PART 2. Project 2, Exercise 3 Experiment with Mixed Media

This time, experiment with using both traditional art tools and ‘non-art’ media. Use wax crayons, ballpoints, highlighters and fat marker pens together with pencils, dipping pens and oriental brush pens (and so on). Think again about your support; perhaps use a coloured wash and/or collaged, textured surface. Whichever media you choose, make notes on how the drawing style, visual effect and conceptual possibilities change or emerge with your use of the different media.

I was quite at a loss as to how to start this exercise. I’ve never done mixed media work before and generally I’m not particularly fond of pieces that have lots of different things stuck to the background. But then my local ‘Scrapstore’ had an open day and I went along with my friend. I found quite a few nice bits and pieces that will doubtless come in useful in future, one of which was a roll of fabric-like paper. It looks exactly like what teabags are made from and is very tough. It doesn’t wick ink away from a drawing pen (but it does from a dipping pen, as I found out on the final piece, much to my irritation!) and it takes both soft and oil pastels really well. Also the tiny holes and widely spaced fibres show whatever colour is put behind it (the photos don’t show this particularly well for the final piece). I thought this might enhance the frilliness of the nigella tendrils and also portray the rough surface of the brick in an interesting way.

Composition:  I gathered a few more handfuls of seed pods to really load up the picture and give me lots of variety to work with. I just dropped them beside the brick and was really pleased with the way everything landed, even the tiny one that skittered away to the left slightly (I did move that one back a bit closer). Nobody move!

Progress shots.  Afraid not! I nearly threw this away after about ten minutes. I absolutely hated the way it was going whilst I was using coloured pencils. Fortunately, I persevered and started layering up the colours using pastels. I used both soft and oil pastels. I used markers, drawing pens and dipping pen and ink (note bright green splodge beside the right-most seed pod). The marker pens were too course and the colour too uniform so I have used drawing pen to break those marks up. I was finding it difficult to achieve the detailed black holes where the seeds escape once I had used oil pastel, so I whittled down a bamboo skewer to a tiny wedge shape and used ink. I found that I could push the ink into the pastel to create the slightly wrinkled surface observed on the larger pods.

Final piece, plus close-ups.

I think on reflection I would have liked to do more to the left corner of the brick, and I wish I hadn’t used marker pens as some of the stalks still look quite crude. But this is actually my favourite piece since my highly reflective pots in Part 1, which I really wasn’t expecting!

PART 2. Project 2, Exercise 2 Still Life in Tone Using Colour

Set up another still life group. Use a coloured pencil or pastel to sketch them in roughly, using the side of the medium to create broad strokes. Then, use a different colour to sketch in the mid tones, and yet another colour to sketch in the light tones. Work your way around the composition, adding layers of colour on colour, varying the type and pressure of mark, building up tone, shadow and contrasts. Think carefully about using a variety of effects, pattern, sweeps of colour, etc. Work quite fast to keep the activity and the image spontaneous and energetic.

The course guide says to not overwork the piece and start again if you don’t like your attempts. This piece came very naturally (I was quite caught up and forgot to take progress shots) and I was pleased with the result so I moved on. On reflection, the shadows aren’t great, and the middle fold of the scarf next to the boot could be better. I think I captured the worn leather well. I enjoyed the intellectual aspect of restricting myself to a limited palette to denote the different tonal values. In reality, the bag is black fabric, the scarf is cream raw silk and the boots are dark grey.

A2 rough paper, soft pastels.

PART 2. Project 2, Exercise 1 Still Life Using Line

Set up a still life group and select objects that either seem to connect naturally, or deliberately contrast or clash. Make a drawn study that shows understanding of the forms, and of the connections and spaces between the forms. Concentrate on patterns, textures and shapes. Tone can be indicated, but this is principally an exercise about line.

Making sketches in gardens of flowers and seedpods, I found that these lend themselves very well to line drawings. My sketches reminded me of old-fashioned diagrams drawn by exploring botanists.

Inspired by the example illustration in the course guide (Carol Smith, Driftwood, 2010), I tried white ink on black paper. It feels unconnected to the subject matter and therefore contrived. My next studies were on white cartridge paper with various media, as per annotations.

I absolutely love the seedpods of this wild sweet-pea – they are so striking in their colour; dark brown, almost black, and their form once opened is spiral twists with the occasional seed trapped in the spaces between. I managed to find a sprig that has an intact pod amongst the open ones. The aquilegia pods are such interesting gnarled forms, very different from their highly uniform but complex flowers. The wood hyacinths remind me of some sort of musical instrument and I like the closely repeating pattern they follow up the stalk. Lastly I chose nigella pods. These are favourites of mine, because they have a lush full shape surrounded by masses of feathery tendrils, and they are all different sizes and colours.


Composition: I found this lovely old-fashioned terracotta pot in the shed, and half an old brick left over from when I edged my lawn a few years ago. The pot is fairly clean, just some dusting of old soil in it, but the brick has been outside for many years and has a fur of moss over much of the surface. I like the way this is a mixture of man-made and natural and ties the piece together.


Progress shots:

Final piece:

I found it quite counter-intuitive to not use any tone, but I like the overall effect of not doing so. I realise that it seems as if I have put a shadow under the brick, but this is merely unfortunate the position of soil in the pot and was pointed out to me by a fellow student!

I was very struck by the impact of adding a simple horizon line. I debated with myself for a while about doing it and even drew it in pencil first, but I think it was right to add it; the drawing needs it in the absence of tone.

I deliberately put the most chaotic forms, the nigella, in the middle and allowed the more structural shapes to frame them. I found that a 0.2mm drawing pen was very effective for this kind of delicate work, and I was still able to vary the type of mark I made, even with such a narrow tip.

PART 2. Project 1, Exercise 1 Detail and Tone

Practice building up dark, medium and light tones, principally using pencils and hatching and cross-hatching techniques.

For this section I collected natural objects; pebbles and shells from Southsea beach and seedpods and flowers from my parents’ garden and from my own. I did various studies of the shapes and forms I found most interesting, and chose the pebbles and shells as the subject of this first exercise:

I spent time trying to figure out how best to portray the ‘mother of pearl’ effect of some of the shells. I tried using charcoals on black paper (awful), and bought a burnishing pencil, which was not particularly effective, but which does offer some resistant qualities that may be useful in future. In the end, I think just careful observation of colour was fairly successful.



Trying different media on my chosen paper:


Thoughts on composition. I’ve moved slightly away from my ‘comfort zone’ of a central grouping.

Final decision on the composition:

Progress shots:

Final piece, with some close-ups. Using only pencils, I found that I couldn’t get good enough highlights and pale tones just with the white pencil and by lifting with various rubbers, so I supplemented these with ‘flesh tone’ and white oil pastels. I also forgot about my intention to have the pebbles reach out of the field of view to imply a continuity of the ‘tide-line’. I could cheat and crop it, but I like the shapes of the end pebbles so I’m not going to do that.

I like the variation of tone achieved, especially in the areas where the pebbles cast shadows on each other. I’m particularly pleased with the tiny orangey-coloured one in the middle of the right hand group. I was slightly disappointed that given the scale of the drawing, the shells I had spent so much time on in the studies are too small to really reflect the detail I had achieved previously.

I hadn’t ever considered coloured pencils to be a ‘serious’ art medium, more just something that children use. I bought some Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils, which are quite soft and give a really rich colour. It felt like discovering a new medium and I enjoyed this exercise immensely.