By the time I got to this point, I was racking my brain for new ideas of what to draw. I find myself scrutinising fruit and vegetables at the supermarket, and randomly buying stuff! As kiwis were on offer, I tried them with last week’s coconut, arranging them in a two-tone wooden bowl but there wasn’t enough contrast in the colour and the texture. The tones were too similar and a bit blah. Finally I plumped for aubergines as I liked the deep colour and shininess of the skin. I then spent some time searching the house and rummaging through cupboards looking for an interesting dish, turns out my crockery is disappointingly dull! Eventually I discovered a  Moorish dish from Spain that was blue but I thought the tones might work well with the purpley-blue fruit.

Dutifully I sketched it, even though I have realised most of my preparation, and thus decision process, is done in my head! I always read the exercise the night before and spend a lot of time thinking. I know I am supposed to be drawing all options down in my sketchbooks but I think my brain works differently, I am trying though!


aubergines sketch

I wanted an interesting composition so I moved the dish around and decided to place it on a square background as I could see the geometric shapes and liked the combination of triangles and rectangles.

Although I have been trying to use different materials, I do enjoy working with charcoal so tried out a compressed charcoal set of grays that I like. If it didn’t work my back-up plan was going to be coloured or watercolour pencils.

I wanted to draw this from above which meant finding a lower surface level, in thie case a chair. Usually everything goes on the table, but this a different perspective, looking down onto the dish, and it meant I could move the chair closer to the window so the light was stronger. The whole chair was too big to get in, and the chair wasn’t particularly exciting, only in the way the forms cut across the viewer’s perspective, and the lines create different angles which was much more interesting. The perspective would be challenging but I didn’t worry too much, as I didn’t  think being super precise was that important.

The light was lovely on the aubergines, even though they are starting to shrivel a little, they were very reflective and mirrored some of the pattern from the plate. I found drawing the actual plate difficult, perhaps because the pattern was distracting, and I had to remember to add tone to give it solidity.

As I uploaded this onto the computer, I realised it didn’t look finished so I reworked into it.

Photo 04-04-2017, 11 30 05

aubergines on a patterned plate in compressed charcoal

The most successful part of this is the aubergines, they look shiny and smooth against the patterned dish. Clearly the perspective is a little off so I need to work on that (I think this coming up in a later chapter so won’t worry too much about that now.) I like the different directions of the marks, in contrast with others. The chair and dish don’t work so well but they do work as a contrast to the aubergines and the dish, the aubergines are clearly the main attraction here.


Experiment with Mixed Media

I was looking forward to this exercise as it was so different from the previous ones, and I had no real expectations. I think also I was feeling challenged and a little frustrated with the previous two colour exercises.

I prepared a couple of sheets using a mixture of acrylic paints; green, white and bronze. I really just brushed them on, spraying a little water onto the mixture. It came out a bit dark so perhaps it would have been better to do more of a lighter wash because I really had to work in a lot of colour to make any visible marks.

My approach for this exercise was that, not knowing much about mixed media, not to think too much beforehand and just go with whatever happened. As I watched my paper curling rapidly I realised my first mistake, I should have used a heavier weight paper.

Being conscious of not getting enough depth into previous works, I spent longer getting the composition right, using more objects and moved them around a lot. I’m kind of impatient but was able to quickly find a composition that I liked.

Photo 03-04-2017, 09 40 13

quick pencil sketch

I sketched onto the paint using soft graphite sticks then decided to use some decoupage paper for a collage effect, to represent two of the bottles; this paper is really light and easy to tear and also easy to draw over. Next I used wax crayons but they didn’t really show up well so I used some marker pens instead, these were strong enough to show through and I had to be quite definite and bold in my marks, primarily to show up against the dark paint. There was a real sense of layering with this picture, probably because I had to do it in stages for the paint and glue to dry and the marker pen seemed to fade so there was a lot of going over. I also used some metallic marker pens for highlights and some coloured compressed charcoal.

This was hugely enjoyable and I am very happy with the outcome, perhaps because I haven’t produced anything like this before. The drawing style was quite bold and definite for me, I had to be bolder and stronger in style so that it would show up. It feels more complete than some of my other work so maybe I am developing this sense of knowing when to keep working into the drawing more. I do hope so as I’ve struggled with knowing when to stop, when to go back and rework something.

Photo 29-03-2017, 10 43 07

Mixed media

Seeing it on the computer screen, I am very happy with the palette, considering I had to work with what media worked over the dark paint, I think the limited palette works well. One of the difficulties was working over different papers and textures,  as some had different absorbency. I did consider cutting the decoupage paper from the coconut and pomegranate but decided it would look too clean, and I rather  like the overlap and the different textures. There was a lot of decisions to make, especially as it felt experimental in nature, I wasn’t sure what would work or not, but it was quite liberating having no rules to follow, other than my choice to keep everything water based as I thought that would be easiest for my first attempt. In conclusion, a very enjoyable exercise, which surprised me.

Still Life in Tone Using Colour

Of course I knew colour was coming soon and at first I was excited to play around with it but then I was apprehensive. Partly this is due to getting used to handling new media and not really having a clue but also, after a few sketches, I was generally unimpressed with my efforts. I’m not sure if there is a mental block that I need to overcome but this week has been a challenging one.

I decided to start with oil pastels as I could sweep them across the page in broad strokes of colour as directed. For a change, I elevated my still life arrangement and placed them on a box for a slightly different view. The oil pastels were not enjoyable to use, they felt hard and sticky, not smooth as I had imagined. I struggled with them for a while, then googled how to use them and tried using my fingers to move the pigment around a bit, which had a very limited success. Sadly, although I worked fast and spontaneous as instructed, I thought the end result was rather childlike.

Photo 21-03-2017, 09 58 45

Oil pastels

Feeling a bit discontented, I reverted to compressed charcoals, and drew on black sugar paper as I felt I needed to locate myself again, trying to get shapes and tone correct.


compressed charcoal

Working fast and loosely, I think these shapes are more convincing and I’m happy that I made a range of different marks, this is something I need to expand on but it’s not coming naturally. The proportions are not quite right but I decided speed was more important. I changed the arrangement and made sure the tea spout was not getting lost in the carafe.

Next, I tried conté sticks, trying to keep it fast and free. After doing this one, I re-read the exercise and felt like I wasn’t really happy with the results. Felt a little frustrated but figured I just needed to keep trying.

Photo 21-03-2017, 09 59 22

conte sticks

The next day I decided I would quickly rework the two drawings before I tried something else, making sure not to spend too much time on them.

This is the reworked oil pastel


reworked oil pastels

I don’t think I’m ever going to love this but am happier with the tea pot and the carafe. Now that I’ve photographed and uploaded this, I don’t think the jug works, but I think the shapes are more solid than before.

I definitely had problems with the restrictions of the media, I really wanted to get a brush and some turps and work into it, but then it would be a painting no? As I have a tendency to spend too long working detail into drawing and sketching, I was determined not to spend hours over it thus overworking it. I’ve only achieved a very limited amount of depth, purely by placing the carafe at the back.

Being restricted to line makes it seem quite stiff and artificial, obviously the colours contribute to that too but that seems to be the point of the exercise, it doesn’t say to represent the colours realistically. I found the example by Michael Coombes to be misleading, as it doesn’t seem messy and spontaneous to me and has clearly used many different colours.

The use of colour at first distracted me but I don’t think it adds anything to this drawing.

I also reworked the conté stick drawing

Photo 24-03-2017, 15 03 03

reworked conte sticks

Finally an improvement, this time I am happier with the jug and the carafe, they look more solidly in place and appear to exist as real objects, more so than the previous drawing. Once I added the edge of the table, and more contrast there seems to be a better sense of depth. Again, the proportions are slightly off but I was trying to be fast and not overdo it.  I think the line works better, the curved shapes in the carafe give it more definition and in the jug, the teapot seems to be standing upright so the effects have worked somewhat.

Having reviewed this again, I’m still not sure I have successfully completed this exercise, especially when viewing the example by Michael Coombs. It seems to me that his drawing is not a fast sketch but rather a detailed drawing that uses many different colours rather than the three we were asked to use. The example given is not messy and energetic but rather controlled and, I’m guessing probably took a long time to complete.

As I was feeling unsure about this exercise I did it again! This time with a lovely set of Unison soft pastels, they are thick and chunky and glide over the paper leaving a lot of colour behind.

Photo 24-03-2017, 14 28 15

soft pastels

It’s far from perfect but it is messy, and has sweeps of colour. I couldn’t really put any more pigment over it, it is so thick already but I changed the direction of my marks to add solidity and definition in the background. I can see I need to work on tone, but this was quite a restrictive exercise, only using 3 colours, but the colour does add something expressive. I feel like there is some emotion now, it’s a happy drawing of a sunny jug of flowers, it was sunny when I drew it. It was hard to add more depth, although I did try, the pastels are so chunky and it was hard to add a lot of contrast. I kept the composition very simple as I knew it would be very difficult to draw a lot of detail with the chunky pastels and I would argue that this adds to the jovial mood.

Using colour was most definitely challenging, at one point I wavered and reverted back to black and white as I felt a bit lost. I do find the black and white drawings useful to place everything on the page, and when deciding on the composition too. I wouldn’t say I was completely comfortable using colour yet, there is a long road ahead.

Still Life Using Line

I decided to start with a couple of quick sketches before committing to a final drawing and began with a pineapple, a coconut and a pear. I chose these for their different shapes and textures, plus they were still hanging around since the previous exercise.

Photo 16-03-2017, 11 31 18

quick pencil sketch

I used pencil and tried drawing almost continuously in a gestural style and I liked the end result, perhaps because it was quite different to my normal attempts. I think I managed to get the solidity of the three fruits but in a freer, looser style than normal which was fun although the pineapple isn’t completely convincing.

As I really enjoyed drawing the pears, I wondered what a few pears would look like as an arrangement and did a quick sketch of them using compressed charcoal. I wanted to try something different but it was quite difficult to get the pears to stand up. I got one to stand up by itself but the other two needed each other for support, that seemed the perfect composition.

Photo 16-03-2017, 11 31 07.jpg

quick compressed charcoal sketch

Perhaps because of their funny shapes, they were a pleasure to draw,  and I think I did  a capable job of capturing their form. I am beginning to realise that charcoal needs more room, I was using an A5 sketchbook, so I did a larger version on A3. I very much enjoyed drawing these, making a real effort to draw fast and loose and not in a constrained way. Perhaps I am beginning to understand the need for the right tools for the job, including paper size, and am starting to enjoy drawing bigger and bigger.

Here’s the larger version.

Photo 16-03-2017, 11 30 56

longer study, compressed charcoal

This time I used a bracelet effect to give the pears their rounded shape, again in compressed charcoal.

As I really want to experiment with the dipping pen and ink, I will do another version but I am happy that I have experimented with a different technique and am somewhat content with the result. Although now that I have uploaded the photo I’m not sure if the middle pear’s stalk is projecting forward as much as I would like! Obviously the drawing is not perfect, the shapes are a little off but I enjoyed getting to know the new materials.

Drawing with the dipping pen was very tricky, I’m not sure if I have some defunct nibs or it’s down to user error, but I had real problems even getting the nibs to work. I had soaked them in boiling water previously, in case they were covered in wax, but I’m clueless as to what is going wrong here. After a few attempts, I used a much broader nib, which seemed to work better and tried out a version of the pears.

Photo 17-03-2017, 10 30 54

ink version

It’s not perfect and, whilst I found it challenging, I am also quite happy that I persisted and am pleased with the end result. Clearly the technical aspect of the line is lacking, and I need some more practice but I am excited to try it again.

Reviewing this after exercise two, I thought the images were relatively successful, especially the pears, as I felt I took a risk with just using pears and having them fall onto each other as an arrangement. I think some of my compositions have been quite basic so I realise the need to be more adventurous going forward.

Some elements of depth came through, in the use of contrast and the way one pear falls on the other, and through use of tone.

Being restricted to tone was fine, it adds some personality to the drawing but the ink pen technique clearly needs practice.

Just using one colour worked well, although the brown ink was the only one I owned at the time, it seems appropriate for the pears, hinting at the seasonality of fruit, giving it an autumnal air. This course is pushing me to try new things but I’m never really sure if I am doing it right, even analysing your own work is difficult and trying to second guess your self. Hopefully this will become easier as I go on.