Part 3 -Project 5 – Exercise 3 – Limited Palette Study


Started by trying this limited pallet study with 4 coloured pencils.   However apart from the fact that the rig is leaning again I find it very uninspiring.   It appears flat and uninteresting to me. So rather than continue I moved on to the study below.

Project 5 exercise 3 limited palette study

In this study I tried to use just the traditional conte sticks and charcoal.   It is much more atmospheric and has a mood which related to the day, the weather and the time of year.  Again it is rather stark but of all the drawings I have done of the town I am most satisfied with this one.

If time and weather had permitted it would have been good to draw more of the extent of the view from the concertina drawings.


  1. With perseverance I can achieve something of the built environment but it seems this is only relevant to me when it is in relation to the natural environment too.
  2. I am going to revisit these views at different times of the year – when there is more colour I might find it more challenging and interesting.
  3. Unlike landscape these studies have been a struggle and not a revelation.



Part 2 – Project 3 – Exercise 3 – Material Difference


I became a bit confused between Exercise 2 and 3 of this project in deciding how to go about developing a composition.

These first two sketches are from my sitting room where there is much more light and variety of objects of differing values and colours.


As I mentioned I had been reading about Bonnard and was particularly struck by one of the compositions which was longer and looking down on the subject.


Although not in itself containing particularly interesting objects this is one of the most intimate  views.   Therefore worked on cutting down and looking from above so that I could isolate the subject more specifically. I was surprised how difficult I find this process from different points of view.   We are used to taking in a scene and scanning it not concentrating on particular points of view and therefore it is a challenge to cut out all the extraneous “stuff” when looking.


I came down to the view above slicing through the view and taking in my neighbour’s sunflowers outside the window.   This says particular time – early autumn and place to me.


How I Worked the Drawing

I have never attempted such a large interior – this is an A1 sheet and my first challenge was getting used to the scale and thinking about what materials I wanted to use.

Somehow I was daunted by the white sheet of paper and covered the drawing area with an ochre ink wash.  I realise that I have never actively thought about working on different grounds so this was a first for me.

The next challenge was to pin this down to time of the day.   The light comes directly in during the morning so this is when I decided to place/time the drawing.

I had worked during the earlier part of this part of the course with multi-media materials and as  it is up to us to decide what to use I went for this option.

First big mistake – I had thought about doing the drawing with coloured pencils but when I started to work on a piece this size I thought it would take me far too long to complete the exercise. So I went for oil pastels and coloured pencils.   Unfortunately they do not work as the best of friends if you lay down the oil pastels first – the surface became very slimy and unworkable.

Panic! – Should I start again or do something drastic?   I did something drastic – used some white gouache to block in the main “light” tone areas.   Second big mistake.

Day 2 – Spent quite a lot of time trying to get rid – scraping back both the excess oil pastels and the gouache.   This was possible in some areas but not others.


Spent a lot of time trying to get the tonal values across the whole drawing correct but found this was very elusive.

The area I feel that I couldn’t resolve because of the decisions made on the first day are the curtains on the left of the composition.   In real life they are not textural like in the photograph but just messy.

Using the oil pastels works in some areas and not in others as do the coloured pencils.


I did my now usual thing of cropping the final image – taken out the curtains on the left.  In some ways I think this makes a better composition all round but regret loosing the hint of the table and its warm light.

My Neighbour’s Sunflowers – Conclusions

  • Still not disciplined enough with myself to stop and think about making a plan of action when undertaking a piece of work
  • I like work that is less fussy than the work I produce
  • I need to learn more about the materials that I use and definitely for the next assignments do more tryouts before committing myself to a final piece
  • I really hate the sunflowers – they look too false and formulaic- although in a way they are.
  • I need to learn more about aspects of foreground and background.   It was interesting in reading that it is said that Bonnard was democratic in his compositions – everything was equally important.
  • The coloured ground really works and brings a warmth to the whole piece
  • Finding a composition is a complex task which takes practice – it does not come naturally to me
  • I am still finding it hard to follow the instructions in the exercises – I get carried away and then when I go back to them I often find I have misinterpreted what was wanted
  • Working at larger sized pieces needs different skills that I am not used to and needs to be practised

I thought I would do a final Bonnard action – he worked on pieces of canvas without making decisions about the final size of the work and often worked on more than one image on one piece of canvas.   So I have  cropped again:-


The sunflowers look even worse in this but I like the chair, cushion and reflection on the curtain.


A bit messy – especially hate the left over gouache light shadows on the table. The gate is a bit wonky too!

Part 2 – Project 3 – Exercise 1 & 2 – Interior sketches and studies


Started with quick sketches around the rooms in the house.  Concentrated on line, shape, proportions etc rather than tone. Also was considering along the way what I would like to concentrate on drawing in greater depth.


Made notes as I went along considering the compositional possibilities of the particular view.   In some cases like the one above of part of my studio thought it would be too complex and confusing.


Then moved into the dining room and particularly liked the shapes of the chairs and how the different struts intersected.


Tried different viewpoints but thought this was getting back too much to still life rather than interior.   The view below has lost the interest of the chairs.


In some ways liked this one but too much like still life again.


As I took a longer view there was greater interest in the shadows coming through from the doorway of my studio.  Bit of an interior within an interior as the dining room itself has no natural light source which I thought might be a problem.

Further along I think this would be an interesting subject to tackle with all the different tones and shadows.


As I moved into the bedroom started using a charcoal pencil which I feel gives more definition to the objects and more structure all round.   Thought at one stage that I would like to concentrate on this view for the detailed study but again this room only has limited natural light.

If I went ahead with this I thought it would be better being a rather dark scene – it would have been better with a figure on the bed and full of mood.   In the end felt that it would not really work for showing the use of colour but it might be something I come back to in the future. Has a real feel of the “noir” and Sickert type of scene.


During the process of doing these drawings I was reading the Bonnard book (Metropolitan Museum 2009 – The Late Still Lifes and Interiors).  I thought both the scene above and particularly the one below with the dog on the bed were very evocative of the kind of interior he produced.


Learning Points

  • Initially I was hesitant about drawing interiors which I had not attempted in the past but gained more confidence the more I drew
  • Viewpoint is more important than I had realised and only by doing my own drawings did I start to become a bit discerning about how to tackle an interior
  • I am still very nervous about depicting the nuances of tone and light – I would like to have tackled the interior within the interior view from the dining room but felt it was too complex a composition to take on first time round
  • In some ways I am drawn to the simpler compositions but would like to learn how to make the complex more simple – i.e. how to draw out the essentials in a scene


Project 2 – Exercise 4 – Monochrome

Project 2 exercise 4 - finding composition

Did spend quite a lot of time looking for objects to pull together and a setting in which to put them.   Took loads of photos and again started with much too much and too complex to deal with.   Had been looking at quite a lot of contmeporary still life photographers,  Krista van der Niet,  Laura Letinsky and Saara Ekstrom as part of the research into still life generaly. (see images below)

Krista van der Niet

Laura Letinsky 2


So then I paired the objects down and also introduced using a grid which I had made on an acetate sheet.   The grid idea came from a life drawing class which I have been taking for the last couple of months.

Project 2 exercise 4 - final composition

Using the grid to plot the drawing more accurately I find exceedingly difficult because the eye\brain does not necessarily come up with the same outcome and is very confusing.  But I stuck to it for this drawing particularly which made me resent it somewhat and find hard to complete.

Had tried a few sketches in my book to help decide on paper and materials to use. Decided on Khadi paper with water soluble wax crayons and coloured pencils. Was and remain slightly confused by how to remain monochrome when dealing basically with a light colour like yellow. So brought in browns but did not know whether I should have found my tones using greys/black.

Project 2 - Exercise 4 - Monochrome

This piece was really a struggle.   Firstly because I promised myself that I would keep with using the grid to plot the drawing and this was mentally quite a non instinctive way of working for me.  But in terms of the compositional outcome I think it worked better than many of my previous drawings.Again I think this should be chopped down to a square.

Project 2 - Exercise 4 - Monochrome cropped

Not sure?  There is more of the dynamic of the view with the original size but it shows how I tend to tail off top and bottom of a piece and loose overall the density.

I think I have captured the two front lemons and parts of the washing-up gloves.   The corn on the cobs were fading fast by the last day and I did not spend that much time on the detail.  However overall proportion and perspective are better probably due to using the grid.

Did I think this through more – yes I think so but I found it boring as a subject and kept having to remind myself that it was just one exercise. I do like the way the paper works with the lemons and texture f the checked rug.

Overall not as disastrous as I thought it would be!

Project 2 – Exercise 2 – Still Life in tone using colour

Fruit in bowl photo

Fruit in dish coloured pencils

OK I realise I didn’t read the instructions carefully enough on this exercise and just went in and drew using coloured pencils without restricting myself to the 3 colours which had been specified in the exercise.

However, I like what I have achieved with the fruits and bowl.  Particularly I like the build up of the cross hatching and tones created by building up the layers and different directions of the marks.

Learning: I need to read the instructions for the exercises more carefully.  Need to re-do this exercise.


Reworked the exercise using 3 colours and white.   Slight cheat!

Find it easier to work in colour than just line and tone.   However some of the spontaneity of using mark-making tends to disappear so tried to be more adventurous with this version. I think it could take even more and realise I could have gone stronger on the background tone which would have pushed the still life forward more.

Need to be more aggressive with the tones generally in order to create greater depth. Getting better at working round a drawing but need to step away more often in order judge the weights of the colours overall.

Project 2 – Still Life – Different Media

Bottle and furit photo - still life

AT this stage I really got confused and looking back I now realise that this phase of work was not about mixed media but more about trying still life with different media.

In my sketchbook I tried many different combinations again and layouts.  One thing I wanted to do was bring in different surfaces and I like pattern too – particularly strong prints.

Project 2 still life solf chalks

This piece is purely in chalks on a pastel paper. I like the mark making but tend to blur the chalks as a “cheat” way of creating density.  Some of the detail reads well, cloth, flowerpot, apple but the top of the bottle is wrong.   If the whole composition was tighter and lost the top of the bottle (a la Cezanne) I think it would work better  /Still not achieving good over all tone across the drawing.

Project 2 still life solf chalks cropped

Works better when it is tighter.

Project 2 Still life water soluable crayons

Used water soluble wax crayons, ink and graphite pencils on white paper. The tighter composition is more effective particularly the off edge bottle as a matt black ink shape. Generally more dynamic.   Building up the colour with the crayons works quite effectively but not good on detail. Again that thing about using marks moving in one particular direction to depict tone on the white cloth. Need to break the habit and describe tones articulately with greater variety and maybe more colour in order to pull a drawing together.

project 2 still life - pastels on brown paper

Working quite quickly with water soluble crayons, chalks on brown paper.

Project 2 still life - mixed media

Coloured pencils, water soluble wax crayons, ink, chalk pastels, oil pastels on pastel paper.

Like the composition although more successful again if cut off at bottle.  Why is that?

Project 2 still life - mixed media cropped

Greater focus? Density? Drawing the eye into the centre of the composition without being distracted towards the outside edge?  Maybe I should concentrate on working on square compositions?

Some aspects more successful than others as usual.   Like the patterned cloth against the linen, the flowerpot, stone and bottle.    Apples over-coloured and the plant not as convincing as it could be.   Struggled with trying not to be over realistic with still keeping spontaneity.  Shadows/tones on line more interesting and varied.

Project 2 still life - ink drawn with stick

Tried spontaneity with ink and stick on Khadi paper. Having got to know the composition whilst working the other drawings thought it might be good to work quickly on a simpler piece.

Project 2 still life - inks sketch on khadi paper

Similar thought with this using coloured inks with a brush as well as the stick for outlines.

Learning:- Composition is so important.   

Trying to get everything in is a wasted exercise for me.   Being discerning about relationships of space negative and positive is key.   At various points I have become impatient trying to “find” a composition but now realise that this is more than half of the work towards a successful outcome.

Note: – I should photograph the various stages and analyse them initially before settling on what to start working on. Not hurry into the drawing.