Wednesday 29 October 2014

Seed Collections

‘Seed Collection’ and ‘Floating Sampler’ are two pieces of work I made many years ago when I first moved to the Sedgemoor area of Somerset. Their theme of grasses and seeds are a response to enjoyable walks along the river bank surrounded by clumps of lovely long grasses. I made many photos and drawings which you can see here in the sketchbook I made to accompany the two finished pieces. Sadly the home made book was not returned after an exhibition at the Knitting and Stitching Show about 10 years ago, so if you recognise this, you might be able to help me find it.


‘Floating Sampler’

 floating sampler  floating sampler B

Monday 22 September 2014

Summer Drawing Project - Lesson 20

He says I’ve made him look like a fat old man….!

It is nearly the end of September as I write this and the cooler evenings remind me of autumn. This is the last lesson of the Summer Drawing Project and I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have. I will be announcing a competition based on these lessons soon, so keep looking on Facebook for the announcement.

You are going to be asked to take a good look at yourself for this final lesson – or indeed anyone else who will pose for you. My tolerant husband posed for me and I sadly turned him into a fat old man which he is neither. You can also work from a good clear photograph of a face. I took a photo of my own face on my phone and then drew from that. The screen was a little small but a good alternative if you don’t have a mirror to hand.

I’ve also discovered an interesting way of working straight from a digital photo by making digital marks onto a faded outline of your face image. I used the larger screen of my tablet for this and was able to do several digital drawings by moving my finger around on the tablet screen to make digital marks that looked like the faded face of the person on the screen.

This was a similar process to the first drawing method described here, using an outline of the face placed on a piece of paper under your sketchbook page. More of this later once we have looked at how the human face is generally configured. Our facial features are arranged on a very simple subdivision grid of the head. My father explained this to me when I was small and found this grid very helpful and adaptable to any type of face.

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Roughly draw a large oval shape on a separate piece of paper to your sketchbook pages. Sub-divide it in half vertically and horizontally (to define the line of the eyes). Then subdivide the lower section in half again with another horizontal line (to define the bottom of the nose) and another one to define the centre of the lips.

Draw the features in very diagrammatically as on the above left template. Looking at a real face, you can now amend your template.  Use a strong marker so that this template is visible through the paper of your sketchbook pages. Perhaps the eyes (on your template of course!) need moving apart or closer? Perhaps the eyebrows need re-shaping? Perhaps the nose needs lengthening/shortening/broadening? Perhaps the lips need re-shaping or moving higher/lower? Perhaps the ears need moving upwards/downwards or making larger/smaller?

Using your personalised face template you can now start to make it look as if it is a rounded 3 dimensional surface. The two drawings below have been worked from a template under the page but only shading has been added to suggest the way the face is a rounded form with dips and bumps that show light and dark tones and cast shadows. Feel your face with your finger tips and you’ll find that the eye socket are dips and the nose is a bump, which might not surprise you! The direction of the light in these two faces drawings is from the right, so all the surfaces that face away from the light will be in shade. Place a lamp to one side of your face and note where your features cast shadows. You’ll recall several different drawing methods from last week’s lesson on how to create a feeling of a rounded surface with different types of markers. Try different media and see how you get on.

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The shading in the drawing above left has been done with a thick felt marker and the one on the right with the side of an oil pastel which allowed more subtle degrees of shading. But the felt pen can be made to create different degrees of tonal differences by using it to ‘cross-hatch’ – see below left. A strongly contrasting drawing can be used as a new template by placing it under a new page and developing further drawings.


You can also place a template drawing onto a window and tape another piece of paper over it to help the light give you a clearer template – see below left. This then allows you to draw the tonal areas in different ways.

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The meandering lines of the drawing pen on the left traces and fills in the tonal areas seen on the template above onto a new page. A water-soluble pencil shaded in the darker areas from the template on the drawing below right and then water applied with a clean brush to blend the edges of the dark tones. Whichever media you use, the golden rule (according to father) is never to spread your dark tone too far – always allow areas of the original page to show through to act as the lightest tone. This is important to stop your face looking ‘dirty’.

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A fun diversion! I noticed how you can distort a face, by distorting your template. Take a look at these and perhaps you can find a way of making faces with distortions?

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Why not have a go at drawing a portrait using a computer programme instead of paper and  traditional markers This series of digital drawings below is based on a photo of one of my ‘grieces’. I had the photo on my computer screen and used my tablet (laptop) to make the drawing on, using my finger to select the type of mark I wished to make – different sizes and textures that relate to different traditional media marks. Firstly make a scribbled drawing of the basic lines and save the one you’re happy with. You can then add to this with further information such as tone and textural areas. Try out your media on the edge of your drawing and discover ways you can vary the marks and what they look like on top of each other – its great fun. If you don’t like what you’ve just done, just go back a stage or two. Remember to keep saving your drawing at different stages and give them a slightly different name.

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I enjoyed discovering the ‘eraser’ which gave  white lines as you can see in the hair, below left. Below right was a drawing that I went back to the first linear drawing and made another start.

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My husband nobly posed but sadly claimed I had made him look old and fat.

roy photoroy1


You might like to investigate if you can open a photograph in your ‘paint’ or ‘draw’ programme which will allow you to add digital marks on top of the photograph. You can draw into an existing photo or maybe find a way of making the original photograph appear as a very feint outline. I selected ‘line’, then ‘feint’ so that the photo almost disappeared but I could still  - just about – see some of the features. This was enough of a help to allow me to draw the face in my own marks but still giving a strong impression of a likeness of that person. He still says I’ve made him look old and fat!

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I had better luck working into a photo of my own face! My excuse is that I got better at controlling my drawing finger and was able to select appropriate markers to allow me to scribble into the different areas with control and abandon!

 sian fresh1  sian fresh2 sian fresh3  

I hope the initial scribbling exercises from lesson 1 onwards have helped you to loosen up the way you use your drawing markers and the hints and tips in the Summer Drawing Project have helped to give you ways of building up your drawing skills. It’s important to be able to have fun an a sense of discovery so you’ll want to draw on a regular basis and become even better and more skilful.

Look out for the competition details in the near future.




Sunday 7 September 2014

Summer Drawing Project–Lesson 18

My family on holiday

I hope you’re still in ‘simmer’ mode for these last few drawing lessons of the Summer Drawing Project. This week you will look at ways of drawing a group of people. Perhaps it could be based on a group of your family or friends; perhaps a party or wedding photo. As last week, make the print size so it fits onto your sketchbook page. Choose one that has just a few people (I’ve worked with one of some of my family on holiday recently) and one where each figure can be seen almost as a separate silhouette. Notice how the two small children in my photo seem to disappear, but couldn't resist adding them in to one of my drawings.

So here we have brother, husband, two little ‘grieces’, niece and her husband, standing in front of the boats at Falmouth Marina.


Firstly, print your photo out a few times but no need to use special photo paper. I used four prints in these drawings to help me get shapes right. Rip the boring white borders off and glue onto a sketchbook page.

First idea – When the glue is completely dry, paint all over the print with gesso or white emulsion paint or a slightly watered acrylic paint. It’s important that you can still see the figures through the paint, so do some tests before completely covering!


Immediately you have covered the photo with the paint, grab  with something blunt such as the end of your paint brush and draw into the wet paint. You won’t have long till the paint dries, so very quickly scribble around all the silhouette shapes and scribble over any shape you feel you’d like to note such as the sun glasses in this photo. There might be further drawing processes you’d like to add to this later or maybe leave it as it is.


Second idea – take another print and rip it into vertical strips. Take alternate strips and glue down in the correct order (below left) and position on two sketchbook pages. Then paint over with your gesso/emulsion/ acrylic (below right). I chose to only paint one set of strips and left the other set (on the right hand page) unpainted as I wasn’t sure what I should do next. Two thoughts below but perhaps you have different ideas?

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Keep a copy of your photo nearby so you can work from it. My first idea was to draw the figures back into the  strips was to use a continuous line to draw around the main visible shapes in the photo and continue them across the voids, with half an eye on the whole photo and also on the neighbouring strips. Give this line continuous a wriggly ‘character’: this allows you to go back and correct some shapes and it will still look intentional. I think these lines have given the four men an ‘ageing’ effect – hope they won’t mind!


My next idea for the unpainted strips was to ‘paint out’ the background areas of the sea in the photo so just the figures could be seen. This seemed to simplify the group of figures. My style of drawing in this one was to use just short, straight lines. Lines were drawn along the edge of the silhouettes and some internal lines such as creases and patterns of clothes. I drew these lines with a fine pen, extending the lines further than technically necessary, but adding to the character of the drawing and giving it a ‘stained glass window effect perhaps?


Third idea – to cut out the group of figures and keep both the positive and negative shapes (figures and background) as templates. (You’ll notice I didn’t bother with the legs as they seems just too complicated.) The initial stage was not successful – to use the positive cut paper shape as a template to paint a silhouette shape onto a sketchbook page with gesso, which proved far too subtle. So I used a stronger colour instead, a bright holiday sky blue, which was more successful and cheerful. This method involves putting the crayon colour (pastel, chalk or something that smudges easily) around the edge of the template and then using my finger to brush it off onto the page, holding the template firmly.The right hand image below shows the template moved slightly to show you the result on the page.

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I then decided to cut away between the legs on the bottom edge and used a grey pastel to smudge the legs shapes. The image below left shows the template placed onto the smudged page. The template itself (below right) was also starting to look interesting although my husband lost his head!

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Using both the positive and negative templates and the ‘rubbing’ method you can then add further layers of ‘smudged’ silhouettes.

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You could separate certain figures by cutting them apart as I did. You could also use a different colour to highlight one particular shape.  I did this to highlight the silhouette of my grieces and their mum, below.

P1080849.. and then added the sunglasses for fun!



Couldn’t resist using the positive template figures on another page with a smudged negative shape. The image of this page, below, shows the figures glued down but just in the centre of each figure to allow the slight curl of the template shape to show its shadows.


You can go on and on of course, perhaps combining linear drawing with the template method. The sketchbook page, below left was made by cleaning my brush of gesso on my negative template – smudging the blue pastel off as well as the gesso – waiting for another drawing perhaps?  Tried the blue template over the first drawing I did.

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…and then added another template using lots of small lettering to build up a block of colour – with and without an added template..

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You will have used a very smudgy medium so make sure to ‘fix’ it or to keep layers between your pages to stop one transferring on to the opposite page. You can by a special aerosol fixative for pastels and charcoal or use this method with a mouth diffuser to spray onto your pages. Use outdoors or in a well ventilated place.


Lesson 19 will be posted next Monday 15th September. We will be looking at ways of drawing rounded objects before the final lesson looking at drawing faces.