PART 3. Project 2, Exercise 2. Sketchbook Walk.

The view up the hill from in front of my house

Across the playing fields, viewed from the community centre

The balance pond on the other side of the ‘village’

The shadows under the trees on the far side of the pond were deep and dense. I really like the bulrushes around the edge of the pond. I didn’t realise, but just out of sight behind the left hand tree of this sketch was a heron poking about in the shallows.

Tree tunnel behind the balance pond

I have always loved tree-tunnels, especially when bright sunshine dapples the ground underneath. The trunks of these trees appeared starkly black against the vibrant sunlit foliage. I’d like to explore that contrast.


PART 3. Project 4, Exercise 2. Angular Perspective.

A quick line drawing of my shed and garage, and my neighbours’ houses. We live on a slight hill and I was looking downhill to complete this.

The lines at eye-level and above extend and converge as expected to the left vanishing point (vp). The angle of the base of the shed is significantly different to that which is dictated by the use of the vp, yet I drew what I saw. Is this foreshortening?

The lines on the other planes extend into more of a ‘vanishing cloud’. I think I’ll do this exercise again and stand further away from the buildings, on flat ground.

PART 3. Project 4, Exercise 1. Perspective, an Interior View.

I learned about perspective and vanishing points studying graphic drawing at school and have a good understanding of the concept. I also learned from my A-level Art teacher how to capture angles with a pencil or brush to translate onto the page, and measure relative proportions in the same way.

It is interesting that most of my perspective lines do meet, but below where I estimated my eye level to be.  The recessed panels in the doors are aligned which suggests that my estimation of eye level is correct….  I just stood next to the door and confirmed this to be the case. Curious. Having said that, I can see that re-drawing using a point on my eye level (blue) makes very little difference. I think the distant door is slightly too wide and this pulls the vanishing point down.

Let’s ignore the rug! 

PART 3. Project 2, Exercise 3. 360 degree study 

I did this exercise on Pampelone beach near St Tropez in bright early morning sunshine. The vibrant colours of the cloudless sky and clear shallows, and the dazzling sun on the water were just stunning and I was really pleased with how I was able to capture them on paper. However, when I opened up my sketchbook upon returning home, I found that the impact seemed less, the marks coarser. For example, I don’t remember being able to see the marks made by the edge of the darkest blue pastel in the middle piece… I’m surprised I left it unblended. Viewing the pictures in situ adds to them in some way. I wonder if that is why St Tropez is such an artists’ haven?

I took supporting photos so if I choose this series to develop, I have those as a reference, and my memory.

PART 3. Project 2, Exercise 1. Cloud formations and tone.

Well, clouds are tricky!

Coloured pencils (with added soot from the ferry funnel!)

Soft pastels and coloured pencils, all nicely blended until the application of fixative which separated purple tones from the pastels and made the blue pencil lighter.

I think I achieved an impression of volume here.

Soft pastels and charcoal.

Soft pastels. I’m finding I’m still not very good at preserving the light areas. I used masking fluid for the sun low on the horizon here but managed to smudge dark pastel onto it and had to try to load up with pale colours, thus losing the impact and making the picture look stormy when the sky was actually very bright and the clouds in silhouette. The sun looks no lighter than the high pale cloud at the top of the picture.

I’m pleased with the effect achieved with minimal marks to portray the trees in the foreground in this and the previous piece.

First sketch conte sticks with highlights lifted out. This cloud was fast moving and changing which forced me to work quickly. This one is the closest representation of a cloud subject of all of these pieces. I think I’ve captured the wispy edges well on the left and underneath, and the more clearly defined right-hand ‘leading edge’ and sunlit top.

Second sketch pencil. I was trying different sorts of marks here to portray volume, none of which are particularly successful.


Simplified tonal study in soft pastels. I finally drew a cloud that doesn’t look like a rain cloud.  

PART 3. Project 1, Exercise 3, Study of several trees

For this study, I went to The Ornamental Drive in the New Forest, which is lined with gargantuan trees. This is a place we go to often as there is a parking area with picnic tables, so we go very early and make breakfast whilst the only sound is birdsong, before the tourists all arrive. I took charcoal pencils and soft pastels with me and set up my new field easel, thinking myself quite the artist whilst my husband cooked the bacon and brewed the coffee! Unfortunately, my charcoal pencils appear to be shattered inside, and that set of soft pastels contains exactly one shade of (distinctly unnatural) green. So I gave up on the sketch and contented myself with looking around through my viewfinder, thinking about composition, and took lots of photos to work from. I stuck with my original composition because of the bright August morning sunlight streaming through the gloom and evaporating dew of the thick woods.

I came across Unison pastels in my local independent art shop just as I started this degree, and had been thinking about them ever since. During the gallery visits I made in Hampshire Open Studios week, four different artists recommended them so I treated myself to the smallest ‘landscape’ set of half pastels before attempting to complete this piece. The pastels arrived, I adore them! They are extremely messy and my studio was covered in green paw prints, but the richness of colour is amazing and they blend beautifully. I’ll be getting more. After my attempts at clean negative space in the previous section of this course were hampered by dirty fingers, I researched and bought masking fluid, which I used here to protect the areas of pale light.

Progress shots:

Finished piece:

I found this piece highly enjoyable to work on. The composition and tones are very calming, probably because I can still remember how still the Forest was at the time, but hopefully this is captured by my drawing. I’ve simplified elements such as the leaf litter in the foreground and the foliage in the canopy in order to achieve greater focus on the bright sunlight. I like the way that a fast sweep of pastel across the foreground creates the right texture on this toothy paper.

Upon reflection I realise that I was concentrating on where the bright light falls and treating those blocks of yellow as almost tangible objects. This is the opposite of the way I have worked so far where shadows need to be focused on and carefully captured. I believe that because the edges of the scene are in shadow, the observer’s viewpoint changes. In perceiving the light this way, the shadows should just ‘look after themselves’ but I can see that, in trying to simplify, I’ve misaligned the resulting shadows in the foreground. So I need to look from both viewpoints in future.

PART 3. Project 1, Exercise 2, Large observational study of a single tree

During these studies of trees, which have made me really look at trees all the time, I’ve developed a particular liking for oaks, every one being so different with such interesting angular shapes, and also for birches, with their elegant limbs and fluttery leaves. This beautiful mature birch is on a farm track near my husband’s workshop and I sat for a few hours one sunny afternoon drawing it. It is now known as ‘my tree’…

There are no progress pictures as I was too engrossed. I used a sepia fine-point drawing pen on white cartridge paper. This was perfect for rendering all the tiny twigs and the striations in the characteristic bark. I’m very pleased with this drawing and think I’ve captured the shadows quite well, and achieved effective simplification of the upper foliage.

PART 2, Reflection

My video session with Ilsa was really positive and enjoyable. The tips and guidance given are very valuable, and the fact they are so specific and detailed gives me confidence that broadly, I am doing well.

I had tried to concentrate more on shadows after the feedback from Part 1, but this was picked up again as needing more focus. It is only upon reflection that I can see that I still did not pay enough attention to what I can really see, and to how I translate that onto the page. I reworked one of the stones from Proj1 Ex1, and can see a big difference. I particularly paid attention to the relative tonal value of the stone versus the shadow at each point along the boundary. I must take more care with shadows so they don’t become my nemesis!


Photograph of subject stone:

Reworked drawing:

Proj2 Ex4 Monochrome – this was the first time I have purposely stepped away from my favoured ‘traditional’ composition and I didn’t manage some elements particularly successfully. Ilsa’s guidance here was particularly insightful to me; the drawing is less successful, but with such a minimal composition, the demand is much higher. I have learned that composition isn’t just about viewpoint, it also impacts other aspects like technical requirements.

Proj3 Ex3 Material Differences –  I had never considered that we take for granted the work of artists in previous centuries, so Ilsa’s observation that my exploration of perspective using the panoramic feature on my smartphone is something ‘new’ that I’m undertaking on my own was both surprising and pleasing. I suppose as I research more and more contemporary artists, this will become harder to do. I’m relatively naive at the moment. The piece itself was not successful in my view, I need to find a solution to the dominance of the ceiling in the middle of the piece. I will probably circle back around that in a months’ time after my holiday driving round Europe, during which I need to be at the ‘landscape stage’ of Part 3 to take advantage of my travels, so I have to spend my time on the preceding exercises between now and then.

Assignment piece – I loved that this picture seemed to have caught Ilsa’s imagination; I got a little glow getting what felt like ‘additional’ feedback that was a distinctly personal response to the unusual aspects of the drawing! Again, some useful direction on small points to be careful and mindful of.

Sketchbooks – I hadn’t really appreciated that they should be used as a repository as well as a place for sketches. Mine now contains photos and reflections from studio visits and I shall continue in this vein. They will be lovely things in their own right I think.

Recommended reading – ‘Unnatural Wonders’ by Arthur C Danto to develop thinking and language, and ability to better collect and verbalise my thoughts and opinions. I’m 20 pages in and already slightly stunned by what I’m reading!

Ok, I’m off to draw some trees   :o)