Tutor Feedback on Assignment 3

I have received prompt, helpful and specific feedback from my tutor for Assignment 3, some of the exercises,  my sketchbook and blog.  This was based on accessing my blog without seeing any physical materials. 

Janet Davies Drawing 1 As.3 Report

Overall comments: “You are working hard and continuing to make progress.   Some of your project exercises are confident and demonstrate an ability to handle a range of materials.  Your final piece is inventive and well executed.  Your log and sketchbook continue to positively support your development.”


I do feel I am growing in confidence, particularly with experimenting.  I am pleased to have received good comments for this assignment (which I didn’t do for 1 and 2).  I did more preparatory work, which helped enormously.  I also tried to get away from the idea that the final assignment piece must stand out.  It took the pressure off me by thinking it was just another exercise and something I was trying out, instead of something I must get right.  I must get used to working on A2 paper more often too.  There is something daunting about a larger sheet of paper but if I use that size more often I will get used to it I know.

The biggest surprise for me was the second exercise I did on a townscape using line (the yellow-based pareidolia approach).  This started as a casual bit of work that I did in between exercises when I had a few minutes to spare.  I did pay attention to composition, colour, variety of mark-making and perspective, but in a playful way.  I was genuinely surprised to get such positive feedback:  first of all from fellow students; then from my tutor.  I need to give more thought on how I can develop this further.

So, going forward I will aim to:

  • continue to experiment, but also develop the techniques and approaches I have investigated to date;
  • remember to check tonal contrasts;
  • work bigger and more expressively;
  • follow up on recommended research/reading: Jenny Saville (I have already looked at her work but will refresh this for life drawing); Egon Schiele (who I know but looking forward to finding out more); Paula Rego (whose dark work I came across in Part 2); and Ana Maria Pacheco and Chantal Joffe (both new to me);
  • continue to enjoy myself.

Assignment 3: Final Drawing and Reflection

I feel that this drawing for Assignment 3 meets the parameters set in that it includes natural and straight-lined objects and demonstrates my understanding of linear perspective. 

In my preliminary sketches, photographs (not shown) and drawings I have experimented with composition and media to determine the final drawing (Fig. 1).

Assignment 3 final drawing
Fig. 1. Assignment 3. Final drawing. A2.

I started the drawing by preparing a background of newspaper, stuck on to A2 heavy paper and torn off when dried to give a random effect.  then gessoed over this and added a blue ink tint (Fig. 2.).

Background large
Fig. 2. Background preparation

I used a previous study (see previous post Fig. 8.) as a basis for the composition.  That was in A4 so it was relatively easy to scale it up by doubling measurements to A2.  Again (as I did with the study) I masked off areas where I wanted to keep the lightest tones and applied a wash of watercolour (black, white, yellow ochre, burnt umber, slightly diluted) to the whole surface.

When dried I added detail with coloured pencil, Tombow pen, crayon, white ink pen, and a little gouache.  I scraped through some areas to add texture and to lighten.  Having a heavier paper supported this enormously.  I had prepared the background a few days ago and I set myself 2 hours to complete the drawing.


Overall I have achieved what I set out to do.  I wanted this to be looser than my previous assignments and I think I have succeeded.  I like the range of marks and textures I have achieved. The range of tone is OK.  I particularly like the bushes in the foreground.   I think the limited palette works well with small highlights of colour.  The composition leads the eye around the drawing to the different areas of interest, with the view and rail tracks disappearing into the distance the main focus.

There are a number of things I could do to improve this:

  • I wouldn’t have the initial background so dark, the added blue tone was difficult to lighten so I don’t feel I have achieved the range of tone that I could have.
  • The houses top right look unfinished and could probably do with some more work to blend them in.  This was more successful on the study.
  • The graffiti on the lower right is a little small.  The graffiti next to the lamps stands out too much, I could take it back a little.
  • It probably is a little too muddled, I would use less texture in the background next time to allow myself to build texture through the layers.

Overall I enjoyed doing this.  I found out that it pays to keep a small vacuum cleaner nearby if you are scraping bits off a drawing, particularly if you are doing it in the living room!

Self-assessment against assessment criteria:  May 2017

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills

I am using a broader range of materials, particularly in my sketchbooks, but increasingly in exercises and assignment pieces.  I am starting to free myself from the notion that I need to be technically competent with a medium before I use it. Sometimes incompetence leads to interesting effects and better learning.

The exercises on perspective and drawing statues have shown that I need to continue to work on my observational skills, but I feel that I am continuing to improve and that the next part (Part four: The figure and the head) will build on this.  I am probably still a bit staid with my compositions, but have tried a number of techniques such as heavy foregrounding and using varying perspectives.  I continue to look at the work of other artists to gain insights and inspiration.   

Quality of outcome

Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, with discernment

I am increasingly aiming to draw subjects which provide me with a narrative so that I am engaged with the work.  I think this is leading to better outcomes.  When I look at other artists work I aim to analyse how I might use their technique, composition or approach in my work. 

I am also developing a way of working that helps me step back from my work to gain distance and perspective.  I find that working on more than one piece at a time, and not necessarily in the order set out, allows not only time for drying if wet media are used, but also time for reflection and better decision making on whether a piece is “finished” or needs more work.  This means that recording on my blog is in chunks as I am still aiming to present in chronological order, but I keep careful notes and photos as I go along, particularly on process and reflection, to ensure that they are contemporaneous.    

Demonstration of creativity

Imagination, experimentation, invention, personal voice

I wanted to spend more time on this part of the course as I felt I had not left myself enough space to experiment before.  I have experimented with a number of techniques including collage, mono-printing (sketchbook), layering, digital manipulation, non-traditional drawing media and sgraffito.

I am continuing to enjoy the spontaneity of making images from my imagination, but still have a nagging doubt that this is are not “real drawing”.  I guess it’s that they are not directly observed. But I have started to have an idea about incorporating direct observation into imaginative drawings.   

I still don’t feel that I have a very strong personal voice, though I do think I am starting to recognise a few approaches that I like using such as layering and drawing from my imagination.  I am still enjoying exploring and learning.


Reflection, research (learning logs)

I regularly attend exhibitions, but want to attend more contemporary, less well-known ones as well as the blockbusters.

Most of my reflection of my own work and others has been on technique, approaches and composition.  I haven’t forayed deeply into conceptual matters, though I have thought and written about some issues such as gender and humour in art (Rauschenberg).    Theodore Gracyk’s The Philosophy of Art is continuing to tax my brain cells and I will aim to introduce some concepts into future observations.

I have discovered the very well-stocked library at Morley College and have started accessing books on artists to broaden my range of understanding.  Frank Brangwyn I have written about.  Richard Diebenkorn I have recently discovered and am currently looking at.

I have an interest in art history, particularly how artists have influenced each other over the years, and how the various “isms” have arisen (Surrealism; Cubism etc).  The biography of Picasso was interesting in this respect, and I still have another biography on him to read about Guernica. 

I feel that my blog is well organised and that the reflection is to the point, yet insightful.  I have tried to avoid being discursive, but know I can slip into tangential matters sometimes – hopefully interestingly so.



Part 3: Assignment 3: Preparation/experimentation

Key points for Assignment 3:  Outdoor scene including straight-lined and natural objects; demonstrate aerial or linear perspective.

During my wandering looking at townscapes I had taken a few photos of my nearest train station (Denmark Hill) and realised the potential for perspective:  train lines and trains running into distance; long platforms; buildings – some old, some new.  There are also trees and shrubs.  Some intended, like hanging baskets: others a gift of nature, seeds blow into difficult to access places and the plants flourishing there.  So I returned for this assignment with my sketchbook (see below) and camera.

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I noted another visual “gift” – the graffiti, which provides additional interest, colour and marks for a drawing.  I noted in my notebook that perhaps recording graffiti was another way of developing a theme about urban change.  I had already looked at some scenes near my home where a new extension had been added to a row of old houses.  Also I aimed to depict a new(ish) type of town shopping environment with the demise of the old traditional shops.  I know a little about the history of graffiti, and while scribbling on walls itself is not new (the ancient Greeks and Romans did it), the elevation of graffiti to an art form is relatively recent development.  A quick peek at the Wikipedia entry on graffiti reveals an even richer history than I had imagined.  This theme is something that might be worth exploring further. 

Robert Kaupelis (Kaupelis, 1992:101) suggests as an exercise cropping parts of a photograph or image to achieve new compositions.  He then suggests developing these in a number of ways, including rendering:

·         one as precisely as possible – then a series in freer ways;

·         tonal drawings: in a variety of ways, including reverse tone;

·         tonal with one/two areas of colour;

·         working a large version (say a 4’ x 6’) in an expressionistic style

With my assignment deadline looming I didn’t have time to explore all these fully, but I did crop one of my station photos to reveal a composition of some of the graffiti, which I aimed to render in a representational style (Fig. 1.). 

graffiti crop
Fig. 1.  Station graffiti. A4. Watercolour (background), crayon, chalk, highlighter pen, Inktense pencils, oil pastel, gouache

This was a useful exercise.  Although this composition does not fulfil the brief for the assignment, it did allow me to experiment with materials and methods.  I began this drawing with a pre-prepared dark wash background.  I have a range of pre-prepared sheets of paper in a range of sizes (this is A4), I usually use left-over ink or watercolour and print, paint or roll it on.  What I didn’t do here though was make a note of how I did the background.  I need to remember to note on the back of the paper how these are achieved in case I want the same effect again.

The background was very dark brown/red vertically streaked with no white paper showing, it was matt.  I had to work out ways to add light areas and colour to this to vary the tones and marks.  I did this in a number of ways, some new to me. 

I had already used a sgraffito method in my sketchbook after looking as some of the work of Frank Brangwyn (Llewellyn/Esser, 2015:21), so I scratched through some areas to reveal the white paper beneath the brown wash; other areas I scratched through layers of oil pastel to indicate areas of dried/dead grasses and twigs. 

I tried to use highlighter marker pen to brighten the middle set of graffiti, but it wouldn’t take very well on the dark background and stained the tip of the pen.  I then discovered if you put some marker pen on a glass or ceramic surface (I used a plate), mix it with a tiny bit of white gouache, and then apply it to the paper with a small brush it works brilliantly.  I particularly wanted to use marker pen as this echoes the use of it in actual graffiti. Some areas were highlighted with chalk, white crayon, or gouache.  Darker areas were achieved with oil pastel and crayon. 

I think this is a successful piece in its own right.  The dark background has helped pull it all together and given it a grungy feel that I wanted.

Going back to my sketches and photographs I looked for a composition that would fit the Assignment remit better.  I decided that I would aim for the sketch that showed the train lines emerging from the tunnel and disappearing off the page for the perspective.  This also included the graffiti which I wanted to incorporate into the final piece.

My first tentative A4 sketch (Fig. 2.) was in conte crayon.

Fig. 2. A4.  Conte crayon over pencil

I just wanted to get a feel for the composition and how it might all sit together.  It was on plain white paper.  I was concerned about the immediate foreground and how I would add interest there.  I also wanted to more fully explore the possibilities of using a looser approach, and on a larger scale with a different medium.

So I moved to A3 blue/grey sugar paper and taped three coloured pens (black, orange and purple) together to draw the scene (Fig. 3.).

Three pens A3
Fig. 3. Three pens (and some more)

I really liked the sweeping effect of the rail lines across the page.  It was difficult to control the pens though, which might not have been a bad thing but I couldn’t get any firm detail in where I wanted it.  I ended up adding some detail with Sharpies in orange and purple.   I still wasn’t happy with the immediate foreground.

For my next sketch (Fig. 4.) I thought to introduce the ornate lamp-post from my sketchbook into the foreground instead of the signals.

Try lampost A4
Fig. 4. Introduce lamp-post

I was happy with this decision.  I did think about foregrounding it much more heavily, but I wanted to get the detail of the lamp-shades in as the shapes echo those of the tunnel and the doors of the houses in the background, which will help pull the composition together.   . 

I toyed with the idea of adding litter, or a pigeon in the foreground too, but I didn’t want it to look too contrived.  I also considered whether I should do the final piece in line and wash – which I haven’t experimented with to any extent to date – but thought that perhaps this was too delicate for the effect I wanted, which is something grittier.

Having used a sgraffito method in my sketchbook and for the graffiti drawing my next experiment (Fig. 5.) was sgraffito through black ink on red paper (no gouache).  I stuck with the same composition.

sgraffito A4
Fig. 5. A4. Red paper, black ink, crayon

This was difficult to do because I had to actually break the surface of the paper to get the red coming through.  I like the stuttering effect of the scrapes, but this method needs either a buffer medium (like the gouache) or a more robust paper – card or board.  I used crayon to add other colour/detail.  The lighter crayon marks are effective on the dark background.  This could work well on a larger scale.  The sgraffito could also be used to make marks through the crayon to the black ink.

So far in my experimentation I have worked mostly on plain backgrounds (apart from the graffiti drawing).  I wanted to return to using textured background for a few more drawings.  I looked into my treasure trove of prepared surfaces and found just what I wanted.  I had prepared four A4 pieces of paper by gluing newspaper to the surface – a complete sheet – then a light gesso wash over them (Figure 6.).

Background small four
Fig. 6. Background. Newspaper, gesso.

I had forgotten that I had used a Guardian article on Paul Nash, you can just see an image of Wood on the Downs on one of them.  I hope this will inspire me to greater things!  There is not much colour in the newspaper, just some blue tones, and the texture is fairy uniform as I didn’t tear it up.

I then decided I would roll on a watercolour layer with my brayer.  I have found that a combination of black, white, yellow ochre and burnt umber gives a nice warm dark effect.  But first I masked off areas I wanted to protect for highlights with masking tape and masking fluid.  I then decided I would roll on a watercolour layer with my brayer.  I have found that a combination of black, white, yellow ochre and burnt umber gives a nice warm dark effect.  But first I masked off areas I wanted to protect for highlights with masking tape and masking fluid. I tore off the masking tape before the wash was dried as I was worried it might not come of when dry.  The tape tore some of the newspaper/ gesso layer off in places, exposing the plain white background paper, but I liked this effect – so success!  (Fig. 7) The masking fluid (which had to dry before I put the wash on) was rubbed off when the wash was dry.  I do love a bit of process as you can tell.

Masking A4
Fig. 7. Wash applied, masking removed.

This actually gives a really pleasing effect on its own.  Not sure you could call it a drawing though as I haven’t added any lines yet.  But I guess I have made lines by masking and washing with ink.  Food for thought indeed.

The drawing was completed (Fig. 8.) with hard coloured pencil.

Developed from masking
Fig. 8. A4. Finished with hard coloured pencil.

I chose some subtle blue and pink colours to highlight a few areas, which link with the blue tones coming through from the newspaper.  I am very pleased with the result.  Though I do wonder whether I am straying too far into it being a painting rather than a drawing.   I think this might be the way forward for my final Assignment 3 piece.

A final experiment was completed in a similar way but with ink and stick for the detail (Fig. 9.).

Ink stick A4
Fig. 9. A4. Ink/stick detail.

I used the leftover wash on the glass plate and pressed the prepared paper on to it.  This gives less definite lines than the brayer gives.  I didn’t mask off the highlights on this one but added some neat watercolour streaks where the highlights were.  I finished it off with black ink (neat and diluted) applied with a stick and some white ink pen detail.   I like the energy and atmosphere of this piece.  A4 is probably too small scale for this, and it needs more variety of marks, but it gives me some ideas for the Assignment. 

Better get on with the Assignment now then!