Material Differences

It made sense to carry on with the staircase as my subject, as I have spent so much time in the hall recently, and it was the one I liked most from the previous exercise.

Having already drawn it four times, I decided to do a quick sketch trying to decide on composition and perspective. This is the sketch. My main aim was to get the proportions and relationship between all of the elements balanced.

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quick sketch of hallway

Even though I marked the heights lightly I got a bit lost drawing the newel post and consequently the proportions are wrong, made a mental note to get the height right next time. I also decided not to draw the whole door but to cut part of it off. I’m trying to think why this image appealed to me and I think because there are a few possibilities in it, meaning you can go through the door, or up the stairs or turn around to whatever lies behind.

Here’s the final product:

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final drawing of the hallway and stairs


I used A3 paper as this particular pad has a hardback so was easiest to work on. I started off using a mechanical pencil as I knew I would need to work slower and be more careful with the smaller details. I then used compressed charcoals for tone. I used the pencil again to add texture and detail and used about 3 or 4 erasers trying to get highlights, remove smudges and try to correct some wonky drawing. I finished off using the darkest compressed charcoal to add contrast.

As you can see, I need to practice drawing straight lines, there is some wonkiness in places, not helped by the drawing being photographed ever so slightly askew. However, I am happy with the tonal values, especially as I had used a white charcoal for the highlights and ended up rubbing it out as I didn’t like the effect. There was a lot of erasing and redrawing this one, trying to get all the intricate details right. It forced me to slow down and really take my time over it, which is good because I often work too fast. It shows a few different marks, which I am always trying to expand on, the tonal values have variety and the perspective is not too far from reality, so overall not a bad attempt at this exercise.


Composition – An Interior

The only place I could find that seemed to fit all of the criteria was the staircase, which may sound odd but there was a lot of different lines going on, contrast between light and dark and also a mixture of textures. As I could not think of anywhere elseand I spend far too long already agonising over what to draw, I decided to just do it! (this has become my mantra, in an attempt to stop overthinking and procrastinating)

For the first drawing, I sat on the stairs, looking through the banister, using willow charcoal for a fast sketch.

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on the stairs in willow charcoal

Not surprisingly, I found the angles difficult to capture but I think I got the turn of the stairs almost right. I’m not sure if you can make out that the items hanging behind the banister are coats but they look like fabric at least.  As is happening frequently of late, as soon as I see the uploaded image, it doesn’t look finished so I end up going back and working into it some more.  Hopefully, the fact that I am recognising this means I am growing in some way and am able to admit my mistakes and go back and rework drawings. The first attempt seemed weak and bland before so I have added more contrast and some depth.

My second attempt was sitting near the front door.

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hallway in willow charcoal

I struggled with drawing what I could see in front of me, finding it difficult to fit it all in! By coincidence, it was interesting to see in the OCA weekly round-up today, Jim Unsworth discussing Lesley Norman’s work. She has distorted perspective to get more viewpoints in a scene. In case you missed it, here’s the link Lesley Norman. I think I am trying to draw what’s in front and also to the sides of me.

Again, I reworked this slightly as it didn’t have any tone or contrast. The banister was a nuisance, quite fiddly to draw with charcoal so I compromised, I can see areas that are slightly off but I’m happy with the coats hanging, that’s probably my favourite part. I haven’t quite managed to get the depth of the under stair recess though so, on reflection, this needs more attention.

I was feeling quite frustrated with this by now and re-read the exercise and concluded that I had done it all wrong so impulsively went off and drew something completely different.

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dining room window in willow charcoal

After I did this I thought it was awful and quit drawing for the day. Now, I think it’s not that bad and has quite an interesting composition which may need further investigation, and maybe more care and attention.

As I did not want to redo the whole exercise, I decided to go back to the stairs and finish the job.

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upstairs and downstairs in willow charcoal

I was halfway up the stairs on the turning point so had two different views. I had a view of upstairs and downstairs at the same time. It was somewhat confusing, so much so that I drew a chair that is downstairs on the upstairs landing before I realised how very strange that looked. The downstairs do not look convincing and I pretty much hate the stairs by this point. Even though there are a lot of mistakes I actually kind of like the movement happening here though.

Finally from the hallway

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stairs in willow charcoal

Have to admit I was glad this was the last one but again, I quite like the end result, it seems calmer than the previous one. I’m happy that my strokes are stronger and bolder, because I can be quite unconfident when I’m drawing. This exercise was difficult, perhaps because I haven’t drawn anything like this before, I have a fear of straight lines. Sometimes I feel like I have so much to learn and it can be daunting but occasionally I think I am improving. I have preferred the portrait versions, perhaps because they are cut-off from the full view so you just get a glimpse of something and makes you a little curious. This is something to consider in future.

I googled for paintings of stairs and found, of course, Escher, I don’t know how he had the patience to draw that!

I found another one that seems more inviting by Edward Lamson Henry and also James Neil Hollingsworth.

In conclusion, interesting drawings can be made from staircases, I think it took several drawings to discover this.


Quick Sketches Around the House

On reading this exercise I can honestly say it seemed a bit of a chore, it didn’t really appeal to me. However, I decided I would limit myself to sketch a few at a time so as not to get frustrated.

Deciding to make the most of it and get comfortable in my living room, I drew three scenes.

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living room in graphite stick

Have to admit that wasn’t as bad as I thought, the door didn’t come out that well but I made the sofa look like a fabric sofa so for that I am happy. I’m not a confident drawer when it comes to single line drawings so this is something I need to work on.

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living room fireplace

This was not successful, I really lost interest in the detail of all the little nooks and crannys and the perspective is off, perhaps I should have sat at an angle, rather than directly in front of it.

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I discovered it was quite difficult to get everything into one drawing, so bad planning there. Also, the window isn’t quite right so that was an error but I like the composition, cutting off the edge of the chair, although have to admit that was accidental!


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window desk

I found this desk quite tricky so it wasn’t very successful either, I think I would need to spend quite a bit of time getting the angles right on furniture if I was to draw in more detail. Although I think the magazine rack worked out ok.

I moved upstairs to attempt the bedrooms.

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master bedroom with conte stick


For some reason I really enjoyed drawing the material of the sheets and I think the nightstand and books have worked out ok.

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bedroom door


I tried a different view of the same room, drawing the door and also the mirrored doors of the wardrobe. I enjoyed drawing the dressing gowns on the door but had a few problems with the reflection in the wardrobe mirror. I think this is something that could have been resolved if I had spent more time at it but I kept to the brief. Even when sketching quickly I need to plan more and think about the composition.

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bedroom 2 in willow charcoal

Apart from the perspective issues, I thought this was more of an interesting drawing and it works better than the others. Perhaps the stronger, bolder strokes help add interest or perhaps the items on the storage box and around the window just add interest. I’m not sure why but I prefer this drawing to the previous ones. On reflection I think the mixture of verticals and horizontals works well.

Finally, the last drawing of the hallway and stairs

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hallway and stairs

This is probably my favourite, again it was more interesting to draw, perhaps the combination of the horizontal lines of the stairs juxtaposed to the messy shoe shelves, and bisected by the banister post.

It did dawn on me that I most enjoyed drawing the spaces where people had been, this meant something to me, seeing their possessions left abandoned for later use, made a connection. It made me think of the space that we occupy, the sense of us in a place; even when there is nobody there, there is still a lingering presence, which I liked the idea of. I think this is definitely a theme to develop some more.

The strongest drawings are the charcoal ones of my son’s bedroom and the hallway. I think the subject matter had more varying elements so that gave interest and I think the charcoal worked well when sketching something quickly. I also enjoyed drawing the fabric of the sofa, the bed, the dressing gowns wrapped around each other on the back of the bedroom door.

Going forward, a room to study more would need to have a good combination of different objects and lines, perhaps the bedrooms.