Category Archives: Part 1

Course Expectations and Aims

  • Learn to use sketchbooks effectively
  • Learn to use drawing as a development tool for my sculpture work
  • Produce drawings which will compliment my sculptures
  • Incorporate research into my work
  • Complete in 1 year
  • Pass!

My sketchbooks and drawings are currently the weakest area of my work and I hope that my journey through this course will address and resolve that issue.

I also have an aim to work with ink more, so will be trying to complete many of the exercises in this medium (or at least to start with).

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Project 1: Observational drawing

The aim of this project is to learn to use what seems to be an unpromising subject, build up a composition and create an interesting drawing.

I have learnt that projects like this in Drawing 1 could lead me to procrastinate as they didn’t inspire me, so I grabbed my sketchbook, went outside and drew the first area I found!



It was an uninspiring area and still life on the whole is an uninspiring subject matter to me. I played around with a few areas of the scene:

Sketch2 Sketch3

I wasn’t getting anywhere with these and was getting close to giving up, when several elements of the scene came together for me into the design of a sculpture – I was interested now!

Sketch4 Sketch5

This sketch is of a sculpture I am now quite keen to have a go at making, so it was a useful exercise in keeping going with an uninteresting subject until something is sparked.

I tried again in the quite periods whilst doing an art show with the corner of a room:


This morphed into a surrealist view of the wall! Good fun to play with, but I didn’t develop this one as far.



These sketches formed a successful outcome for me in producing ideas for my sculpture work, but they don’t necessarily create an ‘interesting drawing’, which was one of the project aims. One issue is the use of drawing pens gives too uniform a line and the resulting sketches are too flat and boring because of it. I also haven’t taken heed of some of the course suggestions to be playful with the work and media.

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Project 2: Using space

Research Point – Elizabeth Blackadder

The course notes point to a video about her work, but I thought I’d have a look at her work on various internet sites before watching this.

Born in 1931, Elizabeth Blackadder is recognised as one of Scotland’s most important artists (The Scottish Gallery, 2017).

Her paintings don’t appeal to me on first viewing as I find they lack any depth or life. Her sketches of lobsters and leaves are technically proficient, but are more like studies than finished paintings.

This image seems to be close to the image this project is looking at producing. It is an unusual composition which doesn’t seem to follow normal placement ‘rules’. The objects seem to be randomly chosen and again, very flatly painted. It is interesting that this project is focussing on the background – in this image, the background works well for me, it is the random image painted as the main subject which don’t work for me. There is no focus, my eye wanders aimlessly around the image, not finding any area it likes to settle upon. However, zooming out to the overall shape and colour of the background it has an appeal to me.

I struggled to find other work by her that I liked, so I moved on to the video.

I’m not sure I learnt much more from viewing this, other than she paints what she likes and it was refreshing to see an artist talk about it in this way without losing the audience in art speak!

Turning back to the internet, this image was another which uses colour and the placement of objects. Whilst the first image link could have been produced in the way the course notes suggest by pinning work to a coloured cloth, this was obviously painted from a 3D scene, it has just been painted to look squashed into 2D – there are no shadows at all. Maybe this is my objection to her work – I am very much a 3D artist, so I like to see depth in an image.

It looks like (from the video and also from looking at her paintings) she paints the coloured backgrounds in after the individual objects have been painted. I will try this in the exercise.


National Galleries of Scotland (2011). Elizabeth Blackadder: In the Studio. [image] Available at: [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017]. (2017). Artworks | National Galleries of Scotland. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].

The Scottish Gallery. (2017). Elizabeth Blackadder. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].


The aim of this project is to experiment with colour composition and detail to use the whole frame of the drawing. The notes say to pin up coloured fabric or card and suspend or pin light, brightly coloured objects onto the fabric. Then make several drawings in colour exploring composition and enjoying the juxtaposition of bright colours and detail.

I decided to modify the brief by electronically pinning items to a coloured background. This meant I could adjust the scale and also not be restricted to light objects. It also meant that I didn’t procrastinate because of not having any coloured fabric / suitable objects to pin to it. The course is encouraging me to see ideas in unexpected places, so I chose my items quickly from the items which are sitting around me in my studio. I photographed them individually on a white background, ‘cut them out’ in GIMP and ‘placed’ them on a coloured background.

Coloured piece 1

I tried various arrangements and made small sketches of these, working in a similar way to Elizabeth Blackadder in leaving plenty of space around each object.

Sketch8 Sketch9

I decided that the final version worked the best. I haven’t given up on ink drawings yet, so I decided to keep going with these for this exercise and use watercolour over the top.

This time I worked with a mapping pen and water to do my drawings and I think I may have found my favoured medium in this combination. The mapping pen allows precise lines, but varied with pressure and the chance of blotches or sprays when the pen catches on the paper. The addition of water introduces partially controlled randomness and gives a great effect. I am glad I have persisted with ink as a medium! I used watercolour to add colour to the ink drawings and also to the background.



Have I managed to instil energy or life into the whole drawing, or does it run out of steam at the edges?

I like to think that I have in this drawing. In following the advice of the course notes in allowing the objects to go off the edge of the page, I think this adds more energy to the drawing. The bold colours and the interesting black ink shapes work well for me.

From an uninspiring premise, I’m quite surprised and pleased with the results. I have also really enjoyed working with ink and watercolour which is a promising start to the course.

Research Point – Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse made use of bold colours in his paintings, both in depicting the objects and the background.

In a similar way to Elizabeth Blackadder, some of his still life images are very flat, e.g. ‘Still Life with a Magnolia , 1941’, although others do have shadows and depth, e.g. ‘Vase with Fruit , 1901’.

It is interesting to view the ‘Selected Highlights’ page on the The Metropolitan Museum of Art website, which shows that he painted several versions of many of his images, working in very different styles on each version.

References: (n.d.). Matisse: Life and Painting. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Nov. 2017].

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, i.e. The Met Museum. (n.d.). Selected Highlights. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Nov. 2017].

Elizabeth Blackadder vs Henri Matisse

Both use bold colours and both often render their objects in two dimensions by removing shadows.

Matisse still life images keep their arrangement, the object drawn have a relationship to each other in their placement. Blackadder often paints each item of a still life in it’s own space, with object rarely overlapping.

Backgrounds are important for both. Matisse paints backgrounds which are realistic – i.e. the corner of a room, whilst Blackadder uses shape and colour to provide a background to her objects.

I’m not sure which artist I have more affinity with. I can appreciate elements of both artist’s paintings, but overall neither really does it for me.

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Project 3: Changing the scale

Scaling up particular features of a landscape, still life, portrait, or anything for that matter is likely to create an abstract image of which the original source is potentially obscured (if scaled up sufficiently to remove all context). As a way of creating an abstract image, this offers unlimited drawing opportunities. It may be more interesting to scale up just below this point though, so the image can still be related to its original source, but take on a new life through being much bigger than would be expected. It’s increase in scale and partial representation will introduce ambiguity and allow the viewer to question what they are looking at, and so take on more interest as an image.

I played around with a few arrangements and settled on drawing two keys and a piece of toy train track. I used a small paper frame to isolate an area of this and select my composition.

P3 setup

Continuing my work with ink, I used ink and water to render the objects, then a watered down ink wash to add in the shadows.

P3 sketch 1

This was OK, but the white areas were too white. I tossed up between adding colour and continuing in black and white. I decided to stick with the latter and added stipples to the background.

P3 sketch 2


This drawing is much more interesting than I would have imagined that a drawing of two keys and a train track would have turned out. This method of working opens up an unlimited source of inspiration using whatever objects are to hand – something I will hopefully remember when I struggle to get inspiration for a drawing.

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Project 4: The human form

The aim of this project is to draw parts of the human figure, observing the underlying structure of the limbs and create a drawing which leads the eye of the viewer into the overlapping twists and turns of limbs to create a powerful statement.

I enjoy life drawing and decided to leave my ink experiments for a while and do these drawings with charcoal which I am more confident in using to describe form.

I focussed in on overlapping limbs for these drawings and enjoyed trying to capture their shape and form.


There is not enough tonal variation in this drawing and the composition is not very interesting


I think I have captured the hands and crossed legs well here, but the composition doesn’t work, both with the drawing petering out at the edges and also the horizontal arms and leg being depicted in a portrait format.


I am pleased with how this one has worked out. The bottom on the left hand side is the least successful area, but I think the covered foot and shape of the leg works well.


I spent my time focussing on the hands in this drawing, so I didn’t have enough time to complete the upper part of the drawing. I think the composition of this works well though and would have been quite a powerful drawing if it was completed.


Another hand! I usually leave hands and feet unresolved as they are tricky to get right, but I think this one has worked out quite well. I think the composition works well here and shows a good sense of form.


I enjoy depicting the form of a figure in life drawing and I think most of my attempts here have been quite successful. Cropping the picture plane to include just a section of interesting shapes can work well, although attention needs to be given to whether limbs (arms and legs) will work being only drawn in part.

Research Point – Prunella Clough Tate Archive

Looking at the Prunella Clough Tate archive reinforces many of the projects in this stage, cropping images, inspiration from the mundane, the bold use of colour. She took uninteresting / unobserved scenes and trainformed them into artworks. It is particularly interesting to see her photo collection which acted as inspiration for her work. This is something I used to build up, but since turning my back on photography, have let slip. I will have to resurrect this habit.

I have picked out a couple of her images I particularly like:

© estate of Prunella Clough. All rights reserved, DACS 2017. Photo credit: Arts Council Collection

© estate of Prunella Clough. All rights reserved, DACS 2017. Photo credit: Arts Council Collection

I like the use here of a textured/patterned background with a small section of detailed painting and colour. I think this could work well with my water and ink drawings in moving them to a bigger scale.

© estate of Prunella Clough. All rights reserved, DACS 2017. Photo credit: Tate

© estate of Prunella Clough. All rights reserved, DACS 2017. Photo credit: Tate

Rusty metal always strikes a chord with me. Again, the use of a lightly patterned background which is left blank in much of the image works well and the small section of colour really stands out. I always wonder how artists ‘see’ images like this, so maybe I will try to create my own in this style and see how I get on.

A very interesting artist to look at and one I will take inspiration from.

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