Category Archives: Project 1 – Feeling and Expression. Exercise 1.

Project 1: Part 1: Exercise 1. Feeling and Expression.

Sadness is my choice for this project.

It was quite difficult to be sad so I imagined something awful had happened to my son and then found myself so upset that I couldn’t draw anything… which wasn’t what I expected. I’d expected to shade in big black blocks of colour or fill the page with streaming lines like tears.

I quickly went from one drawing to another unable to draw.

When I looked at the four drawings together I was surprised by how similar they all were.











Firstly I tried graphite and made the visible looping mark on the left. The mark was much weaker than I’d expected… then stopped and cried a little. The little line at the bottom is where I pulled the graphite off the page. I took a moment then tried to force myself to continue and made the faint mark on the right but couldn’t do it.

Sadness - graphite

Sadness – graphite









Next I tried charcoal. I’d come out of the feeling and thought this would be easier. I picked up the charcoal and dived back in.

Sadness - wood charcoal

Sadness – wood charcoal

I made the strong mark first as I was determined to draw something. Added the cross mark and started work ‘shading’ the top but the emotion was too strong.

After a breath I drew the weaker vertical line on the right but it was too much for me and my hand fell limp on the page.

As I thought about Josh the tears welled up again and even though I told myself I would be better doing something constructive, all I could manage was to push the charcoal weakly around the bottom. After a few seconds I lost the battle and stopped.


Sadness - oil pastel

Sadness – oil pastel

As I’d used up most of my black oil pastel I decided to use dark blue. Blue seemed like it was a sad colour and the instructions had said it was okay. So, even though I’d reservations that it wouldn’t compare to the black oil pastel and that I was ‘cheating’ artistically I decided my wallet warranted it.

This made me think that artists must sometimes make decisions on cost… rather than on an artistic basis.

They might use up materials they have left, use found materials or even create a movement that challenges the whole notion of art based on expensive materials – I think the Italian Art Povera movement was all about using found materials. There was also a vague memory that the reverse had happened in medieval religious painting where the blue pigment was very expensive… so one reason for the blue was not artistic, or to do with religious meaning but to show the wealth of the patron.

This lead me on to think about the durability of art (expensive pigments last longer) and the value of the materials and how it relates to commercial/perceived value versus the purely artistic value. Oil paints are expensive whereas pastels and paper are much cheaper.

Is it purely supply and demand – with cheaper materials there’s a bigger supply so the price drops.

Does that mean artistic values being similar an oil painter will be perceived as a higher ranking artist (and therefore more expensive) than the pastel person? Generally do paintings of the same size fetch higher prices in some mediums than others?

This seems a little counter intuitive to me as once you get beyond beginner paintings the price of materials becomes less significant to the total cost and the artistry more important than the materials?

Something to think on further!

Back to my oil pastel… I came fresh to my sadness but with a determination that this time I would force myself to work. I had a plan. I would drive a big block of dark blue. That wouldn’t take any thought, would be mechanical and I could use the physical against the emotional.

It didn’t last long.

The emotion quickly overcame me and I stood up from the paper making the long downward line from the block of blue.

I then rested the pastel hard on the left making a definite mark. Launched myself back in making the upward mark and semi-circle… then lost the battle making the final light marks at the bottom as I pulled away from the drawing.

Sadness - ink

Sadness – ink


Ink… strangely this was the least resistant to my sadness… or more honestly, grief.

Something about it being liquid and not a ‘pencil like stick’ – was it the connection with language? That anything that drew lines had control as one of its properties? … But that ink being fluid was more open to my emotion?

I dribbled a few light drops – liked the dark pool of ink in the bottle and connected to it. Pushed the stick in deep and blobbed on some bigger drips.

This (surprisingly) triggered anger at what had happened and I spattered drops angrily across the paper in a burst of flicks and prods into the pot.

After a moment (the ink was running out – had it been full I would have been tempted to tip it all over the page) – I felt cross with myself for being mean and using up an old bottle of ink rather than the new bottle I’d bought… but it felt false to stop and open the new bottle.

So again the cost of the medium was dictating my drawing.

I spattered out the last few drops. The sadness welled back up inside me – I wanted more ink.

After a moment I put the stick on its side and started rolling it through the ink. But as soon as I did this I had to stop. It was as if it suddenly became a ‘mark maker’ (in the sense of being like a pencil – something I controlled with meaning)… and I had to stop.

I don’t understand this but it might be that when I was using a ‘pencil’ in the form of a charcoal stick, oil pastel or graphite stick that involved controlled thought? Whereas the fluid ink allowed me to stay in my emotion and became  part of my feeling?

This exercise has been a real eye opener.

I’ve realised that how we feel affects how we make marks and that this is recorded on the paper. That we can try and capture an emotion from the outside… draw ‘happiness’. Or capture ‘happy’ marks… a bit like a pianists changes his touch on the keys to express the emotion he’s experiencing. That our mood affects our drawing just as does our connection to our subject. Or we can record the thing that is causing our joy… that our feelings are in integral part of our art.

That great drawing records an ‘inner vision’ not an ‘outer reality’. And that drawings that live are not about the subject… the flower or the face but about the artist’s vision. And that is informed by reflection, study, soul… the sum of what makes the artist informs his seeing.

So, although as trainee artists we all have to learn the basics of drawing ultimately it’s not actually about the technical skill. It’s not about making an apple look like an apple so people stand open mouthed and go ‘wow!’ at our expertise…It’s about looking, reflecting, growing and having personal vision… and transforming the apple into art.

























Project 1 – Feeling and Expression. Exercise 1.

Joy… today I had a cold and was tired form work so had to push myself to make this… it would have been very easy to have an early night and curl up in bed.  In the end I had a paracetamol and a lie down for an hour then got up feeling a bit better and grabbed the moment.

This was weird as it took on a life of its own.

Yesterday I’d thought of the exercise as one unity with four panels… and I’d chosen where to start and which medium to use. Today the mediums chose themselves and their square – and din’t want to be part of a big picture.

They wanted to be individual.

It’s really hard to explain but each medium made me feel a different type of joy. It wasn’t a blanket feeling like anger or calm that spread across all four boxes and was then drawn in different mediums.

So that’s how I’ve chosen to show them – as different drawings rather than as a block of four. Though I’ll show the four at the end so you can see what I mean.

Ink wanted to go first. It drew me to it… it spattered and dribbled – played on the page. This was childlike joy. I had a moment to look and added the heavier mark and lines – what I wanted to do was get a big brush and throw paint at the paper, let it splatter and splurge. The little drips were missing the pops and explosions of happiness.

So I turned the stick on its side and used it as a ‘brush’ to spread the ink then added a few lines. The composition worked… I don’t know why but did’t want to rationalise it so stopped.

Joy - ink on paper

Joy – ink on paper

The graphite wanted to go next. I spent a long time just filling up with feeling. Then made the single mark and stopped. I could imagine it dancing in the wind, tumbling and swirling.

Then I just stood and looked at it for several minutes soaking up the joyfullness.

Joy - graphite on paper

Joy – graphite on paper

This charcoal made all sorts of marks but as one mark moved towards capturing what I was feeling another spoiled it. In that sense it was a hybrid between making naive joyful marks and trying to draw ‘Joy’.

It was frustrating and I was worried it was going to turn into a mess, then I shaded in the outside which framed the centre and suddenly it worked.

So I stopped straight away.

Joy - wood charcoal on paper

Joy – wood charcoal on paper









This oil pastel went through several stages… first I felt joyful but strangely the marks I was making didn’t look joyful… so then I started to try and draw ‘joy’ and play about with shapes. That wasn’t working when I hit upon the circles which suggested I was standing in something like a sea of bubbles or a rushing kaleidoscope of colours.

I then tried to draw what I could see as these shapes and colours (that made me laugh) washed over me. It wasn’t that I could see them for real but I had the same feeling that you have when you’re joyfully experiencing something physically joyful like standing in a warm thunderstorm by a field of sunflowers.

Its was weird way of working as I wasn’t drawing ‘joy’ or making joyful marks, I was trying to draw the sensual experience of joy.

Eventually it came into focus and these overlapping wheels with spokes appeared which I imagined I was in the middle of… and flying all around me.

It took about 30 minutes and felt exhilerating.

Joy - black oil pastel on paper

Joy – black oil pastel on paper

Here’s the picture of all four together to show you what I mean.



This has taught me that different mediums have different ‘personalities’ and are better suited to  different projects – they express different things.

So the media is important and will affect what you produce. Not only because it makes different marks and has different physical characteristics but because it makes you feel differently and your mental and emotional state transforms how the marks are made on the paper.

Project 1 – Feeling and Expression. Exercise 1.

Intro: this feels like it’s going to be great as all about marks capturing inner and outer state of artist. So drawing not about ‘drawing’ a tree… and being judged on whether and how accurately it represents a real tree in a real field. But about mood, emotion… physical and emotional state.

It also throws into the mix that a sketch then becomes a visual diary for the artist triggering memories of its creation.

Yes I agree… but that raises the question of what it does for the viewer who isn’t the artist. Art is about more than a personal record otherwise it wouldn’t have a value for anybody but the artist. And art has both an artistic and commercial value.

The Mona Lisa’s value (I would argue) lies not in its photographic reality or its triggers for Leonardo da Vinci of how he felt when he was paining it but for some universal humanity it captures on the canvas.

That then leads to the question of the balance between how much came from Leonardo… was he in love with her, infatuated. That would surely influence his mark making? How much from the sitter – he expunged himself and absorbed her personality and then captured its essence with his brush. And how much is ‘universal’ womanhood and or universal humanity?

Or a mixture of all three?

To the exercise:

Free flow thoughts…

Project 1: Exercise 1: Calm


I started in the top left – don’t know why… tradition… reading. With wood charcoal. My comfort zone. Made marks flowing and wanted to stop… fought with feeling the paper needed to be full. Wanted to inject emotion as calm didn’t feel like anything… even though no deliberate representational shapes the marks kept putting real images into my head. Carried on well past the point at which I felt I’d finished as it felt wrong to leave so much white paper.

Top right – ink with wooden chop stick – wanted the is to be bolder the lines were clean and satisfying but too fussy. Tried a bunch of small lines together to give it an ‘anchor’ but it felt irritating not calm. So turned stick round and tried to cover up ‘fussy’ marks. This worked a little bit and gave it a focus. Then tried making little dots with the end – realised I was supposed to be calm (he dots weren’t calm) and went back to focussing on calm… the dots became ‘raindrops’ which are calm on a tent at night… but that was representational so started drawing out the ink in long loops and managed to lose myself for a moment. Then stopped.

Bottom left: Black oil pastel. I had the preconception that this would be sensitive to touch like piano keys and went for concentric swirls but the pressure/line came out even. Wanted to make it blacker but that didn’t feel very calm so let the pastel swirl round the page and go where it wanted. It sort of boxed itself with a frame which didn’t feel very calm so I stopped. It felt like I’d overdrawn it.

Bottom right: Graphite. Determined I’d stop when I wanted to. Told myself I didn’t have to cover the paper – or create calm on the page – I just had to feel it. I picked up the graphite, swished it round like a finger in water then stopped. The annoying horizontal line is the newspaper overlapping that I put underneath to stop marking the table.

This is the one I like the best.

I feel this has shown me that you don’t have to copy the emotion… it’s not a drawing of a tree and it’s not a drawing of ‘Calm’. It is calm.

Which is totally different.

Also that I don’t have to fill the paper with marks. The paper is part of the drawing.

In short, I should be guided by and trust my feeling. Not be self conscious but let the medium and the emotion dictate the lines and stop when I feel it’s complete… even if that’s only one tiny mark.

A cup of tea… clear my head and then anger… if it’s anything like acting that will take a lot more energy – potential lack of control – and I’ve no idea what will happen.



Deliberately started on the bottom right with graphite. This took on a life of its own. It started as controlled anger then spilled out into rage. It escaped my control and ranted over the page spilling out into the next square. I tried to control it by pulling it back into the square and controlling it emotionally. That wasn’t successful and I wanted to rip the whole paper up and escalate the anger so stopped.

This was fierce, short and out of control.

Bottom left – ink. Frustrating. I dubbed my stick in the pot and let the emotional juice flow. The stick whirred in a circle than had a tantrum. Dipped in the pot and and spattered ink on the page. It was frustrating because the medium (barring upturning the pot and smearing it all over the page) wasn’t expressing what I felt. I let it have a little bit of a free head then stopped.

Looking at this afterwards it’s actually captured some of my feeling in as far as it looks like the line is flying all over the page but the centre is trying to control and contain it. Which is what I was thinking. It still feels like a whisper rather than a shout as the black lines don’t carry the weight of my feeling.

Top right: charcoal. The pressure was heavier and the lines stronger and darker than calm. I had to decide which part of anger to go to. Rage or controlled – how cross/angry was I? I experimented with different levels – let the anger go for a second to see what would happen then brought it under control as in an argument. The lines boxed in the swirls… which set off a bit of a tantrum inside the box.

The argument wasn’t going anywhere and wasn’t going to be resolved so I stopped.

Top left: Oil pastel. Loved the black creamy depth of this and had to resist colouring in half the page solid black. I didn’t because I was too upset to focus on colouring in so scribbled out the other person – which was the page. This felt out of control so I pulled the anger back… forced it into lines and stopped.

Also because in a second I’d also used up half my oil pastel.

This was a short intense and physical exercise. I was out of breath at the end of it.

And was even rough with the paper when I took it outside to spray with fixative. It’s as if I was still cross with it!

Looking at the drawings they all in their own way record my feeling – the charcoal I left because I was scared of losing control, the ink which used a tight circle as control because the weight of the line wasn’t strong enough, and the charcoal and pastel where I boxed in the emotion with a line.

Thinking about it this shows me that the medium is important. Visually they do different things and have different qualities of line and tone – like colours have different qualities of saturation, light and emotion. The weight of the line and how it falls on the paper and how flexible the medium is to light and dark is different for each medium.

But perhaps most of all – that I don’t have to catch a real tree on paper and be careful about it. Drawing can be spontaneously physical and still have a value.

A walk to think of my emotion (the course gives me three – I get to pick one!) and then joy. Then cook tea and then my emotion.

Joy is a lovely emotion to come back to… the birth of my son… being alive with the sunshine on my face… looking into the eyes of the woman I love.

With joy I want colours so it will be interesting to see what white paper and black mark makers come up with.

Just back from my walk thinking about all this and had some revelations:

  • How do you know when you’ve finished? If you’re drawing an ‘apple’ at school you have a criteria to judge… Does it look like an apple? Or as near as I can get? But with ’emotion’ drawing you have no easy criteria to judge from. You have to ‘feel’ when it’s finished and trust your intuition.
  • Shapes carry emotions like colours carry emotions. That is certain shapes feel naturally to accompany an emotion, like long flowing lines for calm or crazy hard frenetic lines for anger, just like green is calming and red fiery. This means that the shapes your drawing makes (in both the negative and positive shapes) will have an emotional effect on the viewer even though they might not consciously realise it.
  • You are not detached from the act of drawing as your physical, mental and emotional state effect your marks (whether yore aware of them or not). Which raises two further questions…    (1) As an actor I try and remove myself from the character and replace it with the thoughts, feelings, voice, physicality and emotions of the person I’m playing… this is possible because the character and lines are given to you, and the director helps as he can ‘conduct’ your performance from outside. But as an artist ‘you’ write the script you are ‘performing’ so even if you are trying to portray the person/scene before (and not yourself) you it is filtered through your vision and understanding.          (2) When artists such as Jackson Pollock ‘let’s the paint flow through them’ are they trying to capture a snapshot of themselves at that moment in time? 
  • There is a huge difference between painting an emotion and being an emotion. Painting anger would  make me try to capture ‘anger’ (externalise it) where’s making marks when I’m angry would somehow capture my anger.
  • All art must be (to some extent) a fusion of all these things. Different art will stress different elements. A painter like Derek Hyatt in ‘Snow Time Again’, oil on board is almost abstract – it’s very hard to read the landscape. It couldn’t be a photograph – is not ‘realistic’. So he’s painting what he ‘sees’… his truth… which will be different for everybody else and which is (at whatever skill level we’re at) we all do.  
  • When we draw we need to look but also be open and let ourselves into the picture. There’s no point just aiming for photographic accuracy – unless it’s just a news record of events. Drawing is about communication. It’s about sharing our humanity. 

I now realise I’m too tired to summon up joy. A large cheque would probably do it (if you’re paid to act you can’t say you’re too tired!) But a good director would put the big emotional scenes at the beginning of the day anyway, when his actors have plenty of energy. And even then it wouldn’t be ideal.

So Joy and sadness (that’s what I picked… sorrow would be very difficult to reach and draw as all I’d want to do is grieve) will have to wait till tomorrow.