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.


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.

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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.

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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.

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

Project 1.1 – Fractured and dramatic marks

Exercise: Fractured marks


Playing freely with charcoal reminds me of my envy of the drawings of children – so free! Did my best to empty my mind as much as possible. The first strike on the page came only after a series of hesitant gestures towards the paper…

1. Began by horizontally swiping the thick compressed charcoal stick across the page in bursts, pivoting from the elbow, overlapping these swipes down the page. Paper grain came through nicely with contrast from top to bottom of each swipe, the top being darker and the bottom lighter as I was pressing down slightly with the top of the stick. Actually there is a great deal of curvature depicted in these swipes because of this. Image wound copper pipe/wire, or the coiled corn snake I saw at the terrarium/aquarium last week.


2. Drawing (1) did not convey much in the way of feeling fractured, however. So I turned the charcoal on its edge (45 degrees) and really stabbed across the paper, letting the line feather out to ‘evidence’ the speed of movement. I kept the lines straight though, but varied thickness and pressure. This one is distinctly artificial – man-made in fact. We do love grid arrangements, and speed.


3. This time I curved the lines and created something like birds wings, or the raffia palms that grow around here (inexplicably…). These looked good laid over some lighter shading with the side of the charcoal – instantly the ‘feathers/leaves’ are given depth. I then made a slow stripe down the length of the page, to fill the space and provide contrast to existing marks.


4. Using only curves and the edge of the charcoal. A lot of movement in the quick circular strokes, thinking about the sureness of Matisse’s lines (one can dream). Then I added a head, to make it a roly-polying figure. Why not.



Willow charcoal, short broken marks followed by free movement with patterns and curved shapes – followed by scoring putty rubber. The lightened stripes of the putty rubber were not white – rather light grey. At first I followed the lines of existing charcoal marks. Then I went in all directions, making new erased marks in perpendicular directions which made these erased lines appear to sit on the surface a bit more. This one reminds me of the new Chinese overpass I just read about on the BBC. IMG_5316.JPG


I spent some time with pen and ink making lines and shapes. I then drew some water through the wet ink with a brush, which allowed me to move around areas of ink to create new which dispite bleeding left quite distinct traces of the original pen lines. This wash seemed to create depth – nice against the stark white of the paper. Areas of early-penned ink lines had already dried by the time I got to the water wash – and remained unbroken by the water (although will retry with non-water-resistant ink as this appears to be what I have bought! Not very experienced with pen and ink).


I then tried again with water-soluble felt tip. The pigments in this black felt tip pen’s ink are actually a mixture blue and what appears to be a yellow pigment. When water was added, I could push clouds of blue around, although I tried not to mix the water and pigment uniformly. The blue travelled much further than the yellow, and when the clouds dried (below, right) a really solid-looking shape, with a fine dark blue outline, appeared amongst my scrawled pen lines. Interestingly when dry the centre of the cloud takes on a pink hue rather than yellow. I took a picture of it still wet (below, left), as I knew it wouldn’t last.