Assignment 1 – Man made objects – study notes 2

I am beginning work on the final assignment piece for the man made objects still life.  I’ve been looking at paper sizes and have just concluded that the paper I thought was A2 size is actually much closer to A1 in size.  This means that I can fit the work to be done on my desk which is a relief as my easel is too small!

Also, for this piece I have taken a couple of photographs of the composition.  In iPhoto I have found a useful tool that allows you to zoom in on an area of the composition.  This will enable me to see the detail much more clearly as my eyesight is not that great.

I’m now looking forward to starting!


Assignment 1 – Man made objects – study notes

During the last few days I’ve been working on my study drawing for the man made objects piece in assignment no 1.

Completing the study has been very illuminating and I have learned a number of lessons that I will use in drawing my final piece.  Lessons I have learned are:

  • To be very careful about drawing the background in relation to the composition of the objects.  The background went slightly awry in my study and I will need to put this right in the final piece.
  • Arrange the composition back from the edge of the surface.  A couple of the objects got knocked from the surface they were on, and its obviously difficult to then place them back in the exactly the same position, particularly as some of the objects are malleable.
  • Take care to draw top down and left to right.  This ensures you don’t smudge anything that you’ve already drawn.
  • Take photos of the composition in the light in which you want to draw them.  I can then refer to the photos when I’m drawing at night, which will save having to guess or remember where the areas of lightest tone during the daylight (which is the time of day I want this composition to be set in).
  • Experiment more with colour before applying it to the final piece so that I can more closely match the objects’ actual colours.
  • Allow lots of time to complete the final piece.  The study took me about 8 hours.  I realise that this is quite slow.  I started to speed up towards the end and hopefully with practise I will become faster and faster.

Assignment 1 – Making marks notes 1

Tonight I have been working on mark making for my man made objects assignment piece. I have been concerned that rendering the black leather handbag may be difficult so have been experimenting with different mark making techniques and tools as follows:

  • a layer of black pencil dabbed with a man made damp sponge – the effect this gave was quite ‘flat’ in texture and for that reason not suitable.
  • A layer of black pencil dabbed with a natural damp sponge – this effect gave more texture and could be suitable for the darker tones of the handbag.
  • A dark layer of black pencil washed with a paintbrush – this gave an intense dark black suitable for the darkest areas such as the handles.
  • A layer of pencil overlaid with sharp black pencil – this gave a very pleasing texture very like that of leather – I will definitely be using this technique in the final piece.
  • A variety of stipple and paintbrush effects over pencil – these gave me lots of ideas of how to render the more uneven and distressed areas of the leather.

I then considered how I might draw the scarf. I asked myself the following questions:

  • How can I achieve the vibrancy of colour that the scarf has? – For the scarf I bought some intense, ink like effect pencils. In using these and then overlaying them with water I established that I would have to use water sparingly, be very careful between the lines of colour so as not to have one colour bleed into another.
  • How can I achieve the variety of colour in the scarf? – I experimented using combinations of colour pencil to achieve the range of colours I needed. I learnt a lot doing this and will need to do more as I work on my smaller version to ensure I achieve the correct or nearest to the correct colour.
  • How can I achieve the folds and darker tones on the scarf accurately? I tried two techniques for this. The first was to apply the tone of colour more intensively and the second was to apply black or dark grey pencil. The former worked much better than the latter, because the black/grey tended to bleed and look ‘dirty’ whereas the darker colour tones looked more natural.

Assignment 1 – Composition notes 1

I have begun my assignment today starting with the man made objects piece. Recently, I heard a radio programme about a large study done many years ago of the objects that people had on their mantelpieces and what this said about their lives. This gave me the idea to look inside my handbag and consider drawing what I keep in there.

The first composition I arranged I then sketched was of the bag itself with a scarf tied round one of the handles, and the contents emptied in front of them. I chose of selection of objects to draw with different textures; gloves, bottles, a mirror, a plastic comb and a tin of Vaseline.

I drawing a large sketch a number of challenges arose.

• The bag itself isn’t that interesting in form and I may substitute it for another bag that I have that may offer more possibilities to practise tone.

• In placing the nail polish bottle in front of the bag it got ‘lost’ against it because the lid and the bag are the same colour. I may move the bottle of substitute it for a bottle with a different coloured top.

• The black glove, though an interesting crumpled shape is also leather like the bag and the same colour. I may look at substituting it with a woollen scarf to give me the opportunity to incorporate different textures and marks into the composition, as well as more colour.

• The scarf offers wonderful opportunities for tone and texture, however because of its complex design I may limit the amount of scarf that shows in the final composition so that it doesn’t ‘take over’ the piece.

• I may omit the safety pin from the very front of the composition. In fact, I may re-arrange the items in front of the bag entirely, in order to include the most detailed and interesting item nearest the front of the composition to draw the eye in and back.

For my next study work on this piece, I intend to consider all of the above and begin practising mark making. In particular, I think the leather items will be a challenge to render accurately.

Composition of Natural Objects

This exercise involved arranging three different compositions of natural objects and noting my thoughts on the different arrangements. In my case, I choose fruit; bananas, grapes, tangerines, a peach (which I eventually dropped for my final drawing) and an apple.

It was very interesting to notice how the act of sketching the arrangements rather than just looking at different compositions highlighted the different challenges and opportunities for my final drawing. It also helped me to gain confidence in my drawing skills to render the final composition much better than if I had tried to draw the final drawing on my first attempt.

I think that it is much easier to 3 dimensionally draw man made rather than natural objects. This for me is because man made objects are usually less blemished and irregular in pattern, texture and form. For example, I found tangerines very difficult to draw three dimensionally because by using cross hatching you are almost going against the natural stippled texture of the skin of the fruit.

The solidity of my composition was created by using a single banana across the middle of the plate dividing the composition. Each piece of other fruit then radiated from the banana.

Changing the arrangement of my composition definitely made a difference to my approach and way I created a sense of form. It was only by moving the objects around that I discovered the more pleasing and interesting forms and aspects, as well as different plays of light and shadow.

Positioning wise, the plate on which I placed my objects decided this for me. From above the composition wasn’t that interesting on such a flat form and similar from below. But from positioning myself a little above I got a slight ‘aerial’ view as well as still being able to enjoy the vertical negative space and form that the objects created.

Overall this was a very interesting and valuable exercise that I think will come in very useful when deciding and creating my assignment compositions.

Still life sketches of made objects (and some not so man made…)

For this exercise I chose a number of different objects someone has given me: a perfume bottle and handcream pot, a glass perfume holder and some shells (no man made!).

It was a very difficult exercise to try and capture all the different forms, tones and shadows of the items in three different arrangements.

In the first arrangement, I enjoyed placing particular emphasis on the shells in the front of the composition, using lines and shadows to give the beautiful form they have. I found the pot difficult to hatch, but the two bottles easier to suggest form using hatching.

In the second arrangement, I began to become more confident with the hatching and I found the foreshortening of the bottles surprising easy. I think it was definitely easier to draw these items the second time around! I began to notice more where the light and dark parts of the composition were and was able to create a greater range of tones because of this. In particular I was pleased with the black bottle top.

In the third arrangement, I thoroughly enjoyed drawing the overturned bottle. It had a fabulous shape on its side and I was able to show the inverted detail of the side’s design using rounded hatching to suggest the rounded shades. For the first time I also used small marks and lines only without hatching to suggest the areas that were reflecting the most light.

In summary, this exercise was very useful practice. In particular, I am struck with how useful drawing my still lives in the studies as part of my first assignment, will inform and assist me in the finished drawings.

Shadows and Reflected Light and Shade

I used a glass and stainless steel coffee pot and mirrored coaster holder for this exercise. I found using the charcoal quite difficult to get the exact outline form of the objects correct, and had to rework the bottom area of the pot later into the drawing when I realised the coffee pot wasn’t tall enough! I also found the perspective of the handle on the coffee pot very difficult to get ‘right’.

I traced the outline of all the shadows thrown by the two objects on the surface on which they were sat, and then on each other, and used the charcoal to attempt to get the right tone with the shadows. I was satisfied with the results of this.

I then used the charcoal to mark out all the areas of reflected light. This I found more difficult as the reflected light changes if you move position even in the slightest. I also found getting all the tones correct difficult to render, as they were many and varied!

It was interesting how the play of shadows overlapped each other, and I certainly noticed how the very dark shade followed the contours of the objects. For the mirrored coaster this was with a very distinct dark line of shadow beneath it, and then a definite dark shadow of 5mm followed with a more indistinct general shade below that. For the coffee pot the shadow thrown was more a reflection thrown on the surface. I think because it is made of glass and the bottom part of the pot stands proud of the surface on its stainless steel legs.

Overall I found this exercise difficult, although I did at least feel that the two objects I drew were recognisable. I will need to practice more reflective objects and also the use of charcoal which I definitely need to become more proficient in I think!

First assignment thoughts

I’ve been giving some thought to my first assignment. I won’t be starting it for another three weeks but I feel it was important to give myself plenty of time for inspiration to strike. I’ve chatted the assignment over with a few fellow Drawing 1 students and also looked a few students learning logs to learn from their experiences. Here’s what I’ve learnt so far:

– Don’t pick a natural form that can easily change. e.g. seaweed or similar can wilt if it doesn’t stay wet.
– Consider whether to pick fruit or plants as these are likely to be covered in later projects/assignments.
– Pick somewhere to stage my composition that isn’t subject to change i.e. a kitchen worktop.
– Consider carefully how the light hits my composition.
– Ensure my composition fills the A3 sheet and that the studies fill the A2 sheet.

I’m at the early stages of considering what to draw for my natural forms’ piece but my initial thoughts are either wood, bark, twigs, stones, pebbles, shells, water, leaves. As I write this I’m minded of Lucien Freud’s excellent paintings of weeds and undergrowth. I can’t help thinking Autumn is a wonderful time of year to go and collect lots of fallen leaves – I could make an interesting composition and there would be a wide variety of colours. Also, if I added some twigs, or bark this would provide a good mix of textures.

For the man made items, I am considering emptying my handbag and drawing its contents, or at least some of them! This would certainly provide lots of different forms which would be fun to try. It could be good to include a scarf as it would be fun to try to draw the folds of material. Other ideas, include items from my dressing table; jewellery, perfume, scissors etc.

I will carry on thinking….

Van Gogh to Kandinsky. Symbolism in landscape painting 1880-1910

On Monday I was lucky enough to the Symbolist study visit at the National Gallery in Scotland. The exhibition was truly breathtaking, in both production and content – well worth the flight from Southampton! I learnt that ymbolism is all about drawing and painting what you feel and not just what you see. It was extremely interesting to see how artists had achieved this in landscapes in various ways by using muted colours and tones, composition, the use of light to name but a few. This movement transformed the fortune of landscape painting from then on.

Of the many paintings and drawings I studied one was by Fernand Khnopff. It was in black crayon and pastel and was a drawing of the Loc d’Amour in Bruges. In this he used only a touch of pale green on the lake and otherwise the entire piece was monochrome. I noted his different mark making and in particular his ghostly rendition of a church spire in the background using the faintest of marks with a pencil(?). In other parts of the work he achieved lots of dark sombre shadow which provides good contrast with the light from the two church’s – Good versus evil(?). Khnopff didn’t like the ‘modern’ Bruge and this opinion comes across in this work.

This was one of the few exhibitions where I had many, many favorites but if I had to name mine it would be Akseli Gallen-Kallela’s Lake Keitele. The island set to one side of the background of the painting casts a long palace like reflection across the water and ice of the lake that could almost be the soul of the isolated person that I think it represents. The brushmarks are simple and almost rudimentary in their simiplicity, particularly for the sky, however this painting’s impact is all the more greater for this.

Tonal Shading


To achieve four different and distinct tones of hatching I used pen and ink, pencil, ballpoint pen and charcoal.

I’ve not really used a dipping pen before and found this very tricky.  Next time I will use a finer nib, as the nib I used for this exercise was a little too big.  However, I was able to produce some dark and wide hatching with the larger nib. 

Then I used an HB pencil to create some fine, light hatching which produced a pleasant, light tone that was very distinct from the ink hatching!


I used a ballpoint pen to create some rounded style hatching which created a tone that was somewhere in the middle of the two previous media I used, in terms of tone.

Lastly I used charcoal to create some textured and soft toning, that in my opinion is very pleasing to the eye and is my favourite.

Four Objects

I completed this exercise in artificial light; an incandescent bulb and an adjustable daylight drawing lamp.  I placed my items on white paper because my desk is made of glass, but I wanted to have distinct shadows to draw.

Firstly I drew a quick sketch of a tea cup.  It was interesting to see and draw the two different shadows, each with a different tone, shape and position including a darker tone where they overlapped.  I tried to ensure the tones followed the round shape of the cup.  There were some interesting areas of light within the cup that were not necessarily nearest to the light source e.g. the cup handle and rim  I think they may have been reflecting more light because of their shape and angle in position to the light sources.


I found the apple drawing the hardest.  Because of the markings on the apple it was difficult to ascertain the differences in tone, despite the strong side lighting.  The shape of the apple was also difficult to depict I think because of my difficulty depicting the tones and markings correctly.  The shadow on the other hand was very distinct.  The apple had a very strong area of shadow beneath it.  Something I noticed in all of my drawings of the objects in this exercise.


Drawing the box in ball point pen was very enjoyable.  I was very pleased with my initial results along the nearest end of the box in particular.  Using tonal hatching on this subject gave the box immediate 3 dimensional form which was also gratifying.  I think this will be a technique I’d like to practise and use a lot more in future.

The olive oil bottle was lots of fun to draw in felt tip pen.  Once I had sketched the bottle, it was interesting to use the tonal shading to depict the different areas of light and dark on the bottle.  Although I made one or two mistakes in different areas, the results were very pleasing.  The bottle cast a very strong shadow as well as a lighter and much bigger shadow, which I was able to capture using fine and very wide hatching.