Intimacy, Part 2. Project 2. Detailed observation of natural objects. Exercise 1. Detail and tone.

Exercise 1 Detail and tone

In this exercise practise building up dark, medium and light tones, using pencils and hatching and cross-hatching techniques. Select another object such as a shell or piece of driftwood. Get a varied effect by combining soft and medium grade pencils and altering the direction of the surfaces you make.

Use smooth A3 paper and a variety of soft pencils. Use a putty rubber to lift out the smallest highlights. Lightly sketch in the outlines of the objects. Hatch in the dark areas. Make sure you work all around the drawing so that you can compare the tones of different areas of the drawing. Seek put patterns and really focus on making them key aspects of the drawing.

Introduce contrast into your drawing. Make sure you have strong darks with deep cross-hatching, and other areas that are very light in tone, as well as variety in types of mark, direction of mark, continuous line and broken line.

Constantly review your work by stepping back from it. Ask yourself if you have sufficient contrasts and variation of mark, and whether you’re filling in an interesting and effective way.

Here is my start of studying detail in natural objects. My husband found these snail shells in our garden last year and put them on the mantle piece. They were calling to me to make a piece of art work.

So I’ve created some sketches using different art materials.  These are drawn with soft pastel.  I don’t usually work with soft pastel, but it was enjoyable blending the colours and drawing the details on top was difficult at first, but if I made any marks I didn’t want, I could just rub it out. The pastel gave the snail shell a soft vibrant feel. I decided to use a purple on the background to complement the gentle yellows on the shell surface.


I next drew a small series of snail shells with my reed pen and acrylic ink. These were a quick sketch series, a method I really love. It was to just capture the essence of the shell shape and some of the lines and marks.


Using soft coloured pencils I drew the snail shell and placed it in a square shape composition. I tried to express the background with a cross hatching mark. As my pencils were nice and sharp, I could add very fine details. Like soft pastels, I don’t usually draw with coloured pencils, but I did find this an exciting medium.


I got out the oil pastels for the next set of snail shell drawings, and my approach was a bit different. I decided to use a watercolour paints dropped over the oil pastel, the oily pastel resists the watery paint and it gives a flowing feel. I think I need to draw into this set a bit more to give the shell more form and shape.


My last practice sketch was with watercolour pencils. I had a scribbling time with this drawing, Using the pencils dipped in water and drawing into the yellow ochre watercolour paint gave a variety of marks and dark lines too.  I thought the watercolour pencils made the shells look prehistoric, like fossils.


A 3 Final drawing

I put together a still life composition with some other natural objects and my snail shells to make a final image. This was drawn with soft coloured pencils, which I now love. Hopefully I achieved lots of cross hatched lines to create the forms, creases and table top surface. For ages I played around with placing the objects, but I accidentally just put them down and got a composition I liked. The large shells are snail shells and I popped in a polished fossil and some feathers.








Vincent Van Gogh and Reed Pen Mark Making. Artist Research.

People won’t know this but I am an experienced watercolour painter and user of anything inky !! Well that just means I have a Reed Pen or two and just love to play around with it. A Reed Pen is just a piece of bamboo that has been shaped to a point or flat edge and once dipped in ink makes wonderful fluid marks.

Reed Pen and Acrylic Ink
Reed Pen and Acrylic Ink

Van Gogh was an expert with a Reed Pen, here are two samples of his expressive drawing. My favourite is the Sailing Boats drawing, the use of wavy lines and short dashes to explain the sea in wonderful. His use of thick and thin marks gives the water a choppy feel, with the sky’s movement just written as closed and open lines.

Sailing Boats Ink drawing with Reed Pen 1888
Lane at Les Saintes-Maries Ink drawing with Reed Pen 1888

The lane at Les Saintes-Maries is wonderful too, with it’s dotty path and woolly bushes and plants at the side. Van Gogh has used short marks to draw the roofs and followed their shape. And I just love the quick scribble for the wood smoke from the chimneys. He has also shown us one point perspective as the path runs off into the distance.

I’m adding two of Van Gogh’s paintings, as he continues his mark making in paint. The shoes on the floor look organic, well worn and so alive. The lines at the side of the shoe give it a feeling that it was just ‘dropped’ there on the floor, as bit like a cartoon line to show movement.

Shoes. 1888
Pears 1888

I love these pears just piled up. Each one looks ready to eat. His use of emotional lines and shading really do create the form of the pears, in such a way that you want to touch them. His composition is that of a triangle shape as the pears seem to rise to a point. Plus the back ground lines are drawn upwards, as if it was the back of a tree and the base is expressed as short lines.

Here’s my practice sheet on making marks with a Reed Pen and Acrylic ink. I’m just playing around.

Mark Making like Van Gogh using a Reed Pen and Ink.

Intimacy. Part 2. Additional drawings exploring composition using saws, brushes, shells, plastic skull, linen basket and jug.

In this section I have drawn a selection of items such as saws, paint brushes, a snail shell, jug, cutlery, plastic skull and more abstract mark making. and I wanted to explore composition with the objects too. The saws have a special meaning as they belonged to my father in law, who was a carpenter. They hang in a cupboard in the work shop and have stayed there since he passed away.

The above saws are all drawn in oil pastel and a pencil one on a coffee ground, I like oil pastel as you can blend and make rough or smooth marks with it. As the weather was so hot my oil pastels did start to melt, that’s why they look smooth. I drew the saws in a vertical position, as if they were standing up to have their portrait painted. This way suited the subject. I also did two background colours, brown and blue. I liked the blue the best, as it is complimentary to orange, and I decided to split the drawing up. I also placed a paper aperture on top to see what the handle looked like if it was cropped. It’s easy to crop a picture in my computer picture editing. The handle looks like a face. I enjoyed drawing these saws and will explore this subject again. The saws reminded me of Jim Dine’s art and it’s really resonated with me.

Brushes cropped in computer pencil drawing 2018This selection of five paint brushes was drawn with coloured pencils. They were laid flat on my work bench on white paper, with soft natural side light. Whilst drawing these brushes I thought of Jim Dine and his love of drawing ordinary household tools. I explored cross hatching to shade in the back ground, as the light was soft so difficult to explain in marks. However I was pleased with the brushes, I think I captured the light and the form of the objects. Also the composition is similar to the saws, but again I thought it suited the items. As I have looked at many of Jim Dine’s tool drawings, he uses far more expressive and dynamic scribbling style marks in his back grounds, and I feel I need to do the same with my marks. Something for me to improve on.

The Snail Shell is drawn in coloured pencils. I played around with composition using two rulers and paper to get the square shape that I thinks fits the subject quite well. Originally drawn on a rectangle I cut the drawing out and placed it on the grey sheet to see the square better. As it’s just a single item the square composition is a good shape. The pencils I drew with were very sharp, so I could get finer lines and marks, as the shell had some quite delicate markings with soft colour. I used line to express the shape by drawing outwards and around to get the form, hope it works. Also as the background was plain I decided to use a gentle purple with crossed lines to show shadows.

Skull in Felt Pen 2018

The plastic skull was drawn for a film, where I used a felt pen to draw over and over again. But I have, as yet to edit the film.  It took a while to get the shape of the skull and I lost the shape of the teeth, but as a speed drawing it came out looking quite scary ! !

The above drawing is of a shadow cast by my linen basket, so I taped a felt pen to a stick and drew in a loose way capturing the light. I had to be quick as the sun kept going in. I just loved the delicate soft shadows and the strong light too. A simple drawing but I could not leave it as I knew it would be gone by the end of the day.

Jug in Pink in Ink 2018

Jug, is an inky drawing made with black and pink inks. Drawn for another film which I need to edit.  A large A1 sized picture was sketched over and over again,dipping the stick into the ink so it dripped on the paper. I enjoyed the repeated motion of this drawing and feel the shape was lost because of it. However the very act of trying to scratch a shape with a simple tool is challenging.

Waves in Watercolour 2018

This drawing is a watercolour and a subject for another film. I drew with a stick then a brush loaded with water, to make these watery lines that bled into each other. I prefer to play with mark making as it has unlimited abstract qualities and really touches me emotionally. I can draw my Snail Shell in a traditional way, but it does not fulfil me in the same way as a loose drawing like this one. I have called it ‘Waves’.

This set of drawings, of plastic cutlery was created with charcoal on a coffee ground, required me to ‘lift out’ the shapes with a putty rubber. A good exercise in positive/negative drawing, which I really enjoyed.

Plastic cutlery in charcoal on a coffee ground


Plastic cutlery in charcoal on a coffee ground





Intimacy. Part 2. Project 1. Artist Research, Still Life.

What is ‘Still Life’ ?
It is the art of painting and drawing inanimate objects showing their composition, texture, form and colour. The Dutch word ‘still even’ means still life in English, but Eastern European countries liked the meaning ‘dead nature’. In the early 16th and 17th centuries most artists favoured painting natural and man-made objects together.
Dutch still life can be divided into three genres, floral still lives, breakfast painting and the venitas painting.
The Dutch East Company was founded in 1602 and with monopoly of the new world, new flowers were brought into Holland. Individual flowers had their own symbolic meaning and not chosen for their beauty. In flower painting no two flowers were the same that was due to blooming times.
Rachel Ruysch an important floral artist, painted in a dramatic way, including bees and butterflies which has a tie to Christianity, the bee was the passion and it’s stinger Christ’s crown of thorns. The butterfly represented the soul. Flowers embodied the fleeting nature of life.
Breakfast painting, a genre of still life consisted of a Dutch meal. Food was displayed on a wood table with a dark background, art by Clara Peeters is typical of this. Food in such paintings were Dutch staples and were a reminder of all things moderate. Many breakfast paintings held symbolic meanings, such as fish was the symbol for Christ and bread for the Eucharist.
The ‘Vanitas’ painting uses symbols for mortality, paintings include items like skulls, bones, clocks, oil lamps, candles and hourglasses. ‘Vanitas’ paintings became very popular, as did banquet style paintings, it showed great prosperity in Holland and it was reflected through the still life image. Here are some samples of early Still Life paintings, artists such as Clara Peeters (b.1594-died early 17th century), Rachel Ruysch (b.1664-1750).

(From ’50 Women Artists You Should Know’ by Christiane Klier. Prestel, 2016. Page 25 and 35)












Still Life from Spain, artists, Juan Sanchez Cotan (1560-1627), Pieter Aertsen (1508-75 ) who painted ‘monumental still life’.  Pedro de Camprobin (1605-74).

(From ‘Spanish Still Life from Velazquez to Goya by William. B. Jordan and Peter Cherry. National Gallery Publications. 1995. Pages 22, 112 and 183)












Albrecht Durer (b.1471- d. 1528) the earliest artist to paint and print still life images. Here’s his Writing Desk with Books and an Oval Book dated 1521.

(From Durer-the artist and his drawings by Christopher White. Phadion. 1971. Pages 190 and 191)

Durer. Writing Desk with books. Brush drawing in black ink. 1521.





Vanitas painters, Antonio de Pereda, (1611-78), Albrecht Durer (1471-1528)

(From ‘Spanish Still Life from Velazquez to Goya by William. B. Jordan and Peter Cherry. National Gallery Publications. 1995. Page 112)





(From ‘Spanish Still Life from Velazquez to Goya by William. B. Jordan and Peter Cherry. National Gallery Publications. 1995. Page 183)









Francisco Jose de Goya (1746-1828) painted only a few still life images, his famous one being, Still Life with Pieces of Rib, loin and Head of Mutton, c.1808-12, oil on canvas.

Goya. Still Life with pieces of Rib, Loin and Head of Mutton.1808 Oil on canvas

These highly realistic and symbolic paintings of still life started to decline towards the end of the eighteenth century, there were some artists who painted trompe l’oeil such as Jean-Simeon Chardin.

The Impressionists of the nineteenth century started to draw and paint in a looser and lighter way. Artists such as Henri Matisse, Van Gogh, and Paul Cezanne, who made the apple popular ! They documented everyday life using bright oil paint colours, which was now in tubes, on crisp white backgrounds.









(From A Concise History of Modern Painting, Thames and Hudson. 1993. Pages 35 and 40. From Cezanne 1839-1906 Pioneer of Modernism by Ulrike Becks. Page 57)

Picasso (1881-1973) completely changed the way we looked at art, and his still life paintings included collage pieces, and of course his introduction of Cubism.

(From Picasso by Franck Elgar. Spur Books Ltd. London. 1974. Page 50)









The twentieth and twenty first centuries have seen many changes in how the still life has been represented. Different thinking using concepts, variety of materials, digital influence and the internet have given artists a rich source to make their art. Here are some examples. Georgia O’Keeffe painted huge sensual flower paintings. Rebecca Horn works with sculpture, video, performance and film. Andy Warhol lead the way with silk screen printing, film, music and painting. Patrick Caulfield painted with acrylic very large brightly coloured interiors and still life settings. Lisa Milroy paints objects on a white background in a regimented way. Tracey Emin makes installations of her bed and personal items.





(From New British Art-in the Saatchi Collection by Allistair Hicks. Thames and Hudson, 1989. Pages 36, 37 and 77) (From ’50 Women Artists You Should Know’ by Christiane Klier. Prestel, 2016. Page 85, 111 and 149) (From Pop Art by Tilman Osterwold. Taschen.1991. Page 180)





It is important to see how still life has changed from the dark chiaroscuro technique to lighter and brighter art of the later centuries. Composition altered from being a formal set up to artists exploring different views, with wider spacing, 3 D art on walls and floors. Artists have gone from working 2 D to using sculpture, film, video, and installation. I think many of the subjects are still the same, and the use of symbols or a story is still there, but it looks and feels different, less traditional with the access to new materials and technologies artists are freer to explore their ideas and concepts.

And finally I saw this art piece on the internet and I have added a link, as this artist has used the latest technology to represent still life.

Worth a look.

Intimacy. Part 2. Composition. Positive/Negative drawing.

Drawing with one line with few breaks. Positive and negative space sketching.

Here is a selection of some drawings I engaged in whilst on holiday. I was interested in drawing fast so I could capture the essence of the subject. So I sat on a Norwich bench in the market and watched the pigeons feeding on scraps. With a fast flowing gel pen I quickly drew the birds around me. Each picture taking roughly 2 to 3 seconds. Sometimes I over drew on the same page, getting a very animated picture. The action of the birds was quite comical, and sometimes I drew just the one bird who kept coming passed me. Sometimes it was two or three birds.


Whilst I was drawing, a group of homeless folk sat next to me and one of the men had a dog, so I asked if I could draw her. It was a hot day so the dog was restless. Here’s what I sketched.


On another day, in Cromer, sitting in a cafe, a dog wandered in with it’s elderly owners. So I was keen to sketch this dog, he was called Benji. I quite liked the sketches, in fact these are my favourites.


It’s interesting that you only need a few lines to capture the feel, character, form and shape of the subject.  In Chinese brush painting the whole thinking is to paint with a few lines and marks. Less is more. Matisse was a master with drawing, he was able to sketch with very loose open lines to create window views or portraits of women.

Picasso also drew quickly with line and played around with positive and negative spaces. So I decided to redraw the pigeons and shade in the spaces at random. Here’s my results. Filling the spaces has made the birds look solid and giving them a sense of movement.


Positive and Negative drawing.

Positive and negative drawing is the process of looking at a still life ( and other things) and seeing the gaps or spaces between the objects, that can be shaded in and will create the shape of object or still life.

In this next sketch I drew a pile of saws with a soft 2B pencil, drawing only the spaces between the saws, good for observing and easy to get lost in the picture too. Plus some extra drawings from my sketch book.



This next sketch is of my washing, but drawn with ink and a stick. There are lots of spaces as it’s a very open drawing. I chose a square shape piece of paper as it suited the subject, as I visually cropped the area I was looking at. I tried to capture the washing slightly moving in the hot breeze.




Assignment 1. Part 1. Form and gesture. ‘Shells in Ink’

Here is my Assignment One picture.

Shells in Ink
Shells in Ink Still Life view

Assignment One; Reflection

I chose this group of shells as they are part of a collection I have kept for many years. I am attached to the shell at the back, as my husband bought it for me and it came from The Shell Grotto in Margate. The large white one at the side, well, I’ve just had that for years and years. The other larger shell in the front, was given to me by a boy in a special school where I lived in the 1970’s, his name was Simon Wakeling. The small shells are newer to my collection, one is a snail shell from my garden and the other I picked up from Poppit Sands in Wales earlier this year.
So I just placed them in a simple height composition and drew with a gel pen in a loose way. Once I had the basic shapes I decided to draw with India ink and a chop stick, the chop stick gives a smoother mark on the paper. I made quite a few marks and scribbles to create some textures and lines on the shells. The light source was a natural side light, but I had quite deep shadows.
I love India ink, it has an amazing quality in that you can made deep dark tones or dilute it for lighter ones. It can take a while to dry and when it does those, areas that are very thick dry shiny and leave a tacky residue. It’s a very tactile product.
The back ground was made with water just touching the ink with a brush so that the wet ink runs into the water and spreads on the paper, this is a watercolour painting technique called ‘wet in wet’. It is an unpredictable method, but that’s the best thing about it. Even though my background was quite dark, I thought it looked like the calm water in a pool. Because the surface was so wet the paper cockled, so next time I’ll use watercolour paper as it can hold the ‘wet in wet’ method better.
Things I would improve are;
1) A heavier paper support.
2) Brighter light source.
3) Variety of mid tones, rather than dark and light.
4) Paint it in watercolour paints.

Additional painting

I drew this still life again, using pen and watercolour washes. Alongside the pen lines I drew with a wax candle to create additional marks. The wax then resisted the watercolour washes.

I think I prefer the inky painting I made earlier, but I was able to make different textures and marks with the watercolour image. My first painting feels looser and has a more watery based composition. I know I was thinking of the sea when I was painting it. The watercolour is more of a formal still life on a work bench. I find it interesting how different mediums has encouraged me to make two different kinds of art, but using the same still life subject. It shows how spontaneous I can be towards the India ink, and how formal I have used the watercolour paint.

Shells in watercolour, wax and pen
Shells in watercolour, wax and pen