BP portrait Artist

I was lucky to be in Edinburgh and get the opportunity to visit the National Gallery to see the BP portrait Artist exhibition.  It was fascinating to see how different they could be in style.  Some were very stylised whilst others had an accuracy that might pass as photographic.  In some there was a clear narrative being communicated, while others were more of a straightforward portrait- a straight on view central to the canvas.

First Prize: Matan Ben-Cnaan for Annabelle and Guy (oil on board)

BP portrait winner

The winning painting was full of narrative- almost film-like.  It captured a moment in which a man and dog are looking “off camera”, whilst the child, with her hand on the mans shoulder peers directly into the “camera”.  The background arouses curiosity- being unclear where they might be?  It is a fairly harsh surrounding with bare rocks  behind the grouping.   I like the mystery it evokes and the feeling of a captured moment.  The style is fairly photographic, with intense colours.

Second Prize: Michael Gaskell for Eliza (acrylic on board)

 bp 2nd prize
This was a very beautiful photorealistic painting.

Third Prize: Borja Buces Renard  for My Mother and My Brother on a Sunday Evening (oil on canvas)

BP portraidt 3rd prize

This is a sensitive emotional picture.  The slightly dreamlike hazy quality along with the Mum’s hand on her son’s leg evoke warmth and intimacy. there is more of a sense of the soul in this picture than just a picture depicting mother and son. They are both directly looking out of the canvas -like they are watching TV.  Close but not intense.



Part Three, Project 5, Exercise 2 -Study of a townscape using line

Use two sketchbook pages to make a preliminary drawing of this study. Establish the primary focus and any other shapes and objects you think necessary to make this drawing interesting and unexpected. Make notes about the weather conditions and how they affect your approach to the drawing and establish the general mood. Decide what sort of marks fit the mood and shapes of this study. Find the centre point of your paper and relate this to the focal point of your preliminary drawings; decide on the foreground, middle ground and background. Complete the study in pen and ink or a black drawing pen or fine brush pen.


I was finding with this project that I kept being side tracked by different views and wanting to try different things.  I visited Stratford upon Avon and did some sketches of Shakespeare’s birthplace in charcoal. I have included these here because they are line drawings, even though they aren’t exactly what was asked for!  The first one gives quite a good sense of place- helped by the figure walking by with an umbrella.  It was a dreary wet day with wet pavements (I could have made this more obvious!)

Shakespeare’s birthplace- charcoal A2 cartridge paper

I did a similar sketch trying to loosen up and be less concerned about accuracy.  It creates a completely different feel but is obviously less recognisable(?), although as a quick sketch of a 16th century building it does work.IMG_0973

I tried a quick sketch of a village pub, trying not to get bogged down with detail- focusing on the main shapes and tonal structure.


Finally I focused non this two page drawing on the canal in the centre of the village.  The view is fairly iconic here and has been drawn and photographed in multiple ways.  I decided to centre my composition on the bridge rather than the house, which then brought the railings and the pub wall into the foreground at interesting angles/ perspective.  I was very pleased with the sketchbook line drawing (Ink with indian ink wash)IMG_1003

The initial sketchbook drawing provided a lot of information (and experience) of the scene for when I worked it up to a larger final piece.  I decided to try A1 cartridge paper, but was disappointed that what appeared loose and fresh in the sketchbook just seemed to look a bit wrong and overworked on the final piece.  I homed into the bridge more in the final piece and included the front end of a canal boat that had moored up.  I thought this successfully gave a greater sense of depth.  However, I should have kept the objects under the bridge lighter/ more hazy, to emphasise depth further.  I used additional media to develop the picture from a basic line drawing, which I felt would look too sparse on such a large piece of paper.  I used brush pen, water colour, pastels, dip pen and ink.  I am not all that pleased with the outcome and think that I would have had more success on smaller paper.



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.

Juan Munoz- Back Drawing

Back Drawing 1990 by Juan Muñoz 1953-2001

Back Drawing 1990 Juan Muñoz (1953-2001)  White chalk on a black background. Presented by Marian Goodman Gallery, New York 2008

I found this drawing, by Juan Munoz, as a great example of the use of tone to create shadow and ambience.  The subject is a back, sharply highlighted to create contour, shadow and texture.  The deep shading creates a sense of three dimensionality.  Although only the top of the back and hand are in detail, your minds eye fills in the gaps and ‘sees’ a complete figure.  The use of white on black creates a monochromatic, almost photographic affect, with a suggestion of “harsh” lighting to create starkly contrasting highlights and shadow.  The densely dark background creates a mood of pain/sadness(?); the stance of the figure is slightly awkward as if bending forwards; the texture is smooth, suggesting young unblemished skin.