Looking closer

Remit : large sheet of paper, locate an area from tonal drawing that has interesting detail and tonal contrast.
Magnify everything. Analyse colour and tonal variation. Use colour more expressively and intuitively, exaggerate. Move towards abstraction. Juxtaposition of certain colours to produce tonal values.
The little ‘windows’ on the poppy seed head fascinate me as they look like vaulted ceilings. I have decided to include part of that with an actual honesty seed.
Here is a close up, near enough as it gets out of focus if I get any closer

A few sketches to work out composition and colour.




I was inspired by this painting by Sir Terry Frost and wanted to include bright strips of colour.


Sketches with colour. I decided to use soft pastels with some wax resist for texture. I like the combination of orange and blue. I want to use other colours to give an impression of reflections from stained glass.



The blue on orange gives a better tonal contrast. I do not like the use of black.
I started off with the middle area and got stuck on which colours to use for the “crown” of the poppy seed head. The use of pink/green seem to make it too busy.


I decided to keep to the same orange and blue. The top area, where the dark honesty seed is supposed to be, I carried on with the similar value as the darkest area in the poppy seed head.
This is on an A2 size medium grain paper.



Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny – American Impressionism Exhibition

Visited this ‘museum’ in Giverny last weekend. As it’s name, the museum focuses on all different forms of Impressionism, its origins, geographical diversity, history and development in other streams. Currently there is an exhibition of American Impressionism ( A New Vision) at this museum. There was a lively colony of American artists who travelled to France at the end of the 19th century to take in latest developments in art, especially impressionism. 80 original paintings are exhibited by American impressionists such as Mary Cassat, John Singer Sargent, James Mc Neill Whistler, Theodore Robinson. Artists like Childe Hassam, Chase and Tarbell inspired by the new way of rendering light effects took the impressionist technics back home to feature seascapes, countryside , depicting picnics, walks, etc., in bright colours, giving the illusion of an ideal world.
I had never heard of Childe Hassam before. His painting, Poppies, Isle of Shoal, caught my eye because of the lively brush strokes, including short diagonal strokes in the sky giving it movement and the way he painted the poppies in vibrant colour. I liked several other of his paintings.


There was a line of 12 small paintings of haystacks called Studies of an Autumn Day, 1891 by John Leslie Breck. Each has a totally different sky, direction of shadows, some without a cast shadow. I could feel the intensity of the sunlight in some. Green and blue marks on some of the hay stacks made them lively. It was a very intriguing exercise just sitting in front of them, jumping from one to the other and looking at the differences. what made one dull and the other more alive.

Next to these studies, there is a huge painting by Claude Monet, “Haystacks, Snow Effect” 1891. it has bits of snow thawing. bright orange markings next to blue on the left of a haystack in the foreground, enrich the solid forms and cast shadows and makes it atmospheric. Its given me ideas on how to use complementary colours.
Haystacks, snow effect
After driving through the countryside and seeing the sun on the wheat fields, Monet’s painting with a network of brightly coloured brushstrokes ‘Prairie a Giverny’ felt I could stroke the grass.
Prairie a Giverny

I also saw some paintings by Blanche Hochede-Monet. I didn’t know she painted and learnt from our guide, that though Monet did not teach her, he used to criticise her a lot! She used to paint with Monet, mostly of the garden. I found her paintings subdued and less vivid.

We dropped by Hotel Gaudy where artists used to stay on their visit to MoneT. They have left a studio there with easels and paints of tubes dating back nearly a century ago as if the artists have just popped out for a bit.

A quote I like by Will Low “Giverny, a greatest charm lies in the atmospheric conditions over the lowlands, where the moisture from the rivers imprisoned through the night by the valleys bordering hills dissolve before the sun and bathe the landscape in an iridescent flood of vaporous hues”

Exhibition based on South Downs and Vanishing point at the Towner

Annual Schools Exhibition – Our South Downs.
Just been to see this brilliant exhibition at the Towner Gallery, Eastbourne with such a wide variety of work in different media presented by school children. I was fascinated to see different pieces of work based on South Downs, including ceramics and it has made me more aware of the use of collage and mixed media. I was particularly interested in a piece inspired by artist Tom Phillips, so I looked up more of his work.
Seeing an original painting (not a giclee print) by Harold Mockford, Chalk pit in the Downs, was a good experience. I could see the different textures, brush marks and the actual colours – not having to rely on limitations of a photograph. His interpretation of the pit and use of black next to chalky white, opens up imagination and leads you to deep inner vision.
the artist; (c) Harold Mockford; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
I also saw another exhibition at the Towner : Vanishing Point by UK artists -Matthew Clark, Chris Bird and Ash Nehru of United Visual Artists (UVA).
Inspired by sketches of Leon Battista Alberti, Leonardo Da Vinci and Albrecht Dürer, UVA put in an installation that sends lines of light by a laser device from a single point, an arbitrary vanishing point, into space , creating different volumes, divisions and rooms to be explored by the audience. A fascination with the physical presence of light is embedded in their work and they have explored different ways of creating a structure from light. Vanishing Point employs perspective as both a tool and visual outcome to reshape, redefine and represent a space. Standing on a white line and looking at lines of light coming out from the vanishing point was fascinating. It’s made me even more aware of perspective and the importance of marking down a VP for future landscape drawings.
Leon Battista Alberti defined the canvas of a painting to be a window, with everything behind it as pictorial space. The use of perspective by UVA is an interpretation of Alberti’s window where, through projection planes, this pictorial space intersects with the real space. Although the perspective that UVA draw is an artificial one, the light makes it attractive and has an enormous impact on a space or surface. Durer and Leonardo used perspective as a cutting edge technology, relying on mathematics and rules to construct images.

Introducing colour

This is a study in pure colour. I started off with a few shapes and then worked my way round. It’s on a A3 medium grain paper in oil pastels.



I enjoyed doing this and looking at the result. I haven’t put in any tonal values or negative shapes. Just the poppy and honesty seed heads. It looks bright, contrary to the actual colours. I picked pink and blue as I see these colours on the poppy seed head. The honesty has many different colourings, predominantly pale ochre with violet markings and a very dark violet rim. This drawing reminds me of the prints of Dutch wax fabric.
LookIng at the sketches so far, the circles and patterns remind me of Wassily Kandinsky’s ‘Concentric circles’ and intersecting lines. I also looked at Sir Terry Frost’s various paintings for inspiration for colour combinations.

Some studies in my sketchbook.
Art bars: these worked well


Inktense pencils. Able to get sharp lines, details. Difficult to work on large areas.


Soft pastels
I liked the texture I was able to get for the poppy seed head.


I tried out a study with graphite, art bars and soft pastels. It did not work out as I had in my minds eye. The honesty seed heads look too yellow. The green negative shapes do not work. I like the texture I got for the poppy seed heads, especially the small one of the left. This is on an A3 cartridge paper.

I looked at it and tried to see what changes I could make tp improve it. I decided to make the honesty seeds lighter, some of them removed. I coloured over the green areas and re-defined some parts. It’s a bit better, but still need to improve on the colour scheme and composition.


Tonal study

How do I convey delicate wafer thin flat honesty seed heads next to spherical poppy heads. The honesty is delicate,but not transparent, with a strong dark rim holding it up. The poppy head has a powdery texture and a furry stalk. Below drawings are all on my A4 sketch book.
A quick sketch with a graphite block on wet paper. I was going to lift out stalks and possible honesty seeds with a cotton bud, but it did not work. Either it wasn’t the right paper or the graphite can’t be lifted out. I wanted to use the graphite it can achieve a very wide range of tones on wet paper.


This is with willow stick charcoal. I used a putty rubber to remove charcoal to draw one of the honesty seed heads. It’s easy to control this medium and you can get a wide range of tones. I got the thin stalks and rims with a very thin edge of the willow.


Ink, nib pen and brush. This hasn’t worked out at I had imagined. The ink was uncontrollable and I couldn’t soften some of the lines. However it was very exciting to do and I got lovely shades and blending of ink on paper including a lovely furry edge.



Charcoal pencils. I did not like them at all. The charcoal is very hard and marks did not blend easily so I did not carry on. I would leave them for outlining detailed charcoal drawings.


Graphite pencils. I started of with soft lines with 2B, then worked up getting in darker tones to up to 8B. There is no tone as such on the honesty seed head. There are some markings, lines and colouring, but no depth. The only way to bring them out is with a very dark negative space. In the first drawing the space near the left honesty is not so dark. I added more tone so it’s dark in the second picture. The graphite is easy to control and good for details. However it is very time consuming. This drawing took me nearly two hours.



A very quick sketch with Derwent sketching wash pencils and a one inch flat brush. This study took me less than 10 minutes. It’s not accurate, but I just wanted to try out the wide range of tone achievable with these pencils and a wash.


This is a tonal drawing in Quink on a A3 medium grain paper. I used some wax to block off white areas. I really like some of the textures created by the ink on the stems of the poppy seed heads. I wasn’t able to put the wax more precisely and I couldn’t scrape it to make changes. This drawing is not accurate, but it’s lively. Unfortunately you can’t see the texture in the photograph. I also like the composition and the range of tone.


I wanted to do a final drawing with more accuracy. The seed heads were proving to be a challenge. You can place fruit or vegetables on a table, get cast shadows, render various forms and it’s easy to show directional light. It was very difficult to figure out a composition, include a vessel that would hold the seed heads and include cast shadows. Eventually I decided to do a study using Derwent sketch pencils and wash on A2 cartridge paper. I included part of the vase, but left the surrounding area loose. The vase is on a table with sunlight from the right. The stem of the honesty with smaller stalks branching out is intertwined with the poppy seed heads. Hopefully the different angles of the honesty will suggest to the viewer it’s flat form. It’s impossible to show any directional light on them. The poppy seed heads are small and in a large drawing they seem to be lost in the honesty. This was a very time consuming drawing and I am disappointed with the result.


Line drawing.

as this is the final assignment, I have decided to choose observation in nature, something i am passionate about and can spend a long time on it. I am always looking at nature, whether while walking on the South Downs or while gardening, and I have a lot of materials available. The two different items I have been drawing at different angles interest me for various reasons. I love poppies and their seed heads leave a beautiful structure in the garden. The honesty plant, though considered a weed, leave beautiful glistening seed heads over winter which seem to light up like a lantern when the sun light fall on them. I can’t decide between the two so I will work on sketches for the line drawing on both of them together.

The first two sketches have fewer seed heads.



I added more and tried to arrange them so I get interesting lines and negative shapes.


It looks too busy so I reduced them again. It’s extremely difficult to work with dried stalks. The height of the honesty seeds was shorter than the poppy. If I cut the poppy stalks, they would loose their lovely curvy lines.

This one doesn’t work at all. The honesty looks like a bunch of grapes or balloons next to the taller poppy. I tried to draw just the honesty. I tried to put the stalk at an angle so the seeds would have some negative space and a variety of angles. This is even worse.


Research point
Look at Charles Renee Mackintosh and David Hockney

Charles Renee Mackintosh – his stylised rose is so simple yet instantly recognisable. His botanical prints are beautiful. My favourite is this drawing, it has the stalks that relate to the seed heads

I have a book on David Hockney drawings and his line drawings have been very helpful for the previous assignment. His economy of line and ability to convey a three dimensional image is very impressive.

Drawing is meditation on paper, a quote I read somewhere. I have been meditating on the seed heads trying to figure out how to get my line drawing and suggest volume and texture. The arrangement was in a powder blue vase on the floor and whilst walking past them, I happened to be looking at them at a 45 degrees angle, at a height a few couple of feet away. A poppy seed head caught my eye, just in front of the honesty. I liked the shapes made by the honesty and the negative shapes. So I sat about doing a quick sketch. It looks better that looking at the arrangement at a horizontal level.

I then set it up so I can look at it at a diagonal, placed some books on the floor to give it some height to get the ideal view. I hope the honesty seed heads shown at different angles will give it depth.


I tried another one in ink, just trying to pick out the seed heads that stood out and cutting out a maze of stalks. The honesty seeds at different angles. I like some parts of it. I tried not to lift the pen and some areas drew back to carry on with the drawing. I did not get the shapes of the honesty seeds right as it was difficult to come back to complete the shape. The shapes can be a long very thin oval to a big wide squarish oval.


The line drawing and looking at negative space has helped me work out the best view for the seed heads. In a way that’s the angle you would normally look at the seeds when they are out in the garden.

Part 5 option 2, observation in nature – Draw and select, different angles

Leonardo da Vinci had an uncanny ability to observe nature and record it. His precise illustration of the subject with small explanatory notes was remarkable. Another artist whose illustrations of nature that I admire is Albrecht Durer.

Star of Bethlehem in red chalk, pen and ink by Leonardo.

Turf in watercolour by Albrecht Durer.

Finding a subject.
It’s difficult to decide. My favourite drawing in option two was of the tomatoes in ink. I need to work on something which will be a bit more challenging and I can experiment with different mediums. I forgot to put in the variety of subjects I have been working on, so they are at the bottom. Please scroll down.

I have been drawing tulips. Whilst they are beautiful it’s tricky to use them as a subject to use for observation. The flowers keep changing every minute. The petals open with the movement of the sun and they all off too quickly. The sunflower keeps changing too. Seed heads not only remain as they are for very long, I can see myself working on them and experimenting in mixed media, so I will work on them.
Some poppy and honesty seed heads

A close up of honesty seed heads in the sun and it’s plant further down.



Different angles in Different media.
At the moment the seeds are either on a white napkin on the table or supported by a jar. I am not drawing the jar or the napkin. I thought about putting them in an organic support such as wrapping the stalks in brown paper to make them look like a bouquet arrangement, but did not like the look of it. these are in HB pencils :






The one above one is with red chalk and Derwent sketching pencil.


This one is a view with a longer stem. I have used Derwent graphite block in Prussian blue. I have tried to depict the seeds at different angles. The drawing below is on an a3 cartridge paper with water colours.

This one is on an A4 300gsm watercolour paper with watercolours.

A sketch with the branch at a diagonal in Quink drawn with a bamboo pen.


The poppy seed heads viewed from above. This is in charcoal. The heads were lifted out with putty eraser.


Draw and select.
I forgot to put in my drawings of various subjects, and when I try to insert photos in the middle, it doesn’t seem to work. I promised myself not to spend more than two hours on each. I once spent a record two weeks on a pencil drawing of lilies in a vase, working everyday till midnight! My sketchbook I started for this assignment is an A4 and the paper is not strong enough to hold various medium so I have done these studies on separate sheets of paper.
A bowl of fruit on A2 cartridge paper in oil pastels.

Different fruit, again in oils pastels
This is on an A3 medium grain paper

The fruit goes off very quickly and you just have to eat it or bin it! much as I love tulips, they are tricky to work with. Here is an abandoned water colour. The petals kept opening and the flower changed every few minutes. This tulip is yellow with red edges and middle.

A plate of pears, forelle and packhams, on A2 in charcoal.

Pointed sweet peppers on a bamboo board in pencil colours, A3 cartridge paper. I left most of the background unfinished – my two hours were up.

While still thinking about subjects, my eyes fell on a potted sunflower on the window sill. Lots of images and potential came to mind. This is with ink pen and Inktense pencils and a blue wash, on A3 300gsm water colour paper. I ran out of time and did not complete the leaves, they are looking pale and patchy.