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While talent and hard work might prove sufficient to get you through art school, survival as an artist in our contemporary world demands much more. To produce anything of lasting value requires a strong belief and love for what you do, and great patience. Establishing one’s identity as a serious artist takes time, and then it requires fortitude to maintain that identity with any kind of integrity. — David Blackwood, 1992


After struggling with shadow.  Finding it was too harsh.  Contemplating how to cover it with white options.  Trying them out on spare paper.  Rubbing out for over an hour did not answer the dilemma.  Trying to redraw the picture.  My brain would not go there.  Was I too tired?  Was it the left brain, right brain thing?  Or had my brain decided that it had already solved this problem and therefore did not need to do it again.  Cutting out the objects and gluing them with acid-free glue onto another piece of paper, then placing them under a heavy book.  Investigating how David Hockney’s shadows fell.  Drawing again a shadow on the background… It was only a little better.  The paper was too thin and it did not lie flat.  Visiting a new art shop I explained my dilemma.  Ah, they said, use double sided adhesive paper and thicker paper.  I had suspected the thicker paper was the way to go but had not heard of the other. Returning home, I drew again the handbag ,as a line drawing using hatching, inspired by Van Gough’s etching of Paul Gachet.  Also to warm me up for drawing that shadow again and possibly procrastinate on doing the deed in case I got it wrong again…

Man-made objects, supporting study

Man-made objects, Assignment 1 Drawing

Looking at shape, tone and angles rather than the objects.  I tried similar objects to the first bread and cheese, then branched into glass containers loving the light and vague shapes coming through them.  Finally I tried my handbag, emptying the articles that were in it.

Trying glass containers and kitchen items

Trying out handbag and items sketches

Trying out kitchen containers

Sitting in the sun for 3-4 hours meant that the sun moved and the shadows changed. I didn’t realize how valuable looking back at the photo for light reference would be.  I will try to use lamps for longer works.  For now, I need to redo this study with a fixable light source.

Drawing in the sunshine at the beginning of the day

Drawing for ‘Man-made’ Assignment, A3 loose paper, charcoal and coloured pencil

How I drew these two different pieces.

I drew the man-made objects first.  I was very nervous about my first piece.  The first loose sheets I used.  Yes, I did all my exercises in a large A3 Visual Diary.  I remember feeling great that the objects looked like what they were.  Visualising each object singly. I came back to it over days to work on.  Having sprayed the drawing, it was hard to do anything about the niggles I had re circles and ellipses, particularly with the wine glass.

The natural object piece of cabbage and peppers was done quite differently.  This was helped by my being under a table for most of the day with a lamp on one side and a cloth on the other to stop any other light bouncing on.  So I looked for light and dark, not individual objects.  I was more confident working on a loose sheet now having done it for the other piece.  I did the main piece over one day, getting up for morning tea and lunch!  The media for the preliminary drawings, (charcoal and pen & ink) was used loosely and quickly though carefully.

What worked and what didn’t?

The second piece with the cabbage worked while the first with the man-made articles didn’t .  Why not?

What did I do wrong?  What could  I do differently now?

I read somewhere in a golfing book that the practise shot is often a better shot so an idea around that is to tell yourself, ‘this is a practise shot, and your arms will loosen, your brain clear.  You will enjoy the shot for what it is and not fixate on the dilemma of pass or fail, good or brilliant… or whatever…your interanal judge says to you.

But my first preliminary (practice shot), drawings and my piece didn’t work so well here.  What did I do wrong?  I worried. I worried about putting in my first assignment.  I fixated on the objects.  I really liked my objects.  And I really liked the composition.  As opposed to the cabbages which aren’t my favourite vegetable… where I just played with the veggies till I got an interesting play of light, angles and shapes.  Ah, that is it.  Next time, I’ll chose ‘anything’ objects and draw them looking for interesting light, shape and angles rather than carefully choosing ‘romantic’ objects and compositions.

Also, I need one light source, be relaxed and focus on drawing rather than … and confidence using loose sheets.  I’m working on loose sheets now.  And I can use the lamp more.  And it will help to do what Jim suggests… “Try not to see each part of the course as separate but as a whole with aspects that relate and have a developmental thread.”

What worked for me ?

What also worked for me with the cabbages was the use of line. Line in the preliminary drawings and in the final piece.  I am finding I really like drawing line rather than tone.  I find a freedom doing that.  It doesn’t have to be pencil.  That I’d rather pick up a black pen or charcoal than a pencil and just start to draw.


To look at light (tone) , shape and angles rather than objects.

Use large loose paper confidently.

Use a lamp.

Listen to my niggles.

Think of assignments and exercises as stepping-stones.

Exploring the shapes of my cut veggies.

Playing with cut capsicum shapes in pencil

Quick Study in Charcoal

I’d been thinking about white pencil on black paper  since the night before.  I got my 3 different white pencils out.  They all had varying degrees of softness in their lead and so performed slightly differently.  To me, Prismacolor has a very soft lead and has almost a pastel feel and look  and was good for laying down lots of color.  While Derwent has a very sharp lead point and was good for fine detail.  Faber-Castell performed somewhere in the middle.  I tried white pastel on the first capsicum and it acted like wax to water with the white pencils.  It was the one in the middle.  I didn’t use the pastel again in the drawing!  A putty rubber came in handy several times but it wasn’t used constantly like in the bread and cheese drawing.  I think next time I would use a bigger piece of paper and give the top of the cabbage more room.  I was happy with the layout and grouping even through a put in a man-made object too.  But it seemed to fit and I felt it needed a sharp and long object to offset the round and gentle curves of the other objects. Then I thought about widening the cabbage so as it unfurled its leaf spread a little more over the table.  I am finding that the process of choosing and discarding and planning a drawing takes some time but is more satisfying and so enjoyable in the end…

Assignment 1, Drawing with white pencil on black paper

Looking again and struggling with composition and how to place everything.  I had too many objects and I began subtracting, the sweetcorn went, so did the garlic and the onion.  I decided to cut the capsicum which was scary but I consoled myself with the thought I could always buy some more!

Cutting up veggies and now I see the knife as a player in the work

I found it really difficult to choose a good composition with vegetables!  It seems easier with loaves and wine bottles to make a pleasing shape/outline for a drawing.  I choose Faber-Castell Pitt artist pens to do a tonal felt-tip study and then used pen and ink for a more gutsy (messy), contour drawing.

Pen and Ink Contour-line Quick Study

Faber-Castell PITT artist pen

Tonal felt tips Quick Study

The next day I took my vegetables to my painting class…. and back again having drawn a few shape ideas….

Thinking about how to arrange my veggies!

Working on shapes and the placing of shapes together

An Adventure was had working through my first assignment for OCA.  The first obstacle was facing the blank piece of paper!  I then cut it in half to be A3 size which felt more realistic for my objects.

Then it was moving around my objects to find what worked.  My drawing class here was doing design with black paper on white.  I played at the end of the class with my still life objects and ways to place them.  By doing that I realised I wanted a taller loaf!

Deviating to my still life design

Design in black and white

I worked on another quick study, this time using Derwent Sketching pencils that you can wash with water and a brush.

Quick study, pencil and wash

Then back home I changed my seating to an eseal and art clip board.  Two hours is too long to hold a board on a tilt! – for me anyway.  Shut curtains, checked the light coming through and started.

On the second day of the Brie being out but sealed, I cut into it.  My husband tasted it saying warm, but nice.  After an afternoon in the sun with a triangle cut out of it and then leaving it there over dinner time, I had to throw the cheese out.  Another learning curve!  This study wasn’t going to work so I needed a new topic.

Just dashing off a quick blog to say I’ve started.  I’m looking at one of two still life drawings and starting with man-made objects.  Yesterday I had a collection of a wine bottle, glass, cheese, knife, bread bin.

Today I have modified that to wine bottle, glass, cheese, knife and bread.  I thought tomatoes would look lovely in front of the bread till I remembered they are natural and not man-made!  The bread board offered a great shadow yesterday from the bottle and glass, but I felt it gave too many directional lines and perspective issues.  The window and curtain is much more interesting, I think.  Closing all the doors and other curtains brings the light in from behind the objects.  I think I’m happy with that at present.

Still Life – I’ve moved the cheese!

Quick charcoal study

I’m thinking about Joan, my drawing teacher at the Art society here telling me last Friday, “we did a drawing class everyday at art school and that included still life”.  So, I’m just thinking about how much more I could put time aside to drawing.  That motivates me.  I started off doing this so I could paint better.  Now drawing might grab me for its own sake, I’m musing…  Could I come down to my art room and draw daily, not just put aside a day for at home work, a day for painting class, a day for drawing class.  Yes, let’s try that daily thing. I could work through a few of my art tutor books too, like “Drawing on the right side of the brain”, and Learning to Draw; a creative process” by Robert Kaupelis.

I'm an artist, teacher, percussionist, and mother currently studying for an Honours BA in Creative Arts with OCA, UK.