Categoría: Sketchbooks

Part 4 The figure and the head

Project 6 Exercise 2 – Your own head

Another interesting and very enjoyable exercise – I placed a large mirror in front of me and had to make my drawings in the evening with an absence of natural light.  The light was from my left reflected against the wall using a bright LED spotlight. In addition there was light from above to give me light to work.

These were my quick studies and the larger one on the right looked a bit like my nephew – so starting to get a likeness. I omitted to measure – just drawing fast.



To achieve a better likeness, I drew a construction in my sketchbook based on the guides on page 109 of the course notes:


I used my pencil to take measurements of key features of my face in front of the mirror.

This then helped in making my second self-portrait – this time in pencil and watercolour:


Watercolour is a medium that I love and want to develop further in POP1 if possible (alongside gouache/indian ink) – this portrait is a good likeness and it helped having the measurements. My wife and other colleagues at work all confirmed this for me.

The portrait benefitted from good lighting, and my use of pencil (4B) and watercolour with limited palette worked well – I was too heavy with the pencil around the mouth and the area around my Adams apple did not look natural. I do not have curly hair but this is artists licence!



Part 3 Expanse

Project 2 Landscape

Exercise 1 Cloud formations and tone

Early morning clouds, Santiago CHILE

After watching the videos and studying the work of Vija Celmins, I was intrigued by the way with certain of her works they were executed over a long period of time. The piece of work would evolve and grow over time, and the artist’s mind and thought process might also change over the same period. A process similar to oil painting which also evolves over a relatively long period of time – waiting for paint to dry etc. Whilst the paintings appear still they have a sense of depth and also one of infinity – time that does not stop. Stars appear and disappear, they grow brighter/duller, they move very fast but appear slow – there is so much to capture in just a simple (or seemingly so) subject matter. The universe is constantly moving like her waves another subject with a surface that defies capture, defies taming and suprises nature itself with its power that has a range from tranquillity to a force so destructive it can change our maps forever.

Clouds are constantly moving, forming, dissolving into space – they have a smell and form a damp humid atmostphere – for instance walking or driving on a mountain road in cloud you can experience the sense of capturing or living in the cloud.

This exercise was both frustrating and in a way thrilling – a chance to experiment and to really see if one understands the use of tone or line to represent a three dimensional object even as fleeting as a cloud!

Small sketchbook studies using line…


Cloud mark-making using a twig with indian ink/water…


Experimenting with mixed media/brush using tone…

These studies using a brush were quick but frustratingly unsuccessful.

Thinking about a bigger study and using John Virtue’s London paintings as a guide, I made a cloud study experimenting with a different support…gessoed brown wrapping paper which I had to stretch as it got wetter. This paper is extremely delicate when wet! I then made the cloud study using compressed charcoal:

Evening cloud study. Compressed charcoal on gessoed brown paper (100 x 80 cm)

In this drawing I have captured movement, perspective and form whilst achieving a full tonal range (although this was a little dampened by the application of fixative after taking this photo).

The support is fragile and brittle – and I am now frightened of removing it from the board – it cannot be rolled up and will have to be mounted on card.

Exercise 2 Sketchbook Walk

This for me was a actually a bike ride not a walk. I used a small sketchbook and a fineline biro.


This Polo Club is source of inspiration for me and I look forward to seeing/sketching the horses/riders in action soon. I sketched reasonably quickly trying to incorporate as much detail as possible but trying to create an atmosphere as well – the club house is a restaurant and is actually dwarfed by the mountains and polo fields – although this is not captured in my sketch.


The horse paddocks with mountains in the background has great potential with horses in the foreground, stable blocks and trees in the middleground with mountains and clouds in the background.


I was actually going to make a completely different sketch at this spot but liked the dead tree trunk to use as a frame for the fields, far off buildings and mountains.


I have ridden past this spot many times and was interested in the wooden fruit tree supports that have been left to rot in this abandoned field. The pattern of the supports is repeated in the very large imposing pylons that cross the field. Not sure what the yellow plant is that has invaded this field – perhaps rape seed – it will not be there for long as the hot summer sun will destroy it until next year. This has a potential to develop further and with an architectural feel to the pylons is an opportunity for me to explore the style and methods of Julie Mehretu? Perhaps on Mylar if I can get some.

In the meantime I took lots of photos of the field from many angles and made a watercolour sketch (on a very overcast cold day):


Exercise 3 360deg studies

It was difficult to find time to go out and draw in an expansive landscape but finally I found a location about 30 mins away looking towards the Andes mountains.

It was also difficult to find a safe location to park the car and set up my easel/gear to draw uninterrupted. The day was sunny, hot and cloudless but gave a clear view of the mountains and surrounding countryside.

My drawings were made in my new landscape size 6″ x 12″ 130lb sketchbook in pencil and ink markers:

Looking east towards the mountains
Looking south
Looking west
Looking north

Some of my direction notes on the drawings were actually incorrect.

The first two sketches captured large chunks of the landscape and the last two homed in on smaller areas. It was as anticipated difficult to capture everything and editing/simplifying was essential, especially in 15 min sketches.

Research Point

Upon researching historic and contemporary artists who work in series with the landscape, I was deeply impressed with the work of John Virtue who I wish to go back to in the next section on Townscapes/Cityscapes. The scale of his works and the way he works up quick small sketches into large scale works is an inspiration.  My recent work in indian ink is showing more confidence and I feel ready to go bolder – ever darker with a greater range of tonal contrast. Nicholas Herbert’s work on the Chiltern Hills is too poetic for me although I appreciated his influences from Turners work. Hockney is a favorite and I may use his influence to build an image of my road in the townscape section of this part of the course. In particular his road pictures where he makes a picture about his journeys: Mullholland Drive: The road to the studio, 1980  and The road to Malibu, 1988.

I have been researching the work of Julie Mehetru – an artist that, whilst she is not a landscape artist, she has used architectural drawings and urban spaces in her works on both modest and gigantic scales! Whilst I cannot move to her scale at present, I want to explore working on Mylar and creating similar spaces to her works such as the Untitled. 2000 works found in Drawing Now. Eight Propositions by Laura Hoptmann, 2002 – where she uses coloured pencil, ink and cut paper on Mylar. This will be a challenge for me also because it may mean more controlled use of line and a methodic form of working – well outside of my comfort zone and I could go to A2 maybe. In particular I want to explore her use of what she calls the 3rd space – a space outside of the picture plane swirling, deconstructing and exploding – a space that is also truly three dimensional.



Part 3 Expanse

Project 1 – Trees

I found drawing trees a challenge – with so many variations, heights, forms and colours. It was also difficult to select suitable trees for drawing. In the end I sketched trees from afar, nearby and at a suitable distance according to the exercise requirements. I did not always follow the exercises exactly.

As a warm up I just went out sketching:



and then a small sketch using coloured pencils:


In Chile there is a famous native tree – the Araucaria.  It is a tall pine tree with distinctive form; not quite sure if I have captured it in these small sketches in my pocket sketchbook:

Exercise 1 Sketching individual trees

For this exercise I chose a fir tree not far from my house. It was drawn using a small piece of compressed charcoal on a bright overcast day:


This was a huge towering tree with spreading branches – very beautiful. I was interested in capturing the overall form and movement of the tree with its large branches … also trying to imitate the movement and line of the individual branches.

I then chose another evergreen fir tree.


This time I used indian ink, white chalk and pencil.  I felt that this was a brave experiment that did not quite work. This was a dense tree – a bit like the large cedar trees found in graveyards in England.

I have since walked past this tree several times and the overall form is very like the drawing above – so maybe this was more succesful than I at first thought.

Exercise 2 Large observational study of an individual tree

The large tree drawn above in ink was my subject for this study.  I worked in an A3 sketchpad with large 2B and 6B pencils and gradually built up layers and textures:


The tree trunk and branches reminded me of an elephant. I do not think that I have ever drawn anything like this before and had to find my feet regarding the shading and textures.

The modelling of the tree trunk was not successful but some parts of the texturing worked well. The upper part of the tree put most of the trunk in shade and there was an even light all around the tree, so difficult to model without any form of directional lighting – perhaps it would have been better early in the morning or late in the afternoon on a sunny day. It was cold and overcast when I was sketching – not ideal!

During the sketching sessions on the same day, I also made a colour study of the fir tree using oil pastels – I love the effects and colours that you can achieve using oil pastels and was very happy with this study although it could be judged as quite flat!


I must remember next time to take some baby wipes with me to clean my hands during sketching – you can see the thumbprints on the page due to dirty hands after drawing with charcoal.

After receiving my feedback from Part 2, I decided to make a further observational study of an individual tree to improve the tonal range in a drawing and render the form more accurately:

Charcoal on A2 heavy mixed media paper

This was a very large Eucalytus tree with beautiful exposed roots and dark overhanging branches. I believe that this was a much improved study and I increased the tonal range of the drawing whilst maintaining expressive use of line.

Exercise 3 Study of several trees

Watercolour and pencil on A2 heavy mixed media paper

This was a study of a group of very tall Eucalyptus trees – the day was a very bright sunny day, late morning so the sun was already quite high. I was drawing for at least one hour and the sun was moving fast. The left hand side of the tree trunks had a bright white patch which I did not capture – I therefore used some yellow to give the trees a glow.

I would like to go back and make a sketch similar to the Corot drawings in my recent research, as this is a picknic area and I could include people in the sketch to give a better sense of scale.

This was a group of similar trees so I was unable on this occasion to distinguish one species of tree from another. The mass of foliage included very bright patches on the LHS and very dark parts on the RHS of each tree. I used a grey base colour for the trunks and added yellow to the LHS of the truck to indicate the sun hitting them. I then relied on line and a little shading using pencil to render form…not very effective. I managed to simplify the shadows on the ground, the background, the masses of foliage and a sense of depth by fading out one of the trees.

To improve this drawing further  I could have observed better the position/form of the trees to give a greater depth, I should have used a greater range of tones in the tree trunks without resorting to line/pencil shading, and I could have been more delicate with the foliage by using delicate lines in support of the green washes. A mountain, horizon or other feature in the background together with a few figures would have given greater depth and scale to the drawing.