Assignment 2

Tutor Comments on Assignment 1

Tutor:  Emma Drye

Overall Comments (my responses in bold italic)

This was an intelligent, curious and sensitive assignment which looks set to pave the way for an enjoyable and creative course. I think you can be even more experimental and ambitious for your work. The first mark making exercises need to be reflected on in terms of reminding you just how much variety there is in drawing, and to remember to use that variety and range in your own work.  

Feedback on assignment

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

Blue house paint

I wonder if a tiny bit of white or blu tac grey pastel lifting the highlights on the drawn objects would have helped the visibility of the objects in this still life? Effectively the blue becomes a mid tone doesn’t it? the problem there is that the pencil isn’t much darker so you have a close range. A paler blue plus a white type thing would have pulled the range back out. Lovely idea though, and one worth pursuing. I agree, the house paint colour was too dominating, so achieving contrast was a losing battle.  I will hold onto the idea of painted support however, to be used again in the future.

Exercise two

This seems to demonstrate what you picked up from your charcoal experiments. I think it shows what can be achieved if you dig into a drawing and build it using its own history. Okay you may lose the totally clean white, but you still have a relative white and you gain all sorts of interesting patinas and effects. Your ellipses are a bit crooked but that is fine; its probably to do with how you hold your drawing relative to your subject. Too much twisting about with your head and eyes disturbs the translation of angles etc.   Need to work on ellipses and continue experimenting with charcoal.

Two jug studies

These show you considering pattern in a Matissey way and working out how important it is to you relative to the modelling of forms of the previous piece. Watch out for ellipses going to a point – they never do – you always need to nick off the end and join it to the upward curve. You have used a variety of lines here and that has intimated tone in the line drawing to an extent although not in a really defined specific way – it feels a a bit random. Using a heavier line at the base of a jug for example would intimate a shadow at the base, and making a line fad in the idle of a curve suggest a highlight or that the line bows out in the middle. Does that make sense? All very useful comments, thank you.

Compositional try out for ass 1

There is some evidence here of you taking forward the very first studies in expressive mark making, often dismissed by students too soon. I also feel the development of the surface of the right hand candlestick owes something to your research into charcoal application so that’s great too. The space has been well conceived – the ghostly creature on the left shows you responding sensitively and visually to the space. The shadows on the table are very nicely built up positively and negatively. This push and pull really helps to create a convincing sense o flight falling on objects. To move this forward I would say you could have relied less on the external outline around the three main objects. It is largely unbroken and so negates the opportunity to play between the surfaces as you have played across the boundaries of the shadows for example.

First go at ass 1

The paper is a bit weak so you would not have had much opportunity to dig in and work the charcoal. The materials are deceptively complex – as I look I can see how many was you have worked this drawing. again, the outlines are a bit overstated for me. You can take much more pleasure in the way objects overlap and occlude. It is the inter relationships that make this drawing and tonally you need to drop or break open those outlines to capture the detail of how tones operate adjacent to each other across forms. That left hand jug arm should be singing out against the dark body of the jug behind but the dark top line is trapping it.  This and the previous comments convince me I need to examine more closely outlines, their function and interplay.

Final outcome

You have good reasons for developing the final draiwn in this way which you have recorded in your log. I still feel a bit of tweaking of the outlines here – lifting them off with a putty rubber at the lightest point of the curve of the handle etc, would help but here the line drawing aspect is a more overt tool for the picture construction and the shapes rely on them more as the tones are more loosely applied. The more dramatic tonal range and particularly contrasted juxtapositions (white against very dark) make this drawing feel more vital and energetic. I wonder whether digging back inot the first go and darkening up the dark bits a la Redon and in line with this drawing, would give it more power. How would it be, for instance, if the back wall was really dark?


Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity

There is no need to annotate your sketchbook on my account. It is usually better to let drawings stand. Brief notes for yourself are okay if necessary – and of course at tines you are using poetry in your work to evoke a mood or entry point into the subject.

The thumbnails you have for your candle composition are just lovely. Good pint about how far you want to pursue the decorative patterning and how far the volume and solidity of forms.

I think your sketchbook is slightly under used looking? I suggest you drop the annotation and just start using it more frequently and openly. Everything you do during your time with OCA ’counts’ not just the projects on the course. If you attend a life class or go on a sketching walk – that can all go in your sketchbook. The experiments in the environment can all go in for example. Use your sketchbook to take risk, collect interesting ideas and materials and build up a core of stuff that you can use to inform your drawings and define your own artistic practice. 

You comment that there is no need to annotate my sketchbook so that you know which outcome the drawings are exploring.  This is something I was very unclear about so am glad I can let this go as well as feeling more confident in including a variety of more random material etc.

I really like the loose strip of paper with the Redon experiments on it as an art work – reminds me of Ian McKeever. (Hmm. That’s made me look at that in a different way!)


Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis  

Finding the piece of technical research on Redon was a masterstroke and you have considered how to utilise the ideas. I feel as if you could probably have sustained those ideas a bit more – but that may be nit picking as it is very likely that you will reprise them in later work.

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays

Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis  

You asked if your blog was too slight. It is fine as it is. There is absolutely no need to give large amounts of detail on process for my sake. Note process when it is useful to you and your learning / thinking. Otherwise you can be brief. The crux is the critical thinking; the why and the what next. I preferred this one because x therefore x is important. That sort of thing. You reflect well on your work and that can be extended. It is really great to see that you are imbuing the projects with personality and creativity. You are being generous, taking on basic exercises and building them into something you can make art from.  Relieved it is not too slight.  You make clear which aspects you are interested in so must try to keep those in mind: ie. the critical thinking of why and what next.

Suggested reading/viewing


Ian McKeever

Jacob Epstein’s drawings

Julie Mehretu

a student you might like:

Many thanks for suggesting these three artists, particularly interested in Julie Mehretu whose work I was not familiar with. I really enjoyed looking at Reddirt19, and the very thoughtful approach evidenced. Also the Fitzmuseum site on graphite was excellent. As for the Jerwood Prize catalogue, all rather mind blowing so will have to return to it many times. The new parameters of “drawing” are fascinating, and something I am endeavouring to get to grips with. It is interesting that “definitions” are generally always at the beginning of a piece of academic work, and on this course, it is precisely the struggle with defining the medium of drawing that continues to confuse and engage.

Pointers for the next assignment

  • Reflect on this feedback in your learning log.
  • Consider how you use outline – can you unpick it and be more experimental
  • continue to develop your use of gesture – be radical – you can always rein it in
  • consider how the history of a drawing informs its reading

Well done, I look forward to your next assignment.

Many thanks. One comment of yours – to continue to develop use of gesture – gives me much food for thought.  How do I do this? 



Project 1    Detailed observation of natural objects

Exercise 1   Detail and Tone


This exercise was more challenging than I anticipated, particularly trying to achieve depth against the much darker crosshatched shadow area. I have drawn shells all my life but they remain endlessly curious and beautiful. Good advice in the course material to go easy on the lifting off with the rubber – it proved rather too tempting.

Project 2   Still Life

Research Point

16th and 17th Century Still Life Painting – a new genre

Still life painting came to be accepted as a genre in its own right during the seventeenth century, although the careful depiction of fruit, flowers, food and household items had featured in altarpieces as early as the fifteenth century. In pictures of the Virgin and child food and flowers often had some significance, often with reference to purity.  Gradually still life paintings lost any biblical connotations and became an accepted genre which divided up into several categories including flowers, banquets, food arrangements, hunting trophies, vanitas paintings. Flower painting became an independent category in the latter half of the sixteenth century, reflecting the rise of  interest in gardening and the cultivation of exotic flowers – the Dutch were Europe’s leading horticulturists. Many of the flower arrangements were composites, assembled from a number of independent studies. Baroque chiaroscuro was eschewed, each bloom being given equal treatment in constructed, or impartial, light. The subjects would be presented in a unity of time and place, simultaneously in the foreground, as in Ambrosias Bosschaert the Elder’s Bouquet in an Arched Window. (Slive, Seymour. p.281Dutch Painting 1600-1800, Yale University Press)

Much of the popularity of still life painting was due to the allegorical meanings of objects. Amongst sumptuous banquets, displaying exotic food and expensive tableware, a little mouse might be a reminder of the dangers of gluttony. The flower paintings were often interpreted as symbolising the brevity of life as were shells and the arrangements of objects in Vanitas paintings which featured skulls alongside worldly possessions, scholarly implements and personal items such as pipes or lockets. Paintings of game were aspirational as hunting was only licensed to the aristocracy; the affluent middle classes often commissioned paintings which included deer, pheasant and wild boar to elevate their  societal positions. Some artists, however, used unspectacular motifs but through their execution produced grandiose paintings. Chardin, with no classical training, painted simple balanced colour harmonies within the gentle juxtaposition of light and dark.


We live in a very different world to the that of the heyday of still life painting. But objects still have meaning. They continue to be placed under the lightbulb gaze of the artist. They continue to undergo selection and sometimes it is that selection which poses questions about art itself as in Andy Warhol’s work with commercial objects  and Lichenstein’s appropriation of media images.  However, without the game changing work of Cezanne at the end of the 19th Century and the explosion of  viewpoint in Picasso and Braque’s paintings, Marcel Duchamp’s conceptual work might not have been possible.

In the first half of the 20th Century, Rauschenberg had rolled the ball onwards  by advocating the use of chance methods and found objects. At the foundation of his practice, in line with the Dadaists,  was the idea that it is the artist who determines the nature of art.


Slive, Seymour. p.281Dutch Painting 1600-1800, Yale University Press


Project 2 Exercise 1 – Still life using line


For this exercise I have been looking at drawings of still lives and interiors by Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) while also admiring his sculptures which resonate with more ancient civilisations and old gods.

During my Study Visit to the British Museum Drawing Room I made a pilgrimage to the Mummy room – a longtime favourite place – and came across their large collection of Wadjet Eyes. These are amulets  of the eye of the falcon-headed god Horus, worn for protection. The British Museum hold a very large collection of Wadjets in all different materials and designs. This led to thoughts on animal symbolism and why certain animals/birds occur as motifs throughout the work of various artists and writers. The poet Ted Hughes in his poem The Thought Fox uses the fox as an extended metaphor for the act of writing poetry or, as Neil Roberts writes in an article of 25 May 2016, ( “as representing the renewal of the poet’s imaginative powers”, as this was the first poem he had written in over a year.  (The Thought Fox is a poem I read closely before starting Assignment 2 once I had decided that I would be including the fox skull within my composition.

Walking Woman I 1932-3-1936, cast 1966 by Alberto Giacometti 1901-1966
Walking Woman I 1932-3-1936, cast 1966 Alberto Giacometti 1901-1966 Presented by the artist and Mrs Erica Brausen 1972

Giacometti’s Walking Woman sculpture is heavily influenced by primitive and Egyptian art.  It is the inspiration for Tishani Doshi’s poem: Ode to the Walking Woman. This is an exert from it:

Sit –
there are still things
to believe in;
like civilizations
and birthing
and love.
And ancestors
who move
like silent tributaries
from red-earthed villages
with history cradled
in their mythical arms.

Page from my sketch book from day at British Museum:


However, now I come to write about it, perhaps my line drawings have been influenced by both Giacometti’s still lives and his sculptures which draw inspiration from North Africa – my still life line drawing includes a North African bronze statuette. My aim was to show form with a flurry of energetic lines, rather than carefully tracing round each object. The lines explore the relationships between the objects, leaving the construction lines visible as part of the overall drawing. I did a series of these drawings and have selected the top one for the outcome of this exercise, but have included some of the others here too.


Project 2  Exercise 2 – Still life in tone using colour

When I began this drawing the fruit sat on a flat plate but I decided to remove the plate and let the the fruit take centre stage, allowing the shadows to place them on a flat surface. I am happy with the composition but feel that the modelling on the pear is not quite accurate enough, whereas I think the banana skin works, its cut edges becoming blacker as I drew.


In my next drawing I decided to use only bright light coloured pencils. I wanted to experiment with what happens without the possibility of darkening shaded areas.  Instead of darks I found myself using a contrasting colour.  For example the dish, which was pewter, began in a green blue for the outside of the dish but I had to use a completely different colour, magenta, for the darker more shadowy areas on the inside of it. I also had to outline some of the objects in a contrasting colour. The result I felt was more like a decorative panel. Depth was largely abandoned and instead of an indication of table/wall I used a single colour with which to surround the objects.


I found this image still too sugary so wet the background to try to make some kind of differentiation with the three central objects of dish, jug and decorative plate. The paper wasn’t up to it and buckled terribly as well as the colour looking altogether different as the pics were taken on different days. I think despite its sugariness, the image had a better unity before the introduction of water. But sometimes one’s frustrations have to get the better of one.


I tried another version of fruit on a table with Euan Uglow’s facetted fruit in mind. For this I used oil pastels but found them difficult to use cleanly without bits of wax balling up and making unwanted tiny marks all over the drawing. Somehow the density of the way I was using the medium asked for the background to also be solid. (Your comment on trying a darker background in a drawing in Assignment 1 has made me question backgrounds, so that was very helpful.)  I feel the darker background emphasised the bright yellow better than the original grey in which the tones are all too similar. One element of oil pastels I enjoyed was their ability to cover older layers successfully.

Project 2 Exercise 3 – Experiment with mixed media

I love the examples of the pineapple still life by Stephen Powell in the OCA Course Material and wanted to get that degree of playfulness into my next drawings.  After a fair amount of tightness in the previous exercise I decided to experiment with collage and background washes. The much broader definitions of “drawing” in this course continue to puzzle and fascinate me. When are collaging and painting also drawing? These are questions I hope to find an answer to as I progress through the course.

In this exercise I concentrated primarily on composition and abandoned realism. One of the bottles is “floating”, three of the bottles are seen from a slightly higher viewpoint whereas the others are flat. I did however use colours of a similar palette to link the composition together while arranging the bottles balanced but with areas of awkwardness – i.e. the way the front central thin bottle does not nicely overlap the two bottles behind it.


I also made a quick sketch using a page of drawn circles as my support (I did this from the course sample for Foundation Drawing when I thought that was the course I was going to do!) and using a flat green highlighter pen. I enjoyed making the shadow areas in tiny bubbles to echo the circles in the background.


Project 2 Exercise 4 – Monochrome

For this exercise I initially drew a very loose, large-scale charcoal still life of leaves in a glass vase with some green and a little yellow for the background:


However I wanted to have a go at making a mono print using a favourite dark colour made up with ultramarine, emerald and burnt sienna.  I am interested in printmaking but have had little experience so it was always going to be a bit of a gamble and discovery.

I began by drawing some mint in a pot to familiarise myself with the leaf shapes :


I then experimented with pulling an image off the plate which I had drawn into. This left a white image against the ink. IMG_6153

I tried drawing onto paper pressed onto the inked up glass.

I then returned to the first image and painted into it. I smudged the ink colour onto the pots with a rag and painted over most of the white leaves, leaving the thinner outline of the leaves to emphasise the difference between the  manmade and the organic:


Finally I tried cropping bits of the images and sort of preferred them:



Project 3 At home

Exercise 1 Quick sketches around the house

I came across some drawings on the internet by Jorge Gonzales, Argentinian graphic artist.  I love his drawings of interiors in which people and furniture are drawn over architectural elements.

Jorge Gonzales interiors:


I particularly like the way he has selected lightbulbs against ceilings. He seems to use the burnt sienna to balance the composition while making the objects look like casual afterthoughts.

My quick sketch versions:

Exercise 2 Composition – an interior

I drew two more detailed studies of interiors with a focus on layers of light within corridors.

Exercise 3 Material differences

For this more developed piece I looked closely at the two drawings above and decided to use the right hand image to work from because of its more abstract possibilities. I also had a look at the images below within the Research Point, looking at the uses of windows and doors , particularly the one by Diebenkorn. I used gesso, charcoal, pencil, collage, bitumen and acrylic.


Research Point – Looking at some contemporary artists’ treatment of domestic interiors: content, medium, format etc.

David Hockney

In an article in, art critic Lita Barrie interviews Hockney in 2015 when he has completed a body of work in which he plays with perspective. He has this to say:

“Painters have always known there is something wrong with perspective.  The problem is the foreground (hence Cubism). Where am I? And the vanishing point”.

In discussing this body of work in which he plays with the limitations of photography using digitally collaged images, he comments that the problem with the fixed perspective of the photographer is that the viewer is left out of the picture.  He compares the single perspective to writing novels from the singular third person perspective.  This is also an artifice he maintains.

In the Hockney paintings here I ask myself what it is that makes them successful.  How does Hockney play with the perspective and yet still create images that work so well?  His extraordinary sense of design makes them work, albeit in a playful sense, as well as with the arrangement of bright colours playing a vital part.


Hockney asks us to consider where the artist is in a painting? I find that my dog, who is never far from my feet, often slides into a drawing; he lies between me and the world and is the next best thing to planting my feet into a drawing, as in this one of the inside of a greenhouse.

Richard DiebenKorn

With Diebenkorn, I feel it is his selection of what to include within the frame, while maintaining an accuracy of perspective, that makes the paintings successful.  He manages to observe reality while reducing it to flat planes of colour – which is exactly what he does in some of his landscapes which, while being “of” a place are an abstraction from it.  He transforms reality into a series of vertical, horizontals and flat colour planes, and this is also apparent when he includes representational elements such as figures/chairs in his compositions.

In the painting below Diebenkorn reworks the theme of interior dark space looking through a door into the light.


I looked at some other artists who, like Diebenkorn above, utilise windows/doors in their interiors.

From left to right: Carlos San Milan, Fred Cuming, Nigel Fletcher, Jordan Wolfson.

Windows and doorways represent the world of possibilities; about what is beyond. At the same time they seem to transform the interior space into a psychological state, the artist’s inner world. It is clear immediately that the two paintings below, left by Chagall and right by Jeanne Myers (Slipping through Small Windows), have psychological states as their subject matter while using windows as a device.

Finally, Edward Hopper deserves to have the last word on windows and social and emotional isolation:


Assignment two

I wanted to use a pristine academic style for this drawing as it references the hanging of animals and birds in Dutch still lives while at the same time echoing the themes of Vanitas paintings.  To some degree I feel pencil drawing is my comfort zone but I also rarely put a huge amount of time into it, using it instead as a fast sketching tool.  I valued the opportunity to feel exhausted by careful work over several days and so chose these quite complex structures that fitted in with what I wanted to convey.

It is, however, the idea behind the drawing that interests me – the synergy between the objects, the fable and the still life paintings it references.   I tried several compositions with the same objects but due to the smallness of the objects and therefore the very flat plane of the composition, none of them worked for me. Once I had the idea of suspending the crow skull, as in so many dutch still lives, the composition immediately took shape as I now had the height required to make the composition work.      Jean Baptiste Oudry (1686 – 1785)

For this assignment I am calling on Easop’s fable of the fox and the crow and its warning against vanity. Below are two versions illustrating the same story: Arthur Rackham’s version for Aesops Fables published by Heinemann 1912 and Larry Vienneau’s intaglio etching (contemporary).

In my drawing the crow and the cheese are forever suspended. The fox will never eat the cheese, however cunning he might be.  His days as an urban fox are over.  Trapped within the stones of a wall in Harrow he slowly decomposed, with my son, Jack, watching over his skeleton. After Jack finished his degree and moved away he remembered the little bones and one day broke back in and removed the skull. He boiled it for many days, then wrapped it and gave it to me. Everything has a history it carries within it.


In the poem People by Yevgeny Yevtushenko his focus is on the parts of life that are lost when someone dies, the memories that only they hold. I look at these skulls and wonder at the small dramas played out in their unknown lives. We will never know how high the crow flew or how the vixen fought for her cub only for it to die years later in a wall in Harrow.

In any man who dies there dies with him
his first snow and kiss and fight
it goes with him.

From People
By Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Some sketchbook pages for final drawing:


Artists I’ve been looking at during this Assignment.

Euan Uglow
Gerry Keon
Jean Baptiste Oudry
David Hockney
Richard Diebenkorn
Jorge Gonzales
Nigel Fletcher
Robert Rauschenberg
Carlos San Milan
Fred Cuming
Edward Hopper
Nigel Fletcher
Jeanne Myers
Julie Mehretu
Alberto Giacometti
Arthur Rackham
Larry Vienneau

Assessment criteria

(I am a little unclear whether I should be applying these assessment criteria to all the work done for this Assignment or just the final Assignment piece)

  • Demonstration of technical skills – This section of the course contained a great deal of observation drawing and I particularly wanted to show evidence of careful observational technique in the final piece. My experiment with mono printing showed no technical expertise with printmaking but I hope to improve on that. Equally, my coloured pencil, sugary, still life is something I never want to look at again. But I suppose it is good to know where you don’t want to go.
  • Quality of outcome – I think my final drawing did what I wanted it to do. I find it harder to comment on quality in a more general way.
  • Demonstration of creativity – It is hard for me to know at this stage whether this kind of precise drawing is something I will take forward or leave behind, however I believe that the thinking behind it, the layering and “loop” of  meaning within the drawing show evidence of imagination and the development of a personal voice.
  • Context reflection – I am finding that outside of the research points suggested by the course, various themes are presenting themselves which require further research from me. This is an aspect of the course I am particularly enjoying. There is so much I need to do and research at any moment. Some areas which have come up in this assignment: windows/doors as psychological states; animal symbolism; animals in fables and myth; animals as metaphor; and the presence of the artist within a work.




Assignment 1

Warm up temporary drawing.

I headed into the woods to put lines against backgrounds and play a little with the fairies, making pictures and patterns with natural objects. This had me thinking about selection.

The warm up exercises began by rearranging natural objects into patterns, sequences and shapes but also involved seeking out existing organic patterns.

One piece of wood I photographed was half burnt from a bonfire, making deep lines and indents into it, and was soon to be burnt again. This time it would be turned into ash.


The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

From Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
By Robert Frost 

Project 1 – Feeling and Expression

Exercise 1 – Experimenting with expressive lines and marks

Of the four emotions to express with marks Angry seemed the most obvious with violent lines as might be expected.  Calm was more difficult and felt like it was more about shape and composition than the marks.  Interesting questions were thrown up. Why was Joy about sweeping shapes? We are so crowded out with connections. Simplistically:  Joy = dancing.  The fourth one, the one of my choosing, was Grief. Although in the same ball park as Anger (negative/painful) shapes and marks emerged more naturally with less struggle. Was this to do with it being the fourth? Perhaps we only need to take quite small steps to slip into a different way of accessing our feelings. The process of trying to transform a feeling into a mark forces one to bypass logic.

Clockwise from top left: Angry. Joy. Calm. Grief.


Exercise 2 – Experimenting with texture

I chose household textures: a rattan seat, bubble wrap, knitting, linen curtains. The exercise made me think more carefully about the relationship between the abstract marks on a page and the objects themselves. Particularly with the bubble wrap I was aware of the difference between doing a representational drawing of an object, whereby we recognise it by its shape, and trying to create a sensory impression in an abstract way.

2016-03-14 11.10.01

The second part of the exercise, experimenting with frottage, appealed to the collector in me. I did the rubbings with pencil on tissue paper and stuck them into my sketchbook much as in the course material example. In this way I felt I could order, list, group and label a number of disparate objects, reducing them to “exhibits”. Oddly satisfying.




Project 2 – Basic shapes and fundamental form

Exercise 1 – Groups of objects

I drew this on sugar paper splashed with house paint. The 4b pencil I used fought a bit with the strong background. A lot of attention needed to be paid to the ellipses. I changed the edge of the table, raising it a bit as it cut through the centre of the coffee pot too much.

I tried another group of objects but using a different viewpoint.  The above arrangement has the viewer looking slightly  down at the table –  a more traditional approach. Having looked at Richard Diebenkorn’s etchings I tried another collection of objects drawn from directly above. This change in viewpoint has the result of removing the distance between the viewer and the objects. It becomes intimate.


Exercise 2 – Observing shadow using blocks of tone

I did this exercise while away from home with limited art supplies so drew across a double page of an A4 sketchbook and used a graphite stick instead of charcoal. I positioned the objects next to a window in an otherwise dark room.


Exercise 3 – Creating shadow using lines and marks

I drew a series of still life compositions without worrying too  much about accuracy and more about trying to achieve a sense of solidity in the shapes, using slightly different shading techniques. Two are in graphite, one in biro and one with a Kuretake brush pen. The pen drawing, with its much harsher contrast between the ink and the paper gave the impression of  bright sunshine.

Exercise 4 – Shadows and reflected light

Of the two drawings I made for this exercise, the second smaller one worked better I felt.  In the first drawing which was A2 I was grappling with the much larger than life-size of the objects and found just getting the proportions down quite tricky. The second drawing which I made directly into my A4 sketchbook worked better for me. The reflections were given more of an identity and as such helped to create the composition.

2016-03-14 11.41.54

2016-03-14 11.10.27

Artists looked at recently:

Cy Twombly
Charles Hardacre
Brice Marden – abstract ink drawings.


While investigating other drawings by Redon on the internet I came across a piece of research by Harriet K Stratis, Conservator of Prints and Drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago. In this research Redon’s black and white drawings known as his noirs were examined with particular attention to drawing media.  As his career progressed, Redon became aware of the variety of black drawing media available to him.  He used a combination of vine, oiled and compressed charcoal, the latter sparingly, to achieve the extraordinary contrasts and depths with just one colour.

In the 1870’s he began to use the recently fabricated black chalk which was a much harder and blacker medium.  Compositional elements would be outlined in the harder blacks over large passages of tonal charcoal.  He continued his use of oiled charcoal despite it going out of fashion with the increase in materials available in the latter half of the 19th Century.  He probably made his own oiled charcoal by soaking vine charcoal sticks in linseed oil.  Oiled charcoal had an extraordinary capacity for adhering to paper.


In order to produce a drawing like “Tree” (1875) he would initially have turned a rectangular stick of charcoal on its side for broad tonal areas.  A wetted, rounded stick with a pointed tip would have been used for sharp delineations.  Various other charcoals would have been used alongside extraction methods with hard-bristle brushes, incising with a pointed tool and using a sponge as a lifting media.

He built up his compositions with layers of fixative, using it in specific areas.  In this drawing his fingerprints can be seen where he reworked damp charcoal in the background sky while the fixative spray was still wet.  He used his fingers to add foliage and possibly his nails to scrape away charcoal to create delicate blades of grass in the foreground.


This project, however, is about looking at how to depict basic shapes by means of lines, marks and tone as well as creating expression, emotion and atmosphere in a drawing.  The research shows how Redon paid enormous attention to the detail and variety of his mark making in order to create drawings of maximum drama.  Taking a diagonal line from bottom left to top right one can clearly see the counterpointing of lights and darks. Throughout Redon’s work  drama and intensity are paramount. Like the other Symbolists, his interest was in representing the unseen rather than the seen world, placing subjectivity and emotion above realism.

For my own practice

In terms of my own work I have been using charcoal as an instant medium – one with which one can cover wide expanses of paper quickly with strong marks.  This research by Stratis has made me consider the variety of effects that can be achieved and the possibilities available  within the process of laying down and lifting off the black media. I will experiment with charcoal effects for my first Assignment, trying out linseed oil, carving sticks into points, creating layers with fixative.

And, when night begins to fall
From the black oaks, darkening,
In the nightingale’s soft call
Our despair will, solemn, sing.

From In Muted Tone
By Paul Verlaine, translated by Norman R. Shapiro.


Stratis, H. (1995) A Technical Investigation of Odilon Redon’s Pastels and Noirs. The Book and Paper Group Annual. (online) Volume 14. Available at:

Jullian, P. (1973) The Symbolists. Oxford. Phaidon Press Ltd.

Assignment 1

A shaky start to this first assignment.  I initially began a still life with objects connected to my childhood in Africa and later in Asia. I became bogged down in detail and pattern and started working instead on a slightly formal but lovely arrangement of jugs with interconnecting arcs and shadowed areas.  The earlier drawings of jugs were staying with me. I have a collection of jugs, given to me by friends or made by local potters. Initially I drew them in my sketchbook concentrating on the negative space.

P1090453A larger study involving a variety of black drawing media and much lifting off  (with thoughts of Redon in mind) but became overworked, with the blacks impossible to lift off. The bits of background shading did not work for me so I had another look at the shapes by analysing the negative space.


A quick look at the negative space:


I tried a slightly different arrangement of jugs in ink and wash and then another drawing with just outlines. I feel that with ink I quite like to know it is ink. The drawing on the left looks uniform and soft, as if it could have been charcoal. Both were done with more thought to the effects than accuracy, consequently the shapes do not feel convincing enough.

In my final drawing I left out the background altogether and just concentrated on the shapes and their own shadows. The result was a bit looser. In this drawing I have tried to do one thing – not lots of things at once – and consequently I think it works a bit better.   I have contrasted fine outlines made with a very hard charcoal stick with broad areas of charcoal, using a short piece on its side.


I think it is more successful than the first study of this arrangement even though it took much less time. I feel that the knowledge I gained from several drawings of the same subject, using layers of charcoal, rubbing out and fixing, resulted in something which looks less effortful, although effort was put in at an earlier stage.  I struggle with sustaining a feeling of freshness over a longer drawing. I am wondering if this level of “finish” is adequate for an Assignment.

Assessment criteria points

  • Demonstration of technical and visual skills
  • Quality of outcome  –  I feel that on these two criteria I have more or less shown a good knowledge of materials, techniques, visual awareness etc. I also think my presentation of work is coherent with good communication of ideas.
  • In Demonstration of creativity, I feel I am struggling to produce outcomes which are highly personal or particularly inventive. I have looked at a number of other blogs of OCA students in Drawing 1 and perhaps at this stage I am overly concerned with producing quite strictly what I think the course wants from me. Perhaps in the next Assignment I should make a point of not looking at other students’ work.
  • Context reflection. This assignment only contains one piece of research -into Odilon Redon. This was really useful and made me think about charcoal as a medium in a more considered way. As for the learning log, this is something completely new to me and I am loving this organised way of keeping track of ideas, sketches, reflections on other artists as well as little things which inspire within the everyday.