Part 1: Project 2: Exercise 1 – Groups of objects

Choose at least six objects of different sizes and shapes. Some of these should be three-dimensional forms made from rectangles and cylinders – a paperback book, a cereal box, jar of coffee, tin of beans, etc. – and others should be less regular in their form, for example a net or loose plastic container.

For the first image, work on a surface (A2 or A1) that seems appropriate for the image you want to make. Be imaginative and don’t assume you have to use a bright white sheet of paper. You might want to use a sheet of brown paper or an unfolded newspaper as your support, for example.

Try to make your composition as natural as possible. A supermarket shop with the objects still in the trolley or spilling out from a carrier bag makes for a very different feel than a highly posed scene. Using just one colour (charcoal, conté, oil stick, ink and stick, etc.) and bearing in mind the previous exercises, loosely describe the group of objects. Don’t forget their weight, transparency, shine, etc., and don’t forget the spaces between them and the things they are resting on or against. Remember that writing on labels will curve around cylindrical objects and elements half hidden inside bags will jostle for space.

Fill the sheet with drawing. Imagine you can see through the forms to the spaces inside. Try to evoke some kind of expression in the marks you make and in the relationships you create inside and around the edges of the forms and the picture plane.

Groups of objects from course notes

OCA student, Sally Pennington, Sketchbook drawing, 2012

Process and Critique

Reference photo – studio table with objects, ink bottle and drawing sticks (forsythia branch that has a hollow centre into which I cut a nib):

Group of objects
Ink and drawing sticks

My chosen objects are:

Copy of Vitamin D
Copy of Drawing Projects
Copy of A Beginner’s Guide to Drawing
1 x open metal tin
1 x ‘Pencil’ pencil case
1 x open clear jar
1 x (empty) bottle of Tobermory whisky
1 x bottle stopper
1 x set of teeth mould (mine)

Group of objects in ink
Groups of objects in ink

Unsuccessful first attempt with the ink on A2 paper. I found it difficult to get the ink to flow with my home made sticks and as you can see my idea of scale was way off the mark. However, I intend to come back to trying ink again with this same composition.

So, I gave the drawing another go using green ink. This time my tool of choice was a nib pen which turned out to still be a bit of a challenge to keep loaded and create clean lines. I then tried out a Rotring isograph pen with the same green ink and several grades of nib (.70, 1.0, and 2.0) – very scratchy on the paper and no easy flow. In frustration I picked up a charcoal stick and set  to it to finish the drawing. You can still see green ink peeking through in places:

Group of objects with ink and charcoal
Group of objects with ink and charcoal

My second attempt on A2 paper was more successful, this time using a green conté stick for mark making. Scale and perspective a bit better I think although the ‘pencil’ pencil case in the can is wrong – it should be lying up against the edge to accommodate its full length properly in the tin can.

I haven’t really used conté much before and found it a bit tricky to use to get clean lines. My other observation is that the drawing could have been larger in scale on the paper while still leaving sufficient negative space around and between the objects:

Group of objects in conte
Group of objects in conte

Third, and most pleasing effort to me, I chose a graphite pencil to capture the objects and space as loosely as I could manage. I think the scale is better and the sense of depth is there with the light sketching in of the table top leading into the backdrop.

I found working with the graphite much easier to control and I managed some thicker, darker as well as lighter lines. I was quite tempted to do a bit of shading, but decided that wasn’t the real point of the exercise.

I know I am a fairly untidy drawer – no real precision here – but I kind of like the fuzzier, less ‘clean’ approach to placing down marks on the paper:

Group of objects in graphite
Group of objects in graphite

Groups of objects pdf file

Stuart Brownlee – 512319
19 May 2015





Part 1 Sketchbook work

I tried out some pencils and charcoal pencils to get a feel for making different kinds of marks:

Soft pencil marksMedium pencil marksHard pencil marksSoft charcoal pencil marksMedium charcoal pencil marksHard charcoal pencil marks

As a next task I made several sketches of dancers over the period of a day at The Shed in Evanston, Ross-shire:

3 dancers2 dancers2 dancers 22 dancers 34 dancers

I found it very tricky to keep up with the movement of the dancers and the individual moves were repeated a number of times, which is the only way I managed to capture them with any real sense of positioning and movement.

Out and about in the field next to our house, turned my hand at trying to draw a couple of trees that caught my eye at the top of the field:

Tree sketch 1

I used graphite and a selection of coloured pencils for this quick sketch which took me about a half-hour. I liked the form of the twisted limb on the left-hand trunk, the bowl where the trunk on the right had lost a limb and the overall dynamic of what I saw in front of me. The tree line recedes up the hill behind the barbed-wire fencing, with front row being held ‘safe’ from deer within the two fences – it doesn’t really work as the deer can skip over very deftly.

Tree sketch 2

A simpler sketch further along the tree-line. The indented trunk where tree damage has occurred caught my eye.

Stuart Brownlee – 512319
19 May 2015

I was out and about last month at Plodda Falls in Inverness-shire. It is located just outside the hamlet of Tomich, near Cannich and close to Glen Affric. Tomich and the Guisachan Estate is the ancestral home of the Golden Retriever breed of dogs. The Forestry Commission of Scotland manage the area around the falls and replaced the original wrought iron viewing platform overlooking the falls. I made a graphite pencil sketch of the new wooden platform:

Plodda falls viewing platform
Plodda falls viewing platform

Earlier in the month I had been in the area and made a couple of quick sketches, this time using coloured marker pens:

Plodda falls log
Plodda falls ruined cottage
Plodda falls ruined cottage

Last week I bought myself a full set of Derwent Graphic 24 pencils – 9B to 9H. This is the first set of pencils like this that I have ever owned and I made a quick try out in my sketch book of the range of 20:

Pencil exercise
Pencil exercise

Stuart Brownlee – 512319
31 May 2015

I made some sketches today in my concertina book of pages to continue to get to grips with my new pencils. I decided to try out some line and shading sketches of shapes and forms:

Sketchbook line shape and form
Sketchbook light and shadow shapes and forms
Sketchbook light and shadow shapes and forms
Sketchbook values
Sketchbook values

Stuart Brownlee – 512319
1 June 2015

Looking at space and perspective, I sketched the following three pages:

Sketchbook illusion of space and depth
Sketchbook illusion of space and depth
Sketchbook linear perspectives
Sketchbook linear perspectives
Sketchbook aerial perspective
Sketchbook aerial perspective

Stuart Brownlee – 512319
3 June 2015



Part 1: Project 1: Exercise 1 – Expressive lines and marks

This exercise will help you begin to understand how to make your marks express a feeling, using single words as a starting point.

You’ll need:

• four A1 sheets of paper
• a range of materials including charcoal, ink and a stick (a sharpened twig, wooden chopstick or similar)
• greasy conté sticks, oil sticks or any other tool that will leave a varied mark depending on the speed and pressure that you exert – use one colour only, either black, dark blue, or dark brown.

Fold each A1 sheet in half (A2) and then in half again (A3). Unfold the sheet and tape it to the board or table top by the corners using masking tape. You’ll have four (A3) panels on each sheet.

In the corner of one of the sheets write ‘calm’, on another write ‘anger’, on the third write ‘joy’, then decide on another feeling for the fourth sheet. Create non-objective images, so no words and no figures, only lines, marks and abstract shapes within each rectangle. Bear in mind that the edges created by the folds are all that separate one image from the next. This will help you to become more aware of composition and negative space.

Spend a little time trying to inhabit one of the emotions (memories associated with the feeling may help) and when you feel sufficiently calm, angry, etc., take one of your drawing tools and try to translate the feeling into one of the panels. When you’re confident that the image works, change your medium and work on the next panel, still using the same word/feeling as your driving force. Keep working on the same sheet, changing the medium as you move to the next panel. When you’ve completed your first sheet, put it to one side and reflect on how you felt when working. Simply jot down a free flow of thoughts and words, similar to the way you engaged in a free flow of marks and lines.

Allow sufficient time between sheets to allow you to engage fully with the feeling required. The feelings that prompt the drawing shouldn’t be forced or faked, so if you don’t feel ready leave the next feeling sheet until another time.


Expressive lines and marks – set up and material

Without A1 sheets I instead taped up 4 x 4 x A3 sheets of the drawing board and laid out the materials to use:

~ Calligraphy black ink – with paint brush end and mahl stick end for application
~ Charcoal – various sizes
~ Black oil pastel
~ Black contė stick

Set up and material

My chosen feelings were joy, anger, calm and fear. I didn’t plan in any way and I had no specific images in mind before putting mark to surface, trying to be as spontaneous as possible, although I found that as the free-form of the drawing developed I did seem to intervene and direct with intention. Here they are in the order I drew them:


Oil pastel drawing thoughts: life, opening up, growth.
Charcoal drawing thoughts: positive action, change, hope.
Ink drawing thoughts: reaching out, engaging, making contact.
Conté drawing thoughts: euphoria, crazy, happy doing.


Ink drawing thoughts: blow-out, are you listening, shouty angry.
Conté drawing thoughts: it’s just wrong, no, why?
Oil pastel thoughts: mad as hell, getting less angry.
Charcoal drawing thoughts: red mists (do you get red charcoal?)


Oil pastel drawing thoughts: horizon, sea to sky, waves and clouds.
Charcoal drawing thoughts: middle ground, safe.
Ink drawing thoughts: horizon, fast, running, action, happy.
Conté drawing thoughts: horizon, where I am, out there.


Ink drawing thoughts: Curtain of fear, hidden, apprehension.
Conté drawing thoughts: What’s behind all this?, horizon.
Oil pastel drawing thoughts: Beyond the horizon, taking over, influences.
Charcoal drawing thoughts: Where do I fit?, will it stop?

Expressive lines and marks pdf file


Thinking about the materials used to make the marks, I enjoyed the fluidity of the ink, obvious lines but with the ability to drip and run onto the surface. The conté and charcoal I found quite similar in their ability to drag and create dark and lighter tones as well as being able to use a finger to smudge. I found the oil pastel the least satisfying in mark making with more fuzziness about the marks and harder to get clean lines. Blending was also quite difficult.

My last thought is that I maybe could have tried out some different qualities of surface paper, including rougher woven surfaces. I feel the drawings are all pretty much 2 dimensional on the smooth white paper surface.

Stuart Brownlee – 512319
5th May 2015

Warm-up – temporary drawings

Exercise 1 Warm-up – temporary drawings Try some of these unusual drawing activities. If you can, ask someone to photograph or film you working. You can then look back, see yourself drawing and jot down your thoughts after the temporary drawing has gone.

• Squeeze and drip washing up liquid into the sink.
• Drag a stick in the sand.

• Pull a bicycle through a puddle and create marks with the wet tyres.
• Go outside at night with a small torch or sparkler and wave it around.

These are just a few ideas to get you used to the idea of drawing as something fleeting, expressive and playful. You may want to find other ways. Remember to document your activities and reflect on what you’ve done in your learning log.


Temporary drawing – washing-up liquid: 1 kitchen sink and several kinds of fluid for drip drawing – from watery to thick – thick, viscous stuff is best.

Washing-up liquid drawing video clip

Temporary drawing – sand drawing: I set up a temporary small sand pit in my studio for this and filled it with fish smoker dust to act as sand. Levelled out, I drew first on dry ‘sand’ then on wet. Wet is best.

Video marks in the sand video clip

Temporary drawing – engine oil: 1 sheet white A3 paper + 1 oil can with old engine oil – recycling or what! This was the best fun – I really like that old red oil can.

Drawing in oil video clip

Temporary drawing – night torches: 3 x torches with yellow, orange and red filters fitted over the lenses using white tack to secure. A wee bit of spectral dancing here – silence, wind noise and colours moving. A bit tricky managing 3 torches at once!

Torches for drawing   Night torches video clip 

Warm-up temporary drawings pdf file


I was a bit apprehensive starting this warm-up exercise as I had never done anything like it before. But it turned out to be quite a lot of fun experimenting with different materials as drawing tools – sticks, liquids, oil, torches – and different surfaces – sand, paper, night sky.

I have been reading Margaret Davidson’s “Contemporary drawing: key concepts and techniques” and am intrigued by her observation regarding the relationship of the surface to the mark:

“However, in both modern (1900-1950) and contemporary (1950 to present) drawing, thanks to Seurat, artists have a choice between making a drawing that is based on or about the image, or making a drawing that is based on or about the surface/mark relationship.” Davidson, M. (2011) Contemporary drawing: key concepts and techniques. [pdf] New York: Watson-Guptill Publications. Location 324.

I think all of these warm-up drawings definitely illustrate the latter aspect of making a drawing. There are no ‘images’ as such is any of these drawings, at least nothing that is particularly meaningful or obvious. What you see here are marks placed on various types of surface ‘canvas’ – eating into the sand, or sliding around the paper, or moving in the darkness – all of a temporary nature and more about the surface/mark relationship than about trying to capture or create a distinct image.

Stuart Brownlee – 512319
4th May 2015