Tutor Feedback – Assignment 4

3 - Lying Down - Conte Stick and Compressed Charcoal

Overall Comments

You’ve delivered another strong submission Mark. The determination and enthusiasm you have shown throughout the past four parts of the module has clearly been of great benefit to you as you approach the final part of this module. It is your unerring interest in the subject of drawing and your resolve to advance in the process that will successfully see you through to the end of this course. 

The first exercises looking at quick and long poses display good observational skills. Quick sketches of the figure are a wonderful way of loosening up before approaching longer, more studied pieces and allow the artist to look at the subject in a rapid way, to define what is integral as well as superfluous in the detail of the sketch in the given time and is important for honing the eye and hand. They are well-proportioned and show that you can handle – and understand – the process of measuring well. As these are your first experiments with drawing the figure from life I think you should feel very happy with the results. The more you do the more adept you will become with the process of looking and transposing what you see. Again the longer poses display good proportional observation as well as a good understanding of the portrayal of attitude.

I learnt a lot about measuring proportions from this exercise particularly how many heads distance it was from the crown of the head to the seat of the bum which was approximately 3.5.

The drawings you have produced for the essential shapes and elements exercises show good understanding of how to represent form and your decision to use charcoal was well founded both in the drawings of your girlfriend and in the series of your daughter. Proportion is well observed and rendered and elements such as foreshortening have been approached simply and successfully. You mentioned in the check and log for the proportion exercises that you feel a little frustrated with your abilities to represent a facial likeness in relation to the overall drawing – one step at a time Mark. With your focus and determination I am in no doubt that you will find that you’ll develop your own way to tackle the complexities of facial structure. Like the body it is all about proportion and form but with the face the detail is much more intricate. The ‘tightness’ you perceive when approaching the face is normal for this early stage of your practice. It is the pressure we put on ourselves to achieve a ‘true’ or life-like representation of the model’s features that often hinders progress and ‘puts us off’, especially when you are not only restricted by time but the desire to ‘get it right’ creates a kind of hurdle to what is normally free-flowing creative expression. For these exercises it is not necessary to produce fully formed portraits with intricate detail. Try to hint at the features by using simple tone to describe the shape of the face.

4 - Charcoal on A3 Paper
Charcoal on A3 Paper
1 - Charcoal on A4 Sketch Book
Charcoal on A4 Sketch Book

You have produced a vast array of work for the stance and energy exercises. It is good to see that you are pushing yourself with such enthusiasm Mark and the results show that you have a good eye for the depiction of weight and balance. The line you use in these sketches is particularly appropriate and successful: it is sure and confident and delineates the stance and energy of the poses without forsaking attention to detail such as proportion and anatomy.

I wasn’t as impressed with my energy drawings and so after I submitted my coursework I did some research on Gesture drawing as well as some reading, Force, Michael Mattesi and did a new set of drawings for this exercise, which I did submit to my tutor afterwards so maybe that is what he is taking about. 

drawing 4
New Run at Gesture Drawings

You have approached the structure exercises with great enthusiasm and openness with regards the use of different techniques and media. There are some very slight issues with proportion in some but I don’t think you should be overly concerned here – it’s like you’ve concentrated too closely on specific detail rather than considering how each anatomical element relates and works together by looking at the subject as a whole.

4 - Finished Anatomical Drawing Half and Half
Finished Anatomical Drawing Half and Half

I think my tutor was talking about the anatomical drawing above but I am not too sure. If so then I can say I wasn’t thinking about specific detail, I was thinking about how anatomical elements related to each other. At this stage we were a bit ‘shy’about nude drawings in detail but the choice of clothes for the model, my girlfriend, on this exercise was probably a bit poor and so it didn’t show off the structure as well and so I wasn’t able to.

1 - Sitting, Conte, Charcoal, Conte Pencil
1 – Sitting, Conte, Charcoal, Conte Pencil
2nd Pose 3 - Water Soluble Pencils Better Proportions
2nd Pose 3 – Water Soluble Pencils Better Proportions

In the conté and charcoal drawing of the seated figure, the upper part of her right arm appears too thin in relation to the overall proportion, and in the drawing using white gel ball the arm resting on the door knob appears a little elongated. The foreshortened reclining pose in conté and charcoal however is very nicely observed and delineated in terms of proportion, form and structure. The depiction of foreshortening can often cause great problems and confusion but not in your case. You’ve produced a very well executed drawing here Mark.

3 - Lying Down - Conte Stick and Compressed Charcoal
Lying Down – Conte Stick and Compressed Charcoal

I am hitting the same problems all the time, I am producing my best work on a small scale, I love this drawing and yet I am not sure whether it will get me where I want to be in the assessment when framed.

The drapery studies for the clothed figure exercises also show keen observational abilities. The manner in which you have portrayed the lightness and swathe of the fabric by utilising line following form and allowing the surface of the paper to describe highlights is very successful. The subtlety of tonal range in these drawings is also very well observed and this is particularly successful in the two drawings of the reclining figure using white pastel on black paper and the graphite version of the same pose (I must also say here that the face in this piece is beautifully rendered!). There is an undeniable believability in the way you have portrayed how the fabric drapes over the model’s body.

2 - White Pastel on Black paper
2 – White Pastel on Black paper
1 - 6B Pencil in A4 Sketchbook
1 – 6B Pencil in A4 Sketchbook

I shall be producing a finished piece for the exercise above from these sketches and the drapery studies.

You quick sketches for the sitting and waiting and fleeting moment exercises show good observational responses to what can be quite a difficult and pressurised way to work, especially for you in terms of the recent circumstances in Bangkok!

4 - Walking Women in Oil Pastel
Walking Women in Oil Pastel

It is evident that you thrive on these set tasks Mark. The definite evidence of development as you work through the self-portrait exercises is clear. The determined and studied visual research for shape and proportion you have employed for this exercise has surely helped with this. From the slightly tentative first sketches for the ‘Drawing your face’ exercise to the surer, more ‘finished’ pieces in different media, you have once again produced a focused collection of work. I thought the eighth portrait in conté and Chinese white pencil particularly successful with good attention to incident and reflected light. I thought the portrait from memory of Vladimir Putin worked well and was definitely recognisable as the Russian leader. 

Feedback on assignment Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity 

The assignment piece of your girlfriend reclining on the sofa in soft pastel was very well conceived, observed and executed. Once again you have handled the media successfully. The composition is well-balanced and the depiction and overall effect of light and shade makes for a very effective study – a nod to the reclining figure from the history of art, to Manet’s Olympia, Titian’s Venus of Urbino, Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus, Goya’s La maja desnuda, the list goes on? A very successful piece Mark!

Tone and Form - Finished Piece Soft Pastel, Green Ingres
Tone and Form – Finished Piece Soft Pastel, Green Ingres

This assignment was a breath of fresh air after the last one but there was a downside though that I hadn’t expected. The soft pastel colours were so bright until I used the fixative what I hadn’t anticipated was that the fixative would dampen it or blow the pastel dust away and allow so much of the green paper to show through making it murky, the upside of this of course is that it gives it a ancient/spooky look.

Tone and Form - Finished Piece Soft Pastel, Green Ingres
Final Drawing

Learning Logs or Blogs / Critical essays Context

As with your previous submissions you have delivered an honest, informative and thorough learning log for this part of the module. I enjoyed reading the piece on artists’ self-portraits and thought the manner in which it was written was fresh and personal – a welcome divergence from the usual heavily fact-based information we as tutors sometimes have to read! I am also very pleased to read that you are getting a lot out of Berger’s Ways of Seeing.


What I find encouraging about the way you work Mark is that you are rarely put off by new processes; in fact you appear to thrive on the challenge. You confront new disciplines fearlessly and with an open mind to technique and media. The evidence is here in your sketchbooks – the amount of work and the confidence displayed by the inclusion of work you are rightfully happy with as well as pieces you have considered not so successful has been beneficial to the progression of your practice. Sometimes it is the recognition of ‘success’ and ‘failure’ that will drive us forward to constructively face. Your overriding interest in the subject of drawing will stand you in good stead for the final part of this module and your future art practice. I am pleased that you have chosen the option of figure drawing on which to concentrate.

Suggested viewing/reading Context 

I’m sure I don’t need to mention it but try as much as you can to immerse yourself in the work of other artists. I have always found it exciting when discovering the oeuvre of ‘new’ artists, the influence of their work potentially beneficial to my own. A couple of artists you may find interesting are Jenny Saville and Alison Watt.

See examples of their work below:

Jenny Saville Mother and Child (After the Leonardo Cartoon) Alison Watt charcoal on watercolour paper, 2009.
Jenny Saville
Mother and Child (After the Leonardo Cartoon) charcoal on watercolour paper, 2009.
Alison Watt Part of the Phantom series, oil on canvas, 2007.
Alison Watt
Part of the Phantom series, oil on canvas, 2007.

View the research point for Alison Watt

My Drawing Journey so Far

4 - Walking Women in Oil Pastel

Until I started this course the only drawing I had done in the last 20 years was with a pen or pencil in a notebook before putting my ideas down on canvas with a very crude painting method. Over the last twenty months I have not only learnt different drawing techniques but I have learnt to use many different mediums as well as develop skills and confidence as an artist.

I submitted Assignment 5 today and I have the next  three months to prepare my coursework to send to the U.K. for formal assessment but I don’t think this blog will end here. I have enjoyed working with the different drawing mediums and there are certain mediums I still need to practise with, there also certain exercises that I feel I weren’t that successful and so I plan to have another go at those exercises while I am working my way through the next course Painting 1 : The Practice of Painting and so I expect to be posting more work very soon.

Assignment 5, Option 4, Drawing Figures

18 - Assignment 5 Final Piece

Over the last two months I kept looking at the brief for this final assignment and I was wondering how I could demonstrate a significant amount of new skills I had learnt not just i this last part, part 5 but throughout the course.

My strongest idea was a full figure semi nude sitter in the shadows of a lamp lit apartment I did for a brief moment think about a self portrait stood in the kitchen with the sky and clouds behind me, but in the rainy season that wasn’t a good idea.

I was definitely including the background and I wanted to use the background to create a unique mood, to try and influence the drawing as much as possible. I imagined my subject sitting against a wall with long shadows depicting how small and insignificant she was to her surroundings, like Gerald Scarfe’s illustrations of the main character in Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

As this module was all about experimenting, what was I going to experiment with? What techniques was I going to use? And would I use experimental techniques in my final drawing?

I decided that I would try to experiment more with water soluble media, pencils, watercolour pencils, watercolour paint, and gouache and see where that took me, I bought the book ‘Drawing and Painting with Water Soluble Media by Fiona Peart’ just to give me some ideas.

Fiona Peart Drawing and Painting with Water Soluble Media
Fiona Peart Drawing and Painting with Water Soluble Media

I had plenty of low quality watercolour paper to mess around on and but not so many different types of water soluble media but I thought I’d have a go at some of the techniques in the book to see if I could use any in my final piece.

1 - Salt on Watered down Ecoline Wash
1 – Salt on Watered down Ecoline Wash

The first technique I tried was dropping salt granules on to a watercolour wash, see above. I had several bottles of Ecoline liquid watercolour so I dropped some in a jar and watered it down. I haven’t done much messing about or drawing with watercolour (probably haven’t been brave enough) so I still have a lot to learn about how much water to use in a wash etc. So I did a wash (the one on the right) in 30+ degrees heat and it seemed to start drying as soon as my brush left the paper, then i started to try and drop single granules of salt onto the wash. They didn’t do much and so I rubbed my hands and let the lot fall over the top of the wash. The result was a discoloured blotch effect that looked like fungus.

I decided to water the wash down some more and start again. this time I sed less salt and as you can see above the results are a bit better. However I wasn’t sure how I would use this technique in the finished piece.

2 - Dried Soap Suds on Watered Down Ecoline Wash
2 – Dried Soap Suds on Watered Down Ecoline Wash

The second technique  I used was soap suds. On the left I used a small amount of soap suds scooped up and placed on a watercolour wash, this time with more water added. The results were very different to what she had in the book where she had used them to depict pebbles on a beach, the patterns that mine made (after 2 hour of drying) resembled a cloudy sky.

3 - Soap and Suds on Ecoline Liquid Watercolour
3 – Soap and Suds on Ecoline Liquid Watercolour

I wasn’t sure whether it was the paper I had been using or whether my washes were too thin that made my experiments look nothing like anything in the book so I had another try with a thicker wash on a higher quality 200 g/m2 watercolour paper, the results were almost the same.

My girlfriend came round that evening so I decided to stop with the experimenting for the night to do a series of sketches of sketches in water soluble pencil to see which worked best.

4 - Soluble Pencil on 200 gm2 Paper
4 – Soluble Pencil on 200 gm2 Paper

My first sketch was a very sorry effort indeed, I did exactly what I’ve been trying to stop myself doing in this last section, misuse the paper. I wanted to use the background but the figure still had to be a good size on the paper.

5 - Another Try at First Pose Water Soluble Pencil
5 – Another Try at First Pose Water Soluble Pencil

The second sketch was better but was still not that great and by now I decided that her clothes would be replaced with the orange cloth. The third sketch was a lot better and probably one of the best so far over the last two modules and the face was almost spot on which was an added bonus. However, I really wanted the background to play a bigger role in the finished piece.

6 - Semi Nude with Monks Robe Cloth
6 – Semi Nude with Monks Robe Cloth

The next one was even better but I stopped at drawing the door, even though I knew this one would work it was a different mood to what i wanted to depict in the final piece. To me the pose in the drawing below was warm, welcoming, even romantic like she was waiting for her lover to come home, I wanted a totally different mood altogether for the final drawing.

7 - Semi Nude with Bent Knee
7 – Semi Nude with Bent Knee

By now I was working towards the pose that I had my mind set on and the next pose below was pretty close but still it looked like she was waiting for someone rather than hiding from someone which is what I really wanted to show in the ideal pose. Because this was a 100% perfect in looks, proportion, the long shadows and everything else I nearly went with this but I decided to squeeze just 1 more sketch out.

8 - WaterSoluble Pencil Sketch with Door Handle
8 – WaterSoluble Pencil Sketch with Door Handle

In this last sketch I decided I had got the pose that I wanted, it still looked like she was waiting for someone to come through the door rather than hiding behind it but I decided to go with it in the hope that the medium and technique that I chose to complete the assignment piece would help me to depict the mood that I wanted.

9 - WaterSoluble Pencil Looking at Door Handle
9 – WaterSoluble Pencil Looking at Door Handle

To give my girlfriend a break I decided to do some colour drawings working from the sketch above, the first one was a total abomination. Until now, apart from the Fish on a Plate exercise I had used my watercolour pencils dry, as a substitute to my Derwent colour pencils which I wasn’t keen on the waxy feel of, the awful attempt at being artistic below was a very tired try at sketching with wet watercolour pencils. I decided that was it for one day.

10 - Sad attempt in watercolour pencil
10 – Sad attempt in watercolour pencil

At this stage I wanted to have ago at painting this in watercolour but basically I wasn’t ready for drawing in a painting medium and so I had another go at watercolour pencil to get myself ready for a more permanent medium, this was drawn from the water soluble sketch.

11 - Watercolour Pencil Drawing from Sketch
11 – Watercolour Pencil Drawing from Sketch

That afternoon I went and bought some Louvre watercolour paints, a jar of white Gouache and some brushes. I still really didn’t have a clue what I was doing with the paints which were in tubes and so I decided to take minimum risks and draw the figure in watercolour pencil  and use the watercolour paint for the floor and walls.

After completing the figure with watercolour pencil and wet brush I painted the shadows on the floor with watercolour paint using a brush and then dragged the paint off with the paper with a tissue, I’m not sure if there’s a special name for that technique. I painted the rest of the floor and the walls with a brush but I needed to show the light reflecting off both and so when the watercolour paint was dry I stippled the gouache paint over the top with the same brush. From there I finished the door off hatching with watercolour pencils then going over them with a wet brush.

I wasn’t worried that I hadn’t used any of the experimental techniques that I played around with earlier as this was an experiment just on its own but I wasn’t satisfied with how this turned out, it was stagnant there was no mood to it and I decided to change to a different type of painting medium.

12 - Watercolour Pencil, Watercolour Paint and Gouache
12 – Watercolour Pencil, Watercolour Paint and Gouache

I wanted to make a bigger connection between the door handle and the figure and i wanted to do it with a visible energy field and swirling hatching came to mind and the perfect medium for this would be oil pastel. And so I went from water soluble mediums to oil pastel.

I knew I would need a lot of white oil pastel as I planned to draw it on an A2 size paper and so this was my first experiment at trying to get the lines that I needed without using the valuable white. I really don’t know what I was doing here and it started to look more like a kids drawing from an horror movie.

13 - Oil pastel - Too dark - Trying not to Use White
13 – Oil pastel – Too dark – Trying not to Use White

The second experiment was with much lighter colours using more of the white and trying as many different techniques together to see which one worked. From this it was obvious that the only one that was going to work and join everything together was circular hatching, or at least that’s what I call it, like a vortex drawing, spiraling out from the door handle connecting everything, or spiraling in.

14 - Trying a Few Different Techniques
14 – Trying a Few Different Techniques Together

I bought some dark grey Ingres paper and taped it to my largest drawing board with masking tape at the corners. I was still drawing from previous sketches including the latest watercolour/watercolour pencil drawing.

Two hours in and  something was beginning to form but it was more like the blurred image in a dream than anything else. I started with black for the hair plus pinks and various oranges for the skin, cloth and skirting board then white circular swirls for the walls and floor, with the white lines further apart for the darker shaded areas to let the grey show through. I wasn’t hatching in the same circular motion for everything but I kept going over the top with white to give the impression of doing so and only two hours in I was already on my second stick of white oil pastel.

15 - Drawing after First Two Hour
15 – Drawing after First Two Hour

The next day and a few hours in and the picture was looking a bit too light as I added more and more colours to the vortex including pinks, yellows, greens and blues, I liked where it was taking me as long as i could darken it eventually. The figure looked unnatural and out of proportion and also two far away from the door but I wasn’t worried, I knew eventually she would be right where I wanted her. The most worrying thing at this point was that the door handle was too low and had to be lifted up and that was the starting pint of my vortex so everything had to be reworked.

16 - Fnal Piece Second Stage
16 – Final Piece Second Stage

After about a good few hours it was proving to be a very long process but  knew the end results would be worth it. by now I had got everything marked out and re-positioned the door knob and I was starting to draw in the shadows which would tell me if the figure was too far to the right or not on the paper…It was. What was niggling me at this stage though was if I should draw the face or leave it blur as at this stage it reminded me a bit of Francis Bancon’s work, still blurred between the point where the face was and where I had moved it to.

17 -After about ten hours
17 -After a good few hours

It took me a few hours longer to finish the drawing and as you can see between the drawing above and the drawing below a lot more work went into this piece, moving her even more so she was in a more natural position against the door but that’s not where all the work went. No longer is there any grey from the paper showing through the oil pastel, the darker parts are darker layers of oil pastel on top of the lighter ones and the shadows took at least two hours to correct.

I would say in all this piece took me the best part of twenty hours to complete. No sure if it was all drawing though, there was a lot of thinking during the process, as with any lengthy process like this I tend to get lost in my thoughts as I step back and look at the drawing from different angles.

18 - Assignment 5 Final Piece
18 – Assignment 5 Final Piece

I chose to do something completely different with her face, so far I’ve only managed to get my girlfriend’s face right with a pencil or water soluble pencil, I wasn’t taking any chances and used the face to help me create the vortex effect, instead of just circular hatching, all the way to the door handle.

Things I’m Happy with

I like the way it turned out.

Things I’m not happy with

It didn’t turn out the way I expected it to.