Project 1: Observational drawing (Part 3) – Reflection

This has been a very educational and enjoyable exercise for me. I’ve struggled with still life composition in the past and agonised over the choice and arrangement of the elements to such a  degree that I’ve had no energy or creativity left by the time I got to painting and drawing. This exercise has given me a whole new insight into a more creative way of designing a composition and with it a new enthusiasm for still life.

I don’t have a final drawing but I do have a lot of experiments in composition and I’ve pulled out below those that I think have the most potential. These have moved a long way from my original ready-made still life on a window sill and brought in the blinds, brickwork and a ‘comma’ shape ( the negative space inside the watering can handle) as repeated motifs. I’ve never worked this way before and I’m excited by it, while also recognising that I’ve still a way to go in achieving a creative composition that I feel really happy with. I need to do much more thinking about the space around the elements (which is addressed in the next exercise) and I could do with using the red brick motifs with more subtlety. Nonetheless, I’m pleased with the outcomes of my experiments and feel that the character of the basil and parsley in my observational drawings has been carried through.

Also see:

Part 1 – Initial photography and sketches

Part 2- Experiments with composition


Project 1: Observational drawing (Part 2) – putting the elements together to explore composition

Next I had a lot of fun photographing, printing and cutting up some of my initial drawings to explore the different ways the various elements could be arranged to make a more creative still life.

Also see

Part 1 – Initial photography and sketches

Part 3- Reflection


Project 1: Observational drawing – an unpromising subject / initial drawings

A couple of pots of herbs bought from the supermarket sit on a window sill by our kitchen door. They’ve grown in a straggly out of control fashion. Alongside there is a green plastic watering can. As a still life arrangement it is definitely unpromising but it has elements I can work with:

  • interesting leaves and shapes to the parsley and basil plants
  • some fascinating negative shapes around the watering can
  • the horizontal lines of the window blind behind with light shining through when viewed from the inside
  • some lovely red bricks.

I took a lot of photos from different angles including some close ups and include a few here.

Initial drawings

I couldn’t really begin by drawing the basil and parsley plants in their totality as the arrangement was too messy to find my way in, so I drew elements in a deconstructed way and generally played around with all the component parts using a variety of media.


Also see

Part 2- Experiments with composition

Part 3 – Reflection


Visit to the the Henry Moore Foundation for tapestries and much more

Back in the spring I wrote about the Henry Moore Tapestries for my final assignment for Creative Arts Today but was incredibly frustrated because I was not able to get to see them as the Henry Moore Foundation was closed. But it was worth the wait.  I went to see them in August and they took my breath away. They hang in the Aisled Barn Henry Moore had erected for this purpose at his estate at Perry Green, Herfordshire. The lighting is low to protect them but they shine out with a spectral beauty.

The weavers at West Dean College laboured over these tapestries translating every line, mark, wash, splash and smudge from Moore’s drawings.

Ever since I started with OCA, more than four years ago, I have been an admirer of Moore’s drawings, especially his Shelter Drawings made in London’s underground shelters during the Blitz (WW2). They continue to inspire me and,  as I’m just starting on Drawing 2, it’s good to remind myself of his technique.

He used combinations of pencil, pen, charcoal, pastel, chalk, felt pen, wax crayon, chinagraph, gouache and watercolour wash. He would run his drawings under a tap to disperse charcoal dust and deliberately blot watercolour to create blurring.

By drawing vertically down the form and horizontally across, Moore was able to represent the curves and shapes of the body. He called this sectional drawing. He also used a subtle luminosity created with white wax crayon to dramatically enhance his forms. It is the translation of this that gives the tapestries their spectral beauty.

The Henry Moore Foundation is a very special place. The estate was Moore’s home and you can wander through the extensive grounds and enjoy his statues in a beautiful and uplifting setting. His studios are open to view and full of the found objects that inspired him including large shapely flints that echo the  forms of his sculptures.

Starting with experimental work from his student days in Yorkshire and London, Becoming Henry Moore is a world class exhibition that presents Moore’s work from 1914 to the 1930s, shown alongside that of artists who inspired him or worked alongside him. These include British contemporaries such as Barbara Hepworth and Leon Underwood as well earlier masters including Picasso and Rodin.

There is lots to see so it’s well worth making a day of it. Closed during winter and early spring as well as on Monday’s and Tuesdays. Phone first if you want to see the tapestries as the barn is sometimes used for weddings. Find out more at:

If you’re interested, here’s my essay about the tapestries (pdf file)


Scissors in a Landscape

I cut up an old, experimental ink and Conté crayon drawing (coated with gesso) of the view from Robin Hood’s Hut in Somerset with a view to putting a lino print of branches over it. I had a last minute change of mind and, instead, I drew (with a chalk pen) the scissors that I used to cut up my picture. The result if a quirky juxtaposition using two contrasting drawing styles. A bit weird and wacky but interesting.


Happy marbling accidents

I’ve been having a go at marbling for the first time using some inks my niece bought me for my birthday. The great thing about not knowing what you are doing is that you can get some unexpected outcomes.

I can’t help but enjoy this accidental female form (1) complete with very suggestive splodge of red. The blobby images (2) feel like loose frames waiting for a drawing. (3) and (4) are much more conventional marbling (I’d got – or perhaps lost – the hang of it by this stage) but these could become backgrounds for drawings or be collaged into a picture.

Marbling could be a good way to kick start some ideas when stuck. It is certainly enjoyable.

One linocut with many and varied outcomes

Continuing with printmaking I made one A4 size linocut of tree branches and experimented with monoprint backgrounds and printing over existing drawings and paintings… and also added a stencil for the jug.