New course, new blog

I have decided to set up a new blog for my next course Painting 1.  If you are interested in following my journey it can be found at

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End of course review

The course aims and outcomes state:-

The unit aims to:

  • expand the range of media and methods to produce creative effects
  • develop your understanding and skill in the use of tone and colour
  • develop an understanding of linear perspective and composition
  • develop self reflective skills

On successful completion of the unit you will be able to:

  • experiment with a wide range of drawing media to produce a range of effects
  • demonstrate use of tone and colour to represent three dimensions in creative outcomes
  • explain the application of linear perspective and composition in a single drawing or series of drawings
  • reflect on your own learning experience

I think I have achieved the course outcomes.  I have ventured away from graphite pencil into a world of colour and have enjoyed experimenting with lots of different types of drawing media.   I think the exercises have helped me to become more aware and improve aspects of drawing such as tone, form, line, colour and composition.   Reflection, I realise, is an essential part of the learning experience and helps to articulate the ideas, the process, the problems encountered and the way forward. 

It has been almost two years since I started Drawing Skills.  When I embarked on the course I didn’t anticipate how much time I would need to devote to it.  I came to realise there was a world of difference between going to weekly art classes – painting and drawing as and when I felt like it – compared to working in a more structured manner and trying to complete the exercises within reasonable timescales.  I have thought several times about giving up – not because I’m not enjoying it but because I sometimes feel a sense of pressure and frustration that I can’t devote more time to the course.  However I have enjoyed it very much and I think it has helped me to improve.  I know this is what I want to do – it is my best opportunity to aim for a degree whilst I am still at work.  Whether I’ll ever get to the end remains to be seen but I am determined to continue – and enjoy it.  

I am very much looking forward to getting started on my next course  – The Practice of Painting.

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Protected: Assignment 5: Research

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Posted in Drawing 1, Part 5: Draw and experiment, Research & Reflection

Assignment 5: Feedback

Arlene Sharp 5

I was pleased with my feedback – I feel it is mostly positive and my tutor recognised my attempts to push into creating some more abstract pieces of work.  I am slightly concerned about the comments on composition – however I think this will partly be resolved when I crop my work to mount it for assessment.  I thought about reworking my rejected still life mushrooms with green vegetables but felt such a lack of connection with it that I decided to give up on it.  I have included below extracts from my feedback together with my responses.

The mixed media with water colour.

This again is a very inventive interpretation of the collection of mushrooms. The way you have mixed your own controlled drawing with the rather spontaneous working of other parts of the natural form is imaginative and creative. You have really looked at the mushrooms and seen so much in them. You have explored the forms in a loose and gestural way and created an image of variety.

What does worry me is the way you have not used all the paper. I have searched the module for instruction on this issue but have not found any definitive wording. However I do feel if they do write that you should use a particular size of paper then you should use all that paper. It would then demonstrate your awareness of composition as you complete each exercise.

completely take the point abut the size of the paper and working the composition out to the edges.  The guidelines said use A2 or A3 paper – I had decided with this piece to crop it – either by cutting it or putting a mount around it – to the same proportions that I cropped the photo.  I think then it will give it a better balance and tighten up the ares of negative space.  The size will end up somewhere between A2 and A3.


I hope you will include a small sketchbook that you have obviously used as a visual diary. This is an important contribution. It demonstrates the development of your own personal voice. It demonstrates that you have other interests other than what has been required of you during the module. It provides you with an accessible tool in which you can record interesting images during your day as part of visual research. So this must be included with your submission. Your large sketchbook shows how you have completed all that was required of you in this fifth assignment. The thumbnail sketches and the exercises demanded. I do only see relevance practically to this fifth assignment – I do hope that you have other larger sketchbooks that you have used throughout the other assignments.

I used one sketchbook per assignment – I have submitted these for assessment together with one small personal one.

Learning Logs or Blogs / Critical essays

I see how you have really studied different painters and paintings and written about them in your sketchbook. I worry that you have not a separate book where you have written in pen not pencil. This pencil writing with mistakes – crossing etc. I think it is essential that you approach this part of your study more professionally. You should have a separate book where you write down your learning logs. In this book you must write about the exhibitions that you have visited. How you have developed your interest in certain painters. You should also communicate an analytical approach to other artists.  You should not only just relate your preferences- your likes and dislikes but try and be objective in your criticisms.  Your writing should be well written   and easily read.  You need to show evidence of self- reflection and your own personal research. Instead of writing full of corrections etc you must come over as articulate with a developing sense of intellectual understanding. So perhaps review your writing to reinforce these issues.

I had made a quite a lot of notes (in my sketchbook) on several other artists as background research to this assignment – these need to be organised and written up properly in my learning log – which I will now do!

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Study visit to the Saatchi Gallery

This was an excellent and very enjoyable study visit.  I have visited the Saatchi Gallery several times and some of the collection doesn’t do an awful lot for me – however the Paper exhibition was fabulous.  The light, airy galleries were full of great contemporary artworks based around the theme of paper.  There was a lot to see and  I could easily have spent more time there however we viewed everything and Gerald, our OCA tutor leading the visit, was very knowledgeable and supportive.  He took lots of time to discuss various aspects of the work on display and encouraged us to voice our own opinions.  There was so much that inspired me and gave me a lot to think about.

The exhibition starts with Dawn Clements’ Travels with Myra Hudson.  The subject of this work is the 1952 film Sudden Fear starring Joan Crawford.  The drawings are intricate, exquisite but most notably they are on a massive scale.  Half of one wall of the gallery is covered in illustrative scenes of the film – starting from a view in a library, through to a scene of a staircase in a hallway where we discover an accident took place and on into the compartment carriage of a moving train – the story unfolds in a series of drawings in incredible detail.  I admired the skill of the drawing especially the perspective of the interiors and the way the paper is used – as a vehicle for the drawing – she simply sticks on extra pieces where she needs to.  There are annotations – side notes, scribbles and thoughts about various aspects of the film.  The work feels alive and very personal to the artist.

Travels With Myra Hudson (detail)

Travels With Myra Hudson (detail),

In Gallery 6 we encountered Zak Smith.  Seen at a distance 100 Girls and 100 Octopuses rendered in acrylic and metallic ink comes across as a highly illustrated lavish drawing – with intricate patterns and small splashes of bright colour.  It is reminiscent somewhat of Klimt – there are swirly patterns and textures in bright colours shimmering amidst the monochrome drawings.  Look closer and while the subject matter may not be to everyone’s taste, the quality of the drawing is superb.  I found this quite inspiring and also the whole composition – the way so many (98 in total) small and beautiful drawings have come together to work as a whole piece.

100 Girls and 100 Octopuses

100 Girls and 100 Octopuses, 2005

One of the most disturbing works was by Annie Kevins.  Fifty or portraits of children  painted in delicate oils – the colours are soft.  They are framed identically and placed at a low height equally spaced around three walls of the gallery.  The lighting was subdued and amber.  Look closer and we realise the portraits are of dictators as young and seemingly innocent children staring out at the viewer at child height.  Only their subtle expressions and the staring eyes give an indication of what they will become.   The atmosphere felt disturbing and intense – added to by some vast dried flower arrangements in dessicated dying browns which lent a funereal air.  I found myself thinking about this work on the train journey home.

Adolf Hitler, Germany

Adolf Hitler, Germany, 2004

Clements, Dawn (2004).  Travels With Myra Hudson (detail) [sumi ink on paper]  At: (Accessed on 30.09.13)
Kevans, Annie (2004). Adolf Hitler, Germany [oil on paper]  At: (Accessed on 30.09.13)
Smith, Zak (2005). 100 Girls and 100 Octopuses [acrylic and metallic ink on paper: 98 parts]  At: (Accessed on 30.09.13)
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Assignment 5


Before starting this assignment we are asked to reflect on the exercises in this project and evaluate the work in terms of technical skill, truthful observation and interpretation.

I can see it as a scale.   At one end is accurate ‘truthful’ realistic rendition  – at the other is creative interpretation.  I am not sure if this means you can’t be truthful and creative at the same time?  My truthful reality versus creativity is heavily influenced by my drawing tools.  I think I am most accurate (and does that mean being technically skillful?) when I use graphite pencil – there is no colour to get in the way, there is a reliability, there are no surprises – fine pens and nibs also encourage accuracy.  At the other end of the scale coloured inks flowing into each other, sticky paper collage –  mixed media in general – encourages creativeness.  I enjoyed all the exercises in this section but found myself attracted to those which pushed me towards creating more abstract work – such as Looking Closer and Torn Paper Collage.  Having said that, I will always enjoy drawing carefully in pencil or ink.

Background ideas

I have thought such a lot about this assignment.  What do I want to create? How do I want to achieve it?  I wanted to end up with something layered, with depth, possibly less accurate and more interpretive,  possibly ambiguous but which also demonstrated drawing skills.  My tutor suggested I look at Cézanne – how he uses pattern and colour and arranges compositions, I also looked at one of my favourite artists – Matisse.

Cézanne used multiple perspectives at the same time to create dizzy unreal still lifes, you can see something is not quite right but it isn’t immediately obvious – you have to observe closely to realise all is not what it seems…. Take Still Life with Peppermint Bottle for example – I think the tablecloth appears to be sliding downwards, the two fruits at the forefront are not sitting into the fabric they seem suspended in front of it.  The peppermint bottle is truly lopsided but the overall feel is cohesive and exciting – the oranges of the fruits highlighted by the complementary blues and greens.

20130803-155410.jpg.. and Still Life with a Ginger Jar and Eggplants is even more unsettling.

20130803-155947.jpgMatisse used pattern and colour so beautifully – in an almost childlike simplistic way – but it is not really simple at all –  influenced by the vibrant Mediterranean and North African light – his works are dazzling and intense.

20130803-160936.jpgBoth Cezanne and Matisse created still lifes seemingly effortlessly balanced with light and shade and areas of pattern and plain.

I also looked at some modern artists:- Julian Merrow-Smith creates hyperealistic works.  I like the unusual compositions of these especially the way the oranges are placed in the lower picture – Blood Oranges.

20130803-161552.jpgand the unusual lighting and interesting composition used by Irish artist Connor Walton.


Making a start

Whilst I had very much enjoyed drawing the mushrooms on their own, I found arranging  them into an interesting and original composition a challenge.  I decided to go for a slightly abstract arrangement of a single mushroom against a crumpled paper bag against a dark background.  Something along the lines of this:-

20130803-163625.jpgI was inspired by this delicate and unusual student drawing in the book Experimental Drawing by Robert Kaupelis.


I liked the idea of the diagonal placement of the paper behind the mushroom, I decided the format should be tall and thin and I wanted the background to be in black and white and the mushroom to be in colour.

20130803-164823.jpgOnce I had drawn the mushroom and the bag behind, I felt it was lacking something, so I decided to add in a rather unrealistic background based on mushroom gill patterns and shadows deliberately in black.

20130803-164836.jpgFeeling a little disheartened at this point – it really hadn’t turned out as I had envisaged – I decided to start again and take a completely different approach.


This time I looked more at composition and arrangements of groups of mushrooms arranged in various containers, with and without other items.


20130803-170708.jpg20130803-170721.jpgI tried out arranging them against different backgrounds both indoors and outside..


20130803-170740.jpg20130803-170756.jpgI liked the idea of the coloured patterned tea towel in the background although I wasn’t sure how it would turn out as the pattern was quite strong.


I decided to go for the arrangement on the left, there was natural light from the window to one side and I also added a lamp to intensify the shadows.

I found although the drawing was going well, I was struggling to be creative – I felt I had moved to a more realistic rendition which wasn’t what I wanted to do – it didn’t help that I needed to draw the vegetables before the background as I was worried they would wilt and change shape.

20130803-171751.jpgI pressed on determined to be more interpretive with the background.  This is the end result, drawn mainly in coloured pencils.

20130803-171804.jpgDisaster!  I didn’t like this at all – it is not what I had wanted to submit for my final assignment – I don’t know how I got to this place, it seems all my plans for interpretation, creativity, using colours and layers and collage have fallen away and I had reverted to drawing in a style which led to a very unsatisfactory outcome. I was very disappointed!

Starting afresh

I pushed away all thoughts of not being able to do this.  I reminded myself of what excited me in the exercises – the colours, the inks, the collage.  In the evening after work, on the hottest day of the year, I started again – I had 2 A2 pieces of heavy watercolour paper left and decided to create 2 pieces of work simultaneously.

I stuck random torn paper collage onto one piece of paper and applied my favourite acrylic ink colours  – Payne’s Grey and Burnt Umber, – they are quite transparent and when they mixed they create a wonderful deep but natural dark green.  I added salt to the other piece of paper. I added varying amounts of water and made scratchy lines with the end of the paintbrush.



Here are close-ups of some of the interesting effects.  I wanted to incorporate these areas into the surface of the mushrooms.



To work out a composition, I arranged some mushrooms on a white piece of paper, I wanted several – maybe overlapping, I focused on an arrangement of shapes and colours that could be interesting and exciting.

20130803-174149.jpgStarting with the collaged paper, I added more ink and oil pastel to bring the mushroom shapes to life.

20130803-173959.jpgThe work on the collaged paper was going well, so I decided to continue with that and leave the paper with salt for experimentation.  The mushrooms were emerging.

20130803-174008.jpg I added more collage at the end to define some of the edges and shapes of the mushrooms, I drew in details on the gills and I darkened some of the shadowed areas.  I thought it was in danger of becoming too dark so I decided to stop at this point.  Here is the final result.

20130803-174025.jpgI am so much happier with this.  I will see what my tutor says but I think this is more or less finished.  It is not particularly accurate, but I feel I have conveyed the essence of the mushrooms in an energetic and creative way – this is what I was aiming for. 

Cézanne, Paul. (1895).  The Peppermint Bottle [Oil painting] At: (Accessed on 14.07.13)
Cézanne, Paul. (1893-4).  Still Life with a Ginger Jar and Eggplants [Oil painting] At: (Accessed on 14.07.13)
Mattise, Henri (1913). Still Life with Oranges [Oil painting] At: (Accessed on 14.07.13)
Mattise, Henri (1948). Interior with Egyptian Curtain [Oil painting] At: (Accessed on 14.07.13)
Merrow-Smith, Julian (2006).  An Oyster and a Glass of Wine [Oil on linen] At: (Accessed on 14.07.13)
Merrow-Smith, Julian (2006).  Blood Oranges [Oil on linen] At: (Accessed on 14.07.13)
Walton, Connor (2004). Fruit Piece [Oil on linen] At: (Accessed on 14.07.13)
Walton, Connor (2005). Still Life with Large Orchid [Oil on linen] At: (Accessed on 14.07.13)
Sillman, Amy. untitled [Pencil] In: Kaupelis, R Experimental Drawing.  New York: Watson-Guptill Publications. p. 48
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