Beginning the final assignment: Draw and Select

I have chosen to focus on Option 2, Observation in Nature, for the final assignment.  The first preparatory exercise is called “Draw and Select” and I have spent this week so far on drawing a variety of natural objects: shells, a red pepper, a feather, tulips, fir cones, a weathered lump of wood, tree bark and an orchid.

I began the exercise having little idea of where I was going and at times my mood has been rather black, wondering whether I would be able to produce a drawing of the right quality in a few weeks’ time.  I have a couple of ideas about compositions, which have arisen from observations made over recent months but have put these to one side for the time being. The first day or two, I did feel as if I would have been better off pursuing existing ideas rather than focusing on things with which I had no particular engagement.  However, I did find the exercise useful because it forced me to sit down, focus on diverse objects and simply draw using different media. Ideas tend to emerge from the practice of drawing anything, just from the movement of the pencil or pen across a surface.

Here are the drawings from the sketchbook in the order drawn.  I drew a couple of them on black card and pasted them into the sketchbook.

Shells – this is actually a large snail shell that I found in the forest some time ago.  It has been sitting on a windowsill and its once bold brown stripes have been all but bleached away.  The lighting changed in the course of these drawings.  The large one was done by artificial light which brought out many other colours, such as blues and mauves.


The second set of drawings were of a much smaller shell, found a few days ago on a pavement.  The colouring is similar to the original colour of the now-faded first shell but it is considerably smaller.  Even the smallest drawing, top right, is about twice the actual size. The larger drawing is too flat – more tonal contrast is needed.Img350

I chose the pepper because I had not drawn the interior of one before and it was in the fridge! I drew holding the coloured pencils away from the tip and pushed the pencils a lot more than usual, which created a more expressive effect.


I drew a fir cone because I had a large one (the drawing is approximately life size) which I like but it felt like going through the motions and that I was by now ticking off categories of natural objects.  I included a fir cone in one of my Assignment 1 drawings and have done other better drawings than these in the past – I should have spent more time on them but was not in a fir cone mood, so I guess I will not be including fir cones in the final drawing.


This piece of wood is another object found on a forest walk.  While drawing it, I noticed for the first time its slight resemblance to an animal.  I like it for its range of textures , parts smooth and burnished by the weather and parts almost chewed (perhaps they have been!)  I wouldn’t mind taking it further but no compositional possibilities have so far presented themselves.  Once again, this drawing is approximately life size.


Tulips – mainly because I had bought some a few days ago to brighten up dismal February. I chose to use a white pencil (oil-based) for the first drawing, which is the most central one.  I tried adding chalky highlights to this but the oil-based pencil resisted conte overlay.  I then drew the one in colour, followed by the tulip bottom right.  Finally, I drew one in conte alone (top left), which stands out as having the best tonal contrast and overall tulipness.


Tree bark –  another forest find.  I drew the coloured version on a background wash of Inktense pencils.  I aimed to convey the three dimensionality of the bark and its flaky texture, and focus on perspective, rather than to accurately draw the bark, piece by piece.


Orchid: initial shapes blocked in in white on a black ground to help me focus on shapes and negative space. Subsequently, I added colour in an attempt to depict the shades of white, as well as the subtle colour present on the underside of some of the petals.  The colour has been overdone – it would have been better to use pastel pencils than coloured chalks but it may be a starting point.  Orchids feature in one of my incubating ideas.  I found this by chance in the supermarket while taking a break from drawing tree bark.

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Feather: I drew the pencil feather (top) as accurately as possible.  The second feather was drawn using coloured pencils to try to emulate the pattern. It was drawn with the pattern in mind, rather than the overall structure of a feather. I tried to recreate the fragility and lightness of the feather and to find a way to represent its uniqueness and individuality.  This feather has been kept in a drawer for a long time and is now disintegrating.  I included its “bald patch” in the drawing.


I am still not sure what I want to focus on but it seems likely to be the orchid because I would like to explore ways to convey its whiteness without white. I also enjoyed drawing the large snail.  The next stage of preparation and exploration is to approach the subject from different angles.  I need to take a day or two to review these drawings before continuing.  Also, I have not yet used charcoal in this first stage and would like to remedy that.  I am wondering whether the final drawing has to be formal still life, or whether I can integrate various images into a whole, using realistic representation but within an abstract composition – will need to contact my tutor.

I feel a bit panicked because I have so little time for drawing over the coming five weeks and will then need to use the Easter vacation (2 weeks) to finish everything.  My aim is to complete one task per weekend and snatch what time I can on odd evenings in the week.  At least if I can allow tasks to mull over in my mind during odd moments in the week, ideas should come together more easily at the weekends.


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