Morley Drawing: Fluffy and Shiny

We had a change this week at Morley Drawing.  From the strenuous gestural drawings in charcoal of a life model of the past two weeks, we moved to the more controlled, finer-detailed graphite pencil drawings of still life.  The concentration was no less intense though.  We were asked to (counter-intuitively) use hard, sharp marks to depict softness; and smooth soft marks to denote harder/shiny surfaces.


Figure 1.  It’s a kangaroo of course.  3B graphite pencil on paper.  A4.
Fig. 2.  Not so shiny shoe.  3B, 5B graphite pencil.  A4.

Fig. 1.  I started the kangaroo (yes it is) by making my marks too regular (see area on neck) but then I realised that more squiggly marks would suit the texture better.  We were told not to draw hard outlines (very like Exercise 3 Creating shadows using lines and marks).  We moved on to the next exercise before I had time to think about background but it was a useful chance to practise mark-making and tone and texture.

Fig. 2.  This was interesting for me as I had not tried this type of drawing before.  We looked at some photo-realism drawings of shoes (after we talked briefly about the point of drawing something that looked like a photo – but that’s another discussion), then we were urged to attempt a realistic representation of the shine on a shoe.  This was to be achieved by making dense marks with soft graphite pencils (3B – 6B), which were blended to remove the appearance of the marks; using an eraser to produce sharp highlights, and to produce sharp, clear outlines.

Some of the learning points for me from this were:  make sure you do it on a smooth surface; use another piece of paper to rest your hand on when drawing over the piece to avoid smudges; blending can be done with finger, cotton pad or bud (less messy) or tortillon (more accurate); plastic eraser worked best for this (putty rubber not hard enough); don’t spit on the paper while you are blowing on it or it will make the paper wet and you will tear it while rubbing out! (Generally, not spitting is probably a good tip anyway.)

Robert Kaupelis has something to say on blending pencil marks which I have noted and commented on in my Books section.


John Piper

This week at Morley drawing class we looked at the work of John Piper (1903 – 1992).

‘The Bells Go Down’ (detail) John Piper. P. 73. John Piper The Forties.

Piper was a painter, print-maker and designer of stained-glass windows.  We particularly looked at his work as a war artist in WWII, and his paintings of bombed churches.  In his time his paintings were considered as abstracted, and he was part of the abstract movement in Britain (Jenkins, John Piper The Forties P. 11.).

We were encouraged to look at his layering and mark-making in particular – both the broad brush strokes and tonal contrasts and the selective finer detail, and to note the atmosphere engendered: sombre and dramatic – but not melodramatic.

Fig 1. After John Piper. JD.

This (Fig. 1.) is my (unfinished) attempt to emulate his style.  I used brush and black ink and oil pastel on A3 cartridge paper.  I really enjoyed this exercise, particularly as we were told not to worry too much about perspective and composition but to concentrate on the variety of mark-making.  Some of the mark were made by rubbing, dry brush, ink on string and corrugated card printing.  Overall I am pleased with the results, but I will re-work this to add more layers and may even crop the paper to improve the composition.

I have played around with the image digitally to crop it and add a colour wash to show my intentions (Fig. 2.).  But I also will physically crop and add washes and detail when I have time.

Fig. 2.

I am so inspired by John Piper that I have added a book about him to my Bibliography:  Jenkins, D, F. (2000)  John Piper The Forties.  Philip Wilson Publishers.  Imperial War Museums.  I particularly like the combination of free marks combined with precision, and his use of tone contrasted with bright colour.  I look forward to reading more about him and will seek out his works.  There are a few at the Imperial War Museum in London (right next to where I play tennis – so perfect!)



Morley Drawing: Vanessa Bell

This week we discussed the Bloomsbury Group[1] – in particular, Vanessa Bell and her designs for book jackets (Figs 1. and 2.). We looked at examples of her designs and noted her use of positive and negative space; thick and thin lines; recurring motifs (e.g. grid lines, circles); and stylised and simplified images.

Figs 1. and 2.  Pinterest website

We then attempted to use her graphic approach to draw a still life.  This is my drawing using brush and black ink (Fig 3.).


Fig 3. Still life, Protea/Fatsia

I think I have captured the approach.  The lines are a bit wobbly, and the diluted ink turned out patchy, but I resisted the temptation to tidy them up.  The paper should have been a heavier weight as it buckled under the wetness of the ink.  I like working with brush and ink and I have some lovely Chinese brushes which I aim to use more. 

[1] Tate website

More on Alberto Giacommeti



Figure 1. Seated Man (Homme Assis).  1949.  Alberto Giacometti.  Oil paint on canvas.  Tate website Reference N05909 (not on display).

This is a portrait (Fig 1.) by Giacometti of his brother Diego who was a model for much of his artwork.  Even though Diego was a familiar subject to Giacometti he took pains to scrutinise his subjects intensely – saying even of his brother “when he poses for me I don’t recognise him”, such was his concentration on portraying what he actually saw, rather than what he was familiar with[1].

still life bust.png

Figure 2.  Still life bust and room.  Graphite pencil.

My attempt at another Giacometti-like approach (Fig. 2) to a still life and room met with varying success.  Some of the lines are loose and I managed to make the central image come to the foreground, but my observational skills need lots of development through practise.  For example, I can see that the neck on the bust is too narrow.

Learning point:  need to observe and practise, practise, practise.

[1] Tate website

Alberto Giacometti

I attend a weekly drawing class at Morley College.  The tutor is Steve Wright.  This week we discussed the drawing style of artist Alberto Giacometti(1901 – 1966). Although he sounds Italian, he was a Swiss sculptor, painter and printmaker.  He has a very particular style, and we discussed his achievement of the feeling of space in his drawings; lack of tonal observation; and use of lines.  We were urged to try out a still-life room drawing.  Initially plotting where things are and relationships and outlines, with any details and recognisable objects coming later.  An approach was suggested of starting in the middle of the drawing and working outwards – not worrying too much about composition.

Enter a caption

I drew this in charcoal, smudging some of it with my finger, and rubbing out in places.  At first I couldn’t resist the urge to draw all the lines of everything I saw, which usually overwhelms me when I am confronted with a complicated scene.  I was going to start again but Steve urged me to rub out some areas to remove detail, or to reduce its impact, and to sharpen up others while not outlining everything.  I think in the end I managed to convey the sense of a busy room with the main focus on the skeleton.  I was pleased with the looseness of the piece, something I usually struggle with.

We are going to return to this style next week, and I am going to look up Giacometti in more detail.  Watch this space!