Studies in charcoal

I looked at charcoal drawings by Van Gogh, Odilon Redon and Seurat. It’s now my aim to get the widest range of tone , especially darkest dark in my drawings. This are all done in willow stick charcoal.

A sketch of a tulip in sunlight against a dark background in the front garden. I tried to follow the petal forms and shadows. I used a paint brush to get the soft edges and delicate lines in the petals. The tips of the petals looked so bright, they were white. The tulip petals are actually yellow with crimson red edges and centre markings.


This is a pine cone. I did this by first putting a layer of charcoal, then drawing by lifting out the light areas. I then added the dark areas .

It’s not an accurate drawing, but at least I managed to add the darkest tones and did not get any outlines. Not happy with result and looking again at Redon’s drawings I was determined to improve on this. I wanted more contrast, light and dark and get subtle changes in tones. I added white chalk on the lighter areas and reinforced the dark areas, I tried to blend the tones in between with a paper stub, fingers and a brush. I had a real go with the charcoal, stabbing, making dashes with lots of energy. I feel a bit a bit better about this one. At least it looks slightly like a cone and the directional light is more evident. Now to clear all the dust!


A plate of pears, packham and a forelle.


Re working on portrait from memory. I refreshed my memory on the important features. The left eye does not have a glint, as my mum has lost sight .



More collage and watercolour sketches

Still trying to decide on what to work on for assignment 5, I carried on with more collage. My tutor, Angela, recommended I should do some. I have never done them before and felt excited like a child let loose with crayons and a blank wall. Inspired by tulips in the garden, I did some quick water colour sketches first.



The collage has a layer of newspaper, cut outs from yellow felt, magazine and newspaper photos. I left it to dry in the sun and the magazine photos started to fade. To make them stand out, I added some white acrylic paint around the leaves. I then added some gesso.


Here is one of a dried poppy seed head. This one has newspaper and white tissue paper for texture. I painted the corners dark to make it stand out.


Here is a watercolour sketch of a seed head on an A4 300gsm paper.


A play of teasels with water colour and wax


I have a big collection of dried honesty and poppy seed heads which I am considering for the last assignment.


A quick sketch of honesty seeds. This is on A2 cartridge paper.


The honesty plant is bright green leaves with pink flowers. This colouring can be seen on the seeds heads. The actual seeds have black threads connecting them to the rim of the seed head. Held against sunlight , the heads are almost transparent. I find them beautiful.


Here is an attempt of a collage of a few seed heads. This is on A3 paper. I used different shades of green and purple tissue paper, black ink, silver card, bubble wrap, knitting wool, acrylic paint and a polythene sheet. I was trying to achieve the transparency and brightness of the seed head. Not sure if it looks anything like it, but I enjoyed working on it.


I liked the effect and textures resulting from layers of tissue paper and acrylic paint.
Here is a close up.


Here is an honesty plant with young green seeds and flowers.


I thoroughly enjoyed working on the collage work. It’s been therapeutic, fun, yet it’s made me aware of the importance of colours, shapes and relationships of objects in a composition. Trying to get the texture , form and essence of the object correctly with paper is very difficult. It’s also made me think more about the range of tone and cast shadows. Picking out what’s important and leaving out the rest for the mind’s eye to complete.

This has given me ideas for the torn paper collage in the next assignment.

Experimenting with different media – Pears!

Cezanne’s painting of pears inspired me!

I also find Euan Uglow’s paintings of pears very exciting. The pears seem to be alive and vibrating!
While contemplating on a subject for the next and final part I am just going to experiment on pears.

My plate of pears: packhams and a forelle, they both have different colouring and shapes.


This is a quick study in Prussian blue watercolour on 300gsm A4 paper. I started off by blocking in the dark areas, leaving the bright areas untouched. I enjoyed this.


Next is a collage. I have never done one before and was excited to experiment with some materials I collected. This is on an A3 paper. I started of with layers of news papers and green tissue paper. The plate is cut out from a bubble wrap envelope. I cut out pear shapes from magazine photographs. It was very difficult to cut the shapes. I did not draw the shapes or use a stencil, just straight with the scissors – like Matisse would have done. I can now understand how difficult it must have been to cut out the figures and appreciate his work even more. It was very tricky glueing the shapes and making sure they are in the right place. I even put glue on the wrong side of the red pear and nearly lost it. The pears seemed to be swimming in green, so I put a purple base. I used a yellow net bag for the cast shadow. I was missing a dark shadow under the plate so I used some acrylic paint. I decided to apply some gesso for more texture and to glue everything in place. This experience has helped me understand the importance of shapes and colours.

A quick study in charcoal while the glue in the collage was drying

This one is in water colour. I tried to put the dark likes like Cezanne, but didn’t manage to get them anything like it..

My tutor recommended me to do a charcoal studies so here goes…
I started off by rubbing a layer of charcoal dust I made from willow stick on an A2 cartridge paper

Here is the kitchen towel I used to rub in the



I wasn’t sure whether to remove charcoal and start with light areas or with the dark. I decided to start with the dark. Indicated where the darkest areas are. Worked on from there.

The proportions of the pears weren’t right, they were too small for the A2 paper, I wiped them out, rubbed in more charcoal and started again. That was the fun part, as you can just wipe and re start. I made the pears bigger. It still didn’t look right, the pear at the back seemed too tall. I corrected the size. The biggest problem was that I corrected a tone, something else would get messed up. I could not get a very dark tone. My quick study has some very dark tones. After a lot of time messing around in dust, I am not happy as I could not get a very dark tone. Even if I pressed the charcoal hard, the dust just seems to fall off. Don’t know where I am going wrong. At least I have done a drawing with NO outlines in it.

I spayed some fixative and tried to emphasise the darkest areas with a fresh piece of willow charcoal. I just put dabs so the charcoal would stick. I managed to get the darkest tone I was trying to achieve so I will leave it at this.


Assignment 4 highlights of my tutor’s report and things i need to pay attention to!

“I can see your confidence growing and there are some improvements in this assignment since you first sent it to me in November 2013. 

In the work you have sent there are examples of you trusting the process of drawing more but often you are still trying to make pictures rather use drawing to investigate what you see.  

In the next assignment try and build on the improvements in the two assignment pieces, the exploration and aliveness of the preparatory line drawing and the accurate observation and description of form in the tonal drawing.  

Now I can see more competence in your drawing it is time to encourage you to take a leap and be braver with your materials. For example, in the turquoise preparatory drawing, aside from the colour, there is some interesting mark making in the bedding,  when you mix wet and dry materials and where you have used different kinds of line on top of each other. In the background the combination of line, wash and rubbing is effective.

 234 be more robust apply greater pressure(with a 5B pencil) probably on a larger sheet of paper.

 I especially like the way you have drawn the foot, strong lines and sketchy marks, leaving some areas for our imagination, and the fluid treatment of the object the foot is resting on. Build on this.

8  A good example of experimentation. Do a lot more of this.

8a You have taken on advice about paying more attention to tone and negative shapes to help define form. I recommend you use softer pencils and charcoal more often. These softer materials will help you get a more tactile sense of the objects you draw, imagine you are touching or stroking them. I would also like to see you covering your paper I charcoal and using an eraser to search out the form. 

watch out for very dominant lines that unbalance the drawing.    

Feedback on assignment 

Neither of your drawings showed evidence of strong directional light, this is a shame because it would have given you more contrast and definition to play with.

I am pleased to see that in both drawings you show more confidence about using the whole sheet of paper, by bringing in the background to make it an active part of the drawing.

 Line : In the preparatory drawing you have used line expressively to show different surfaces and the direction of the marks describes the clothing more convincingly than in the final drawing. Overall it is more successful, including the Inaccuracies you have addressed, which give it life.7

5<" Tone : This drawing shows the benefit of your time spent looking. Well done on your sensitive use of tone in this drawing, the folds and creases in the clothes and well noticed and carefully drawn. It is a shame that the bottom of the jeans left leg has a straight edge, this makes it look flat, and you’ve drawn foot as a flat object as well. I wonder what happened here?

Your proportions are improved since your first go at the assignment, and from the preparatory drawings sent in this time, there is definitely a convincing body under the clothing. The open areas in the lower right-hand quarter contrast well with the more dense and detailed upper left-hand quarter. I would have given more space above the model’s head, it’s a little tight there.

 TO DO!!

Much more experimentation with materials, especially charcoal and wet media.

Try collage to increase your understanding of colour relationships and to play with composition. You can also use collage to explore different textures.

 Suggested reading/viewing

Go back through the course handbook and review the examples of drawings reading the projects and exercises at the same time.

Look again at Van Gogh’s variations in mark making, at Seurat’s and Odilin Redon’s use of tone.

Look at the use of line in on page 109 in Colin Press’s figure drawing and page 117 in Phil Steer’s figure drawing.


Assessment potential  

I understand your aim is to go for formal assessment in July 2014. From the work you have shown in this assignment you have demonstrated your ability to make improvements in your work. You will need to make more improvements before you going for assessment. If you review your course work, read my comments in the assignment reports and redo or rework some of the earlier drawings then you have the potential to succeed at assessment.


Things to pay attention to:

More experimentation with a wider range of materials.

Take time and look closely, draw what you see not what you think you know is there.

Try spending more time looking than drawing, and try drawing whilst looking at the objects and not looking at the paper.

Think about touching what you draw, try to imagine the physical properties of objects, the surface and the weight. .

Don’t over-draw lines, avoid excessive outlining or contouring.

Use lines of different weight, length and breadth and apply them with different kinds of energy.

Increase the range of tones you use, aim for some very dark darks.





Assignment four

My tutor asked me to improve on the two pieces I sent earlier so I have been working on them again. I totally agree on her comments and can understand why she asked me to do them again. Looking at my previous work I feel that I had rushed and did not do enough ‘looking’. Also the medium I used was not appropriate at this stage.

items sent :
10 pieces from my figure drawing exercises that I think are the best with an explanation why.

assignment 4, part 1 line drawing and part 2 tone drawing.

Much as I wanted to, I did not manage to get around to more figure drawing classes. I have been looking at drawings by Hockney, Rembrandt, Sir William Coldstream, Daumier and portrait drawings by Hans Holbein. I read about Coldstream’s method of measuring and making marks. These drawings have helped me a lot in picking out vital shapes, lines and tone. My sitters would not pose for very long so I had to work quickly to get shapes and tone in my preparatory sketches.

For the line drawing, I would have liked to do a similar pose as ‘Sir Trenchard Cox’ by William Coldstream. I like the pose and the way he has emphasised some areas with thick black lines. The clasped hands on crossed legs don’t have detailed fingers, but it’s evident they are hands. The facial features are vague with strong lines to depict glasses, yet the face is recognisable.


My sitter had to keep busy so a mobile phone came in handy. I haven’t been able to work as loosely as I would have liked, need to let go and build on confidence. Also as this is not a painting, I would not have achieved the same effect.

My final piece, line drawing:


For the tonal drawing, I tried various poses. In my previous drawing I lost the head so I wanted to have the head upright this time. This drawing is based on a painting by Titian, ‘Venus of Urbino’. my model is leaning on a folded duvet and pillows. The hands are placed differently. Despite preparatory work, in my drawing I corrected the head one time too many and ruined it. I started afresh. In my final drawing I got some smudge marks in the face which can’t be removed. This was caused by a dirty plastic eraser which I picked up by error instead of the putty rubber. A lesson learnt the hard way.


I used Derwent sketching wash pencils for both drawings. On the line drawing, I enhanced some lines with an art bar. For the tonal drawing a could have added water for a wash effect, but decided to leave it as a pencil drawing. One of the preparatory sketches is done with Derwent art bars.


Both are on A2 size paper. The tonal sketch is on a medium grain paper. The texture of the paper makes the tone hazy. With these drawings , I spent more time on a chair looking at them.