Daily drawing: cups

Cups. Easier than faces.

Felt tip on paper. I started with the wine glass – wasn’t really looking properly and by the time I had blocked bits in it was too late… I am pleased with the tumbler though. Although everything on the page seems to be leaning to the right (right-handed drawing?).


Project 1.3 – Self-portrait

I didn’t really like this effort but I figured it’s time I submitted something. My outline study was accurate, which is more than I can say for my practice runs. And there is a fairly good likeness (captured my angry-concentration face pretty well!), with the exception of my nose – it is a difficult, lopsided bumpy nose, and I get lost half way up it (not literally).

But after getting down the outline of principle features, I then continued to shade with 4B and 6B, using a lot of the side of the pencil, and I think taking it too far in the end: it’s a bit of a blurry mess. Again, there was a lot to keep in mind, and I would have liked to have experimented a bit more with style and a bit more detail, as suggested in the task outline.

I like the contrast on the wooly jumper. Why did I not use that on the face? Not sure. Had more fun with the jumper to be honest.




Self portrait practice studies

I did a few sketches in the run-up to the self portrait. This was necessary to start to look at myself as an object (not something I would usually approve of mind). I tried a number of poses, although this was really unwittingly done and mostly just reflected what position my chair was in relative to the table and mirror. In the final picture, where I’m looking over my shoulder with my legs crossed, the paper was on my lap. I tried to keep in mind all I have done so far in terms of measuring shape and proportion, looking at tone and how different types of marks can create a bit of (amateur) drama – and really what happens when I look away from the object and try to put the contents of my visual memory onto the page before I forget.

This was incredibly useful. Not least it has made me realise that as I pay attention to different particular aspects of the subject, others tend to suffer.

These are thumbnails.


Daily drawing update

I had a tiny break but back now. I wanted to upload a selection of daily drawings, and a smattering of photo inspo, which I found I have either drawn or shot on my phone camera from this interim period. I actually drew a lot on my phone too – which is dangerous as I tend to delete them. I aim to stop doing that, because they are often quite colourful even if a little unstudied and affected by whatever public transport vibrations are affecting my hand…

Here are a selection.

A velvet-shaded lamp:


Girl reading:



Glass of water, detail:                                            Phone doodle:



More phone doodles:


A jumper on a chair in oil pastel and biro:



Gallery visit: Zaha Hadid

I wanted to include these images from my trip to the Serpentine in late 2017. Hadid’s drawings are full of movement as well as being incredibly beautiful, and this is dynamism is not restricted to the more developed colour images.

There were also virtual reality headsets with which you could fly around within the abstract space of some of these images. Obviously that was an amazing experience.

Research: still life

I have drawn a few fruit daily drawings now. Just wanted to pause to start a collection of some of my favourite pictures within the genre over the 20th century.

The Basket of Apples by Paul Cezanne
The basket of apples. Paul Cezanne, 1895.











The first is Cezanne’s basket of apples. When I first saw it I became quite obsessed with that drunken wine bottle. The saturated colours, the thick dark lines around the apples and cloth are so vivid.


Project 1.2 – Contour drawing

Using a regular unbroken line to depict the simple shape or outline of an object. (From course notes)


Exercise – Contour of a simple object

Jug 1:  Initally I classed a small jug (Figure 1) as a ‘simple’ object. I was unable to work out the contour as my hand seemed to travel ahead in panic, leaving my brain behind. I slowed a little, making six attempts, but couldn’t get away from messy lines or overblown shapes. I went back and made corrections to some drawings to try to understand where I had gone wrong. (Figure 2)


Cup 1: I went back to basics, without spout. Much easier. This is where I tried breaking down the angles and distances, measuring by eye. This cup’s only challenges were proportion, degree of curvature. The only fiddly bit was the handle, which was challenging to mentally ‘flatten’. (Figure 3)

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Figure 3. Contour drawings, simple cup

Cup 2: To prove to myself that I now understood cups I took a curved one, more difficult that the rectangular cup 1. Achieving a fairly good result I returned to the jug.

photo 3
Figure 4. Second cup contour drawings

Jug 2: (Disregarding drawing 1 where I seem to have slyly pointed the spout forward!) Drawings 2-4 I was very pleased with. I began to notice additional details, but I didn’t have the guts to tackle the incredibly faint ridges running along the blue portion of its body… I did pause, but here my pen did not leave the paper.

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Figure 5. Jug contour, second attempt. Much improved.

General observations on use of hand and eye:

  • For larger lines (e.g. the long curve of the cup rim) I only really looked once to understand the degree of curvature and its proportion relative to the rest of the cup. Shorter lines took longer to judge because they involved an estimation of angle relative to some landmark already drawn, and estimation of length – so for shorter lines my eye flicked back and forth a lot.
  • I gained an awareness of my hand’s position in space – or rather the tip of the pen. The whole process was made much easier by holding the pen nearer to the end, as it meant I didn’t have to move my head.
  • My hand was desperate to leave the page when things got rough or I made an error, and indeed it couldn’t resist it at certain points (is it legitimate to blame my own hand? Probably not).
  • For me, this exercise was very challenging. But it forced me to make decisions about what I was seeing; by committing my mental judgements to the page, I could then evaluate them and identify where I was making judgement errors. I will be continuing with this exercise in my daily exercises…



Exercise – ‘Blind’ contour drawing

Using a pencil I drew the same small jug with an HB pencil, without looking at the paper, restricting to 5 minutes.

photo 2.JPG

Some unexpected results: I drew relatively quickly, finding that that way I could judge distances quite accurately by the movement of my forearm (again, the sweeping arc movement). This was helped by only rarely lifting my pencil off the page. Notably my ellipses seem more symmetrical than those ‘seen’ drawn looking at the page – indicating that I should pay more attention to the sensation of drawing action rather than the physical presence and visual cue of the pen or pencil in my fingers. I was surprised at how short 5 minutes of drawing is.

Q: How different are the resulting images? How did it feel to draw each one? Which outcome and experience do you prefer? Why?

These blind drawings I find very pleasant to look at – especially the handle of number 7 which has been ‘disassembled’ into short strokes but still recognisable – and are much more interesting than the contour drawings of the previous exercise (above). The lines are very smooth and intentional, which again I found difficult to achieve in the previous exercise where I was hesitant and constantly reassessing in a (vein) effort for reproduction accuracy. The blind drawings I feel are actually saying something (perhaps an impression of movement) rather than repeating what my eyes see.

My assessment of these two methods reflects how I experienced them. I found the ‘seen’ contour drawing very challenging and gruelling, because the object was accuracy. I found the ‘blind’ contour drawing very fun, quick. In short, I take something from both – I would do well both to improve my drafts(wo)manship and to loosen up my lines to create a more expressive aesthetic outcome.


Exercise – Drawing from memory

I chose a large aluminium colander for this exercise. Studied it for 1 minute, then drew it with HB pencil in A3 sketchbook under a time limit of 5 minutes. The result is mildly embarrassing – I am so slow! If this drawing says anything it’s, I’m panicking while drawing a colander. 

The picture is so flat! I left tone as an afterthought while it would have really brought the object out. I spent most of my time planning out the holes and trying to get the handle right (it’s not right). By that point the tonal differences had escaped me and I made a rather hackneyed guess as to where these lie. And again I am not bold enough with the tone, hence the large patches of white or near-white. Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear.


Exercise – Drawing blind

Returning with gratitude to my (now beloved) little jug, undertaking another blind drawing with the A3 sketchbook under the table with a 5-minute time limit.

Exercise - Drawing blind.jpg

I was surprised how well this method worked. Clearly it could be better – I got lost lifting the pen off to draw the handle. Shoudln’t have done that. The edges are quite feathered as I drew the pencil back and forth checking I had estimated distances correctly (as least, that’s what it felt like I was doing). Imagining my eyes as a paintbrush was very helpful.

Reflection on methods

I can imagine how the final exercise would have turned out had I not done the sequence. There is not only a value in active looking, but in examining an object and memorising its basic shapes, proportions, and areas of tone, being in touch with the movement of the hand, keeping the pencil on the page, etc.

I would have preferred to draw the final A3-size little jug (final exercise) much larger. I found this was just one too many elements to keep tabs on while not being able to look at the page on my lap. I think it would be easier to plan out the space looking at the page.

This was my first foray onto my A3 sketchbook incidentally. I feel encouraged to move away from my tiny A5 drawings, perhaps to loosen up a little as I love the way that approach turned out here.

Daily drawings: cherry without stem

cherry 20170608
Cherry. Charcoal and black Conte stick on A5 paper.

This was deceptively difficult because of the scale (meaning I couldn’t just fudge the highlights!), but I chose the object and the scale because I wanted to look in detail at the surface reflections to apply as much as possible of what I have learned so far about the use of light and dark, as well as just wanting to draw a gigantic cherry, obviously. I regret now not taking intermediate pictures, at each point I felt it was ‘done’ before changing my mind and continuing…

[A note on light: I had originally planned the space for two cherries. There was light streaming in the window as I drew the first cherry, but the light had totally gone by the time I turned to cherry number 2 so I abandoned it due to the importance of consistent reflections. Despite this in the end with the right-side shadow the composition is quite interesting, if a little desolate. What this tells me is that I should have tackled both at once – for the sake of consistency and efficiency if nothing else.]

The first drawing stage was very light, with only charcoal used and quite velvety-looking due to the texture on the surface of the page.

I went in again, darkening everything except the very striking highlights on the shiny surface of the fruit. I reason that the cherry itself is a dark colour, and therefore I am not just representing light and shadow.

After drawing in the double-shadow, I darkened up the dark areas of the fruit with black Conté. The texture still wasn’t right, so I used a pointed blending stump to really get the colour into the grain of the paper, and to push charcoal around to make sure all edges were sharp and gradients smooth. Worked beautifully, although I thing I have too much Conté coverage on the right side of the cherry – the gradient has gone, and I’ve worked the paper too much to lift any off.

Returning to composition:

It was interesting the composition that emerged from my mistake of not drawing two cherries from the outset. I then played around with cropping the image tighter on the left side. It was satisfying having the main three tones (black cherry, grey shadow, white paper) into roughly thirds, and it also gets rid of some of the negative space introducing more of a question mark regarding the empty third on the right side of the image. I originally discovered this on Whatsapp (playing around with my profile image – it was a slow evening!), and this actually worked better in terms of symmetry in a circular frame:


Daily drawing: boy on tablet at kitchen counter

ziggy standing 20170608
Boy on tablet at kitchen counter; 2B pencil on A5 paper.

I think my methodology was quite successful here, both in terms of anatomic accuracy and filling the space: first I really roughly sketched the basic shapes in the picture, to get an idea of what I was seeing. I then concentrated on the back of the neck and cheek by blocking in tone – the anatomy really was striking in the natural light coming through the window. I tried to be bold. I then blocked in arm shadows.

In an effort to redress my pillow ‘failure’, I paid attention to representing the folds of the  t-shirt. I made sure to spare totally white regions for only the absolute lightest areas of skin and t-shirt. I actually began by shading the t-shirt in the same manner as the pillow, finding myself in the same situation with weak, confusing-looking smudges that had no movement… cursing mildly I continued (perhaps in exasperation) by simply scrawling. This was fun and turned out much better: not only did it contrast nicely with the more controlled shadows on the (smooth) skin, but it actually gave the right feel of the fabric’s texture and flow. This is something I realised in trying in making several copies of the folds and undulations in Durer’s pen and ink pillow study, which I spoke about in this post.

Note on composition and negative space:

While I think I am doing well so far to fill the space given by the blank page, I am pretty much leaving backgrounds to their own devices – which is to say they remain blank! I find myself totally devoid of understanding here – hope to address this as the course goes on.


Exercise: Dramatic marks

Blocking out A4 page with charcoal was followed by erasing surface with putty rubber and drawing over this with willow charcoal. These steps were repeated. Here is an intermediate stage where I have swiped lightly with the charcoal and combined this with some very thick defined areas.

dramatic marks 1

I then continued the process. My final picture (below; I kind of arbitrarily stopped when it began to look messy) did not look at striking in terms of objects disappearing into the page as the previous stage, although it is more interesting. I was able to layer up the erased lines, such that one appeared to lie on top of the other. It began to get more difficult to make a definite line as the paper became more impregnated with charcoal.

dramatic marks 2

The nex drawing required 6B pencil with putty rubber. I found I had to sharpen a lot of the painted surface of the pencil away with a knife in order to shade uniformly and quickly. I am getting an idea that the subtraction can be applied to bring objects into light, to signify depth, light and shadow, and textured surfaces.

dramatic marks 4