

The objects are full of personality.

(6) I discovered a trick!!!!

When I thought I’d finished I fixed it – then had another look and found some things I wanted to fix. And found that the fixative meant that in places where the oil pastel was thinner I could go over and add colour.

(7) You can mix colours by putting a few dibs of one then colouring over the top. Or by crosshatching and letting the eye do the work… up close the hatching looks weird but it works on the drawing.

(8) The medium made me completely change the composition of the still life because it was too fine to ‘draw’ with oil pastel. I simplified and balanced it, which made for a much better composition.

(9) Don’t run out of colour. I ran out of white… so this isn’t quite finished.

(10) Ironically, as the oil pastels were really hard to work with – it felt like I was sculpting rather than drawing, and holding the objects in my hands rather than copying them with my eyes – I really like this as a drawing.

The bottom of the razor, shaving soap and brush feel like I could pick them up and use them!

Sadly the top of the razor doesn’t work as the colours bleed and there’s not enough information to differentiate the object. However, when I’ve bought another white I might go back in and try and fix it…. I know exactly the two bits I want to work on.

PS: Just occured to me that you might be able to use multi media on one drawing to solve different problems?

Assignment 2: Thoughts after preparitory watercolour drawing.

My tutor said I shouldn’t get caught up in too much detail and she liked my looser drawings – I did!


However I intend to bash through the next four at max of an hour each and then start on Assignment 2.

I have changed my plan slightly and instead of doing multiple drawings for Assignment 2 I’m going to do one drawing (possible the rubber plant as I know it well now – I can see why artists redraw the same thing over and over in different lights and moods). But I’m going to use multiple mediums (both the picture surface and drawing medium).

This way the overall drawing will unify the composition and the different parts of that drawing in different mediums will both become seperate drawings but also part of the whole. And will express different things and have different impacts.

I’m not sure it will work but I’m going to try and alter my intention… so the oil pastels may be expressionistic… the pastels impressionistic… the watercolours hightened reality… the pen and markers fun/jokey.

So, it’s more like the rubber plant (if that’s what I go for) is the vehicle – I’m not trying to draw a photographically accurate rubber plant!!!!! – and the mediums both enhance, and to some extent dictate, my intention.

The criteria says the ‘most apropriate medium for the subject’ – but that begs the question… ‘What is the subject?’

I’m going to have multiple personal subjects and one external ‘object’.


Assignment 2 (Preparation: 2 of 6 quick sketches of my still lifes)


Well… I’m quite pleased with how this has turned out but it wasn’t a 30 minute sketch!!!!  More like a month at 2 or 3 hours a day!

Anyway it’s been a fantastic learning excercise so all good.  I’ve not really done a full watercolour painting before so this was great fun.

In no particular order these are some of the things I’ve learned:

(1) You can add washes of watercolour over dry paint and change the colour, which is really cool.

(2) You can also mix wet on wet on the page… or go back in with water and rework a section or add wet to dry paint so this is a very flexible medium.

(3) As with other mediums the tonal changes are vital… the ‘colours’ can be non natural but if the tones are wrong it won’t work. Get the tones right and you can have enhanced colours but produce a ‘realistic’ image.

(4)  I painted the positive images first which I think was a mistake as when you paint in the background you end up painting to an edge and can easily cut into the image. Whereas if you painted the background first you’d be putting the object on top as it is in real life.

The danger with edges is the paints can mix and spoil the colour.

(5) ??? I couldn’t decide whether to leave a tiny white gap where background and object met (which you don’t get in the real world) or to have the colours touching. Decided to touch on the basis that if I wanted an outline, either black or white, I could add it.

(6) This was painted on sketch paper which ‘buckles’ with the wet paint and if it gets too wet bits of the paper come off. So I’m looking forward to using watercolour paper… the supporting medium never occured to me but that’s my lack of experience.

The more I do this course the more I realise a lot of art is about picking the right tools for the job. That’s both their physical and emotional qualities.

Also I think it might be fun to try coloured paper?

This will affect the colours as lots of the watercolours are translucent but might unify the picture… I’ve read oil painters often paint their canvases in blocks of colour so we’ll see what happens. And it would avoid some of the problem of any blank paper coming across as a highlight.

(7) I drew the positive shapes freehand first and then painted over them. This is good in the sense that you can then concentrate on feeling the shapes and seeing the objects but if you are using washes or certain colours (some are more opaque than others) the pencil marks show through! You then have to keep adding heavier and heavier layers of paint which alters the quality of the colour (I guess you’re losing the backlighting of the white paper reflecting light through the colour?) and it restrains your creativity.

(8) I’m guessing… but I think it must be possible to ‘draw’ with watercolour. However this would take a much looser style and be more Turner like… or impressionistic. Unless you painted general shapes and slowly added detail?

(8) Watercolour reminds me a bit of acrylic (in that it dries fairly quickly) but also has qualities of oil paint in that you can go back in and repaint/blend/add washes.

(9) I think what I like best about this is that it feels real and not real at the same time… it’s certainly more alive than any photograph I could have taken. And has captured the plane of the leaves and the 3D perspective of the pot and easel.

(10) I only used a size 2 brush which made large areas difficult to paint. Next time I will try larger brushes, but I suspect there is a whole new range of skills just on watercolour washes! Also (though I improvised by using dryer paint and the very tip of the brush) a smaller brush for deteail would have been very useful.



Assignment 2 (Preparation: 2: What to sketch/photograph)

Two problems I didn’t know I’d encounter till I started this:

(1) The mechanics of sketching mean I can’t sketch most of the things I want to sketch. I can only sketch things where I can hold my sketchbook and draw in it. This is very restrictive (I couldn’t levitate in space above a plant, for instance… or squeeze into a tiny corner) so I decided to photograph the still lifes on my phone as it can get in places and angles I can’t.

I would have seen this as cheating before I started the course but what I’ve come to realise is that artists have always used technology. Whether it be Canaletto in the C18th using a camera obscura or the host of artists in Robert Kaupelis’s Experimental Drawing using everything from computer images and photocopying to robots.

A camera would have been good but is bigger and you have to stand behind and focus it. It’s more flexible than a sketchbook and pencil but still restrictive.

(2) Once you start photographing you immediately start composing/framing your picture!

I managed to stop myself moving things around so they are ‘honest’ in terms of being found still lifes rather than a ‘dressed’ set but not so ‘naive’ as I’d first imagined.

Maddeningly, the phone see’s the world in a very different way to how I see it with my eyes. With my eyes I see only the important things – it’s almost as if my eyes constantly compose what I see, alter the colours, ignore the unimportant stuff, frame a view, even change highlighting and colour, and adjust foreshortening so I don’t notice it. What I see looks… natural… pleasant… beautiful. Whereas the phone sees the whole frame and everything in it as it ‘really’ is, so suddenly something that looked great looks awful.

Here are the ‘raw’ photographs.

Just two more preparations before I do my Assignment:

(Preparation: 3) Do a half hour quick sketch of each using the most suitable media.

(Preparation: 4) Pick the frame from my design for each drawing and ‘frame it up’.

Assignment 2 (Preparation: Design)

I started by reviewing my work for Part 2 and looking at the assessment criteria for the assignment.

It seemed the assignment wanted me to showcase skills learnt, be imaginative and use different media. As well as use colour, show compositional still life skills, use line and tone and describe form accurately and expressively.

I also wanted to add my awareness of light and dark in composition.


My first decision was that I wanted to try and capture something of myself in the still life… so that it wasn’t purely aesthetic but captured some personality and meaning. And maybe said something about society today. As I couldn’t photograph or sketch myself I decided to do it by multiple ‘found’ interiors/still lifes which showed where I’d been.

My habitat, if you like. Which, like clothes, would say something about me… but unlike clothes which I consiocously wear these would be what I’d ‘left behind’ and never meant for public consumption.

I chatted to a friend who suggested I could do multiple ‘frames’ on the picture surface.

This seemed like a great idea so my first job was to design how I would put all the frames together, and whether I would have different coloured frames for each picture, or black frames for all of them.

Sketch (1) and (2) 


I started (1) with large discreet frames in black. I quite liked this especially as it reminded me of a room with a door and mirror… which might be quite interesting. But I decided I didn’t want an made up interior so I tried (2) multiple shaped frames.

These felt confusing and would shatter the images – which might work for a cubist painting or an ‘exploded still life’ but I was planning on doing multiple still lifes so went back to the idea of individual frames.

Sketch (3) and (4)


Sketch (3) became an abstarct design. I felt the different still lifes put into these areas would be part of the geometric pattern rather than a collection of frame drawings.

So I tried (4) going back to more traditional frame shapes; rectangle, tondu and Greek piedement shape (triangle). But this looked like part of a stain glass window radiatiing off the tondu with the rectangle superimposed on top.

Sketch (5)


I decided to try more traditional frame shapes (though kept the triangle) and introduced different frame widths to indicate distance. It worked but then became about the relationship of the frames in space rather than alowing the viewer to see multiple frames.

For the bottom half I made all the frames the same width.

This had something so I decided to try it on a whole A4 sheet of paper, and play with the shapes a little.

Sketch (6)


I liked the space on this but decided the ‘negative spaces’ (I chose to see the smaller shapes as frames and therefore as positive spaces, and the spaces round them as negative) could be a problem. The negative spaces could be a tiny part of a big drawing but it would be hard tell what it was and it might be distracting.

In effect I would lose nearly a quarter of my picture surface.

I decided I needed to make the whole surface out of ‘complete’ frames.

Sketch (7)


This felt like it was finally beginning to work but I hadn’t entirely solved the problem of negative spaces so I tried again.

Sketch (8)


Another improvement… but I felt like I wanted more than four still lifes to show my personality and  so I could use different media and line and tone.

Sketch (9)



This had six frames (I could live with that) and they all worked as individual frames without any ‘negative space’.

There was also some tension in the geometric design where the tondu (4) and rectangle (1) were joined by the small square frame (2). It felt like shapes in balance that would fall. Also frame (2) was complete and all the others partial, so that the picure had a focus. The eye was constantly drawn back to frame (2) from it’s travels round the picture surface.

I dotted in the frames for myself but decided that I needed them to be obvious to the viewer (not worked out by looking at the media or piecing together the different drawings)… so they’d have to be coloured.

Sketch (10)


This works as a basic design.

I’m not sure about the actual colours and whether they should work in a colourist sense (if I was skillfull enough to do that) independant of the drawings inside… or whether the frames should reflect the drawings. The main thing is that the whole picture space is filled with seperate frames.

I reserve the right to adapt it slightly!!!


A: Should I collage the frames or colour them in? I’m going to make the decision nearer the time… and if I colour them in should I use the same medium or different?

B: Which media should I use in which frame?

I’m going to use a different mark making media and picture surface for each frame. I wrote them in but my final choice will depend on the drawings.