Assignment 1: Recording and sharing your work

I didn’t start out with a specific plan for this assignment. I think it gives scope for an explorative way of working where I am free to follow any direction I wish and respond how I wish. I did have a loose focus on object drawing though because this is something I have felt I am not very good at or haven’t practised very often. I wanted to explore new techniques and allow my mark making to feature more. I started with a continuation of the working fast activity, in particular the drawing of the lamp and water jars. I love the gestural awkward perspective and thought it would look effective in black and white so I explored creating different effects in photoshop.

The ones on the black backgrounds look really effective, particularly where threshold and threshold, invert and fade were used. I love this sort of contrast work and hope to be able to use it in my work in the future. After creating these digitally, I wanted to experiment with traditional media to create the same contrasting effect.

Before going any further with this assignment I wanted to mind map ideas about ‘everyday’ in response to the questions on page 18 of the course handbook. I did this on the ‘foldy’ sketchbook I made as part of exercise 1.0 and tucked it in a pocket I made in my sketchbook. While noting down synonyms of ‘everyday’ from a thesaurus, I became interested in the words that have opposites and highlighted these. I liked the idea of turning the usual into the unusual, the ordinary into the extraordinary and wanted to use this theme in my sketchbook for this assignment while still focusing on ‘everyday’.

I felt that my drawing of everyday, ordinary items done during the working fast exercise had resulted in an image that was extraordinary due the skewed perspective and effects applied digitally. With my wish to practise drawing objects and turn the unremarkable into the remarkable, I used the same quick drawing gestural approach to sketch food and bathroom items. This technique removes my fear about drawing correctly and produces interesting results. The objects have more character and look quirky.

The work of Candy Jernigan was mentioned in the course booklet and as she creates artwork based on everyday items, I did some research and analysis of her work before moving further. This research can be found in my sketchbook with a photo of it below.

The main elements of her work that inspired me were her slight use of distortion which I feel I have from working fast, and also a sense of unity of the objects depicted created by a limited colour palette. This is particularly evident in the Roman artefacts piece.

I went back to my food items and tried out different compositions.

Before starting the full drawing, I practised different techniques and media and annotated with my thoughts and refections. For the milk I was trying to achieve a different look for the part of the bottle containing the milk and the empty part which I finally achieved by using a cream pastel against the whiter empty part. The pickle took longer. I just couldn’t get it right. I couldn’t achieve the same quirky character I had got in the milk bottles. I tried lots of techniques with it as well. One of these was the white oil pastel under paint which is a technique I used earlier in this sketchbook for the lamp.

I think the struggle with the pickle helped develop a rhythm though because drawing the other items came quite naturally. The final drawing is shown below. I like the distortion I have used and I think shown where the light source is. I developed different techniques for rendering although I don’t think I have let my marks do the talking as much as I identified I wanted to after looking at Van Gogh’s sketchbooks. I have tried to make things look too blended. Although the objects are distorted, there is a realistic style to them, as inspired by Candy Jernigan. This means I haven’t really made the ordinary extraordinary. The following are elements of Candy Jernigan’s work that I have tried in my own.


Soft shadows to add tone - use of pastel

Creating an aged look to the edges of the picture. (This is more evident in sketchbook.)

Unifying colours

Everyday I sit at my desk in my studio and look out at a tree in the garden. As it is Autumn, I thought I would draw this tree everyday to document the changes. It would also be a good opportunity to try out different techniques. The photo below shows my drawings with annotations about media used. It ended up being a lot more about experimentation than observation and I am really happy with some of the things I discovered. I approached each tree in an expressive way, putting marks down quickly. In each one I coupled this with detail in the outside leaves with coloured pencil. I like the contrast between the expressive marks and the more controlled detail. This is something I would like to develop further. I found that I really like using pastel in a certain way. I like to apply quite a lot loosely, then apply water but not too much. Just enough to blend parts but also leave some of the pastel effect evident. I definitely want to use this technique more. I also like the effect created by the gouache in the tree second from left at the bottom. Gouache is always a medium I am keen to improve my use of.

Concurrently with the trees I started thinking about the crazy amount of packaging that fills our recycling box and bin everyday, in particular the unnecessary plastic on supermarket fruit and vegetables. Greenpeace have a petition about this and it inspired me to create some drawings on the theme. My idea was to draw the produce in and out of the plastic as a comparison into which looks most appealing. I was really happy with these because I didn’t do a practice version, I just went for it with the marks.

Analysis and reflection of this is in my sketchbook.

I like the contrast of black ink against colour so I did some experimenting with peppers. Here I was also thinking about form and showing it with limited use of line.

We are advised to eat five types of fruit and vegetables everyday so continuing the vegetable theme I remembered the antonyms I generated in my mind mapping around everyday. I came to wonder what is more extraordinary than everyday ordinary things coming alive. Creating an illustration of the ordinary vegetables first gave me another opportunity to practise the pastel technique used for the peppers and mushrooms. I also used wax pastel and coloured pencil. I then used thumbnails to work out the composition for the extraordinary alive vegetables. I used a different technique for the vegetable characters version because I felt it needed more of a flat colour look to suit the comic context. I used gouache and wax pastel to create it.

This illustration gave me the chance to think about characterisation which I developed in other quick drawings. For some reason I did these in a different sketchbook despite wanting to keep everything in the same one. Maybe because they are small drawings. Next time I will put them in the main sketchbook.

Having practised some object and food drawing, I wanted to have a go at drawing some everyday scenes. I made some rough sketches which looked very everyday but not very inspiring.

I wanted to depict everyday scenes that are full of life so I thought about some of the everyday things that happen in my household. One of them is my daughter and her love for overfilling her cereal bowl. The other is a shared cup of tea with my partner. I made some sketches of us and tried out colour options before starting the illustrations.

At this point in time it had been raining EVERYDAY for what seemed like forever! So I decided to do some rainy day sketches. I find it easier to capture human figures more accurately quickly if I use wax crayon to create shapes rather than a pencil to depict line. I made quick sketches of a child playing in puddles in this way. I then use the outline of my sketches to make a tracing on which to make a more studied drawing.

I used the pastel technique I have been exploring as the main medium in this image because I wanted to see how it would work in a different context. I like the loose effect it gives and I like being able to allow the marks show form naturally. While I was working I was cleaning off the pastels on kitchen roll and really like the effect it gave. I like the streaks of different colours unblended. This is something to explore further in future.

I used the same process to create another rainy day drawing.

I used this drawing to really explore the possibilities of using slightly wet pastel experimenting with how it behaves layered under and over other different media, as shown in my annotations. I’m interested in the idea of use flat tone ink against a more textured colour render so I explored this a bit. By accident I discovered that the ink blooms when added to pastel that has had fixative applied. Could be interesting to use in the future.

I really feel that with these last two drawings I have started to use my sketchbook in a way I would like but have made the decision to finish my sketchbook for assignment here. Due to its open ended nature I could end up carrying it on forever if I don’t make a decision to stop at some point.

Reflection on assignment 1

As a reminder this was my vision for my sketchbook:

There were pros and cons to my use of a hand made sketchbook. It did allow me to use different papers but it felt quite bitty and a big part of my vision was that my sketchbook would be one visual journey. There are a lot of blank sides of paper where I have only drawn on one side then swapped to a different type of paper and I don’t like seeing blank sheets. I’m also not sure the drawings can be seen properly, especially the part of the picture nearest the spine. I think I will try a pre made one for Part 2. I have been thinking about the format that would work best and think square would work well for me. I like working square and a double page spread would also give me landscape option or portrait if I turn the sketchbook round. Although I have had my reservations in the past, I am going to use a spiral bound because it allows for adding extra bits in.

I have explored different techniques to a certain extent although I’m not sure I’ve really gone out of my comfort zone. I have discovered new techniques that I wish to use in the future though which has been really positive. I think I am developing my mark making and allowing myself to be more expressive without trying to perfect all the time.

Although using my hand made sketchbook felt quite bitty, I think I have been able to achieve more of a visual journey than I have in the past by including everything in one place. I have included more research and analysis of other’s and my own work than I have previously. I think it is clear to see the journey and flow from one peice to another. I didn’t have an outcome in mind, I just let my ideas move on the the next thing.

I definitely feel more positive about keeping a sketchbook now and can see the enormous potential it has for developing and improving my illustration. I am excited to move onto part 2.

Research task 1.1: Artist's sketchbooks

When making my selections for artist’s sketchbooks to research I chose not only ones that I felt drawn to, but also ones that are quite different to each other because I felt this would provide me with more scope and ideas for developing my own. I’ve identified in exercise 1.1 that I want to include my research in my sketchbook rather than separate, so most of my work on this can be found there. The photos below depict this.

Summary of the different ways the artists use their sketchbooks.

David Hockney - Sketching landscapes; personal diaries and visual records of his travels; small fast sketches.

Vincent Van Gogh - Capture impressions of scenes; explore composition and tone; black and white.

Tim Burton - Character design; to record thoughts and ideas.

Nina Cosford - Reportage; notes and sketches; typography

Sofia Moore - Reportage, to explore different media and techniques, to record ideas and thoughts.

Reflection on how this could impact on my use of sketchbooks

David Hockney - I would like to practise small fast sketching as he does, using a few lines to create distance and perspective. The purpose is to quickly get a sense of place and capture atmosphere rather than trying to get a perfect image of it.

Van Gogh - I love the marks he makes, they are so expressive and create such movement. I really want to allow mark making to take more of a centre stage in my work, so I can resist the urge to blend everything to make it look perfect and smooth. Marks give a picture character.

Tim Burton - Record the crazy things that appear in my imagination.

Nina Cosford - I would love to capture more of my life and experiences in my sketchbook as a visual diary. I also think this would help my rapid drawing skills.

Sofia Moore - Am really inspired by her varied use of the same sketchbook. She puts everything into one book and I think this is how I want mine to be. I currently have different sketchbooks for different things but I would really like it all together as one.

Part 1: Everyday sketchbooks

Research task 1:0 - Emma’s sketchbook

I found Emma’s sketchbook really inspiring and helpful as guidance for how I may possibly make use of my sketchbooks in future. The photo below shows a table I made to record my observations and how they might impact on my future practice.

Exercise 1.0: What sort of sketchbook should I use?

The word ‘should’ always causes me a problem because it suggests there is a ‘right’ way of doing things and I feel this is something that really hinders me in my use of sketchbooks and as an artist in general.  I am determined to use this unit to really try and break out of the shackles of should and step out of my comfort zone. So I am going to think about what sketchbooks I use now, and how my choices for which ones I might use in the future can help me become free!

Current use

I currently use cheap A5 sketchbooks for location sketching.  This is quite big for some of my bags though so I often find I am without a sketchbook when there is something I want to sketch.  My only other use has been for this course. For that I have used A4 hardbacked sketchbook which I’ve used mainly for development work like thumbnailing, character design and visuals.  I have not put my research or initial mind maps in it. I’ve put those in a learning log notebook. Despite the format being conducive to creating double page spreads, I never have. I’m not sure why, perhaps it scares me for some reason!  The paper in these sketchbooks is quite thick but doesn’t have much tooth so isn’t good for wet media.  

Alongside this main sketchbook I did start a supporting A5 one which I wanted to experiment and play about in, then use those techniques in my work for the exercises and assignments.  This kind of worked but I don’t feel I explored in a free enough way. Everything I did in there still seemed to be for a reason, as part of an exercise rather than ‘just because’.  

I lot of my coursework and assignment work is loose leaf.  

Questions about sketchbooks

  • I do have a fear of ‘ruining’ a sketchbook so I would never buy an expensive sketchbook.  I would end up only wanting to put ‘perfect’ drawings in it, perhaps that I had already practised before!  I know I need to embrace my mistakes and am hoping that is something I will get more comfortable with over the course of this unit.  

  • I think that the types of paper I like to use is determined by what I am using it for.  I do try to embrace different types of paper trying to find which works best for which media etc. Having a variety in a sketchbook would be perfect for me I think.  This can’t be predetermined however, otherwise I would feel like I had to match my choice of drawing and media to whatever piece of paper came next. This would shackle me with ‘should’ more. 

  • My default button seems to be to work small but I love the freedom of working on a bigger scale.  I like to produce final artwork at A3 or larger so perhaps having an A3 sketchbook would be an option for me.  Alternatively if I make my own sketchbook of an A4 size I could work at a larger scale and add it to the sketchbook folded.  

  • I haven’t been a fan of spiral bound sketchbooks or notebooks because I find the binding becomes misshapen after a while but I can see that the spiral allows for adding extra pieces of work into a sketchbook.  This would be useful.  

  • I am not yet comfortable with anyone seeing what I am drawing when I’m sketching outside which is why I just use a small  A5 sketchbook. I buy cheap ones so I can fold them over without worrying that I’m ruining it.

Going forward

I want to continue to carry an A5 sketchbook for location work, but think it would be good to get some A6 ones too so I can always have one in my bag.  Perhaps I can make these. I want to start documenting everything in one place, from research and initial idea generation through to visuals because I think it is important to see the process as a whole rather than a bit here, a bit there.  I also want to include more analysis in my sketchbook, rather than just documenting it in my learning log or on my blog. All of this means I need different types of paper in my sketchbook and after watching the ‘Emma’s Sketchbook’ video I am really inspired to make myself a sketchbook like hers because it allows you to add whatever you like into it.  

Exercise 1.1 What is your relationship with your sketchbook?

As touched upon in the previous exercise, my relationship with my sketchbook is all bound up either ‘should’ or ‘it’s not good enough’.  How good should my drawing be? What should go in it? What should it look like? I don’t ever rip out pages though, I just feel that they ruin the sketchbook and I can’t wait to start a new one.  I was always wondering whether my coursework sketchbook looks like it should and questioning whether I am doing it right.  I find myself comparing my sketchbook work with others I see on social media.  Compare and despair. But I also struggle living up to my own expectations. “That’s not how I pictured it in my head.” I don’t think I am a natural sketchbook keeper. But then what does one of those look like?

The photos below are of some of my coursework sketchbooks, I have tried to include photos that show a range of uses.

The photos below are from various other sketchbooks, mostly depicting people studies and location sketches.

Through this unit, I would like to develop my use of sketchbooks to include more experimental work, to be freer and to explore areas of illustration that I think need improving.  In addition to looking at the sketchbooks of other artists and illustrators as research and inspiration, I am really keen to find my own way of using them. One that works for me.  I have used my research into Emma’s and the other artist’s sketchbooks to help inform a vision for my future sketchbooks. The photo below shows this vision.

I found Emma’s handmade sketchbook really inspiring.  It allows for the addition of extra pages to be stuck in at a later date which is something I often find myself needing.  It also means I can use any type of paper which I find appealing. I used what Emma showed us in her video and some images and articles on Pinterest to help me make my own sketchbook.  I chose A4 size because I wanted to make sure it was manageable for my first attempt and I felt that I can put A3 work in folded. The photo below shows my process with annotations. This can also be found in my sketchbook.  

I did make a few mistakes and learnt from this during the process and will continue to learn from them when I make my next one.  

1st - folded inaccurately

2nd - scored on the wrong side

3rd - measured on the wrong side

4th - not enough pressure scoring

5th - initial spine too flimsy

I covered the sketchbook with everyday images from magazines.

Exercise 1.2: Making mistakes - working fast and cutting up

I chose unconventional mark making tools to challenge myself and potentially spark new ideas and processes.  I also decided to use different media and papers too.

I set a timer so I didn’t get distracted by adding too much detail and kept my marks quite gestural focusing on the overall shape rather than worrying about correct perspective. I chose small compositions with just a few items because I wanted to work large. Trying to fit in more elements would have made me focus on detail too much and be less gestural. Before creating these drawings I felt anxious and all the usual what ifs came to mind. Then I realised it is the ‘what ifs’ I’m looking for, the mistakes that I can learn from and the happy accidents. Once I started drawing I found it liberating. Making gestural marks is a really free way of drawing and I think it yielded interesting results. It was so nice not to be making such careful marks all the time. The photos below show my drawings with the tools I used.

I particularly like the first image done in acrylic ink because I like the awkward perspective. It was done on glossy photo paper and I think the finish is really effective. I also think the drawing of the boxes and sketchbooks (bottom left) works well, especially the spiral created with the fork and the scrappy lines made with the silicone tool.

I then made each drawing into a booklet, one for each design. This is shown below on a page from my sketchbook.

Once they were made into books, the drawings suddenly turned into other things. I looked at them in different ways and added to the drawings with whatever came to mind. For the plant pot I added colour and light and shade. It think it looks really effective cropped in this way. The city rooftops also look good as a cropped composition. I particularly like the birds head because I think the effect of Neocolour wax pastel over the black ink and the rough mark making looks really effective.

I really loved this activity because I felt no pressure for anything to be right; it was just playing, improvising. It is a great exercise for encouraging me to look at things in different ways and is one I will come back to when considering composition.

Exercise 1.3: How personal do you want your sketchbook to be? To hide or not to hide?

My sketchbooks are not secret, perhaps because I don’t use them as a diary or a place to record my innermost thoughts. Mostly I’m not happy with what goes in them but I don’t keep them away from other people on purpose. If they want to look, I’ll show them and just explain what is not good about my drawings! The exception to this is when I’m drawing on location where I will try to cover what I am doing with my body. This impacts negatively on my drawing because it means I am too aware of people being around, and not present enough in my artwork.

To hide the mini booklets I made in the previous exercise I started with some research into book structures that hide elements on Pinterest as suggested in the course handbook. Then I made the following drawings and prototypes.

These are the final structures with the books hidden in them. They are fastened at the top in the sketchbook now to make them really hidden.