Part 2 – Project 1 – Exercise 1 Detail and Tone

Project 1 was on the topic of detailed observations of natural objects.  I initially focused my attention on shells as I had some sitting in the garden that had some interesting weathering effects to them.  I experimented with different media, initially starting in my new preferred media charcoal and concentrated on trying to show the texture of the shell.  I then tried soft pastels, pencils, ink, frottage, pencil and chalk experimenting with loose and tight strokes.
One thing picked up in Assignment 1 was not showing in my sketchbook how I was experimenting with compositions and layouts.  So I took this as an opportunity to experiment, both with physically moving the shells and doing quick sketches of the layouts.
I also experimented with using sandpaper as a background material and so stuck a piece of this in my sketch book.  It really didn’t work as well as I had planned and needs much more experimenting with.
I then re-read the task we were asked to do and realised it was more about tones and colour.  Although my shells had some colour I felt like I needed to use something with more varieties of colour so I went back to something I had experimented with early in my sketchbook.  I picked out a selection of oranges and first played with different media.  I used crayons, pencils, ink pens, oil pastel and soft pastel.  I liked the watercolour nature of both the crayon and the pencils but felt the crayon worked best with water on this paper.  The pens were a disaster as the colours did not blend at all and my mark making was not as effective as it could have been.  I liked both the soft and oil pastels as the colours layered and blended well so show all the orange tones in the fruit.
I used the oil pastel to draw one composition:
However, upon reading the task again I realised we were supposed to use pencils and so I reverted back to my coloured pencils to draw another composition.

Research Point 1 – Odilon Redon, Two Trees

From  –  (1875, Charcoal on paper, 49.5 x 63.5 cm)

The drawing above was made using charcoal on paper in 1875 by Odilon Redon.

The artwork is clearly of two tree trunks in what looks like the entrance a forest or wood.  The trees have an almost human like quality and it looks like they are embracing each other with the tree on the left whispering something to the one on the right.  There is what looks like a path running from the front of the image and passes through the centre of the two trees and leaves the painting as some steps up a small hill.

The words that come to mind when I see this are: darkness, light, anthropomorphism, glade, wood, gnarled, rough, bumpy texture, bark, fairytale.

Although this an image we have to look at as part of Drawing 1, there is a great deal which attracts me to it and would have enjoyed looking at it even if it weren’t compulsory.  The sense of fantasy appeals to me, it wouldn’t look out of place in Tolkiens work which are my favourite books.  I also like the intrigue the piece creates, where are the stairs leading?  Are these the only two trees in the wood?  I mentioned Tolkien as I get the sense that when you turn your back on the trees they would spring into life as the tree on the left in particular looks like it is in an unnatural pose as if it has just been caught.

When you first look at the drawing you are drawn to the space between the two trees, like an entrance way leading you to the steps, you then notice the entrance is guarded by the two big trees and then finally you notice the tree details like the gnarled branch and the texture of the trunk.

There are a variety of different lines made in this drawing.  The tree on the left has twists and curves that follow the shape of the bent trunk, there are also shorter lines to give the texture of the bark higher up in the shadow.  The tree on the right has much straighter vertical lines to show perhaps it is a younger tree, it is less deformed and has a smoother texture.  Around the trees are lighter more free lines of the small plants on the path with longer lines to show the shadow from the trees.  In the centre the dark entrance is created by dark small close shading.

The shapes too are varied, the right tree is almost like a long cylinder and the left tree is a more twisted shape but still fundamentally is a cylinder.  Both are shaded to show the concave and bulges associated with old trees.

Tone is used with exceptional detail in this piece.  There are very dark areas to areas of light where the sun is shining down.  In between are a whole range of mid-tones created using close shading and some hatches.  Overall thought there is a very soft blended almost warm feeling even though it is a monochrome piece.  There are no harsh lines between the different shades and the tones blend in to create a very realistic piece of work.

Odilon Redon created this piece around the year 1875.  Redon was a French painter born in 1840 and so was around 35 years old when he drew this, he was known as a symbolist painter.  In 1870 he served in the Franco-Prussian war and so this was drawn just after he had seen battle.  He called his series of dark drawings which were done in shades of black his noirs. and it was not until 1878 that his work gained any recognition with Guardian Spirit of the Waters, therefore Two Trees was made before he was well known.

Guardian Spirit of the Waters (47 x 38 cm, charcoal on paper, 1878)


In Guardian Spirit of the Waters, Redon is still using charcoal on paper to create a very dramatic, atmospheric piece.  Again there is a huge range of tones from very dark shadows around the face to bright highlights on the boat and lit part of the face.  It is a very strange piece in that it should be scary and nightmarish with a giant head floating above a small boat but the dream like quality makes it more fantasy like than frightening.

After 1900, Redon moved on from his noirs to use colours and pastel work, often using Buddha in his drawings:


This is moving away from a style that was reliant on monochrome tones but Redon still captures the mystical fantasy atmosphere in his work.  The plant towards the front of the picture for example is drawn in a very fleeting whimsical way to give it an ethereal quality.  The patches of colour in the background are a mix of tones which again helps create the unreal impressionistic atmosphere.




Exercise 3 – Creating Shadows using lines and marks

For this exercise we were asked to look at shadows and use a variety of marks to depict those shadows.  I first just used a page of my A3 sketchbook to experiment with the different marks and tones I could make using pencil, graphite sticks, charcoal, ink pens, paint and brush and fine pen:
I then chose  a very simple box and tried to depict that using pencil, charcoal stick, pen and paint:
Finally we were asked to group a small number of objects and use fast loose marks to depict them.  I placed a pot of brushes and 3 tubes of paint near a lamp and used charcoal to produce this in about 60 seconds.

Exercise 2 – Observing shadow using blocks of tone

In this exercise we had to place two pale simple objects near a light source so that they’d be lit from one side.  I chose a tub of gesso and a covered tube that I hold rulers in.  They were placed on a plain piece of paper and lit from the right hand side by a bright lamp.
To sketch them (on A3 sketchbook paper) I used a medium charcoal stick.

Exercise 1: Groups of Objects


A2 size – soft graphite stick and white chalk on a painted acrylic background.

This exercise asked us to choose at least six objects of different shapes and sizes, a mixture of regular shapes and irregular shapes and draw the image on at least A2 size.

I started with just sketching some basic shapes in my large sketchbook:

Just playing around with different shapes and materials.  The materials used were a selection of graphite pencils, charcoal sticks, pastels and watercolour pencils.  I also experimented with some different fixing mediums on this page with varying success!
My next step was to pick some objects at random and play around with arrangements on the table.  I did a quick sketch just of the layout:
After reading the exercise instructions again I read that it wanted us to make expressive marks but I was struggling as I didn’t feel any connection to the objects at all.  There was no theme linking them and so I decided to change around some of the objects.  The objects I kept were all calming objects for me so I added in some extra calming things like a journal and extra candle and holder.
Sketch of second group of objects.
After finalising the layout I did some practise sketches of the individual objects, just using pencil.
I then decided on a background and sticking with the calm theme chose colours that I find calming, I also wanted a bit of interest in the back ground so decided on a varied acrylic background.
The final piece was drawn over a few sessions using graphite sticks to try and get quite soft outlines to try and express the calmness.  As the background was quite dark in places I then used a small amount of white chalk to try and pick out some highlights.
In the final piece some areas are more detailed than others but I tried not to focus too much on the colour and tone but just on the different shapes I could see.



Texture – Exercise 2 Project 1

We were asked to collect a selection of objects with different surface textures and experiment with depicting the textures in our sketchbooks.

My first page, I was quite lazy and didn’t particularly go hunting for objects but started with objects I had in the same room as me – this may tell you something about me already!
As I usually paint and like to create texture within paintings using the texture of the paint itself, I wanted to try and force myself initially to just create the texture in 2D using simple materials.  Therefore, the first six sketches just use pencils and the sketchbook paper, not something I do a lot.  I started with a piece of ripped corrugated cardboard and wanted to get the 3D texture of the ridges in a 2D form.  The second simple sketch is a small piece of crumbled soft pastel, again just using graphite pencils.  Next, I wanted to try something with a harder more solid texture so tried to do one of my daughter’s lego bricks.  As I didn’t feel I captured the shininess I focused on something with a lot of shine – an empty foil packet.
The next 5 sketches all focus on a clementine, I started with a simple very quick pencil sketch of the whole fruit but didn’t feel happy with the way I drew the texture of the skin so decided to experiment with different ways of portraying this.  Sketch 5 is still in pencil but I wanted to focus on a small piece of the skin and really concentrate on the pitted texture, still not happy I used the skin itself with ink to print what the texture is actually like.  Zooming in further I used a hand lens to really magnify the pits themselves and tried to create this texture with charcoal.  Finally I couldn’t resist getting the paint out and using a very stiff stencil brush I used a mixture of cad orange and black acrylic paint to try and recreate the pitted textures.
As I felt my first few sketches were really just warm up sketches and after enjoying trying to portray one texture in different ways, I took this idea forward and concentrated on four objects but focusing on each one in four different ways:

The first object was actually a wool hat but I concentrated on the texture of just a section of the knitted part.  Using pencil I wanted to try and get the repetitive pattern of the knit but also show the irregularities in the texture as parts had been stretched and twisted slightly.  I then concentrated on just one strand of the wool to try and capture the softness and cable like qualities.  Again zooming in further the final two wool sketches are using different types of graphite sticks to concentrate on just the softness of the texture.

In contrast, my next object was a hard plastic button, as I had struggled with the hard plastic nature of the lego brick I wanted to try different ways to get this quality in 2D.  Again I tired to use different materials to capture the hard texture, pencil was first and again I struggled with this.  I then drew around the button to get the exact shape and used charcoal sticks to focus on the hard outline created by the button.  The third drawing was using a black ink pen and simple cross hatching and the fourth section were experimental drawings using a mix of pencil and pastel, this time focusing on the shine element.

The third texture was a soft piece of cloth.  Again starting with pencil I tried to show the soft pillowy texture with a very quick outline drawing.  Using some acrylic paint I then focused on the detailed texture the cloth made when itself was used to apply the paint.  I like the effect this produced so tried to copy it using some soft grey ink and a mixture of firm and soft brushes.  The final drawing in this section was experimenting with some new water soluble pastels to see if I could portray this soft texture.

The final item was a metal key.  Again I wanted to try and concentrate on the shine as I didn’t think I had done this well earlier.  The top left drawing is using watercolours and I found this difficult to get the shiny texture and so switched below to pencils and ust concentrating on the cylinder of the key tried to get this shine to come through.  The final two images are focusing on the end part of the key which when you touch you can feel the squares pressing into your skin.  To show this I used ink and the actual key as a stamp and then I used these shapes underneath to do a ‘walk the line’ type drawing just using a black pen.

My final experiment (for now) with texture was using a frottage technique:


I used a thinner piece of paper than my sketchbook paper and a soft graphite stick to create an impression of different surfaces.  The surfaces were: a key, wooden floor, terracotta tiles, lemon zester, plastic clothes peg, wool rug, metal cupboard handle and a brick.

Exercise 1 – Experimenting with expressive lines and marks – SADNESS

Words: despair, lifeless, death, unwanted, slipping away, sneaking up, pulling you in, out of control
The last choice of emotion was our own free choice.  I decided to to ‘sadness’ as a complete contrast to joy.  I actually found this one easier to do than my joy one.
Again, I stuck with the same four media and the same order of application.
Top Left:  I started off with a single line across the middle of the rectangle then started drawing some lines close to the original but others moving much far away and getting lighter and more sparse.  Almost like the sense of life moving away from you and slipping away over the horizon.  To me this is what sadness can feel like sometimes, like you are a spectator in life not a participant and you have no control over what direction life is going in.
Top Right:  A similar theme is continued with the idea of life dropping out of existence like you can’t hold on to it anymore.  The fluid paint was ideal for this as it was easier to get this running away and dripping effect.
Bottom Left: A slightly different idea came to me and I wanted to try and portray this idea of darkness dragging you in, like a black hole that sometimes no matter how hard you try you can’t escape its effects.  Being sucked in to dark thoughts and again feeling like you can’t control them.
Bottom Right: This one was a natural line that evolved into something as I thought more about how sadness can feel.  It can sneak up on you like a small stream of thoughts to begin with but as those thoughts build to a huge raving river that drowns you in them.  I also decided to leave the blackness very uneven and not a solid colour as sadness is not one solid emotion, you do have times where it is slightly darker and times of lightness interspersed.