Exercise 1 – Developing your studies

I have been slightly paralysed by this part of the course over the last few days, having come to terms with the realisation that I can’t ‘draw’ the landscape. I could easily go back to my comfort zone of just charcoal or pastel, but my tutor has recommended that I use more wet media, and so I’ve been determined to try and find a way to do this.

My first attempt at a landscape ended up starting well but finishing badly – I totally overworked it. Luckily I took photos along the stages which helped. To add to the grief, when I sprayed the drawing with fixative it darkened all the pastel light areas and made them disappear, so the resulting drawing is extremely dark.


The only benefit of drawing this was that I realised how much I enjoy working on this panoramic scale.

I decided to sit down and really try and think about things and make notes of all the things I have noted to date that might help, and things my tutor has also recommended so far, things that might help me get through this bit.

Recommendations from tutor:

  • ‘Drawing with fluid media might help you resist this more as you might be conscious of avoiding overworking’. EXAMPLE ABOVE!!! Exactly what I had just done – overworked with the pastel over the top of the original sketch.
  • ‘Very sensitively executed drawings with the right amount of detail and mark making to suggest the weight of the forms.’ – on my charcoal dear studies. But I’m trying to move away from just charcoal all the time even though its my preference.
  • ‘I do think you should make some quick watercolour or ink studies and using a watercolour sketchbook would be a good idea so you can really see the effects of the translucency of the paint’ – trying to do this now – but GOT to remember to leave areas clear to actually SHOW the translucency.
  • ‘Continue to play with ideas that disrupt our reading of an image and be ambitious with compositions’
  • ‘Try making some that have even more areas of wash/transparency. Play with different levels of ‘finish’. Allow some to be quite sketchy’. – a work in progress for me – I find it very very hard to know when to stop and what is important to keep in and what can be left out.

I feel like i’m overcomplicating things in terms of drawing en plein air, and this in turn is putting me off going out and about and having a go. I seem to have so much stuff to take with me, when all I want to do is a quick recording of what i see/feel. I think perhaps I have to just decide on what I’m going to work with instead of trying to take everything.

I then decided to do another drawing in my sketchbook at home of something that has been bugging me recently – the stripping back of the woodland near our town in order to make way for a larger roundabout for the M4. Every time I go past it I think of its relevance to my ‘man = parasite’ rant from previously, so when my husband was driving I stuck my phone out of the window and took some photos, and I drew one of them in my studio from a photograph.


I was so happy with this drawing that it gave me a renewed sense of confidence. I just used my favourite bits and pieces – , brush and ink, my graphite box of six colours, charcoal, white gesso, and a bright orange pastel. I toyed with the idea of developing this idea further but feel its something that could be looked into for a larger project so I have left it alone for now and turned back to my nearby field which I drew the successful loose sketch in the same sketchbook for a previous exercise.


I decided to take this idea forward and use an A2 sketchbook, and go and draw a scene which I would then stick the pages together to make one long scene. However, I then thought about slightly breaking up the papers and making them a bit more haphazard. I sat in the field with my sketchbook, and once again only focused on brush and ink, water soluble graphite, white gesso, charcoal and pastel.

It was surprisingly easy to work outside today and I actually really enjoyed the process. The subsequent drawings I then took back to the studio and pinned them to the wall to ‘join’ them together and make any additional marks I felt necessary. The resulting sketch is below, with the individual sheets underneath it.


And the final piece…


There are elements of this that I overworked once again, and there is not much where I have played with different levels of finish or allowed bits to be sketchy, although I tried this mainly in the foreground in front of all the trees. It is something I am definitely going to have to keep working on as it just doesn’t come naturally to me still.

There are also elements to this exercise which I would like to keep developing and working on, as I really like these panoramic views. I will certainly keep working like this in my new watercolour sketchbook, as I’m really enjoying the process now that I have pared down my medium.


2 thoughts on “Exercise 1 – Developing your studies

  1. I really like the man=parasite sketch best. The others are all lovely, particularly the black and white sketches, but for me the man=parasite raises more questions – why are the trees all the same height? what are the red and white barriers there for? I do also think the three below showing the process, that you describe as dark, are lovely, and that the colours in number 1 are gorgeous. Pastel fixative is a bummer. I have found one from Jackson’s that is good – its called Royal something – I’ll take a look – and I find if you give several very fine coats as you work in layers that it doesn’t do so much damage as one heavy coat at the end that either darkens it beyond recognition or blows it all off the page.


  2. all gorgeous! particularly like the first ones (that I think got darkened by fixative? – but I like that) one of those days when sky meets land. I found part three so difficult – you make it seem like a walk in the park!


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