Category Archives: Part 1

Part1, Project 2, Exercise 4- Shadows and Reflected Light (P26)

Draw two objects with reflective surfaces.  Using charcoal, putty rubber, on A1 or A2 paper fill the paper, showing the reflected light and shade.


Attempt 1- teapot and mug.  Vine charcoal on the smoother side of A2 mixed media paper.

I chose a shiny chrome teapot and ceramic mug with interesting contours on its surface.  I positioned them so that the mug reflected onto the teapot- there were also reflections of windows and the room in its surface.  I positioned them so natural light fell from the right- natural light gave a subtler range of tones than when I shone a light on the composition.  However, I read somewhere that a still life should be lit from the left so the viewer reads it like a book (L-R)- is this true?


I felt it was important to try to observe and protect the white areas from the start to prevent the drawing becoming dulled and muddy and to let fresh white paper shine through.  I used the side of the vine charcoal to lightly describe the main areas of shade and slowly built up tone from there using a combination of the side of the charcoal, its sharp tip and using the putty rubber to lift out the light tones where needed.  I was not altogether happy with the rough finish caused by the rough texture of the paper- even though i tried to smudge it smooth using my fingers.  I finished the picture by adding finer detail using a conte stick- this gave power to the denser blacks and lifted the drawing.

I am pleased with the shiny finish on the teapot lid, and the dark tones and textural contrast of the lid handle brings it to life.  I am also pleased with the reflection of the mug in the side of the teapot.  I was less pleased with the contours on the mug which lack subtlety and would have liked the side of the teapot to look more “shiny”.  I felt overall the proportions were accurate.  I Like the strong blacks created by the vine charcoal and how it can be smudged back to change and reduce areas as required.  It allows experimentation and enables the picture to be created in “layers” without spoiling the finished drawing.


Attempt 2. “The Odd One Out?” Vine charcoal on  A2 cartridge paper.

I wanted to try the exercise again to see if I could create a smoother effect on smoother paper.  I chose to draw salt and pepper mills and an oil diffuser which were similar shapes but differed in their details. They all had brushed chrome surfaces with interesting distinct patterns of light and card across their surfaces.  This arrangement made me think of playground infighting at school- how in a group of three friends, one is often left out!


I was concerned not to muddy the finished drawing- I wanted bright highlights and details and clear contrasts of tone.  I’m happy with the finished drawing- I finished it off with charcoal pencil.  I am not 100% sure I should have added the background shadow- it looked cleaner without, but having it in does contextualise it more.


Attempt 3. Compressed charcoal in shades of grey on grey A3 pastel paper.

Every morning I look at a vase on the fireplace in the bedroom and think I should try drawing it.  It is a large glass vase, against a grey wallpaper (hence the choice of paper).  Alongside it is a decoupage model- a giraffe dressed up as a zebra.  Using just grey compressed charcoal I did a reasonable background sketch of the subject but it looked a bit flat- partly because of the grainy texture of the charcoal and partly because the colours were not intense enough.  I used white chalk, white pencil, charcoal pencil and vine charcoal to intensify the lights and darks and to define detail.  Making the reflections whiter gave the picture more of an illusion of 3D form.  Also, using a blending tool to remove graininess and smudge the blacks and whites of the giraffe, brought it to life more.  I wonder if I have made the vase too distinct?- (looking at the actual object it almost disappears into the wallpaper).  Maybe I should have just hinted at its form more using light colours and fewer dark colours.  I like the highlights on the giraffe and its reflection in the vase.  It made an interesting change to draw something that was level with/above my eye-line.

Part 1, Project 2, Exercise 3- Creating Shadow Using Lines & Marks (p24)

Experimentation with different drawing tools to create different grades of tone using different marks.


Some drawing tool/mark combinations are more successful than others at creating tone although I hesitate to say which ones work and which don’t as I suspect that this would be determined by the style of a drawing- some would be more appropriate than others in different contexts.

I also experimented using various methods to create shadow in a simple drawing of a paracetamol box:



I felt some methods of hatching had to be used carefully to avoid the drawing becoming flat and lifeless- hatching/ cross-hatching could easily become either too perfect and contrived or messy.

I also used a few different mark styles to experiment drawing a spherical object:


Black artist pen on A2 mixed media 250gsm paper.  I was interested to see if I could draw a more challenging subject using just hatching/ cross-hatching to create shadow/tone whilst trying not to draw outlines.  The form is suggested only by levels of tone and shadow.  The boxes with the ribbon were a combination of items I found discarded in this arrangement in the bathroom- they looked very natural together and I liked the fact they are predominantly white with just the stripes on the box to give interest .  I drew them in natural light (from top right) so the shadows are subtle and not strongly defined.


Black artist pen on A3 cartridge paper.  Similarly, this is a drawing of two clear plastic disposable cups I had recently washed (they still have a few droplets of water on them).  I started by outlining using mainly intermittently spaced dots, then added the most obvious shading (cross-hatching) and finally adding finer details.  Again, I tried not to use lines to outline the objects- rather to suggest their form by concentrating on representing the light, shade and reflections on and around them.  I like the resulting effect.


Part one, Project 2, Exercise 2- Observing Shadows Using Blocks of Tone (p23)

The aim of the exercise was to use variable tone ‘values’ to give the impression of three dimensionality, using conte or charcoal on a large sheet of paper.

First Attempt: Compressed charcoal stick on A2 cartridge paper.



I observed a wide range of tones in the subject, but the charcoal stick I used was much too black, resulting in a picture that was much too dark overall.  It was very hard to create subtle medium tones and highlights.  The lemon started out the wrong shape and my attempt to correct it was messy.   The shadows are much too dark and  failed to represent the variations in pattern and gradation of shadows I wanted to recreate.  I was pleased with the top of the pepper, where I had left enough white paper to create interesting highlights and shape.

There were in fact two light sources; I realised later that I had set up a desk lamp as a primary light source, but that the window behind me was also throwing light on the subject and complicating things!

I wasn’t sure I liked the effect made using the side of the charcoal stick on the paper- a rough mottled effect.  In places I tried smudging the charcoal with my finger to create solid smooth areas of tone.  I think both methods worked in some areas of the picture but not in others.

Second attempt: willow charcoal on cartridge paper (A2)


Willow charcoal was much more forgiving and less intensely black than the compressed charcoal so it was easier to generate mid-tones.  Nevertheless, I felt the picture still tended towards being too dark.  I started off doing quite a lot of work using the side of the charcoal, but I was still in two minds about whether I liked the resulting texture…. so it developed into a combination of smudged areas and more obviously drawn hatched lines.  It was also possible to use the putty rubber effectively to lift off tone and create highlights.

I was pleased with the pepper and the overall relationship of the arrangement with the shadows. There was definite variation in tone, from white to black, across the whole picture and I was able to bring out subtleties in intensity of shadow.  I am happier with the lemon than in my previous attempt, although I was still struggling to depict its skin texture.

Third attempt: willow charcoal on textured multi-media paper (A2)


Picture of the same subject by my 11 year old daughter:P1010615

I set up this composition with the deliberate intention of capturing reflected light and very definite shadows and reflections on a smooth object. I tried really hard to draw only what I could see and felt I had made a decent stab at it.  There were significant areas of reflected light under the egg and the shadow contained a lot of gradation of tone. Such a simple subject was very exposing of any failure to observe what was in front of me!

However, I had taken delivery of some new paper, as  I had run out of the cartridge paper I had been using, and it’s texture (purchased for a substantial tooth) was too rough, rather like watercolour paper.  The resulting effect was therefore over-textured, which I did not like, because it was hard to make smooth marks.  I am struggling to find a paper which I like for charcoal/pastel work.

Part one, Project 2, exercise 1- Groups of Objects (p22)

The aim was to draw at least six 3D objects.  I composed an arrangement of a couple of boxes, a paperback, a box of tissues, a metal cylinder full of pencils and a paper takeaway bag.


First attempt– willow charcoal on A2 cartridge paper.


I struggled with lots of things on this first effort:

  • How to arrange the objects?
  • How and where to position the easel?
  • Which medium to use?
  • How to start and how to compose the drawing?  How big to make it?
  • How to measure and ensure accuracy so each object stays in proportion with each other.

I struggled to put any feeling into the drawing because I was focusing too much on accuracy.  It is a fairly draughtsman-like effort!

I started by outlining the various objects in pencil, using a ruler to measure and sometimes to help draw the straight lines (which felt like cheating!) then going over the lines with charcoal. I really wanted to work freehand but was restrained from doing this because I also wanted an accurate drawing.  I felt the charcoal removed some of the accuracy and in places it became messy.  I found the more organic shapes easier than the angular geometric shapes.  I found that to create ‘believable’ 3D shapes the angles and corners need to meet up smoothly and continuously.

In spite of initial disappointment in my results I was pleasantly surprised looking at the picture from a distance later.

Second attempt– bamboo dipping pen and black ink on a sheet of newspaper.


Having  been very stilted in my first attempt I chose to do something completely different.  I wanted to introduce some looseness, so I decided to use bamboo pen and ink, which blots easily and runs dry frequently to introduce freedom into the drawing.  This took about 15 minutes to do and there are some glaring inaccuracies (bag and tissue box), but it was all done freehand and I felt liberated by not putting myself under pressure to create a draughtsman-like perfect drawing. The fact that the medium was unpredictable contributed to helping me relax and even though some parts went wrong, I was pleased that some elements of the drawing were fairly accurate, in spite of not agonising over every stroke.

Third attempt– Pencil outline overlaid with sepia pencil on A2 newsprint paper.



I initially intended to do a quick graphite pencil sketch as an expansion of the previous attempt but it evolved into something more serious.  However, I was very pleased that I was relaxed and less hung up with with accuracy; I measured less and did most of the picture freehand and was pleased that the resulting picture was a good representation on the whole of the subject.  Having done the initial rough pencil sketch I decided to overlay it using a sepia pencil but it didn’t work well because the paper was too smooth so the line are a little patchy, making them look rather contrived and timid.  I also intended to make the drawing larger scale on the paper.

If I did this exercise again I would aim for a larger scale drawing with more confident flowing lines using an appropriate medium/paper combination.

Part One; Project 1- Exercise 1- expressive Lines and Marks

Project 1/ Ex 1- Expressive lines and marks

Media used-

  • Black oil pastel
  • Bamboo pen and black ink
  • Willow Charcoal
  • Pencil (3B)

1. ANGRY- like a release of raw energy. Lines were made quickly, fiercely  and energetically in every direction without thought or planning. Lots of angles and harsh lines- a very physical expression of the emotion. Lots of ink blots and stabs into the paper by the pen&ink- very satisfying. Charcoal kept breaking- very unsatisfying! Only pen&ink and oil pastel created black lines- charcoal and pencil were shades of grey.


2.CALM- Marks were considered and gentle and created slowly and gently.  Gentle curves and curling lines   A natural rhythm developed- particularly in the last two panels (charcoal and pencil) where I enjoyed the sense of space.  I relaxed as I worked.


3. SAD- I was inspired to make simple short stabbing spiky lines of graduated intensity like the stem of a tick.  Pencil and oil pastel made unsatisfying marks, while charcoal felt very expressive of the emotion.  I enjoyed the sense of creating ink-blot tears using the pen&ink.


4. JOY- This felt like the release of a giggle!  Curly, fun, wiggly marks like the explosion of laughter & happiness.  I was interested to reflect that joy can also feel like elation which would need large expanses of paper to make huge circling marks… like the soaring of a bird!


Reflection: I was struck by how  some media were particularly satisfying in expressing particular feelings, while the same or other media were better for expressing different emotions.  The exercise was a surprisingly physical and visceral experience.  Looking at the work later brought back a sense of the emotions I had felt whilst making the marks, but I am not sure other people would know what I was feeling just by looking -without being told.  The exercise has taught me that choice of medium for a drawing might be influenced by more than just the finished aesthetic affect- the “feel” of the marks, and the medium’s ability to express what the body is feeling as the marks are made, might be as, or even more, important.