Category Archives: Coursework

Assignment 5 -(b) Development Work

I decided to tackle the outdoors in the final assignment.  I have reviewed part three of the course looking at the various exercises.  There are a number of charcoal drawings, which I like for their increased freedom.  I am constantly encouraged to be more abstract/ energetic/ spontaneous/ innovative and experimental in my work.  I aimed to develop some of the above in the final assignment of this course.


I started work on this assignment by looking at different media.  I wanted to see if I could be more energetic and spontaneous using bold colours, so I tried using ink and marker pens.  I chose to draw a garden summer house purely as an exercise in using the media rather than because this would be a subject I wanted to develop.


I did not really like the effect of the pens.  They are rather garish and messy- not allowing for much sensitivity, and I did not think they were appropriate what I was hoping to achieve in a drawing of an outdoor subject.

In choosing what to draw, I spent some time considering my options, and explored the possibility of looking at various wrought iron bridges over the Manchester ship canal as my subject.   Whilst visiting these locations I found myself looking in closer detail at parts of one of the locks and its surrounding buildings.

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I was particularly attracted to the heavy industrial engineering of the lock-gates; the rusty iron, oily chains, overgrown weeds and cracked wooden plinths, and how they were reflected in the canal-water. There is a weight and solidity to the structures, which, although engineered, I hope could be portrayed loosely and  energetically. I liked the interesting subtle contrasts in colour, shape and texture.  It invited a response and a reaction from the viewer and I hoped this might be depicted in a drawing.


I did some detailed pencil sketches of locations around the locks.  The huge lock-gates  themselves, when viewed from the other side, lost some of their impact- presenting a solid wall of wooden beams which were tonally similar across the structure.  It was much harder to identify an interesting focal point from this angle and I had no emotional reaction to the view.


I returned to the first lock-gate view I drew and attempted it again in charcoal to try to introduce a looser response to the subject.  I was disappointed though that I felt the outcome was very dark and unsubtle/insensitive, with insufficient mid-tone.  Rather more like an etching than a charcoal drawing with 3D form!


My next experiment was to try using ink.  I was interested in whether I could retain the sensitivity of mid-tonal variation using shading and hatching with a fine pen.  I rather like the end result here, but it was not really what I was wanting to achieve in the long term.  It is rather “busy” with a myriad of marks and lines.  The gates present a fairly complex subject in themselves, which I felt needed to be reduced or simplified by the style of the drawing, not added to with a multitude of lines and squiggles.


In thinking about this I decided to try an alternative view (an adjacent building on the lock) which is interested me because of its graffiti and functional nature.  I wanted to look at using pens in a different way- trying not to outline, but to concentrate on shading to give a sense of form.  This was difficult in areas where there were straight lines of stonework to define, so I did not think this would ultimately be successful for the lock-gates. I also decided to use coloured paper, which allowed the introduction of some white pencil to lift highlights.   I enjoyed the effect of this drawing, but not for this subject.


In returning to the lockages I drew a detailed sketch just focusing on outlining shapes.  I then decided to have a go at introducing colour.  whilst being a “nice picture” I felt this was returning too close to my “usual style” however- more realistic and more restrained- and was not pushing my boundaries.


So my next attempt was to try being more relaxed.  I returned to the location and had a go sketching in both pencil and charcoal.



I was trying to look at the predominant shapes and tones rather than getting bogged down in finer details.



I also experimented with an alternative view: I wondered if the shapes of the bridges retreating into the distance might give me scope for more freedom, but I felt the view was a much more conventional one, which in many ways restricted my creativity.  When tackled in charcoal it became inaccurate rather than loose- the subject was not forgiving of lines that were not in the correct place.  The coloured Ink drawing lacked depth (the bridges actually receded into the distance) and was too busy with lines/shapes etc.


Returning to the lock-gates I did some more stylised sketches in a small sketchbook, looking  at shapes and trying to be a bit more abstract.


This small sketch is in response to looking at the drawings of  Dennis Creffield.  I felt my sketch, unlike his, was too hard and defined.  His drawings are more layered, and more subtle, whilst still having an energy and boldness- leaving greater room for the viewers imagination to fill in the gaps


However, I thought I might try adding colour in a similar style sketch.  Maybe because it was in a small size, the resulting business of the colours seemed to detract from the image I wanted to create.


I finally moved onto a larger piece of paper.  This uses charcoal and chalk on A1 cartridge paper.  I was really pleased with the result, but on reflection, decided it was still rather stilted and exact.  However, I enjoyed the composition and the opportunity to explore reflections, texture and shapes/tone in the subject. I was pleased to have captured the same sense of place in the larger format- I know I often struggle  on larger paper and sometimes lose myself in small areas, failing to keep the overall effect coherent.  I felt I had made the right decision to keep areas of the paper blank so the eye is drawn to the focal point in the centre.


Just to explore this further, I tried an alternative A1 charcoal sketch, of a different perspective of the gates.  From further back I confirmed in my mind that the main “interest” of the subject was lost.  This is  amici less successful drawing- losing both detail, texture, contrast, and accuracy – in manners which detract from the overall effect.




ASSIGNMENT 5- (c)Personal Project- Final Piece

This is my final piece for Assignment 5:

Latchford Lock Gates -Charcoal on A1 cartridge paper.

See  the artists statement and development work for my preparatory work for Assignment Five.

Assessment criteria points:

Demonstration of technical and visual skills – materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills (35%). 

My approach to this project allowed me to test my ability to work in a more energetic, relaxed style than is my usual safe approach, using energetic, expressive lines and tonal variation without being afraid of “going outside the lines”.

I worked hard to accurately observe the subject and did a variety of studies to explore composition, media and approach.  I used a variety of media, trying to focus mainly on those that facilitated a looser style.  At the start of the process I did some detailed studies of the lock-gates so I could work from them later on.  The final piece deviated from the strict accuracy of the early sketches; I tried to focus more on creating bold energetic lines, defining shapes and creating depth of tone, than on completely accurate perspective and measurement.

I chose to focus in on the lock-gates and to draw them from close-up, rather than to draw them from a distance with more background and context showing.  This was in part because their structure was what interested me, (this was lost in drawings with a wider perspective), and also because they presented an almost still-life subject from close up- with increased focus on shapes, line, tonal shadows and form.

The final work was on A1 size paper to challenge myself working in large format, and on the image as a whole, rather than as a sum of its parts, without being afraid to leave areas of the paper blank or with minimal detail.  I deliberately did not labour over the railing on the pathway at the top of the drawing, which i think, looking at the final piece, was the right decision.

Quality of outcome – content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas (20%).

I wanted to capture a visual energy in this final drawing to bring the (essentially static) lock-gates to life.  Since my “go-to” style tends to be fairly restrained, detailed and realistic I hoped to be able to “let go” and allow the subject to speak for itself.  I think I achieved this through an absence of details, overlapping lines, gestural lines, marks and blocks of tone.

My thought process was logical because I had freedom to explore the subject in this personal project.  This led to a logical sequence of experiments and approach.  I hope that my intention shines through without being overly laboured.  I wanted to capture the rusty iron, oily chains, overgrown weeds and cracked wooden plinths, and their reflection in the murky canal-water; not only how they looked but also the atmosphere of the place. There is a solemnity and solidity to the structures, which I think I successfully portrayed.

Demonstration of creativity – imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice (25%). 

I tried to use expressive mark-making in this piece, whilst also being sensitive to tonal variation. The lock-gate structure is almost sculptural, so I aimed to create 3-dimensional form through tonal variation, as well as using vigorous marks to depict angles and shapes.  I think there is a part of me for which this is an honest expression- but which is often held back and smothered by a fear of relaxing around the details of what I am trying to draw.

I was pleased that the outcome is definitely much looser than I would normally achieve. I felt this was in part due to the artists’ work I admired, that influenced my approach.  I used a set of large coloured charcoal sticks, which varied in tone, but only within a narrow pallet. I liked the colour variation, which I thought brought the picture to life, compared with other large size drawings I did using just black charcoal.  Charcoal is definitely a good media for me- as it presents me getting bogged down in detail and allows energetic mark-making,  rubbing out and layering of tone.

I think in retrospect that I could have developed deeper tones in this drawing. I struggled to introduce tonal contrast in the middle of the image: in reality the lock wall behind the gates were mid-tone, so I struggled to create tonal contrast.  When I left the spaces between steel plates too light, the picture lost some of its gravity.  Maybe if areas were darker this might have been less of an issue?

I keep asking myself if it matters that there are some inaccuracies and errors in perspective- is a sense of the place lost?  Are the wheel and chain convincing? I didn’t want to get bogged down with the detail of the chain, and hope it still has a weight and solidity.

I heard someone say “if you are not taking risks you are not being creative……and I really tried to apply this sentiment to this assignment by going against my natural grain to explore a new approach.   Basically- to introduce more spontaneity/ fluidity/ energy/ abstraction/ narrative.

Context reflection – research, critical thinking (learning logs and, at second and third level, critical reviews and essays) (20%).

I looked at a number of artist’s work during the development of this project and found a number of artists works who I admired and wanted to influence my final outcome.  I hope that this is evident in the final piece.  I am pleased at how the research informed my approach to the work as it loosened the hold my usual approach would have had over me.

I think my awareness of my style and the direction I would like to develop has also increased during this project and I hope to continue this journey as I move forward.

Assignment 5- (d) Artist’s Statement

Title: To explore the potential for a loose, energetic drawing of Latchford Locks using expressive lines, deep tones and without fear of “going outside the lines”.  

My chosen option is to tackle the outdoors, and to select a subject that enables me to test my ability to work in a more energetic, relaxed style than is my usual safe approach. I have been drawn to a number of artist’s work to inform the direction I might take in this.  I have been repeatedly attracted to energetic, monochromatic drawings; often by artists using charcoal and similarly relaxed-style media.

The drawings of Dennis Creffield and Leon Kossoff have particularly caught my attention in this regard. They both create images imbued with vitality, rawness and a definite sense of place, through the use of energetic, expressive lines, deep tones and without fear of “going outside the lines”! This led me to think of which architectural subjects I could tackle.

In choosing what to draw, I spent some time considering my options, and explored the possibility of looking at various wrought iron bridges over the Manchester ship canal as my subject.   Whilst visiting these locations I found myself looking in closer detail at parts of one of the locks and its surrounding buildings. I was drawn to the heavy industrial engineering of the lock-gates; the rusty iron, oily chains, overgrown weeds and cracked wooden plinths, and how they were reflected in the canal-water. There is a weight and solidity to the structures, which, although engineered, I hope could be portrayed loosely and  energetically.

I am mindful of the need to try to use expressive mark-making in this piece, whilst also being sensitive to tonal variation. The lock-gate structure is almost sculptural, providing the opportunity to try to depict a strong sense of 3-dimensional form through tonal variation as well as using vigorous marks to depict angles and shapes.  I considered taking this further into a more abstract piece, but decided I might lose my way and lose the feel of the subject. I am struck by how both Kossoff and Creffield deviate from literal visual accuracy, yet still recognisably depict their subject.

It is important to me to explore the creation of a visual energy in this final drawing. Although the lock-gates are essentially static, they also convey the inherent significance of the canal’s history, function and solidity that are both poignant and constantly shifting. I am aiming for a drawing that is more representational of the “place” than an accurate depiction of the engineering structure itself . Since my “go-to” style tends to be fairly restrained, detailed and realistic I hope to be able to “let go” and allow a sense of the subject to speak through the final piece.  To concentrate more of the absence of details and exaggerate form without outline- overlapping lines with physical and gestural lines, marks and blocks of tone.

I heard someone say

if you are not taking risks you are not being creative……

During the development of this piece I will experiment using various media to explore how much freedom I can achieve through their use. The final work will be on A1 size paper to challenge myself working in large format, and on the image as a whole, rather than as a sum of its parts, without being afraid to leave areas of the paper blank or with minimal detail.  I hope to create an expressive final drawing.




Assignment 5 -(a) Written Self-Assessment

Review of previous assignments, noting problems/successes.

Assignment One:


  • I felt I exhibited technical and visual skills.  I was careful to focus on accurate observation and to draw only what I could see.  I liked the looseness and expressive nature of charcoal and how it lead me to focus on shapes, contours and contrasts rather than getting too stuck on finer details.  I think I depicted the contrasting surfaces and 3D shapes of the objects, to create a picture that captured solidity and depth, with sufficient shadow  to ground the objects and give them mass/weight.
  • I worked logically and developed my idea from concept to finished drawing.  This was a good start to the course.
  • I tried out a few different compositions and media but could have developed my ideas more.I also should have used my sketchbook more to try out different ideas/media and made more comments for reference.  I came away from this assignment wishing I had tried other methods to bring out the shiny reflective surfaces on the subject (such as pen and ink). I was afraid of making mistakes in my sketchbook and need to loosen up.
  • My tutor’s comments focused on a need for greater fluidity and more gesture work.  She thought I was too held back, especially in the more detailed work.

Assignment Two:  


  • I think that appropriate materials were used for the effect I wanted and that the drawing ,of the pheasant at least, was well observed (form, colour, perspective & composition).  I did not quite master an accurate perspective of the wooden board!  I am not sure if this was due to failure to observe or just the fact it was at an awkward angle and hard to see.
  • I felt confident about what worked and what did not! I was pleased by my use of colour the techniques used.   I approached the assignment logically, with some experimentation in my sketchbook of both media and composition, but in hindsight I should have done more experimentation and planning in my sketchbook. The set-up of the still-life was rather contrived- I was trying to suggest a narrative about game being ready for the pot.
  • This picture feels like an honest reflection of my natural “go-to” style.  I did not refer to other artists for this work -as I probably should have- but responded to the subject in front of me.  I am constantly drawn to the notion however, that I want to try to develop  a freer, more abstract style.
  • My tutor’s comments:  were to use expressive media more and to develop a more gestural approach.  I should try not to be so pictorial in my approach.  I was still not using my sketchbook enough (experimentation or notes) and I needed to attempt some larger pieces.  Basically- more spontaneity/ fluidity/ energy/ abstraction/ narrative.

Assignment Three:


  • I think compositionally this assignment demonstrates an understanding of perspective, and has an interesting composition. There is a definitely sense of the cottages receding.  I also managed to capture the atmosphere of a bright winters day.This was a subject that I could relate to and I think this was expressed in the visual communication of my thoughts and emotional response.
  • I was also pleased by my choice of media which I think was used successfully to create textures of the stonework and the plants/trees. I was amazed by some of the effects I managed to create using just coloured pencils, by blending and creating layers, and using mineral spirits to merge colours together.
  • I was very pleased with the outcome of this drawing.  I managed, in places at least, to introduce a looser style into the work (e.g.the pavement) to contrast my more detailed default style.  I find it very hard not to have a fairly detailed approach in my finished work.
  • My tutor’s comments  were still encouraging me to be more fluid, free and abstract.  There is something in me that will not quite let go, but I need to find out what happens when I break some of the “rules’.  I need to be more ambitious and courageous by being more innovative and experimental.  More atmosphere might have been created by letting more mistakes happen (bleeding/ diluted area etc).

Assignment Four:

  •  Assignment four was a much greater challenge in terms of both interpretation and execution.  I loved doing the figure drawing part of the course, but found it much harder to capture the subject on paper than more permanent subjects.  I tried very hard  to be more expressive and experimental than I had been in previous work.  I found this was hard, and was possibly not achieved.
  • I have really struggled working in a large format as this has  often required scaling up from “sight-size” and numerous errors have tended to be introduced.   Smaller drawings, by contrast, whilst being more accurate, tended to be more restrained in their style.  There was a tendency for my figure work to look as if I had tried that bit too hard!
  • For some reason I particularly struggled with the head in my full figure assignment drawings.  I felt the charcoal drawing turned out quite well, but my tutor commented that it was too stylistic and miss out too much detail.  I liked the finish though and thought it had a greater sense of 3D form than a lot of my figure work as well as greater fluidity.  I also enjoyed the contrasts of light-dark.
  • In the Self portrait I struggled to get the light right- mainly because, looking at my reflection, the light and shadow was subtle.  I seem to have introduced strong contrasts.  The image is rather too full on- it has a real intense stare- probably because I was looking so hard at myself!
  • One thing I really struggled with in this section of the course is the temporary nature of poses and expressions.  I was not good at capturing fleeting movements- which led to inaccuracies or stilted drawings.  It was very frustrating and definitely my weakest area.

My tutor’s comments acknowledge an improvement in my experimentation and observation skills and that I am developing the use of more expressive media (pen/ charcoal /pastels) for a more energetic outcome.  She also commented that where areas of the pictures are left out, or just hinted at, the work becomes more engaging, and that I have a tendency to outline too heavily.  She encourages me to use more dynamic and aggressive marks so the work becomes more frantic.  I used my sketchbooks much more during this section of the course and had lost some of my fear about making mistakes.

A couple of comments in particular stood out for me:

To concentrate more of the absence of details and exaggerate form without outline- overlapping lines with physical and gestural lines, marks and blocks of tone.  Also to use more coloured backgrounds as when I do tend to move away from more formally styled drawings.  More spontaneity/ fluidity/ energy/ abstraction/ narrative.

My starting point for assignment five will be the outdoors.  Although I hope I can include consideration of line, space and form in tackling this.

Assignment four

For this assignment, you should complete two large figure studies (A1 size) and a portrait or self-portrait (any size) – three drawings in total, together with supporting studies, experiments, etc.

For each drawing, consult your preliminary studies and make notes on what you plan to do. Think about composition, medium and approach. Write a few notes on the artist(s) that have inspired you to work in a particular way. Be inventive in your approach and in the materials you use. You’re not restricted to working with black on white. Try reversing this to white on black, or consider monochrome, perhaps dark blue on pale blue paper, or ink and charcoal on newspaper – the list is endless, so be inventive. Allow around two hours for each drawing.

1 Figure study using line (A1) – Seated model in an upright chair


Final drawing (charcoal on A1 cartridge paper)- more stylised than previous attempts. I am not 100% certain that it is completely in proportion but as a picture I find it quite appealing. I was trying to play with angles and minimise the number of lines. Proportions are still wrong- shoulders are too wide.
Aquarelle crayons on A1 cartridge paper. Second attempt at Assignment 4- proportions are wrong and breast too dominant.
Few quick sketches trying to develop pose
charcoal sketch developing pose with the models wings! Shoulders are too wide.
Multiple drawings done on top of each other in colour pencil. Trying to give a sense of movement in the static pose. Experimenting with mark making.
Quick charcoal sketch- hard to keep foreshortening in her left leg looking natural. Shoulders are too wide again!
Pencil sketch playing with angles
Preparatory sketch for drawing of myself
Pastels on A1 cartridge paper- first attempt at assignment 4.

I started this assignment by trying to do a line drawing of myself  but failed comically badly. My top half is much too bulky compared with the rest of me and there is a lack of reality about the finished drawing.  Surprisingly I rather liked the face as time went by and the result was definitely better than the rest of the body.  I found it difficult to drawer myself and to sit at the same time.  I don’t think my eye was particularly objective either!

So I attended a life drawing class and decided to develop the model’s seated pose.  She was  wearing fairy wings and holding flowers but I decided to drop these props from my pictures after a few sketches as they were distracting and not adding anything to the finished pictures.  I found it really hard to keep the proportions accurate because of the slightly awkward position the model was sitting in.  As a result I repeatedly ended up with shoulders that were too wide and the foreshortening in the other leg was not always convincing.  In some of the preparatory sketches the hands and face were quite nicely depicted but by the time I got to the final pictures the details seemed to be naturally reduced.

I tried very hard  to be as expressive and experimental with the large drawing as I was with the preparatory studies, trying not to tighten up or lose fluidity.  This was hard, and possibly not achieved, as I was constantly grappling with the challenge of transferring the images onto the larger scale paper.  I found this really difficult.

There is an artist called Fred Hatt that I frequently go back to as I am fascinated by his approach to figure drawing:


I wish I could reproduce the effect he creates.  His influence informed my  attempt using aquarelle crayons.  Fred is very sensitive in his use of line- many of which define contours at the same time as light and shade.  I would need a LOT more practice to achieve this fantasyic effect.

2 Figure study using tone (A1) – Reclining model


Pastels on A1 cartridge paper:  For this part of the assignment I had to default to life drawing models posing on-line because there were no willing models available at home!  Firstly, after a few loosening up sketches, I tried using pastels. However, in my mind this would have ideally been on a mid-tone paper, and as the only A1 paper I have is white, I did not feel the finish was very effective.  I also made my usual error of making the head too small- either that or the legs and body are too big!!  I struggled with the head and overworked it making the effect heavy and lumberous!  In places the picture is loose and in others it looks like I tried just a bit too hard!


Charcoal on A1 cartridge paper.  I had another go at the assignment using charcoal.  I always enjoy charcoals; I like the fact that they stop me being too finicky about detail!  They also encourage me to focus on tone rather than line.  I was really pleased with this charcoal drawing.  I found it easier to do on the A1 format paper, which encouraged a more gestural approach.  This drawing mainly used tone, rather than line, to create a sense of form and atmosphere. I found I naturally looked at shapes.  I realise that I have unwittingly used a model who is not showing her hands. Also, by not over-working the hair, it’s lightness brings the head forward in the picture.  The light areas against strong shadows gives 3D form to the figure.

I have really struggled doing these drawings in a large format as they have often required scaling up from what I can see by eye so numerous errors tend to get introduced.

In all of these attempts my models are unclothed -I hope this still falls within the objectives of the assignment?

3 A portrait or self-portrait combining line and tone (any size)

Create a portrait a self-portrait where the features are believable and in proportion to the rest of the face, head, shoulders and chest. Try to find an interesting position rather than looking straight ahead. Use mirrors to view from different angles. In your sketchbook, experiment with some of the ideas you’ve uncovered during your research into other contemporary artists’ work.

Work with variations of tone and expressive line to create an interesting and atmospheric image. For your main light source, you might try using a candle, small lamp or torch in a semi-darkened room to exaggerate the contrasting lights and darks, for example. You might also work very close up with the features filling the sheet. Be experimental and ambitious in this drawing.


Self portrait- Pastel on A3 pastel paper.  For this part of the assignment I did a drawing of myself in front of my dressing table mirror.  There’s something symbolic about that location since it is somewhere I often study myself.  I found this so interesting- the end result definitely has my features but I can’t decide if it has a likeness?  How much of that is due to the disconnect between what I think I look like and how others see me?

I struggled to get the light right- mainly because, looking at my reflection, the light and shadow was subtle because I could not work out how to create strong contrasts.  However, the resulting picture definitely has a sense of light coming from one side with deeper shadow on the opposite side.  I was surprised by how the image seemed to emerge by its own accord, as the layers of pastel were applied.  The hair is a bit fluffy and should probably hang straighter down the sides of the face.  Another place I struggled was to get the profile around my face correct- in the picture my cheek bones are a bit more rounded than in reality.
However, overall I definitely think this is a believable face in which the features are in proportion to the rest of the face, head, shoulders.  I ended up with a straight on pose by default- even though that was not my initial intention, but I rather like its intensity!
I did not do a lot of preparatory sketching before doing this picture.  I started it with the intention that it should be a sketch, but it took on a life of its own and emerged as a full complete drawing of its own volition!



Part 4, Project 6, Exercise 2: Your own face

Create two interesting images of your own face. You’ll need to think about the pose, measuring, tonal variation and lines and marks. Don’t worry about producing an attractive or accurate likeness; the aim is to create a believable face with the features in more or less the right place.

Look at yourself in a mirror and quickly draw several five-minute studies of your face, neck and shoulders. Slightly adjust the angle of your head to avoid a disconcerting straight-ahead stare.  Keep moving your pencil around the drawing and don’t be tempted to concentrate on just one area at a time; this will inevitably cause an unnatural and tight image. Study the whole of the face and keep working in shadows and lines until the features begin to emerge within the three-dimensional form of the face and head. Remember that there are bones and muscles beneath the skin and that you’re positioned within a spatial and physical environment – a room or some other place. Add a few marks and lines to suggest this, but don’t go into too much detail. The focus should be on the face.

As already mentioned, avoid drawing a closed outline of the head. This often serves to trap the features inside its oval form and any mistakes in measuring will be hard to rectify. Instead keep your marks and lines loose and fragmented; this will allow you to make changes as you work. Try to create several small studies that improve your ability to capture realistic features. Remember the earlier mention of ‘waves’ and think how repeated lines can add vitality and movement to a still image. The face may be still but there is always a hint of movement beneath the surface.

Before you start, consider the angles or movement of your head. Think about whether to look straight ahead, down, up or slightly to one side. The imaginary vertical line that travels through your nose will indicate movement if it appears to be off centre.  Start to build in the loose shape of the features. Keep it simple – don’t get caught up in small details. Don’t worry about a likeness at this stage. If you get the shapes and angles more or less right the personality will evolve.  Consider the hair as it surrounds and drops into the facial plane. Work in the positive and negative shapes and don’t get involved with drawing individual hairs.


Once you’ve completed a full self-portrait, take a break before revisiting the image and consider how it might have been better. Do the proportions, angles, tones, etc., work? Note down your thoughts to help you when you begin work on your second self-portrait. Look at it in the mirror and see if there are measuring issues. Look at it upside down and from a distance. This helps you see with different eyes.

For the second image position yourself differently, and try using a different medium and approach. If the previous version was in pen and ink, try charcoal or conté.


I did this exercise at the hairdressers- a great use of a couple of hours stranded in front of a mirror!


Graphite on A3 cartridge paper  I used graphite pencil for the first portrait.  Starting with a very rough light outline for the eyes- getting proportions right, -it was then fairly logical to progress around the face marking in the main points.  I found I naturally progressed across the page, without getting too caught up in detail.  As the areas of shadow were added, the features emerged naturally and a sense of 3D form was created. Looking back at the instructions for this task after it was completed:  “Describing the shadows on the facial plane do give the head a sense of solidity and the darkest shadow is in the eye sockets either side of the nose. The shadow under the nose is lighter. I avoided rigid outlining to avoid a cartoon effect.”

This picture does look like me (not in the most flattering light) and I was surprised how easily the likeness emerged as I worked.  I tried not to overwork it- instead to focus on the main facial features to draw the viewers eye into the face rather than surrounding details.  The position does have a rather disconcerting straight-on stare- but it was appropriate to the venue!!


Water soluble ink and fountain pen.  For this portrait I tried to move my head slightly so that I was not quite so straight-on to the mirror.  It is hard not to actually look into the mirror though as I had to look at my reflection to draw myself!  So my eyes are still looking out of the page!  In contrast to the graphite portrait above, this time I used pen and ink.  This led to a completely different finish, especially as I was using water soluble ink, so I used a water pen to produce a wash to hint at shadow and create more of a sense of form.  It seemed logical to focus mainly on the face and to only hint at the background and hair framing it.  Not least since I was in foils by this stage so my hair wasn’t falling very naturally!  I think the effect is rather medieval- it looks like I am wearing a wimple/headdress!

I don’t think this portrait looks at all like me (see the  picture below), but it is a believable face! My daughter says the eyes have a likeness but there is no likeness in the nose or the pinched mouth!  I found it very hard to control the intensity of the wash so there are bits where the shadow is darker than I intended; however, the unpredictable nature of the medium made it quite exciting to use.


  • The graphite picture is the most successful in this exercise as the shading was more subtle, creating a more realistic and more subtly shaded finish.
  • I did not struggle to move on from sketches of individual features to a full portrait.  In fact I found this interesting as I have never attempted a portrait before and was sure that I would not achieve a good finished picture.  But I surprised myself- finding the likeness emerged completely naturally as I worked, without having to force it.  Even the pen and ink picture is completely believable as a representation of a face, despite not achieving a likeness or having the realism of the more refined pencil drawing.
  • For some reason I missed out drawing the quick 5 minute sketches before I did this task.  I set out to do a quick sketch on both occasions, but each time the pictures took on a life of their own and ended up as finished pictures!  I will try to do this at a later date.

Part 4, Project 6, Exercise 1: Facial features

Look at people (including yourself) in the flesh, in magazines, TV and other places and study the individual features. Practise drawing these in your sketchbook, a couple of pages per feature – different kinds of nose, eyes, ears, lips, chin, hair, eyebrows, etc. If it helps, use an enlarging grid to scale up a found image. Bear in mind that tonal variation, hatching and curved lines help model the form of facial features in the same way as they do in a still life or landscape.

When you feel fairly confident, draw an entire face. Don’t worry if your lines and marks overlap and become untidy, and don’t erase your mistakes. These workings and re-workings are part of the thinking process and show your tutor that you understand where you went wrong and worked to put it right.

I tried using various techniques, media and methods (observation from photos/ life) to draw different facial features.  I was particularly interested in creating a sense of form through shading.

I went on to draw a face.


A3 Graphite Sketch

This was an interesting exercise based on the previous studies as I found this portrait emerged naturally.  Whereas previously I might have started with either the outline or a single feature, I built this up instinctively using increasing tones and shading.  I started with a very rough faint outline of the features from the centre of the face and worked outwards.  I was really pleased with the outcome.  It was interesting how the form emerged as I worked and I did not need to overwork it or attempt to create a likeness.  I think the photo I was working from was fairly straightforward however, as the shadow was very defined, but I was interested to use a full frontal pose so I could measure the relative proportions of eyes/nose/mouth etc.

Can you see who it is?  The likeness isn’t complete- but his essence is!