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 4: Shadows and Reflected Light

I struggled somewhat with this exercise, purely because I could not find many objects which were reflective and located in the same area (none of which I was able to carry around with me either)!

I finally settled on three stainless steel cylindrical vases which were resting on a shelf and placed one next to the other, from smallest to largest.  Again, I worked rather freely to create this piece with the charcoal, using large, bold strokes of the charcoal to show the darker tones / shadows of the piece and used a putty rubber to lift out the lightest tones / reflected light / light from the overhead spotlight and, once again, not focussing on the overall shapes of the objects.

Three stainless steel vases

I found this exercise very similar to my previous exercise and at times became confused with trying to separate the two!  I enjoyed being expressive and unrestricted and maintaining a lack of self-control of my movements, as opposed to working intricately to create a ‘masterpiece’.  I really enjoy the freedom of expressive mark-making and will definitely use it in my future works.  I found myself allowing some emotions to flow whilst creating this piece too; I worked vigorously, relieving stress in the darkest areas, but moved delicately and gently for the lightest.

Completed three stainless steel vases

Upon closer inspection, I do not think the lines really connect with each other well, but I was shocked to find that if I looked from further away, I could clearly see the objects they were meant to be and how the tones – whilst contrasting – seem to come together and work in harmony to show the finished objects.  This really fascinated me! 

Whilst I was happy with the outcome of this piece, there were parts I thought could do with improvement; the shape of the tallest vase is quite wide compared to the actual object, the shadows on the ground are not wide enough, the reflected light on the vases is not well placed, as aren’t the darker tones on the vases, though I wonder how much of this is due to the difference in my positioning and viewpoint.  I was, however, slightly disappointed in my lack of control with the charcoal and can only marvel as to how artists such as Odilon Redon are able to imbue such skill and control over the medium.  I think I need to work more on the formation of the objects and my control over the charcoal – perhaps using fixative and building the piece up in layers?

I then moved on and created a piece using just one vase which had circular indentations.  I found the light reflected beautifully on this object, but I wanted to experiment by using pencil.  For this, I decided to focus mostly on the shaded areas, laying out only the basics for placement of the shapes and indentations etc.  When I had finished this piece, I was absolutely thrilled with the result.  Whilst I think I lost some of the shaping to the vase on the bottom right hand corner, I really like how, again, up close the markings just look very harsh and quickly done, yet from afar the vase appears very fluid.  I think I could have also added to the depth of the object more by using more curved cross-hatching with emphasis on the horizontal lines as opposed to the vertical to help show the curvature of the vase.

Reflective vase with circular indentations

Going forward, I really want to learn how to manipulate charcoal in such a way as to resemble the clarity and sharpness of the pencil as artists such as Redon are capable of achieving in their work.

Completed vase with circular indentations