Assignment One

To begin this assignment, I decided to work through my previous exercises in coming up with my main piece.  I began by working out what I wanted to draw and why by creating a mind map:

Assignment One Mind Map

Preliminary Work for Final Piece

I had settled on several objects which were of significant importance to me, draw each one with eight different media (pencil, biro pen, drawing pen, ink and wash, soft pastels, oil pastels, watercolour pencils and charcoal).  I decided on the most suitable as follows:

Assignment One Group of Objects
  • Pearl bracelet: This item represents myself.  I was given this as a gift from my best friend for my wedding, so my emotional attachment to this object is very strong.  I also like how this object allows me to attempt to recreate spheres and a pearlized surface.  I decided after the mixed-media experiment that I really liked both the ink and wash and the charcoal to best represent this object.  The charcoal is much more flexible in recreating the pearlized surface and can also be lifted with a putty rubber if needed for the lighter areas.  
  • Metal tool: This item belongs to my husband, who is a mechanic and whose (almost!) whole life revolves around his phenomenal capabilities with objects such as this.  This object also allows me to recreate a reflective surface, but also offers a textured surface in the middle section, where I intend to use or recreate a piece of frottage.  My favourite resulting media for this object was the charcoal and soft pastels due to their ability to blend and be lifted with a putty rubber as and when needed.
  • Cactus plant and pot: This object belongs to my eldest daughter, who has a love of cactuses (possibly because it doesn’t matter so much if she forgets to water them every now and again! Haha!).  For the cactus, I preferred the charcoal and soft pastel as I felt they gave the object the rough and furry appearance it holds in real life.  I also really like the drawing pen as this really recreates the spikiness of the plant’s spines well.  For the plant pot, I really liked the charcoal as it was the best result in creating a smooth, flat (but curved) surface, but also the messy texture of the soil.
  • Toy sheep: This object belongs to my youngest daughter and was her bedtime buddy for a rather long time.  I found this object rather difficult to master with the majority of the media as they all seemed to add texture that would be present in actual wool, but not in a plastic toy.  I decided my favourite media for this was the pencil and watercolour pencils due to their smoothness.  I think, with more time and patience, the charcoal and soft pastel would also work better as they could be lifted with a putty rubber to show a reflection of light.
  • Pot towel: This represents our family home and life together.  Whilst a pot towel holds no actual significance, I liked that it is a good representation of fabric for texture and it was just the right size to put alongside my other items.  I found that my favourite media for this object was charcoal as it was the most accurate result.  My second favourite media was the oil pastel due to the white of the background showing through, similar to the actual object.

As a few quick exercises to familiarise myself with the group of objects before I got to work on my actual final piece, I decided to attempt some basic exercises I remembered from my school days:

  • A continuous line drawing: I wanted to practice my skill of looking without removing my pencil from the page or looking down and relying solely on my hand / eye co-ordination to reach a final piece.  Whilst I think the piece looks like something my three-year-old could do, I can see my skill of looking is actually improving somewhat and it is something I will work on more going forward, especially if I am going to create quick, rough sketches of things which may move position quickly (such as people in a café etc).
Assignment One continuous line drawing
  • A drawing with my left (non-dominant) hand:  I am rather ambidextrous anyway, but I thought by attempting to use my non-dominant hand, I may be able to remove my inhibitions and potentially see something with the other side of my brain which I hadn’t previously seen.  What resulted was actually that I could not really apply any pressure to the piece with the pencil.  I also found that my scaling ability was rather
Assignment One left-hand drawing

I also drew a ‘normal’ quick sketch of the group of objects, using very quick, rough marks to highlight points of note in the objects – the spines on the cactus, the folds in the material and so on.

Assignment One expressive lines and marks quick sketch

I then created another quick sketch of the basic shapes I could see in the group of objects as a point of reference when completing my final piece.

Assignment One basic shapes seen in group of objects

The End Result

I decided to begin my final piece in charcoal as that had had the best results in my experiments.  I created a sketch of the basic shapes and outline of the piece, then moved on to creating a base layer of shadows and tone with willow charcoal.  Once I had finished that, I worked into the tone to deepen certain areas with a charcoal conté stick, lift areas with the lightest tonal value with a putty rubber and also used a white soft pastel conté stick for such areas as the cactus’s spines due to the ease of control provided.

Overall, I think this piece has been quite successful, however, I think I have misjudged the proportions and scale of the plant pot.  I really like how my pot towel worked out and have found a real passion for fabrics.  I found the metal tool rather hard to recreate due to still not having the best grasp on working with reflected light, but I think my pearl bracelet and plastic toy sheep has turned out rather well.  I really enjoyed creating the cactus, but think changing the spines to white instead of using the charcoal, as I did in my experimental sketch, has lost some of its structure and realism, although it does create a ‘fuzziness’ which is apparent in cacti, so maybe it is actually somewhat better than I think? 

Assignment One: Finished Piece

Looking at the piece from afar, I think I may have overworked the darkest tones and, in doing so, have created a cartoon-like response, which I was determined to try to avoid.  Maybe I should accept that that is just my style of working, but I am determined to improve in this area.  I have definitely learned some skills to take with me into the next part of my course.

Project 2: Exercise 3: Creating Shadow using Line and Marks

Basic Shapes and Forms

Before starting this exercise, I wanted to experiment using lines and marks to create shading on the basic shapes (circle, square, rectangle, ellipse and triangle) and forms (sphere, cube, cylinder and cone), as shown below.

I rather enjoyed doing this activity, but found it rather hard to keep some of the shapes looking flat (such as the circle / stippling) and to create enough depth in some of the forms (such as the sphere / stippling).  I tried to imagine the light’s direction coming from the right, casting shade to the left.  One thing I noticed here is my reluctance to let go of an outline in my work – for example, the circle / line and cube / line combinations did not feel obvious enough without the outline to the right-hand side.  Thinking back, I think I should have perhaps just added a little bit of delicate shadow from the right-hand side of the shape / form heading inwards to show the outline, or created a bit of delicate shade to the right of the outline, heading outwards.  The latter of the two would be the most realistic in real life I believe, as it would be shown in the detail of the background.  I really like how the cylinder / line and cylinder / cross-hatch combinations work – the end of the shape does look very flat and blunt, which I think is quite a success.  I was not too keen on the stippling as this took quite a toll on my hand, but I was able to let my tremor help quite a bit with creating the dots, which I found rather humorous!  I came to decide to only use stippling in small areas in future to avoid over-straining myself.

Single Object

I decided to work quickly for both parts of this exercise; not focussing on the finished piece fully resembling the real object or even realistic in appearance at all.  For the first part of the exercise, I chose a frosted glass vase and to work in pencil, willow charcoal, drawing pens and oil pastel.  I divided a page in my sketchbook into four and chose to draw the vase purely based on tone, using lines (both straight and curved), cross-hatching and stippling. 

I then went on to do a similar activity with three different mini plant pots.  I chose a different media (drawing ink, soft pastel and ball-point pen) for each plant to help me choose which media I preferred for the second part of my exercise.  I was quite frustrated with this part of the exercise.  My skill with the ink and pastel are somewhat limited and I found it hard to manipulate them well enough.  I was pleased with the outcome of the ink in the end as I think I managed to salvage the piece – I love the contrast between the darkest tone of the side of the pot and the lightness of the front of the pot and how it has come together to look like the actual shape of the pot instead of just flat on the page.  This is something I would like to work on and improve on.  I think I need to try a few more experiments with ink and pastels in the future to improve this skill.

With regard to the soft pastel, I was rather disappointed with this.  Again, my skill in this media is somewhat limited and requires practice.  Regardless, I allowed myself to use line freely and the end result does resemble the actual object somewhat. Again, I will work to improve my skill in this media.

The ball-point pen, however, I really enjoyed and allowed myself to get lost in.  I fully allowed my eye and my hand to go wild here.  I used line to show the wall reaching upwards in the background (perhaps I should have been lighter to avoid drawing the eye from the main focus of the plant).  I used cross-hatching on the vase to create a smooth appearance, but also to add depth and tone, whilst using a mixture of stippling and free movement of line to create the plant and shadow.  I think I should have done stippling for the shadow on the ground as there appears to be too much outline around the shadow which I believe makes it slightly unbelievable.  I decided to attempt that for my final piece for this exercise.

Group of Objects

I decided to create the final part of this exercise in drawing pen as this was a mix of ink and pen, together with a slight wash to help practice my ink skills some more.  I chose to work in expressive marks for the flowers and did not focus on the actual shapes in the flowers, but allowed my hand to just flow as it felt necessary.  I tried to recreate the cross-hatching for the vases and uses stippling for the shadow on the middle vase and a mix of stippling and expressive line for the soil in the first vase.  I thought the water would mix quite well with the ink, but was disappointed to find that it only lifted the ink very slightly.  Again, I put this down to a learning curve!  I was also rather disappointed with the mild shadow coming from the plants / vases and up the wall.  I think I had, again, included too much outline instead of blending them better.  I drew the objects first for this piece as they were my main focus, however, I think I should have mapped out on my page what should go where first as when I included the lines for the joining of the ledge to the wall behind it, I noticed it did not tally up with the real objects in some places.  I think by doing this I will also increase my skill of scaling and placement. 

This exercise strengthened my belief that my skills with charcoal and ink are still at a very novice stage and require more practice, which I will carry forward with me, whereas my strength in drawing pen and ballpoint pen is rather more advanced.  I don’t believe I have fully mastered the concept of light and reflected light, but have just been recording what I have seen.  My least favourite part of the exercise was definitely the stippling due to its demands on my arm and hand, so I do not think I will use this often in my work going forward, however, I do find it much easier with looser and broader media, so perhaps if I were to do more work in charcoal or ink (with a brush), it would be less demanding.  I have also learned that I need to stop drawing what I think should be in the piece (shadow’s outlines) and simply draw what is actually in front of me.

Finished group of plant pots

Project 2: Exercise 2: Observing Shadow using Blocks of Tone

I decided to begin this exercise with a quick rough sketch using charcoal to depict light and shadow on the basic shapes and forms, magnifying my favourites to enable broader strokes. I really like the sphere (bottom right) with only a touch of the lightest tone and think I have created depth rather well in this object considering it was only a very quick, barely controlled sketch! I was rather disappointed with my cubes as

Quick sketches of basic shapes and forms in charcoal

Since starting this course, I have been obsessed with the simplicity and tonal range of the lamp in my dining room so, seeing this as the perfect exercise to experiment with this object, I wanted to begin by playing with four different media; HB pencil, drawing pens, oil pastels and soft pastels.  I decided to do this experiment in my A4 sketchbook.  I had some A1 black paper so decided I would choose my favourite of the four experiments and invert the colours for my larger piece to use the page’s natural darkness for the areas of the piece which held the deepest shade and to add in the rest with the lighter colours.  I thought my favourite pieces would be the oil pastels or soft pastels due to their easy blending capabilities.

Dining Room Lamp

When creating my pieces, I soon realised my previous belief that the lamp and its surroundings were simple due to there being only three or four parts to the composition was very much misled!  It soon became apparent to me just how difficult the most basic of shapes, tone and composition can actually be to recreate!  I was actually really surprised by this revelation but decided to persevere regardless.  I found the pencil and the drawing pen the easiest to manipulate into going where I wanted them to go when drawing a rough guideline of the shapes and shadow placements, and also when finalising the solid outline of the stem of the lamp.  However, the pencil did not allow for any very deep and dark shading which was rather frustrating – it felt that no matter how hard or vigorously I pressed, the page just would not darken beyond a certain point.  The drawing pens, I found, were fantastic for the deep darkness I was yearning to achieve; however, I did not think the shading worked to best represent the smoothness of the walls and the lampshade.  I suppose I could have used just lines, but I still do not think this would have been good enough.

Looking at the two media I had originally thought would be my most successful, I was frustrated with the inability to create solid, sharp edges.  The shading of both was brilliant as I could blend them really well (the soft pastels much better than the oil pastels), but I loved the warmth the soft pastels gave off.  The whole picture just looked cosy and inviting (if slightly distorted in the piece) – precisely how I feel when I think of my home.  I decided this was the winner by far.

I carried out my inverted piece and was rather pleased with the end result.  I don’t think it was immediately obvious that it was a lamp – in fact, I even posted the picture in a group on social media and received a comment from someone believing the piece to be a glass!  I found this rather comical – I could have been upset or offended etc, but I actually thought it quite amusing and intriguing that someone had seen something in my piece that I had not intended to be there or even seen myself.  It gave me a brief insight into just how differently people interpret artwork.  I was, however, slightly disappointed in the final outcome due to having, ironically, an inverted issue with not being able to get the intensity I desired, this time in white.  I loved the blending of the colours and did this using my fingers to really get into the piece.  I think perhaps I could have used fixative and then built the deepest white areas up layer by layer to intensify their vibrancy.

I looked at the exercise again and saw there was a requirement to use two or more objects, so decided to create another piece.  I wanted to work quickly on this piece and without too much restriction on myself – I have seen this whole process so far as just quick, rough experiments as opposed to official, structured drawings.  I have been more concerned with the process than the end result.  I chose three light coloured items: a food dish, a tissue and a candle and placed them on my kitchen worktop.  The lighting was poor in the surrounding vicinity due to it being night-time and the only lighting was high above.  My kitchen worktop, however, had spotlights just underneath the overhead cupboards, so I thought this would work much better in casting shadows, if only from an angle I was not so accustomed to. 

I had a play on an A2 sheet with willow charcoal and, due to the warmth and ambience of the night-time around me, decided to smudge the edging of the piece.  I chose to do this after seeing the result of my earlier piece of the lamp’s glow and the warmth that held. 

Besides a few issues with the structure of the objects, I was actually rather pleased with the final result as I think I caught the shading rather well.  I had a comment as to the kitchen tiles and that they were rather obvious in their description.  I noticed when looking back at the end that the shape of the square bowl could have been much better laid out and made to look much more realistic with some more lighter and darker areas due to the reflective surface which, again, I think is a result of not measuring or taking time and care in the planning of the piece. I also think there is a large element of ‘practice makes perfect’!

Overall, I really enjoyed the process of not so much drawing the piece, but drawing it through the block colours and shading and just adding the finer details of the outline in the end.  I will definitely use this again further on in my journey as I have always generally drawn first, added detail and then added shade and light, but actually found it rather refreshing to reverse my methods.  Even though my initial piece was misconstrued by a member of the public, I won’t see this as too much of a mistake but more a learning curve of perhaps asking myself how I can try and portray the piece more realistically and tell the viewer what its actual purpose is clearer, or to even work on enhancing the lack of instant recognisability dependent upon the piece I am creating and the purpose it is to fulfil.

Project 2: Exercise 1: Groups of Objects

Group of Objects

For this piece, I thought I would gather a few different objects from around the local art class I attend and sketch them whilst there.  I arranged some objects and, thinking the glass milk bottle would be the hardest piece to replicate due to its symmetry and difference in shade, tone and reflection, I made a sketch of it in my sketchbook to familiarise myself with the shape before continuing to the main piece.  I decided that, due to working on such a large scale, I would forgo the pencil and attempt the piece in willow charcoal instead.  I thought this would have a much bolder result on such a large-scale piece of paper than a pencil would and, since I was only concentrating on the outline, the pencil would be very fine and almost invisible if viewed from any amount of distance.  I was rather disappointed with the end result as I thought it had an almost cartoon-like appearance.  I was also disappointed that I had not managed to scale the objects properly in the beginning due to not measuring the objects out on the sheet first, but I thought it was quite good considering it was only a quick attempt and did not have much effort put into it really.

I then thought I would try a different group of objects due to the first not including anything loose and also wanting to try and draw the objects inside, as requested, which I had only then realised I had not done in the first piece.  I settled on my daughter’s bath toys and net bag.  I was rather dubious about the bag as I thought it much too delicate and intricate for my liking – I am not a fan of creating very fine, detailed work personally (and more so with my tremor sometimes deciding on the line’s direction and structure for me!) – and so expected to become frustrated by its delicateness.  I thought the pink jug would by far be the easiest object to recreate.  I began the piece by drawing two sketches in my sketchbook of the net bag and its enclosures to familiarise myself with the bag and the weight of the items inside it before continuing onto a larger scale. 

I created my larger piece in black biro on a sheet of A3 sketchpad paper.  I was actually pleasantly surprised by the end result of this piece; I had somehow managed to integrate delicate lines for such things as the net bag and the outline of the objects which could not be seen by the naked eye, but also deep, dramatic lines for the shaded areas.  I did not want to concentrate too heavily on the shaded areas due to the piece being mostly focussed on just an outline, but couldn’t help myself in adding just a little (and rather loosely) in certain parts of the picture to help clarify the depth and weight of the objects and their locations within the piece.

Final sketch of second group of objects

Reflection

I really enjoyed this exercise and have learned a lot from it.  Mostly I have learned that just because something looks as though it will be difficult to replicate, it is worth giving it a go as there may be different ways to recreate it without going very deeply into fine detail and precision. I think it is also important to try to visualise the items which are inside other items and understand their composure to appreciate how and why the final resting place comes to be. I think this will come in useful when drawing the figure; trying to imagine the placement of muscles and other tissue underneath the skin, why they are there, what purpose they serve and what impact they have on the image you see before you and also in architecture when considering the framework and foundation, and also who might inhabit each building, considering their individual stories. Finally, I think the structure of the objects and the spacing between items in the final piece is quite good compared to my earlier pieces. Perhaps this is because I am now beginning to see the importance of ‘reading between the lines’ so to speak. I will definitely be referring back to this piece in the future.