Pt 1, Ex 4 Shadows and reflected light. (this one is out of synch having been forgotten about as a draft)

I feel like I’ve cheated a bit with this one, I’ve already dealt with a few reflective objects over the past couple of exercises and this week, I’ve managed another inadvertant self porttrait. the first of the a1 sketches is a much more detailed study of all the reflections, the second, I have simplified it and blocked the tones much more, resulting in less detail, both sketches were done in the same room however the second sketch does not show this, as a result it seems more incomplete than the first, but if I had worked into it more, the basic blocks would have been invisible due to the overworking with a charcoal pencil.

I’ve tried to avoid rubbing the charcoal to blend it, the unrubbed marks seem more honest.

IMG_6517 IMG_0189

I chose a1 because its easier for me to get the level of detail at that size with the side of a charcoal stick, I can do delicate small studies, but charcoal is a touchy substance and for me, larger is more forgiving.

I am happier with the chrome teapot, because it has more detail. I also like the reflections beneath, which where absent in the second picture as I placed a sheet of paper between the objects and the glass cake stand (on top of stacked books) I had them balanced on to get them at the right height next to my easel (still life can be a precarious thing) as a result as much as I was judicious with the reflections and the fact the stand is see though, it has more impact as another surface and helps lead the eye into the pot.

D1 Assignment 1 A personal still life

Choosing objects to draw has been a challenge all of its own for me. The key was an easy choice, it represents my ability to do this course in the first place, its the gate key to the site where I work, a place without which I would not have remembered I can paint and draw in the first place. Through two of the schools onsite, being given back some of the confidence that eroded through 6 years of full-time motherhood and general marriage, plus the financial ability to pay for this higher education. I’ve attached the keyring as it was a gift from a leaving pupil in return for a painting of a duck I handed on. I think it adds weight to the key creating a larger impression around that object.

To me the shell represents time with my children on Boscombe beach. its a thing I try to do most holidays, we are only 45 mins away and its a beautifully non threatening place to go. Sam and Jamie go play in the sand, I can sit and keep an eye on them and either study, draw or read.

This leads to the cup. A V&A porcelain mug I picked up in the staff shop when I worked at Waitrose. I originally had two, that didn’t last long. I like drinking coffee out of porcelain, same as I like drinking water out of a stemmed water/beer glass. I think its something I picked up from my Gran. I’ve chosen the finer things in life that are achievable, that make it worthwhile to me, and I look at those, even if the things around aren’t perfect.

Some would say I have an addiction to coffee. I don’t think its an addiction, just a necessary tool to get my communication abilities working in the morning.

The pewter coffee pot is something of my grans. At time of writing, my granny is still with us and has been handing stuff on to lessen the load on the house. The pewter pot and other pewter items (I’m sure they aren’t the same era) were things I played with when I was growing up, they have a weight and patina that adds to their age, and they are beautiful objects that remind me of my Grans style and taste as well as reminding me of my grandparents and the rocks they have been in my life.

The next issue is what medium do I choose to represent the items in? I have made extensive use of ink and charcoal and graphite throughout the lead up to this assignment piece, I would say I have had most innovative success with ink, however, the feel of the ink picture, is not as representative of my feelings for the objects.


The first picture completed was the A2 graphite, this is drawn on a prepared surface of brown parcel paper attached to a half sheet of 200 gsm cream cartridge paper, this has presented a wrinkled surface which I then put a light layer of gesso over to bring up the tone in the graphite. The overall effect is falsely ageing, which given the nature of the pewter pot is relevant. The composition brings the eye down from the top of the pot or reaches out from the centre, there is an area of deep shading at the central point that helps guide focus.


The second picture again on a preprepared back including the matt medium adhered wrapping paper, this time with wet on wet acrylic ink spatter, these spatters are approx. relating to the objects, the pattern on the cup is blue on white, the pewter is the darkest object. The items were grouped slightly closer together for this picture, and the use of white gel pen contrasted well with the backing. I like this as an image, I believe it works as a picture, I just don’t get the feel as much as the other two pictures, it is too sharp for me.


The third picture that rounds off this assignment is a charcoal sketch created over a layer of charcoal, treated reductively (if thats correct). The major issue with this piece is that the brief called for an A3-A2 piece and this is on A1 (Mi-Tientes pastel paper in a soft pale grey colour). My decision to do this is based on my blending technique and the size of my fingers. I use blending tools extensively in my use of soft pastels, I can work layers, stabilising with fixative as I go, achieving the finest lines and blending with the tools, however, they took off too much of the charcoal in this instance and as much as I will quietly wear out my fingerprints rubbing mediums into paper, the size of the bendable area has to be greater than my finger.

The effect is a soft representation of the objects, which I have rendered 3 dimensionally through shading and tone. There is less of an interaction between the cup and the pot in this version than the ink, where you can see the cup bounce back, but thats due to the time of day the picture was done. the shadow on the pot (added to with conte crayon) helps bring up the light on the cup, in this piece, I am most amazed at how well the lightest areas show up given I haven’t drawn on brilliant white paper.

I think this assignment has added to my skills well, my understanding of rendering shade has come on, as well as the speed which I sketch at. It has introduced me to ink drawing and made me think about the subject I choose to draw emotively as well as just a pleasing image.

I have enjoyed viewing artworks by Odilon Redon, and its due to this research I ended up doing the final assignment in charcoals.

The aspect I have played with most is the surface I have worked on, this is more in deference to the single colour nature of the exercises and the added impact effect I believe I have been able to achieve by undercoating the lines I have drawn.

The toughest part of this section was the emotive marks at the beginning, finding the time and place to carry these out in a family home is difficult, I think this aspect is going to continue to be my greatest challenge moving forward.

Research Point. Odilon Redon’s ‘Two Trees’ in charcoal.

Look carefully at the image below. Note the artist’s expressive use of tone – blocks of dark charcoal in sharp contrast to expanses of light, and then the smaller details, lines and spots that pull the image together as an ambient scene. Try to find further work by the artist and discuss the atmospheric potential of tone in your log.

Odilon Redon Has a fantastic grasp of light and realistic sketching in the picture ‘Two Trees’, the level of detail for a charcoal picture is mesmerising. his mark making is mixed which helps differentiate between the many textures available in nature.

I admire the fine line Odilon achieves with the charcoal, although it appears to be easier to understand how its achieved if the size of the sketch is genuinely over 60X40cm ( Also, the charcoal may have been different to that which I have available to me. I conducted an experiment in my sketchbook to see if I could replicate some of the marks.

Using Derwent charcoal pencil (light), Derwent compressed charcoal sticks (hard) and willow charcoal.


Fine marks are not easy, charcoal loses its point incredibly fast.

I found an excellent article from the Book and paper Group Annual, Vol 14 1995. It details the study of some of Odilon’s work in support of an exhibition and subsequent movement and display of what are potentially delicate pictures. The picture Two trees isn’t involved and it is a leap to suggest which materials were used, but charcoal only scratches the surface of what he used in his works.

In the earliest noirs Redon used a combination of vine and oiled charcoal with touches of compressed charcoal. He would also use black crayon, most likely conté crayon, sparingly. Fabricated black chalk, a much harder and blacker medium than the various charcoals used by the artist, was introduced in the mid-to-late 1870’s, at which time he also began to use compressed charcoal more extensively. He would use these harder media primarily to outline compositional elements over broad tonal passages of charcoal.” (

So this is an indication of how he may have achieved the variety of tones in ‘Two Trees’, by using more than one black medium.

Fig. 4. Landscape, 1868. Various charcoals, with black chalk and black conte crayon, wiping, stumping and erasing, on cream wove paper altered to a golden tone; 53.6 x 75.5 cm. The Art Institute of Chicago

This image (viewable on the Book and Paper Group Annual webpage linked above) represents a strong use of the chosen medium for a dramatic, atmospheric picture, It is at a point in the day when light is very low and the land is shrouded in shadows. As I haven’t seen any of Odilon’s work up close and real, I am aware I am missing subtle nuances of line that can indicate much extra information when seeing the original. However, there are large expanses of the paper where anything could be happening, indeed 2 people are visible on a rock, we don’t know their purpose, even the title is ambiguous and doesn’t give a sense as to a mood. Shadows add to atmosphere by giving potential for the picture viewer to imagine many more things than the artist could draw.

Auditions composition severed head

( This like a number of his works, are from his own imaginings and they need the deep shadows to help the pale fantasies stand out from the paper as almost a shock tactic.

In the previous 2 exercises, Shadows have been as important as the outlines in making my pictures stand out as things worth viewing. I haven’t felt either outline only or shadows alone are complete pictures, they seem unfinished, I like the line only sketches in my sketchbook, but they are more design than art and the last tonal pieces just seem uncomfortably rushed. However, they do depict a form and its observable as the one I copied the shapes from. Light source has an effect on the shapes I draw, direct light is a bright sharp reflection, wereas the light bouncing back off a table or through a bottle of perfume creates an almost ethreal glow, shadows turn the objects they are from into unreal forms until you account for the 3d object they are projected onto. its difficult to state I am aware of the way I draw these, its so ingrained in habit to observe line, light and shade, that stopping either of the processes is really difficult. It has been an interesting challenge.

Pt2 Ex3 Creating shadows using lines and marks

Choose a simple single object to start with. Work in your sketchbook using four drawing tools such as pencil, ballpoint pen, dip pen and black ink and drawing pen. Divide a page into four and try to make four distinct grades of tone using criss- crossing lines – hatching – and spots. Try marks close together or further apart, short and long lines, curved and straight, large and small spots and stipples, etc. Don’t worry about neatness or accuracy.

reading the pictures as left to right the mediums run as follows.

2b, red biro, pink gel pen, dipping pen.

Black fine liner, black biro, 4b, dipping pen.

Fine liner, fine liner again, blue gel pen, 4b.


I feel these sketches are reasonably successful, I like the effect of dots to make up shade, I just don’t have the patience to use that as my only shading technique in a larger image. The images also all work better because there is an outer edge, its basic, barely there, but it helps contain everything. I also like the effect of the repeats next to each other in a different medium.

They show varied levels of speed in creating the marks, I know from using a cross hatch technique in the last couple of weeks (I wanted to see if I could draw a horse. I used white gel pen and black liner on a brown pastel sheet of a3ish sized paper. I can’t do anything other than show a photo as I have given the original to the 9 year old who’s pony it is)


The a3 images I have done alongside this exercise have used the quick approach called for. I used biro, fine liner and dipping pen. The biro is the toughest to read as an image and I am the least satisfied with it. No edges on a complex shape  and a speedy technique, are not successful for me. The black fine liner whilst also representing scrappy work to me actually has the recognisable shape of the objects I am trying to portray. However the dipping pen is the better piece. Speeding up means less information put down on paper, the lines start taking on the job of shaping the object while creating the shading, crossing the marks by 90˚ giving yet more information on the shape.


I haven’t really enjoyed the larger pictures in this exercise, I prefer to create a slightly more thought out line having made sure I am happy I have the shape I am working towards. Its a technique I use when I am short of time in the handbag book, and it has its place in pictures alongside other techniques, like the pony above, or the cyclamen with mixed media I created last month. But on its on I find it unsatisfying. I also get a sense that if I worked into it in the way I did with the pony, I would be taking away from the point of hasty mark making. and it would look like I had done an outline. Maybe it works better with pastels?

I’ve since done in white gel pen


Its depicting 3 glass objects, so can only indicate the light, direct as a strong hard light and reflected as less, there, more vague.

as a piece it works, mostly. But I would be happier with it if it portrayed the darks as well as the lights. I think working on the blue is successful and would have allowed for shadows.

I am least happy with these sketches and as a result, they have been folded and hidden at the back of my sketchbook for this assignment…

On to the research piece.

Part 2 Exercise 2 Basic shapes and fundamental form preliminary sketch work.

Observing shadow using blocks of tone

Sketchbook work has been more about refining which mediums I wish to do this in at a larger size. I like the effect of working on the cardboard, it has enough tooth for the medium, I’m just not convinced starting with a background tonally in the mid-range is helpful. I would like to point out here, the box my A1 paper arrived in has been sliced into a nice big sheet and I’ve gesso’d it for a future exercise, again the gesso has a good tooth, took 3 coats to get it to a reasonable coating though.


these represent cheap charcoal and chalk, straight charcoal, graphite sticks and pencil. The bowl and the jug didn’t move on the table throughout this week, the difference in shadows represents the sun moving across the back of our house and the 2 windows at right angles affecting the relationships between the bowl and jug. The green splodge in the bowls is due to the poster paint on the opposing page mis-behaving while I set it up for a future sketchbook thing (it will get crosshatched next week, I have to plan this stuff in advance though, it has to dry).

Of the sketchbook work, I like the bowls best, the reflection on the inside of the bowls from the opposite side is sublime, they were lit partially from a skylight in the staffroom so none of the tones were particulalry deep, but as white bowls, I don’t think they needed it. However, I realise the tonal work is probably too gradiated to be classified as a block.

The two a1 sketches also involve white crockery, placed on white paper and light from the right above, this was so I could work at my easel.


The cups done with charcoal and the creamer and salt pig in graphite stick and penciled with a 6b. Both had elements rubbed away, putty rubber on charcoal and a standard rubber on the graphite.

The lighting cast from a spotlight is harsh, leading to strong shadows. Each object has its own relationships informed by the inside and outside of the object, the curvature on the items helps define the fall of the shadows and the highlights bounce back from both the paper beneath as well as the other object. I am pleased with these sketches. I don’t think they are 100% accurate, but I’m happy the mistakes in the line add to the roughness of using the mediums on their side in a slightly less controllable manner.